Tag Archives: sexism

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.

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.