The Problem with Feminism is…

Chris Rock is a funny guy. Sometimes, his jokes are a little out of line, but most of the time, he’s a really funny guy. I bumped into one of his stand-up clips a while ago. He explains that it’s okay for fat girls to talk about skinny girls and short guys to talk about tall guys, but not vice versa…

Life is full of double standards, and I accept a whole lot of them. Just like fat girls can get away with calling bitches skinny, men can walk bare chested but women can’t. When a (non-married) couple loses virginity (to each other), the guy becomes a hero and the girl becomes a slut. A single dad is brave, but a single mum is flawed. A dwarf can insult a giant, but an NBA player gets fired for calling his team-mate a midget.

That’s why I hesitate to call myself a feminist. In the house where I grew up, there was no difference between girls and boys. I have three brothers, and they were raised the same way as I was. We all did chores. (Or rather, we didn’t do chores – we had three house helps; one for house work, one for shamba work, and one for business errands. I didn’t do any cooking or cleaning until I moved out of home at 22. No, washing uniforms in boarding school doesn’t count).

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When Professor’s Fall..

My mother is an academic professional.

Professor

She’s one of those people with so many academic distinctions that you begin to wonder what you’re doing with your life. Especially people, like me, who are very anti-school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying education is pointless. I’m just against the current structure of the institutions through which education is disbursed. And I have been since I was old enough to pull an Encyclopedia off a shelf by myself.

This attitude only got worse once Encarta 95 found its way into the library and the 98 edition landed in our house. By the time I was toggling between Altavista and Google, I was barely listening to teachers.

They had this syllabus that was engineered to evenly distribute a set amount of specific information to a large group of students. Booooring. Every chance I would get, I was plucking books off shelves that had nothing to do with what I was being taught. I was reading my older brother’s literature novels and – and this is not a joke – even reading dictionaries cover to cover. I actually once started writing one.

Just because class was boring.

At least at the time I thought it was. At that age, I thought fairly little of teachers. But somehow regarded professors highly because of my mother. You see, she’s the one that kept feeding me books and unleashing me into libraries. She’s the one that bought Encarta when we really couldn’t afford it. She’s the one that encouraged my random reading and let me lose in her labyrinth of books – a bookcase in the house.

Which is where I saw Mazrui’s name for the first time.

Prof Ali Mazrui

There are 2 reasons I remember his name. First, it is because it was repeated on the spines of so many books that I began to pull them out to verify whether or not I was looking at multiple copies of the same book. I was not.

The second reason is because it was the first time a book made me feel stupid. I sat down and tried to read the first book and failed. It was entirely too much to comprehend for a prepubescent iCon. So I left it alone and that was that.

Until a decade later, when I had the great fortune to head out to New York for some seminar on Islam and Terrorism. The melodic Swahili accent was strong, and the calm and steady pace with which he was addressing us grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go until it was eased to a place of greater understanding. That man summed up in a few words what the rest of the panelists would yap about for the next 2 hours.

And I can’t recall what those few words were. But I can’t forget buying two of his books, looking at my bookshelf thereafter and remembering my mother’s.

That was when I got a deep interest in Kenyan intellectuals; especially those in the US. Every other university I visited (and I traveled A LOT) I would find a professor named Odhiambo here, a lecturer named Kamau there; a Head of Department from Kisumu, and sometimes, occasionally, on the walls of fame, I’d see a name on a plaque of distinction that was distinctly Kenyan with a place of birth that made me homesick.

So many names and faces that I can barely remember, that will never be acknowledged locally.

My mother still keeps a massive collection of books, a lot of those are still fellow Kenyans. Mazrui’s tomes still stand out by their numbers and if I’m honest, like many Kenyans, I don’t think I acknowledged the man’s greatness enough.

But one thing I do acknowledge now that I didn’t when I was younger is the invaluable contribution of the scholars we neglect. I understand now why teachers wanted us to understand the basics and why professors insist on us creating original regurgitations of already existing facts. The pursuit of knowledge is not a simple journey, nor is it for the faint-hearted. It is a selfless endeavour to better your society through yourself.

Prof ali Mazrui

Which is why I was sad when the good Professor Ali Mazrui passed away. I could list his laurels and awards, accomplishments and regals in a shallow attempt to justify why you should mourn him too. I could copy paste all the amazing things that Prof. Mazrui has done and contributed to the worlds of academia, the understanding of Africa in a globalising world, or to demystify Islam in a world driven by terrorism.

But I’d rather not.

I’d rather challenge you to do two things. The first is to watch one of his interviews, read one of his articles, discover one of his books, learn more about one of his passions. The second is to share that knowledge earned with someone else.

Professors are the vessels through which so many of us attain the knowledge behind the power we aim to change the world with. When they fall, it is our duty to pass that knowledge forward and keep their legacies and sacrifices alive.

May you rest in eternal peace, Mwalimu. May your legacy live long and your family stand proud.
نَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎

Baby-Making Cars and Padded Bras

First things first. I didn’t really get an answer to this question, and I’d still really like one, so if you don’t mind … thank you kindly. Onwards onwards.

A good proportion of the DR Crew works in advertising. Which means we routinely makes videos like this *pointing up*. Which means I should really enjoy videos like this … but for some reason, I find this video quite annoying. I expect the average human loves it though. In fact, I expect it will win quite a few awards, social and otherwise. In case you didn’t get it (which shows how old you are … or how old I am …) that video *pointing up* is meant to be a parody of this one *pointing down*. It’s a clip from a movie starring Patrick Swayze . Yep. Now you know.

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Men, Women, And Porn #NSFW

Every Friday, I get a newsletter from Cracked with five articles they think I should read. Last week’s letter had an interesting piece on directing pornography which made me genuinely curious. See, I’ve read tons of articles about how women analyse everything and how men are remarkably simple, and today, I’m hoping a guy can explain something to me.

Kenya 250S 1966

Part of the cracked piece explains that the cameraman shooting the porno is married to the woman starring in the movie. On one occasion, the cameraman watches – and films – as his wife is expertly … serviced … by her ridiculously well-endowed co-star. The writer wonders how the cameraman can cope. Well, by grabbing his wife and aggressively servicing her right after the scene.

Okay, in case you didn’t click on the article for yourself, here’s a summary. Our writer – let’s call him Ted – was a documentary film-maker who was between jobs. His friend makes porn, and asked Ted to take over filming for a few days. The article is basically the lessons Ted learned along the way.

While Ted was on the set, he realised that the cameraman often had to film his wife having sex with other men. Ted asked the cameraman how he dealt with that, and the cameraman said, ‘It’s not real. It’s just acting.’ Until one day, the cameraman filmed a scene that was NOT just acting. As soon as the scene was finished, the cameraman sat next to his wife, gave her the most dangerous look any human being has given another human being, and proceeded to have very aggressive sex with her as everyone watched.

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The Man Under The Elephant

I’ve waited to write this.

The last time I went to Westgate was exactly a week before the famed attack the mall is now associated with. When I say exactly, I mean exact, down to the hour.

I was meeting up with some friends in between my trips in and out of Kenya. It was the first time I’d been to Urban Burger. It was also the first time I realised how massive Nakumatt was. For some odd reason that day, all our phones either dead or close to it. So we were moving about in a panic, trying to finish our chores so we could regroup outside and go about our plans for the day.

The next time that same group of friends regrouped was at Aga Khan Hospital, one week later, to volunteer and donate blood. We were watching the updates terrified, all thinking the same thing, none of us saying it.  Continue reading

Friday Night: One Woman’s Story

Nairobi at Night Mutua Matheka

I like to leave the office at 5.00, but I usually leave at 6.00, or maybe 6.30. Not today. It’s 6.00 p.m., and my boss needs me to go for a meeting. I have no idea what time this meeting will end. I call my baby and tell her I’ll be late. She says it’s okay. She’s at the salon, and it’s her day to cook.

I walk into the client’s office. They have a beautiful architectural model for a new housing complex. It has a swimming pool, shopping malls, and a penthouse full of palm trees. I ask my boss if he’ll ever pay me enough to buy a palm tree. He laughs and tells me my dreams are valid.

We’re in the boardroom, talking to our clients. I’ve decided to be quiet in this meeting, because at the last meeting, I came off as a little too aggressive. At least that’s what my boss said. But it seems my aggression worked, because the client insists that I speak, and my boss watches me with a smile.

It’s 7 o’clock. My phone rings, and I peek at it under the table. It’s my daughter. She’s done with her hair, and she wants to send me a photo so I can see how pretty she looks. I say I’m in a meeting. She doesn’t reply.

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It’s 7.30. My phone rings again. I cancel the call and text, ‘In a meeting.’ This time, she replies. She says she’s sorry for interrupting. She says she’s really tired, so she’s going to bed. She asks me to wake her up when I get home, so she can cook me dinner. I want to cry.

I look up from texting to see everyone staring at me. It turns out they had asked me a question and are waiting for an answer. My mind is blank. My boss gives me a look, covers for me. I realise that I missed something important, but asking would only make things worse.

It’s 8 o’clock. The meeting is finally over. I’m in such a hurry to leave that I forget my backpack. My boss calls me back to get it, and I explain why I was distracted. He says his baby is sleeping too, and that if I ever want that raise I asked about, I need to be willing to put in late hours. I silently wonder how badly I want that raise.

My boss offers to drop me at Yaya, since it’s too late to go back to the office. There are no matatus at Yaya. I stand feeling lost and distressed, uncertain about being in familiar surroundings at an unfamiliar time. A man tries to sell me sugar cane, but I’m not listening to a word that he’s saying.

A matatau comes from Kibera. It’s 10 bob to Hurlingham. Perfect. There’s only one person in the matatu. Well, two people. A mother and her 2 year-old son. I get on the matatu. They get off at the next stop. I freeze. There are two men here, the driver and the makanga. The road is deserted and I’m all alone. Should I alight?

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I see two women in the distance, and I sigh with relief as the matatau waits for them to board. Phew! I get off at Hurlingham. I start to walk towards Kenyatta, worried and distracted because it’s 8.30 and I don’t know if I ‘ll get a 34. I should have just gone to town.

I see two men walking towards me. They’re hogging the road. I try to step around them but they move with me in a strange, disturbing dance. I raise my head to look at them, and the big one says, ‘hello.’ His eyes and his leer say that one word is much more than a greeting. I try to step aside but he won’t let me pass.

I jump onto the road, straight into oncoming traffic. A car hoots, a driver swears at me, but in the blinding light, the two men are gone. I sigh with relief and keep walking on the road. I’m safer in oncoming traffic.

I reach Total and realise my fists are balled. I’m thinking about those men. Hurlingham is a safe place, a clean place, a well-lit place. Yet two men I’ve never even met tried to scare me. I’m wearing jeans, sneakers, a marvin, and an over-sized hoodie. Yet two men tried to hurt me.

There’s nothing provocative in my clothes. There’s nothing feminine in my clothes. And yet … if it wasn’t for a car with an angry swearing driver, I might not have made it home tonight. All because my baggy, shapeless sweater couldn’t hide the fact that I have breasts.

causes of rape

Why did they come after me? Is it because I work for a living? Is it because I was on the street and not in some house cooking for some man? Is it because something about my backpack and my baggy, shapeless sweater rubbed them the wrong way?

I get to Kenyatta and find maybe the last matatu home. I take out my phone and squint. I type a sad message to my friend. And then I stop and I think.

This is my life. This is what it means to be a woman. It means being scared because I had to stay out late to feed my baby. It means wondering if every other person on the street is trying to hurt me. It means shaking as my skin crawls, just because a random man said one word to me. It means sitting in a matatu in tears because it’s Friday and my baby fell asleep before I got home and kissed her goodnight.

They tell us we can have it all, just not at the same time. They say we’re making empty noise, because our needs are not like theirs. They say we clamoured for our rights, and this is a consequence of those rights. They say that we should just shut up, that this is what gender balance means. They say we can’t demand to be equal still expect our treatment to be different.

I take a breath and tell myself to chill. I remind myself to be grateful. Grateful that I got that last matatu. Grateful for the headlights on the angry driver’s car. Grateful for my boss, my talent, my salary. Grateful for the good Lord that made me a mother. Above all, grateful that tonight, I get to see my child, and nobody will find me in a ditch with my heart and body broken.

Tomorrow I will wake up, and they will tell me not to be angry. They will tell me this is life, and that all I have to do is live. But on nights like this, I almost wonder if I should even try. On nights like this, I wish I was a boy.