Intelligent. Kenyan.

Published: 2 years ago

Loud Man With An Opinion

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s first e-book, #WhenWomenSpeak – (Re)Defining Kenyan Feminisms, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays.

by Muthoni Maingi

Sometimes we can speak, and when and where we can we must.

I went on a rant sometime back, and you can check out my words and other women’s on it here. I did not expect that it would turn into anything interesting. It was simply something that I needed to do. I needed to be able to write my anger and put to words my irritation with a normalized phenomenon that masquerades as well meaning or ‘honest’ advice and opinion that affects women’s lives. I believe that language is a powerful tool of violence, we accept that it is as far as racism, ableism and classicism/elitism is concerned, but in many ways we have refused to accept that many women are frustrated, discouraged, and broken by conversations at a cocktail from the pulpits of a church sermon or by words spoken and written by mainstream Kenyan press.

When we speak we must recognize that the discomfort/anger felt is usually felt by those that wish we were silent. Those that wish to kill us and say that we enjoyed it. And that they may project this anger in silencing tactics, labeling you as the problem.

So I went on a rant, on a free platform that allows me to vent and control my narrative. Were some displeased? Yes. As always, whenever women speak their truth, there will always be a loud man with an opinion on ‘how better’ it could have been presented for him and those that do not share the ‘misfortune’ of living in a woman’s skin on a daily basis.

The beauty of the internet and the tools it currently avails is that I do not have to seek anyone’s permission before I speak, and I do not have to acquiesce to traditional media gatekeepers who operate in a partriachal state. I can simply type and let it be, publish and be damned. Many often repeated and plain boring silencing techniques were employed to silence mine and other women’s voice on this. I rarely engage with self-identifying mediocirty and lack of thinking, but this once I will provide a list and a response to these concerns:

What about the men? 

Well, considering that my conversations were about women’s lived experiences, I did not see the point of tackling a ‘what about the men’ segment on my free Twitter platform that you also have and that you can also use to address your ‘what about the men’ challenges.

Move on, women have better jobs, cars, more degrees and the boy child is in fact the one being neglected. 

The boy child is being neglected. Yes! He is, if anything he is being neglected by the same thing I keep complaining about, partriachal structures. Structures that frustrate single mothers, structures that state and encourage that being a man involves damaging elements of hypermasculinity, sexism and misogyny.

A culture that teaches him that to be a man, he should be able to get away with rape because she must have done something. A culture that instills in him that he is less than a woman who earns more; who is educated. A culture that makes jokes about men being raped; about their being assaulted by women. Of course I think the boy child is neglected. I’m glad we’re on the same page. I look forward to seeing more of your work and online monologues on how this can be addressed. If you wish, I can send you several feminists’ work on this topic. If feminism makes you uncomfortable (because you can’t stand women who never get laid, are ugly and that are aggressive and no one wants or because feminism is just irrelevant/not well defined), and you’re a humanist or gender equalist or a  ‘meninist’ or something, I have stuff for you too that you can read/watch.

Women have it better.

Which women? If we’re to dissect this economically and look at peri-urban and rural realities, who are the majority of people having it rough? If we’re to look at urban realities, how many women sit on boards of major Kenyan companies? How many women are frustrated by the challenges of dealing with men who feel entitled to their bodies while at work and keep making their lives difficult with unnecessary comments, non-consensual contact and gaslighting? How many women do you think give up on certain jobs because they are simply tired of having to deal with sexist men at work?

You are blaming men/I am tired of men being blamed.

You are tired of men being blamed for what exactly? Where do we see men being blamed? Last I checked it was her fault for being drunk, for smiling at him/them, for wearing xyz and for walking alone, or walking at night, or working in the office late and many other reasons that do not hold the perpetrator to account. It was her fault, she must have done something to make him mad, most men are usually easygoing, if she hadn’t done xyz he would not have hit her. Oh, and my personal favourite: men are visual creatures, women need to think about how affected they are by the wardrobe decisions we make. It was done to defend our people; all those rapes and assaults on women and children were necessary to preserve us. She was a whore. She was a dicktease. She was always going on and on about how no one could have her. She had so much maringo. Whatever a man does, his actions are always justified in this society. Who is blaming men?

Last but not least, loud man with an opinion, let’s get one thing clear:

Women do not exist for you.

What she wears is her choice for her pleasure. Even if her pleasure includes having you as her societal audience ooh and aah over her; even if her pleasure includes having her partner ooh and aah over her. At the end of the day, what she wears, head to toe, is hers to enjoy in whatever way she deems necessary. She does not have to give a damn about your ‘being a visual creature’ or your desires on what is aesthetically pleasing, and she still deserves every ounce of your respect for being human.

Women do not exist for you. Your analysis about her body, her vagina, her breasts, don’t mean shit. And you are indeed a horrible human being for talking about someone by saying they have a basin pussy. What the hell is wrong with you?

Women do not exist for you. No, feminism has not ruined chivalry or any other tired benevolent sexist meme. Who told you that you deserve a cookie for being nice? Be nice because you want to be nice, not because you expect women to constantly acknowledge that one time you were a nice person. If you want to open doors for women, have a blast. Open some for men too while you’re at it, since you are all nice and gender equalist and humanist. If a woman doesn’t want you to open doors for her, don’t. Go open the door for the other one that likes it and move on.

When you see a woman video gaming, loving sports and basically being human and enjoying human things, resist the idiotic urge to automatically start quizzing her on the 101s of said thing just so that she can prove to you why she is a worthy fan or enthusiast. Seriously, what is wrong with you? I haven’t seen women quizzing you on the Darling weave range and colours just because you aired your opinion on weaves (something you probably know little of). Do you know why? It’s called respect for other people’s space and value. You could really use some.

Resist the urge to harrass someone for their choices and deal with your own life, I mean if you’re Kenyan, it’s a tough life why go adding on to someone elses plate when you can expend your energy on trying to survive this rough Kenyan environment? And you may get better skin for this, who knows? The possibilities might be endless.

Muthoni Maingi is a Nairobi-based brand management and strategy expert. Follow her on Twitter @NonieMG

This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s first e-book, #WhenWomenSpeak – (Re)Defining Kenyan Feminisms, which is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays.

One Comment.
  1. mumbi says:

    Yaas and yaas and yaaas!!!!!

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