Tag Archives: gender violence

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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Why African ‘traditionalists’ should be the loudest supporters of feminism (including #mydressmychoice)


If you listen to discussions in the public space for and against all the the poor women who have been stripped, humiliated and molested in Kenya’s public spaces, you will see a strong and predictable thread that blames ‘modernization’ for society’s ills. This basically means that tv and media have transformed our women from the submissive angels they were into scantily dressed part-time prostitutes who’s sole mission in life is to confuse men by tapping into their wild and untamed sexual desires. These women are asking for it, and the problem is modernization.

Except it is not.

When we talk about traditional African values, we fall into this little happy place where we can fantasize about what it meant to be African. For the loudest and most ignorant, it simply means a society where women were passive, subjugated and at the mercy of their men. It was a world where male power went unchecked, and half of the society lived in misery. For others, it is not so clear- hence the comments about Africans being barbarians and the civilizing influence of Jesus. In this space, fantasy rules and everyone can find arguments to justify their half baked ideas.

I remember reading Koigi Wamwere’s autobiography and I was very surprised at his explanation of his childhood. I paraphrase but he said: Violence in society came from the top and filtered to the bottom. The man of the house would spend the entire day, humiliated by his colonial masters and unable to fight back. His masculinity was challenged every single day. He would go home and take out his anger on his wife,beating her senseless for perceived wrong doing. The wife, unable to fight against her husband, would take her anger and frustration out on her children, punishing them for petty things that children do in the most brutal ways. And the kids, they would kick the dog. 

Then I read Wangari Maathai’s autobiography and she had a little paragraph were she describes the perils of her childhood: We always had to be careful when going to the river to fetch water or coming back home in the dark. There were boys from the village who would lie in wait and force us to have sex with them.

I asked my own mother about this: she is not as old as Koigi and the late Wangari. This is what she said:

YES!! We learnt how to fight from a very early age. Those boys would try force themselves on us and you had to kick and scream and run away. Growing up in the village was tough. 

She also has scars on her legs from her brothers throwing burning pieces of wood at her. And she remembers being locked up in the latrine by her father and brothers on more than one occasion for her ‘wrong doings’

Hmm how about my generation? Some of my cousins tell me that the boys in the family gave them sweets and biscuits so that they could fondle them and try have sex with them. Yes, keeping it in the family indeed.

Let’s get some academics to back me up:

‘Hellish existence in the colonial world carries with it both the racial and the gendered aspects of the naturalization of the non-ethics of war. Indeed, coloniality of Being primarily refers to the normalization of the extraordinary events that take place in war. While in war there is murder and rape, in the hell of the colonial world murder and rape become day to day occurrences and menaces. ‘Killability’ and ‘rapeability’ are inscribed into images of the colonial bodies. Lacking real authority, colonized men are permanently feminized.’

Spot on.

So, is this the traditional culture that people are screaming for? Well, let me tell you that it is alive and well. Just move your family out of Nairobi and get your daughters raped in the name of upholding your culture.

What we know as “African tradition” is nothing more than a perverse system of distorted value and misplaced anger. We should not accept it.

How about pre-colonial Africa?

If these supporters of “African culture’ would only dig deeper, they would find out some crazy stuff.Look at this  particularly romantic description of women: ‘Women were treated with unparalleled respect because they were seen to be closer to the creator than men ever had the potential of being. This is because women themselves had the ability to create due to the fact that they were able to give birth. As creation of life, they were charged with the sacred responsibility of caring for the needs of the next generation, and because of this, they can be regarded as the originations of the idea that is now known as sustainable developments.’

And

One of the consequences of the advent of colonialism is the erosion of gender equality which characterized traditional African society. Both men and women had different roles they played in families and the society at large. But the case became different since the contact of Africa with colonialism…But since the era of colonialism, women have been placed on the lower rungs of the proverbial ladder by the dominant forces of capitalism, and now globalization, which emphasizes this need for power, superiority and compartmentalization of roles and responsibilities with different values attached to them

African society, like large parts of the world, was patriarchal. That is clear and we cannot deny it. However, ‘The positions of women in pre-colonial…differed according to ethnic divisions and the existing occupational divisions and roles of women within the economic structure and prevailing kinship systems. Women’s roles during pre-colonial times were perceived as complimentary to men rather than subordinate.’

What our traditionalists forget is that at the time, European civilization was characterized by some very rigid gender roles. These were they days when women were fainting in their corsets. When they were not allowed to leave their homes without male chaperons. When they had to cover their entire bodies lest an exposed ankle drive a man into wild, uncontrollable lust. When they were not allowed to vote (until the late 70s for some…)and were still being diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ and treated by being manually stimulated by their doctors. When lobotomies were an acceptable way to ‘treat’ a woman with too many emotions.

These are the values that were imprinted on us. Through violence and emasculation. These are the values we are fighting for today as though they were our own. This is how we made that massive leap from the little skirts and swinging boobies to a society of people who cover their heads and insist that you wear skirts of a decent length (preferably pleated and shapeless) in the space of a few generations. The rest of the world has moved on. We haven’t. We have dug our heels in and are taking out our anger and frustration at society’s most defenseless people:

 Fanon analyzed how colonial violence influenced the colonized to be violent. In the first place he noted that the abused and violated colonized people ‘manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people’. In the second place, he explained that the colonized person’s confrontation with the ‘colonial order of things’ places him/her in ‘a permanent state of tension’. In the third place, Fanon argued that: ‘The native is an oppressed person whose permanent dream is to become the persecutor’.

The way we think about our women, the way we talk about them, the way we allow them to be attacked and abused, it is a measure of just how much our minds have been conquered. It is a measure of how powerless our men are, that they have to attack and justify their attacks so that they can feel slightly more powerful.

Some people think that all this drama in the city is overrated. That we should be focusing on the girls being forced to get married at 13 in the villages. The girls who are being circumcised by their own aunties and mothers. But I say we are part of the same struggle. Injustice is injustice and they have the same roots.

Saying yes to this nonsense means that your mind is still colonized. That you are still enforcing Victorian values that were rammed down your parent’s throats through violence and abuse. That you are willing to live in ignorance and spout half baked nonsense to justify your bullshit. That, at the end of the day you are emasculated and you know it.

A little bit of activism


November 25 was the international day for the elimination of violence against women. It was also the beginning of a campaign called 16 days of activism against gender violence. 

So after retweeting a few bits of info from the UNWomen account and wondering if I could honestly commit myself to a Sunday morning football game in the name of raising awareness, I decided that its time to talk about something much closer to home.

By that I mean sexual harassment in all its pervasive forms. Being a woman, I can vote and I can buy a car and I can earn a salary. But I can’t defend myself from the war that society seems to have waged on me.

From the moment I leave my door, I can expect leery stares, catcalls and the odd unsolicited grope. Then there are the ‘jokes’ and words of advice about what I can and can’t do. And all the articles telling me things that I’m not sure I need to know, like whether or not women with short hair make good wives.

We live in strange times.

Anyway, here are some suggestions that I think we can try in order to feel part of this campaign to end gender violence, or at least sexual harassment and other douchey behaviors.

For the boys:

  1. See how long you can go for without making ‘jokes’ that play on gender stereotypes
  2. Don’t talk about how much you hate weaves, make-up or any references to accessories and appearance in general
  3. Keep those nasty references to sex/ body parts in your head (especially the ones that imply that you are dealing with a piece of flesh)
  4. Same goes for any weird names you use to refer to women (this includes phrases like ‘that thing’.)
  5. Try not to openly stare at females with those hungry eyes: there is a fine line between flirting and Criminal Minds level of creepy
  6. Take a refresher course on the difference between porn and real life

For the girls:

  1. Take a break from all the articles telling you how to think, feel, dress and behave (bigger problems out there than how to look good while doing the walk of shame)
  2. Find other ways to insult women without using the words ‘fat’, ‘bitch’ or ‘ugly’
  3. Give your eyes a rest: no more elevator eyes to scope out the competition
  4. Think a little bit more about friends with benefits

It may be all fun and games, but the fact is, up to 70% of women experience some kind violence in their lifetimes. It doesn’t just happen in war zones and far off places you don’t care about. 70% is literally everyone. Including your mother and your precious sisters.

Step one, let’s be a bit more sensitive to all the crap that women have to put up with every single day of their lives because of their anatomy.