Category Archives: stereotypes

A few encouraging words to Mr Nderitu Njoka and his legions of marginalised men


First I would like to thank Mr Njoka, who came out in support of the women who had been stripped in Nairobi over the last couple of days. I really appreciate that. He even helpfully pointed out that at least they were not raped, so kudos to the touts for demonstrating such self restraint.

He also gave some valuable advice that we should all take seriously – in the future, women should ask their men for advice on what to wear before leaving the house, solving that problem that most women really cannot make such basic decisions in their daily lives. And for the unmarried girls living without the crucial guidance of their husbands?A new law will be proposed, spelling out exactly what passes as decency today. So sit tight ladies, and in the meantime stay at home.

Now, all this coincides with the 16 Days of Activism campaign, and I feel as though the marginalized men that Njoka represents are going to be feeling left out as all these rabid feminists bay for blood and fight for their right to walk around in mini-skirts. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Njoka and the thousands of activists insisting that we pay attention to our men and boys.

I would like to note a few things though, that I feel that once clarified, could really help the Men’s movement gain the respect it so richly deserves:

Gender violence

Njoka and his army are deeply concerned at the growing number of men that suffer untold abuse at the hands of their women, who got these ideas about equality due to their education. (and probably western media) He says this number is probably at around 300 cases a year. We can all agree that this is wrong.

However, could we also mention the number of boys and girls who are physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused by their parents? What do they have to say about the fact that men are not encouraged to come forth and speak about their abuse? Will this problem disappear once women stop beating their husbands? I don’t know.

What about the inconvenient fact that more than 80% of Kenyan women report being physically abused at least once in their lives? Or that about 40% of married women are beaten by their husbands? Sure, sometimes women, who are actually made to serve men, need a slap to pipe down and remember their place. But , what do our champions have to say about the impact that this has on the children? Or the fact that a slap can escalate to a full on beating that could result in motherless children?

The law of the land: Our constitution says that everyone should be respected. Mr Njoka was quick to point out that assaulted women (and men) should report to the police station and let our valiant policemen do the rest. What we would like to know from them is, which policemen exactly? Are they the same ones that ask the victims what they did to deserve this treatment? Or the ones that punish gang rapists by asking them to cut some grass? The same police officers who have often been accused of assaulting women in their custody? How do they feel about the fact fact that more than 20 000 cases a year go unreported? Or that, for even those brave (or stupid?) enough to seek justice, have their cases thrown out and their reputations torn to shreds?

African tradition: This argument is nearly bullet proof. I mean, who would not want to return to the happy days before western media brainwashed our women into thinking that they are equal to men? Before they learnt that they could think and process complex tasks and actually do man stuff like medicine and engineering? Gawsh. But answer us, why is it that tradition comes up only when it is about women, their dress, their careers and their general unwillingness to serve as punching bags? Where are the traditions for the other half of the population? Are we claiming that African societies existed for thousands of years by occupying themselves exclusively with the violent and aggressive policing of their women?

Where are these voices when it comes to other traditions, like actually taking care of children: all of them, since traditional men are very strong and generally need more than one woman? Or the fact that men had a role in society, and this role was not getting drunk and blaming others on their problems? Where are the fathers of all these boys who piss away their youths and terrorize society? Are those the precious African values they have been taught? Where is that discussion?

Zero sum game: With this rise of feminists, we understand that hapless men need to defend themselves. Where did this idea that ‘female empowerment’ is zero-sum game come from? Is it that, for every little girl who gets to go to school and make something of herself, several boys are turned into eunuchs? Have schools started actively turning away boys to free up space for girls? Did it ever occur to our beleaguered men that a double income, in these hard times when we are all paying for our bloated government, could actually be a good thing? Are they aware of how much it costs to buy a home?

As so often and so rightly pointed out, men are big and strong and raging with testosterone. Surely, anything a silly girl can do, isn’t it that a man can do it twice as good with his hands behind his back? Why then the self pity? Why not step out of the shadows and show these women how smart and deserving you really are? (of course we would appreciate it if we were left with our clothes on in this display of power, intelligence and strength.)

Stereotypes of men: Mr Njoka and friends, do you really understand men? Are they produced in a factory, with each model identical to the next?  Did you ask men if they agree with your image of them as creatures unable to control their sexual urges, refusing to accept responsibility for their own lives and openly declaring women to be nothing more than vessels for their own pleasure?  Why should they be subjected them to such lazy stereotypes? Why reduce them to silly caricatures? If this is the real image of men in Kenya, then why should anyone take them seriously? Shouldn’t it be the case then, that these pesky feminists could actually free you from your responsibilities and let you roam free?

In the end, the men’s right movement will succeed. Because they have understood that the reasons behind unemployment, violence, corruption, hunger, HIV, climate change and even witchcraft is because women are taking over the world. This is a good thing, because as soon as they can bring us back to our senses by enacting laws about decency,marriage, morality, drinking limits, thought allowances, career choices, literacy levels, acceptable turban lengths and headscarf regulations, we will finally have opened the gates to heaven.

Thank you, keep up the good work

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A brief summary of African Ideology: the pub version


Yesterday, I had a very strange exchange with a fellow on the Twitter, who posted an article by that loony scientist Dr Richard Lynn (of the black women are ugly because of too much testosterone fame) claiming that atheists are more intelligent than the average Bible thumping, Jesus loving uneducated cretins running loose in our streets.

I told him that  using this man’s research to prove a point is a slippery slope that leads to weird Nazi like arguments about race, intelligence and the value of human beings. Stuff that you really don’t want to get into.

Somehow, the argument descended into a flurry of links with information about the colonized African mind and misinformation about the great black race, with lots of references to the Egyptian civilization thrown in for good measure.

These things reminded me a lot of myself when I was in my late teens- obsessed with Bob Marley, slavery and finally discovering the truth about Africa. With the obligatory shaggy ‘fro, questionable sources of information and lots of beaded jewelry. (We all deal with teen angst in different ways, okay?)

This got me thinking of the debate about Africa, the different forms it has taken over the years, and my changing opinions about African identity, nationhood and other ways we try to make sense of a world so hell bent on proving that we are doomed for eternity.

And since I love lists so much, here is my list of  philosophies that you are bound to come across in bars around the continent:

1. The ones living in the Past before the Past

I’m talking about the past before the past here. Before pre-colonial times to that space where information is scant and fantasy rules. These are the people who like to argue about whether or not Ancient Egypt was ruled by black Pharaohs, and in that way, shielding themselves against anyone who thinks  that Africa was a bush-land populated by people a few degrees smarter than monkeys.

The fact is, there are no known written languages originating in Sub-Saharan Africa, so we will never really know what went on before international trade began (8th Century?) All our information therefore comes from traders, missionaries and slavers, so yes, the objectivity of their reports can be questioned.

The past before the past philosophers use this lack of information to lay fantastic claims like ‘Africans discovered science but rejected it because they realized it was evil’.

But why this obsession with Egypt, when there are plenty of other examples across the continent? Is it just a way to hide an inferiority complex by clinging on to an example that fits the  ideal of a classical empire considered to be powerful and civilized?

This is dangerous territory because it makes you look like a nut and eventually people will avoid you.

2. The Pan- Africans

I blame this one squarely on those books we were forced to study in high school. As much as I respect our post-colonial writers, I don’t think we should be feeding this narrative to impressionable young people 50 years after the end of foreign rule.

I’m talking about the people who think that colonialism in to blame for absolutely everything. That, before the 1800s, we lived in a utopia where men and women were equal, everyone lived in harmony and died peacefully in their sleep after a life well lived.

This is often followed by an idolization of leaders such as good old Bob in Zim and the late, flamboyant Gaddaffi because they are supposedly finally kicking out the evil colonialists and freeing their people from oppression.

Once again, it is difficult to tell fact from fantasy and colonial propaganda because we were not doing any recording of information ourselves.

Sadly, whether or not the Pan Africans are right, it is virtually impossible to go back to this kind of life. I suspect that the damage done to our cultures and values by the violence, humiliation and subjugation that came with colonialism means that what we have today is a mangled culture that is doing more damage for us than good.

And of course, playing the blame game means that taking responsibility is conveniently avoided.

3. The Afro-politans

The source of this term is an article about life in the diaspora for young, educated and well off Africans. Despite it’s playful and entertaining tone, it provoked some measure of outrage from the kind of people who concern themselves with these debates.

I’m not sure I can be objective about this one, because I do check many of the boxes here. However, as some people have pointed out, ‘Afro-politanism’ looks more like cultural commodification (think chic leather bags and handmade jewelry), rather than an actual identity.

It is also useful for people navigating different cultures,  and suits the ‘Africa is rising’  crew because it makes us look a little bit more glamorous and cool and civilized.

4. The ones who just don’t care

Thank God for pragmatic people. Thank God for people who are more interested in working and living and not endless naval gazing. Thank God for people who don’t live in their heads but face life for what it is without making excuses.

These people probably never even finished reading a single book by Ngugi. They aren’t interested in the dusty past and whether or not Egypt was ruled by black people.

They want things to work, but they don’t really care how.

They have a point though,  I mean, is this kind of debate even useful anymore?

Objectively digging into the past is useful in order to understand the present. But doing it in order to find excuses and avoid responsibility? Not so much.

I might be a racist.


I started this blog three or four years ago when I first went to France: I was hoping that life would be interesting enough to get a few laughs out of my friends, because by then I had already learnt that no bad experience/ astonishingly poor life choice is wasted- as long as you can write something mean and/ or funny about it afterwards.

I deliberately stayed away from sex, male bashing disguised as relationship analysis/advice  and the kind of 10 000 word long posts about mundane/mostly irrelevant personal problems that leave people with the impression that bloggers are a whiny, self centred bunch.

I don’t have a  huge following, which is fine, because I always felt like I was talking to my friends over a beer or two. It also means that I’ve never gotten trolled and I’ve never received anything but  reassuring noises about how wonderful and clever I am.

awesome2

(source)

A while ago, I found myself confessing to a new friend that, yes, I do have a blog that I use as an outlet for all the things I would never dare to say out loud: sometimes sarcastic, sometimes funny, and occasionally bordering on mean and spiteful.

I was duly informed that I am racist, ignorant and very cynical.

After the feeling returned to my limbs, I was oddly chuffed that I would receive such strong criticism.

I will let Mr King say it for me:

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. …And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.

That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear.”

Which, of course, is why its easy to hide behind sarcasm and not publish bleeding heart posts dripping in self pity.

Having a blog is a lot like having an album full of your old pictures. I realize that I may be describing hipsters, but for the rest of us, stonewashed denims, oversized tucked in tees, dresses with socks and sports shoes were not the most glamorous of our days.

But yes, you did wear them. And you felt damn good wearing them and all your friends thought you looked awesome. You went along because it made sense at the time (and because you let your mother dress you because you did not know any better.)

And that’s how you got to where you are today, with your trendy, yet awkward looking harem pants and fluorescent sneakers.

And you can look back and laugh at what you looked like because you made progress. You moved a few steps ahead and you think you look better, until you age a little bit more and you come to the conclusion that you dressed like an idiot for most of your life. But by then it doesn’t really matter because you are old and hopefully very rich.

Dear bloggers, if you ever look back at your baby steps and you hover over the delete button, remember: we do not delete because we are not ashamed.

India: First Impressions


”You are just going so that you can avoid responsibility. If you want to go to a third world country, why not move back to Kenya?”

I had plenty of time to reflect on these sentiments during my long, long journey  to Chandigarh. And ask myself, why, as my friends were applying for jobs, I was hustling another traineeship. In India.

My well had been poisoned.

Once I got to New Delhi, India hit me so hard I had no more time for self doubt and emo angst. I was soon relieved of a good part of my stupid tourist money, and instantly began to pay more attention to my surroundings and less to  my existential questions.

It’s been four days or so and I think I can make my first list of wildly judgemental and probably inaccurate observations about this  my new home:

1. Traffic rules are for tools: Everyone knows that driving in this country is sheer madness. What they don’t tell you is that road anarchy is a way of life. A philosophy, even. Motorists frequently drive into oncoming traffic to avoid making detours, pedestrians casually saunter across the road wherever they feel like, and everyone hoots ALL the time. Throw in the occasional horse drawn carriage, chilled out water buffalo/cow, bikes and scooters with nonchalant women perched on the side all sharing the same space, and well, it can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately for me, my city is quite well planned, so I’ve never actually been caught in a traffic jam.

my city on a good day (meetravels.blogspot.com)

2. Cigarettes are Satan’s breath: I have never been to place where it is so socially unacceptable to light up. At most, I have seen ten people smoking. I think this is specific to my city, but there are threatening signs in both open air space and closed ones, curtly informing you that ”it is an offence to smoke here”. Come on, what happened to the neutral ”no smoking” sign? Even our little dusty neighbourhood market is thoroughly offended by these uncouth beings poisoning everyone else around them with their demonic sulphur and tar (or whatever).

3. East meets west…on our terms: In my hood, there is a Subway sandwich shop. Squeezed in between Happy Singh’s general supermarket and a burnt out parking lot. And all over the city, you can see McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, KFC, United Colours of Benneton, Ralph Lauren, Polo and other over priced, pretentious clothing brands. You just have to find them, partially hidden by signs advertising ‘Spoken English lessons here ‘ , ‘Royal Real Estate Services’ and giant posters advertising skin lightening creams that will take all your problems away and help you find that perfect man.

4. The heat: I arrived in India during Summer. And my colleagues delight in telling me that I ain’t seen nothing yet, and that it will get hotter soon. Before it starts raining. And then they ask me, ”but it’s also hot in Kenya, right’?’

Well now, the glue in my wallet does not melt after four hours in a train in Kenya. My face does no glow in the dark from all the accumulated heat every evening in Kenya. I don’t feel the heat from the tarmac burning me while I’m on a bike in Kenya. I don’t sleep without sheets or a blanket at night in Kenya.

So no, it’s not the same weather in Kenya.

5. What are these chest appendages that you display?: I made the mistake of wearing a vest to the supermarket. There was a man standing behind me, looking all holy and guru-ish in his turban. We queued for about ten minutes, and in that time he must have caught up with ten years worth of ogling, as well as probably committing everything to memory to serve him for his remaining days, I don’t know. I was uncomfortable, but at the same time, did not want to make it worse by self consciously fiddling around with my clothes. So, yeah, kind of awkward.

So far so good, right? Well, I have to register myself at the government office in the next couple of days. And officially meet my boss  who is currently away on a very busy and important trip.

Do you speak English? The politics of Language


This post has been incredibly difficult to write. So I will just drop all the gimmicks and get straight to the point.

You see, when I first arrived in France, many people were surprised that I spoke flawless (albeit heavily accented)  English. I remember one Spanish guy in my French class tried to break the ice by asking if we speak French in Kenya. After a long pause, I asked him ‘if we speak French in Kenya, then why am I studying beginners French with you?’

I guess the sarcasm was too complicated for his Catalan brain, because he asked me the same question three times. I ignored him and our relationship never really took off.

Quel Surprise

Much later on, when I got used to dealing all kinds of stupid questions and situations, I bumped into two adorable Japanese boys, who were amazed that I learnt  English so fast and were quite chuffed by my ‘ American ‘ accent.

I let them have their day because at this point I cannot be bothered to explain to people that most Africans and other formerly colonized people (I’m looking at you, South Asian people) speak several languages simultaneously.

The Guardian published a mildly interesting piece on the benefits of being bilingual. But come to think of it, did you ever think of yourself as bilingual? I never did, mostly because I imagine that being bilingual means that you speak a language that is recognized internationally.  But according to that article then, we, the urban citizens of our great continent shall never have to worry about Alhzeimer’s, as we continue to navigate between our native ‘dialects’ and the languages of the developed world.

So what exactly is my point? Language is strongly linked to identity. But unlike your average Estonian or Japanese, who’s first language is clearly named after their country (or the other way round) we don’t have that luxury. (Unless you are  as bullheaded as Ngugi, who insists on writing all his books in Kikuyu and then having them translated…)

Of course, it all goes back to our extreme touchiness at any perceived slight or racist attitude or remark. Because, once our basic needs were met, (unlike waaaay too many people who’s lives hang on a balance everyday) we are now obsessed with convincing people that we too are civilized like them. And I really wish we could stop. Because we end up looking like stupid imitations of the real thing.

Africa is huge. And we have lots of animals and untamed jungles. We are piss poor. And all the other poor and miserable people in the world can point at us and feel better about their own shitty lives. Deal with it.

And that is why I don’t immediately start defending my country by pointing out that we also have cities with tall buildings and roads.

I just say that English is the language of business in my country. And then I hang out with people who don’t imagine that I am the sole representative of my continent. And with people who Google phrases in Swahili to impress me. (insert giant wink wink here)

Feels good to get that off my chest.

Coming soon…hilarious adventures in India.

Meanwhile, enjoy this totally unrelated video on how to fake speaking French (and yes, I have used some of those tricks!)

Kony 2012: have I become an Uncle Tom?


The first time I learnt about Kony was through a special feature in the daily Nation sometime in 2008. The journalist went to town on the nutjob, calling him a megalomaniac that needs to be stopped in his tracks before he goes further in creating his demonic little empire.

Fast foward to 2012 and the internet pseudo-intellectuals are practically foaming at the mouth to criticize that video released by the slick well-meaning folk over at Invisible Children, who decided that the world will certainly end for Kony and his insane, drug fuelled, machete wielding ‘rebel group’ this year.

I have to be honest, I found most of the video rather uncomfortable to watch. The whole narrative of his son’s birth had a great message: we don’t choose where we are born, but we have the same rights as human beings was spot on. But, did it have to take so long? And the little montage at the end of all their awesome rallies and protests across the country set to rock music.? I was glancing behind my shoulder to make sure no-one was watching me….

Tasteful as ever

But I think that maybe the residents of the internet have become trigger happy. It’s cool to shoot down anything that becomes too popular, and ironically, shut down new solutions and propose old ones like they are something new.

After watching the video, I looked around to see what the naysayers had to say. And that is when I started feeling like an Uncle Tom. On the surface, they all sound like intelligent, well thought out arguments. But I call bullshit.  Here is why:

  • where are the voices of the Ugandans?: Why can’t we have more African voices in the international media? Mmmhmm… Bono, Angelina, Maddona..what horrible, horrible human beings, exploiting African misery to look good. Look, the world is an unfair place. Some kids are more popular than others. We know that Africans are not helpless. The Ugandans know that they have their own heroes: I tried Google to find some names I could use as an example, but of course nothing came up. Same thing with when we had the famine situation. No way in hell did anyone cover ‘Kenyans for Kenyans’ and those farmers who sent their surplus supplies to NEP. So…maybe some smart lobbyist somewhere could harness the power of these disaster loving bleeding heart celebrities instead of moaning about misrepresentation?
  • The war is complex: In fact, taking Kony down won’t change anything because others will replace him: Well…well…well…so since the war is so complex, should we then sit back, throw our hands up in the air and wait for salvation from our Lord Jesus and saviour?
  • No….what we need is governance and a way to end corruption: Hey Africans, you hear that? Your have problems because you are corrupt. We have found the magic bullet to all our problems! Thank you, well meaning internet trolls!
  • Why is he spending so much money looking like the Great White Hope coming to save the little savages? Why can’t they use more money to build stuff in Uganda?: They never really claimed to be an aid organisation (and we know what a GREAT success story that was!). The guy is a lobbyist. Lobbyists get their work done by irritating as many policy makers as possible in order to get the changes they want seen. Lobbyists don’t build toilets. They make noise.
  • LOLZ, anyone?

  • OIL!! It’s a conspiracy to invade Uganda and take all the OIL!!!: this is the most tempting one of all. But, do they really? If we want to rely on rumours, we can look no further than the fact that ‘closed’ deals are already being made…and everyone is holding their breath, hoping that things don’t go batshit crazy as soon as the pumps start working.

As a marketing campaign, this one set the new standards. I fear what will come next. I hope that his intentions are good. And I’m sorry that for years to come, Ugandans will be asked what it was like being a child soldier.

But the film also got people talking and researching on the truth and discussing solutions. Hopefully an indication that global citizenship is a possibility. And that  you can get your voice heard by the people in power.

I truly hope that we stop parroting the same tired nonsense, imagining ourselves as some cynical, intelligent warrior race responsible for truth and enlightenment on the internet. Where, obviously, your opinion counts for absolutely nothing.

Here is one other person who sort of agrees with me.

 

Chuckle chuckle

Chuckle chuckle

Amsterdam (aka Pulling a Wayward Foe)


First off, I would like to say that smoking weed is a rather dumb thing to do. I know many people do not agree with me, but to be honest, the only good thing marijuana is for is to sit in a daze listening to hypnotic beats or watching reruns of Family Guy. (What I’m subtly trying to say here is that I do not smoke bhang, okay?)

Back to the story.

Pulling a ‘wayward foe‘ is a term I coined in honour of my dear friend and fellow blogger who shall remained unamed. It basically means planning a journey and then going out of your way to sabotage yourself.

It all started on Friday. I booked my  Saturday, 8.00am return ticket to Amsterdam where I was going to meet my fellow AIESECers and hopefully battle the throng of tourists and junkies in Amsterdam to ‘paint the town red’ (which is impossible, because you can’t show that city anything it hasn’t seen and ten times worse.)

So naturally, I decided that I would set my alarm for seven am and then go out and party until six o’clock in the morning with my insane housemates. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

I woke up the next day at midday. My phone was dead. I had missed my train and I had a touch of the ‘wine flu.’ So I went back to sleep and woke up again at 5.00pm. I jumped out of bed, took a shower and went to the station. Fortunately for me, I had an open ticket and so I could still get the train to Amsterdam.

Upon arrival, I discovered that even though my phone was on ‘roaming’, I could not make any phone calls or receive any texts. So after wandering around the station for half an hour, I finally bought a simcard and called my friends.

They were all epically stoned. The kind of high that people who’s systems aren’t used to anything stronger than a light beer and now coping with massive amounts of high grade, EU approved pure cannabis can get. Eventually, after three hours wandering in the city, taking the wrong bus, we were finally reunited.

If you have ever been with stoners, you know the hardest question for them is ‘What shall we do next?’ So after deliberating with my glassy eyed, giggling brethren, we decided to visit the Red light district.

My soul died a little bit that night. The problem is, there are thousands of tourists in Amsterdam. And they all want to go to see the city’s famous CSW’s. So I had the surreal experience of walking down the narrow streets in single file, looking at all these women posing behind glass windows with hundreds of leering men behind me and more in front of me. They knew we were tourists, and just looking out of curiosity. So what were we doing there? Somehow it seemed sleazier than actually trawling for hookers.

Image

Swans in the red light district (you can't take pictures of the girls, obviously)

One special house had lots of the girls with their doors open (I don’t know if these were the more pricey ones or the more skanky ones, I’ve never needed to make such a distinction before) and it had a weird smell- and we were really, really close to the girls. They could have touched us if they wanted. Or the other way round. One girl pushed my female friend and screamed at her,

what are you doing here? do you also want to get your #*#$ satisfied?

I felt like I was in 18th century Amsterdam, with all the drunk, drooling men and semi-nude girls posing suggestively in their little glass cages. It was embarrassing and sad.

I hear that the only thing sadder than paying for sex is to attend a ‘live sex show’. (We received several offers for a group discount but we decided we did not want to bond in that way.)

After that, the stoners were hungry. So as we were walking back to an undecided destination (still could not answer the question, ‘what do we do next?), one would pop into a fast food joint and get something to eat. Because we were eight people, we effectively ‘toured’ Amsterdam’s fast food joints until about 1.00am.

Finally, after queuing outside a small club for half an hour, we were finally granted entry to push and shove other sweaty bodies and spill our drinks on each other.

And that, my dear friends, is how I spent Saturday night in Amsterdam, stone cold sober, surrounded by drunk tourists and pushy bouncers. And you know what?

It was the best time of my life. (so far this year)

Image

Your very own starter kit

Ps: Amsterdam is a beautiful city, with an unusually high number of drunk tourists. it is also the first time I looked at a city and thought, ‘damn, this country is wealthy.’

I leave you with this picture of a ship that was commissioned by the city to keep the unemployed masses occupied. (Kazi kwa vijana of sorts?)

A ship just for the sake of it

A ship just for the sake of it