Feminism, Racism, And The Rape Debate

2012-02-27-context

Life is all about context. Not everyone who takes something without asking is a thief. Not everyone who makes a sex joke is a chauvinist. Not everyone who is nice to a white person is a racist. Not everyone who makes sarcastic comments is an activist.

Let’s talk about my friend Sam. He lives in Lang’ata and spends a lot of time on Twitter. Last week, he went out with online friends. After a fun night out, he called a cab, came home, and blacked out. The next day, he woke up on his sofa in his underwear. Apparently, some thugs had followed him home and carried everything except his sofa, because they couldn’t get him off it.

Being a normal middle class citizen, he went to the police. They laughed as he gave them receipts for all his electronics, complete with serial numbers. They took his statement, and told him he was the third guy in the building to be robbed that week. They asked him to fuel their car so they could inspect the crime scene.

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When Bedroom Matters End Up In Court

There’s been a lot of talk about the Marriage Bill, so while I’m ambivalent over nuptials, I figured I should at least read it. One particular section left me in stitches.

Conjugal RightsWhere do I even begin? Okay, let’s start here. For that clause to be included in the bill, it must have happened more than once. I mean, one assumes our learned friends don’t just pull legal articles out of their nether regions, right? It’s like those insane warnings on the labels of Chinese consumer products. By the time you’re warned not to stick wires up your nose, at least three people must have tried it, yes?

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Okay. Now, at what point do you take your spouse to court for refusing to sleep with you? How does that conversation even begin? And even if you DID take them to court, would you really want to be in bed with someone who’s only there via court order? Wouldn’t that take some of the enjoyment away?

Also, where’s your pride? Wouldn’t it be just a *little bit* embarrassing explaining to a judge, lawyers, and witnesses that you’ve gathered them all in that serious-looking courtroom because you’re not getting any? Wouldn’t it be easier to bribe, charm, or entice your spouse into bed with gifts, cash, or porn?

But then again, maybe it’s just me. I don’t see anyone else complaining or even remarking over that particular sentence. Maybe for the rest of the population, it’s perfectly okay to get a court order that demands marital sex. After all, wasn’t that the reasoning behind the Mututho Law?

Before tomorrow comesAlter Bridge

Operation Nag My Fundi To Death

I’ve wanted a sofa-bed for the longest time. But the one at Tuskys costs 17K, and the one at Nakumatt is 44K. A few months ago, I figured I should just get an extra long couch, then someone could sleep on it at night. A certain fundi had done some good work for me earlier, and had promised to make me a sofa for 4K (in all fairness, that was three years ago). So I went looking for him. Sadly, according to his neighbours, he moved his workshop to shags. Aw crud.

There are about 69 fundis in me neighbourhood, so I started wandering around aimlessly, hoping and praying (yes, I was actually praying) to find the right one. After maybe half an hour, I found one fundi who was willing to make one for 5K. I told him it needed to be solid enough to sleep on, and he suggested creating a reversible back rest so I could unfold it and sleep on it at night. Eureka!

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He would charge me an additional 3K for high density cushions, and 1,500 for three sina-shida stools (my kitchen counter doubles as a dining table, and it’s unusually high). When I placed the order, I paid a deposit of 5K, and he promised me they’d be ready in a week. I told him I was going on a business trip, so I’d pick them up in two. Sawa.

On the appointed Tuesday, I called him to check if my stuff was ready. He said the weather had been bad, so the wood hadn’t dried, and could not be used for construction. Okay. When will the wood be dry? Next Tuesday. I said I’d come on Saturday, which gave him four extra days to get my stuff done. Haya.

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On Awkward Job Qualification Requirements

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If you survived the Kenyan education system, and by the aligning of a little known planet to the moon, found yourself some enslaving white-collar 9 to 5 thing, you are a hero. You will agree (now), that school wasn’t the difficult part. The goddamn-what-the-hell-kick-a-dying-cat part, was trying to get employed. In spite of all your qualifications,  skills, abilities and unnecessary hobbies, one thing or the other had you walking into a slamming door.

Maybe it was that politician’s son who got the job despite the fact that he didn’t even attend the interview. Or the fact that your father is, well.., a nobody. And we don’t exactly get to pick dads, or steer their ambitions.

But beyond the corruption and nepotism are other interesting factors that we never take into account, say when a company proudly states that they are an “equal opportunity employer.” To me, that simply means that they have separate toilets for men and women. Pretty cool.

See there are employers with special preferences. Like the kind that would rather hire single mothers? Perhaps they secretly think “she must be suffering so much, she’ll bend-over backwards to get the job done, and when she’s done she’ll jump hoops and a ring of fire. Coz single mothers work goddammit!” 

Or companies that prefer to hire married folks: Yeah, this is a very serious man/woman. This settling down thing requires one to buy diapers and pay school fees. Yup let’s give this guy the job! Single folks are not as serious as married folks.

There’s an old lady I knew who ran a toy store in the city. She could never keep an employee for 6 months and yet, whenever she asked for referrals, she would say “make sure the girl is not too smart.” According too her, smart employees make good thieves. She eventually closed down her business. I can’t imagine why.

Or my friend who owns a bar and prefers to hire single women because 1. their hips keep the men entertained 2. if they had to steal drinks, they can’t possibly milk the bar dry 3. the fact that they are single guarantees that there is no man somewhere complaining about his wife working all night or coming home late. As fate would have it: Single women can stay up all night and entertain men. No problem there.

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But we may go ahead and berate those employers when we ourselves have our biased employee qualification checklist. Don’t many women agree that ugly, single-mothers, from church-mice backgrounds, make the best house-helps?

NOTE: At this point by the way, if this single-mom thing sounds like a plan, by all means get knocked-up and ditch the guy. You never know.

Career advisers often tell us how best to design our  résumés and what not to wear to an interview – in essence, they’ll fit us into a little box we should hardly think outside of. While basic standards are important, we often forget that interviewers and employers are human and human beings will tend to be biased. For instance, which house-girl thinks of herself as ugly? Or who goes to school hoping to come out dumb and therefore deemed as “honest.” Personally, I once got a well-paying desk job simply because I helped my parents around the farm when I was younger. My employer wasn’t interested in my spruced up CV.

All in all, what does that say about job creation in our country? If we citizens are not exactly sure what works and what doesn’t and we have our own unprintable rules of what should, does the the government know exactly how to solve the youth unemployment problem in this country? And can we please stop telling kids that “ukisoma utapata kazi nzuri sana.” We all know that it doesn’t quite work that way. Can’t we instead link education to gaining common sense and building character rather than it being a lousy ticket to employment?

PS: I’m a big fan of Diego Buñuel‘s Nat Geo adventure show Don’t Tell My Mother. During his trip to Lahore, Pakistan, the (oh, so tall and handsome *fans self*) Diego encountered an entrepreneur who owns a chain of salons dedicated at employing girls who have suffered acid attacks leaving their faces completely disfigured – the acid having been thrown at them by their boyfriends, fathers or brothers. Some of these girls, having no prior hairdressing skills, are first treated and then trained by their employer, only to spend the rest of their lives behind a mirror (why, oh why?) making customers look beautiful. Sigh.., life.

Is That Blood?!? #NSFW

Relax! It's just paint.

Relax! It’s just paint.

On my way to work this morning, I noticed something pretty disturbing. The matatu in front of us had blood on it. It looked like a hand print, and the stain ran down the back in creepy smear. I watched a lot of horrors in my childhood, so in my mind, I pictured someone dragging their bleeding hand all the way down. I conjured up the situations that could call for that reaction, and I physically shuddered.

At first, I thought I was the only one who was uneasy about the blood. Then I saw our driver sidle next to the matatu. He tapped the makanga’s window and whispered to him. He clearly didn’t want any of us to hear, but I was seated right behind the driver, so I heard him ask about the blood. The makanga made a skeptical face, then shut the window. I guess he didn’t believe the driver.

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What the World Thought Of Kenya’s Presidential Debate

Kenya’s 1st Presidential Debate held on Monday night was indeed a historic event viewed and listened to across the country and beyond our borders. Our local media did a great job covering the event live, while regional and international media outlets offered post-event coverage and analysis of the debate.

Close to 100 regional and international media brands found our debate newsworthy. Among them were Aljazeera, BBC, The Guardian, TIME, New York Times, Yahoo News, VoA, Washington Post, Fox News, Global Post, ABC  News and so many more.

It was a sobering reminder that the world has, is and will be watching Kenya as the General Election draws nigh. Whatever their reasons, be it the 2007/8 post election violence or the ICC cases that followed soon after, or the fact that Kenyans on Twitter (#KOT) had the debate trending for hours, this on a day when the Pope announced that he would be resigning.

Yeah that’s us.

While we found this international attention certainly flattering, we couldn’t help but take note of the comments below articles posted online on various news sites. Here are some we found rather interesting:-

On Yahoo News

“Are gay rights on the table???”

“Hopefully Obama will win this one.”

“So how can they do that (debate) when we have their village idiot over here”

“Where are the white candidates?”

“What no white people, Kenya is nothing but a bunch of racist”

“Why all of a sudden does Yahoo post Kenya news?? If Obama is an American citizen then why should this even be news??”

“Gosh now were going to get Kenya news force fed to us, Because that’s where King Obama is really from…”

On  Al Jazeera

“The win by Uhuru is imminent.The West should start leaving if they can not put up with his administration.”

On the Daily Monitor

“I am looking forward for such debates in our country-Uganda.” 

“Debating is civilized but shooting at opposition is criminal. Kenya is always ahead of Uganda it seems these days, but in early Independence days Uganda was ahead.”

There is a lot to learn from all the comments on these articles whether they be ridden with humour, hate speech, admiration or blatant ignorance.

For us back at home, this debate as historic and memorable as it has been for both Kenya and indeed the African Continent exposes a nascent constitutional democracy grappling to break free from its past.

Kenya’s politics is still largely driven by personalities and less by issues and even less by ideologies. The chorus of candidates hailed the Constitution as the progressive and powerful legal pact that it is, yet none of them were able to convincingly pin-point what exactly are the stumbling blocks in its implementation three years since its promulgation.
The average viewer was left unclear on how the candidates would work with the institutional framework under the Constitution and the areas of weakness or failure in its implementation as spearheaded by Kibaki as President