Friday, 8 December 2017

Unwritten Letter To My Ex

(It’s mostly just in the head)


That day when you told me that I wasn’t enough; that you wanted something more; something fancier, slimmer, taller, glittering…I didn't get a chance to rant. It was too much to take.

That day when you said that I looked a little dumb for my age, that I didn’t think like an adult, that I cared about stupid things; things only a mad man would care for, I didn’t get a chance to defend my intellect. I feared that I would upset you.

When you said that it was because I got it from my friends; fat, hopeless losers who weren’t aware that the only thing that awaited them was misery and more fatness, I didn’t even defend them. I chose you. I loved you too much. My friends thought you were dumb, but I didn’t tell you that. I didn’t tell you how much I hated it when you farted silently, and it smelt like dead mice.

I didn’t tell you how your music wasn't music to my ears, neither did I tell you that I hated your fucking suits. And your not having a single beard. Dude, that’s a sin!

You spent half of your time in church, and spent all the rest being unchrist-like. Fishing hearts with the bait in your perfect smile then breaking them all without ceremony. Many girls giggled to their friends that you had "looked" at them. Even Jesus wouldn’t like that. I heard them on the corridors, and I often wondered where that left me. But I didn’t stop holding on. That was a stupid move, I admit.

I always thought you were the one; and you were, for eleven months. Then you weren’t. What happened? Oh, I know. Nice. Damn, that girl, Nice. Your classmate. The one you were always studying together. Lies. Unless you were studying “Honey Management”. You said she wasn’t your type but then I was like, she’s a girl, and she’s breathing...

I didn’t like her eyes. Has she cheated on you yet, I wonder. ‘Cause her eyes, they always seem to wander.

But hey, how are you holding up? Have you climbed down from the douchebag scale? I see you’re wearing more hoodies, keeping a cool Afro, posting more pictures…and did you just buy another pair of shoes? That’s good, man! I really hope it’s not a girl; not that I’m jealous or anything. Well, maybe a little, but that’s not what’s important here.

I mean, you should be nothing but yourself, and I know that because I have been with seven brothers and each time, I forgot myself. Now, I have found me, and I am the best I can ever be. Am I, really? Oh well, that’s the bullshit single girls tell themselves. But I almost mean it, seriously.

Do you think, after your daily jerk-ass activities, one of these days we could meet up for a cup of coffee? So that we can talk about things face to face; to let go of all resentment, you know, that thing, closure?

Okay, mostly just so that you can see how much weight I have lost, how thick my hair has become, and what a badass I have become. Damn! You must also know that I can pay for an expensive coffee now. You know that job of mine you always criticized? That’s how I’m going to pay for your coffee, you stinking sack of shit. But I still wear my t-shirts. That, nobody can take from me.

We could even talk about our nocturnal escapades to the park, walking in the rain and catching a cold together, you feeding me lies and me devouring them. You really are horrible, I would never wish you upon anybody. Wait, when you said I was the first girl you had ever done any of that shit with, that was you feeding me lies, right? And when you pulled that punchline from “The Notebook”; well played, bro. Well played. Damn, I almost still believe it. “Without you, I’m lost”, you often said. Where, in women’s skirts?

But you know the best thing about everything? I don’t want any of it back. I’m no longer diverting conversations with Sabrina about global warming or socialism to “Michael”. I’m no longer seeing your face everywhere. I am sleeping like a baby, and I could kiss myself for that.

If you must know, I’m doing really well. I found me, I meant it. I know that, like you would say “sounds lame”, but really, I’m happy. You wanna know why? Okay, okay, if you insist. So, I won this photography award. It might not be much, but it is enough to show you that you were wrong about my job, about me, and that you can go fuck yourself. But does it really matter? You didn’t care about my job.

Actually, I’ll be going to Jo’burg this evening. Now you care. If I meet a fine, smart, un-you guy on the flight, even better. I heard you released your first single the other day. I also hope that you’re single.

I would ask you to send it to me, but I deleted your number from my phone and from my memory. Just kiddin’; I don’t give a shit, is all I’m saying. By the way, did you finally grow a beard? It’s November.

Anyway, Michael, I forgive you (not), and I’ll be here (not) if you ever need anything. You said we’d been “just friends”. Well, buddy, that’s what friends are for.

Oh, and fuck you, Mike!


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Think Outside the Ballot By Aduwa Otieno

The following conversation happens in a dingy, smoke-filled, noisy keg joint somewhere east of Moi Avenue:

“I’m proud of the three million that hasn’t registered as voters.”

“Ah, you know most of these people failed to register not out of political persuasions of any sort.”

“Oh yeah? I think their decision involves some element of disregard for the electoral system. That very act of not finding time to visit IEBC clerks, politically motivated or otherwise, is a signifier that not everyone grants legitimacy to what’s being doled out as democracy.”

“Alienating yourself from the democratic process is, for all intents and purposes, shirking your civic responsibility. Not voting is voting bad governance. It’s nothing but letting that corrupt leader take power.”

“Ah. It follows, then, that not swimming is a hobby. Your argument implies not voting as anti-democracy. Democracy in its strict Athenian sense was defined as ‘rule by the people’, but its current form, if correctly defined, would be ‘rule by elective representatives’. We have the latter, where civic responsibility is reduced to just casting a vote. Electoralism is now synonymous democracy.”

“Okay. But what are the alternatives? The way I see it, there are no conceivable ones. Your utopian quest is stuck up in the realm of fantasy. That just leaves us with electoralism. And yes, over the years it has revealed its shortcomings. Worth noting, though, is the systemic reforms that have made it better in some respects. IEBC has undergone structural changes that just can’t go unnoticed. Voting, for example, has been digitized, thereby significantly cutting down malpractices. You can now vote for your preferred candidate without the worry that the election is susceptible to rigging. Even better, with an honest electoral system, reforms have been carried further to the government.”

“Huh. Government. It has a mind of its own. Follows its own logic. It hardly matters who you put in there. And yes, there are alternatives, but they have no place within the current structures. For example, horizontalism. Leaderless, autonomous, communal organizations. Current systems are hierarchical, bureaucratic, and, generally, have a top-down mode of organization. For something like horizontalism – evidently a radical idea – to gain acceptance among the people, an overhaul would be necessary. The state and its bedfellow capitalism would have to be abolished. The state – ”

“A least fill me in on the perceived oppression by the state.”
“I wasn’t finished. Ever really asked yourself why we really need the government? Common response, obviously, is that chaos would be the order of the day without one. You don’t need a lengthy, academic rebuttal to this response. Just look at the hunter-gatherer communities. Travel back on the historical timeline up to when governance of current times wasn’t conceived. Organizations were small scale; something akin to affinity groups. Power structures were non-existent. No bureaucracy. No incentives to deny some access to life’s necessities. Certainly, no chaos. At least not the kind that proponents of the state imagine."

“Look around, bro, there’s no sociology undergrad here. Those are things best discussed within the confines of a classroom.”

“Fair enough. But let’s put the government to test. If you watch the news then you know that the health sector has been paralyzed for weeks on end. Death, as a result, has been on the rise. But the government doesn’t have a sensitive side. After all, those that make up the government and their families don’t use public healthcare. A terrible mistake is making the assumption that these people give a shit about the sensibilities of a life they don’t actually live. Anyway, given the government’s nature of running things, doctors’ protest were met with repression. Some were jailed, never mind the public outcry. How was this executed? The state used its extensions – the police and the judiciary. The police, having a monopoly on violence, disrupted the protests. You’ve seen videos of police men brutally beating protestors which would then be unashamedly ruled out as ‘acted’. But even the state operates within certain limits. They know when to stop. So when its image got tarnished they sought other maneuvers. Law was at their disposal. The constitution, inasmuch as we’d like to think it represents the good, has provisions that are essentially tools of repression. When doctors couldn’t call off the strike all the courts did was quote something from the law books that sent some of the doctors to prison. That’s just one instance.”

“True. But I fail to see how that amounts to systemic failure. Place the blame where it rightly belongs – the people that make up the government.”
“Are you already drunk? I mentioned how the systems in place largely fuel the problem. The police beat people that protests. The judiciary jails people whose only sin is fighting for the welfare of the masses.”

“What are your proposals then?”

“Think outside the ballot. You don’t vote out systemic oppression. Poverty doesn’t magically disappear by simply voting for person X or Y. Same way you don’t end racism by joining the Ku Klux Klan and bringing about reforms from the inside. In place of the state, how about autonomous, communal organizing? An alternative to capitalism? How about syndicalism? Simple reforms are just not enough.”

“Sounds like wishful thinking to me.”

“Oh yeah? By the way, how did the ‘middle class’ passivity catch up with you? Rich-girlfriend-influence?”

“None of your business.”

“Sure. Apologies. My lack of belief in electoralism still holds. Your argument just couldn’t convince someone of my political leanings otherwise.”

“Yeah yeah. Whatever.”

“Okay. Bottles up! Power to the people stick it to the -? Never mind.  Finish up. We have to catch a jav home. Kinda getting late.”

Sunday, 2 April 2017


Esther. That’s right. The Star.

Or as my little brother would put it, “The Artistic Superwoman of Substance with a refined personality coupled with an aura of polished air of resilient nobility.” Smooth, huh? Yeah, Professor Biwott is smooth like that. I mean, he is my brother. And my brother was looking for an Artistic Superwoman of Substance with a refined personality coupled with an aura of polished air of resilient nobility. I do not believe in coincidence much but I see a pattern here. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think I just got myself a shemeji. Just the thought of that makes me have a “Pain in my Shest” and “I can’t breaf.” Even George Lopez would share in my pain in my shest if he heard about this insanity. I really wanted a much younger shemeji, you know.

But she is the kind of person that changes your life. You stay with her an hour and wish for twenty three more. I lived with her for a while in our little artistic blue crib filled with hair products, coffee, scarves, black clothes, laughter, intelligence, laughter. A lot of laughter and a dose of sadness and silliness. The sadness and the silliness always came together. What with the Goat “matatas” and the Grift rift. The “I’M DONE!s” and the “We are strong independent women, c’mon we don’t need that shit.”

28th November.
11th December.
18th January.

Even 1st April! We don’t need that shit. Money over men. We are strong, independent women. African women. Esther’s hair can testify. I was talking about our ritro crib and its fine carpets, divine curtains and two duvets, one as black as the night. Wonder how we ever woke up? We woke up to work. Work, something some people may not understand. And when I did not have work, it certainly did not mean I could sleep comfortably as Esther wrote and wished she were me. Man, she pressed that keyboard hard like a mad woman. And made money just as hard like a mad woman. Or how do you think we bought these matchie-matchie, most expensive shoes I have ever owned? Well, M-Shwari may have chipped in a little bit but well… Our blue room felt homelier than anything ever. I was the happiest pirate ever recorded. ‘Cause it’s recorded. Right here. Jepchu is eternally grateful. That was one phase of her life she is thankful she didn’t miss. But now I have my GreenRoom which she keeps popping in like I stole something from her BlueRoom. Girl!

And her BlueRoom is now an Art Museum. Clearly, I was standing in the way of art, or my presence itself was art enough, and there was no use adding any more.

Speaking of green, remember the numerous green lights and red lights and green lights and red lights and green lights? When your times were good, mine were bad. When my light were red, that was when yours shone like they didn’t pay electricity bills. GREEN. Green as your Ingrams. Those times, I even try to talk to you but you don’t want to look at me. So I WhatsApp you but no, you do not want that either. I am coming in between the two names. I am disturbing the flow, you said. But now you do the same to me but you put it slightly different. “No, Jepchu, I am not disturbing your flow. I am maintaining the Barriers of Christ. Separating the good from evil”. Lady, who are you?

“Time should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
More famous quotes by Esther: “Avocado should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
“School should be your friend, Sharon. Not your enemy.”
And I ask myself how many friends I should have. I know I am a lonely person. But I am a happy, lonely person, Esther. I do not need more friends, and especially if that friend is avocado. I definitely don't need no friends, especially if those friends are avocado-like douche pants.
But I, too, picked up the line. “If person X will be your husband, then Esther, John Grisham should be your friend, not your enemy.”
It worked. She read the whole of “The Associate.”
Probably this is why she started formulating quotes that do not involve friends and enemies. “The higher you climb, the harder the fall.”

Some days, Esther could just jump into some funny character. Cate, for example. You know, Cate… Joe. Singing “Happy Birthday, Joe”, I’ve got my Ray and everything? ...Sharon looking pretty as ever; Linda, sexy as ever and Mildred with her boobs everywhere? Wow, Esther, you’ve got some fine lines. The Aloe Vera is doing you good. It’s not only nourishing your hair, your hairline, your hair roots, your hair all those things that mean the world to you. It is seeping through your skull, past your dandruff, if available (I’m sure there’s none given all the “water n oil” spray ritual that you conduct faithfully on a 7x1 basis), and into your skull. The Aloe Vera is now safely in your brain. Gal, you have a cracked skull. You a crackhead? Ne’er doubted that for a second.

Let me just ask you this. All those hair products, what’s your deal? I even suggested you open a hair clinic that we will name “Esthair Products”. Coconut oil, Bentonite clay, Chia seeds, Mustard seeds, Apple Cider vinegar, cocoa, eggs, avocado, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, Mayonnaise, Argan oil and many other names I cannot pronounce. But one that I can never fail to know to pronounce is Fenugreek seeds. By Jove, that thing smells nasty! It make us walk around smelling like we fried our hair with Royco. And I’m kinda bearing that burden on my head right now. So, next time you are lucky enough to hug me, don’t smell my hair. Or smell my hair and twist your nose a little but don’t say a word. Don’t disqualify our friendship on that basis. Don’t let Fenugreek seeds come between us. Fenugreek seeds come and go but our hugs should endure forever.

But never mess with Mama Kwame’s hair. Do anything, cut her legs off, chop off her ears, she doesn’t need them. But let her hair be. Buy her a nice hair product approved by her and you will be best friends. Show her some information on the internet about healthy African hair and she just might marry you. She will be sobbing like, “I’d like to thank my mum, my dad, and my parents.” It will lead to some serious ‘Harmonisation and increased productivity.’

That reminds me: the differences between VAT and Sales Tax. You know, with VAT being the woman and Sales Tax with all its bad qualities, of course, being the man. The riterare rogarithimic equations, the ritro conversations in the midro of the night. The Aloe Vera and the craze to live healthy and then ruining it all by Detoxifrying (the art of detoxifying your body with fries). And the prophecies (Hey yo, who I gonna marry now?), the difficot times. Abu’s place. I feel like this is where I bring in BP.

B without BP is like a car without an engine. BP is the best friend we will ever have. In fact, if you want to be my friend of Esther’s go consult BP. Bompo will tell you about the difficots, the juice, Labamba, the funny memes, the nice chapati at their home, the “liar liar pants on fire” and how they’d planned to sabotage my date so that we all remain single forever. Those little devils.

The first thing you will notice when you see Mama Kwame is that she is all African. From her WhatsApp (I’ve always wondered if it’s statuses, stati or just status), profile photo, the books she reads, her clothes and of course her hair. I only pity her kids. She insists that Kwame Beberu, Hazel Nazari and Biko will dress African to the waist cloth. I can already hear Nazari saying, “Mama, Nice has beautiful bikinis that her dad bought her in Budapest but I have to wear these ugly prints and look uncool in school. I hate you mama. You suck!” I hear her slamming the door. She doesn’t speak to Esther for another two days. I can see that Beberu does not change his clothes in public. He doesn’t say it but I know he hates the African print boxers to the bone. Cool guy. Like his dad. Biko is the one that subscribes totally to his mother’s beliefs and philosophies. He carries a weird-looking, healthy concoction in an Africa-shaped bottle to school in the place of a tasty beverage. His hair smells like Royco. He already has a nice, black, shiny afro. The apple of his mother’s eye. The child after her own heart. But it won’t be too bad because I will be there. Their cool aunt will be there for them. For Nazari and Beberu, I will be their saviour. Their knight in shining armor. We will detoxifry once in a while, and Esther will not know.

And the smoothies they will drink. The overwhelming amount of Aloe Vera they will subject their little digestive systems to, and spray on their hairs. Nazari will go off to boarding school at eight. She will go to college abroad and never come back. She will marry a white guy that hates Africans but somehow loves her. It will break Esther’s heart. She will feel a pain in her shest and she won’t breaf.
The most important thing this Spidergirl (Nigerian accent) did for me was help me make very important bad decisions in my life. If I had not made those bad decisions, I would still be a wreck. But I made one particular bad decision and it’s the reason I will be eternally happy.  Thank you Mama Beberu. Dhanks. The walks along Arboretum Road, Statehouse Road and all those places, all those topics. Sisters over Misters, Goat, small bradha, Ngong, Grift… When after that we felt like we could rule the world, even with just our hips. Well, my hips and your hind hips. 412, 208. Those numbers ring a bell? And when someone said “Beb”. Remember? So wrong.

It was funny how you let messages marinade and how you expertly snoozed your alarm, lying that you’re off to your brother’s, stealing Biwott from me.  I would steal Jose but Jose doesn’t chase, he replaces. I would steal Aaron but Aaron ako na warembo wake. "Warembo na Aaron". How you got a small rash on your face and couldn’t sleep because you have three acnes. Then applying Bentonite Clay on your face and looking like a Nigerian ghost.

A whole suitcase of memories, I tell ya.
Remember the song:

Why worry, when you can copy
Trust in Davie, he knows the way
Don’t be a doubting Esther, just lean upon his answers
Why worry, worry, worry, when you can copy!

When we feared the prEdicaments dancing at the door. So funny, such a wonderful enigma you are.

I could go on but I think this is where I apologise. Sorry about yesterday. It was necessary. It had to be done, somehow. Happy April Fools’ Day!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Are We Hopeless? By Polycarp Chege

It’s 12 mid night, I am struggling to keep awake watching ‘Hotel Rwanda’. One thing is clear in my mind, it’s the simple truth that all humans must face.
In the midst of the Rwandan genocide, all expectations were that the UN would deploy more peace keeping troops. However, the UN reduced the number of their troops. Western nations followed suit, and withdrew their citizens. It didn’t help matters having an African son, Kofi Annan, as the Under Secretary General of Peace Keeping Missions at the UN.
Romeo Dallaire, the sympathetic UN commander in Rwanda requested for more troops but his request was denied. After the genocide; Romeo believed he could have saved more lives had the reinforcements arrived. As he concluded his report, he laid the blame on Kofi Annan for failing to recognize the severity of the situation.
In his defense Kofi Annan claimed key nations were unwilling to contribute peace keeping forces, especially in Africa, after the catastrophic failure of UN mission in Somalia 2 years earlier. His hands were tied.
This brings me to our situation here in Kenya, over the years we’ve been conditioned to believe in the“it’s our turn to eat” mantra. We’ve waited for elections to get our “man” to the top hoping that since we share the same village, clan or tribe our needs will be fulfilled. Time and time again, we have come to realize that a man is just a mere mortal, inwardly selfish and fundamentally deceptive.
Democracy has long been hailed as a solution to man’s problems. However, it has failed. Unemployment, hunger, diseases and all calamities that befall our human nature are here to stay. As we enter another electioneering year, we will hear endless promises of jobs, better life, justice and fairness. We will be urged to hate that clan or community because they don’t support our “man”. As if that’s not enough, we will be required to stick to our tribal cocoons because once our “man” gets to power, he will open paradise for us and he will make manna fall from heaven.
However, our problems are too great for a man to solve.
All humans eventually realize its useless to rely on a man.
Therefore, I urge you;
Hope in thy God. Those leaders might not know you but He does and cares for your well-being. He does not make promises He can’t keep neither does He withhold any good from you.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

INNERSENSE By Aduwa Otieno

He's seated on a campus bench, waiting for his other half. Like normal human beings, he’s glued on his phone screen. The message, of course, is that he’s not a loser as his attention is being fought for by the phone. 

Him: (murmurs indistinctly) Black men can’t be oppressive to black women… They don’t have systems that would foster that… white men do (pauses to reflect) Meh! But they’re intra-racial injustices against women…
Inner Him: Knock knock!
Him: (decides to play along) Erm… who’s there?
Inner Him: It’s the Inner You, dumbass. You created me. Made me a person. I can talk.
Him: That’s not how the joke goes, but… what do you want?
Inner Him: (excitedly) A chat. Is that so much to ask for?
Him: (staring at his phone) Yeah. I’, in the middle of something important.
Inner Him: (a bit angered) What? Reading tweets? Nothing new there. Just basic knowledge repeated ad nauseam with the expectation that somehow they’ll turn profound. Bleugh!
Him: You’re just hating.
Inner Him: No, stating as it is. “Oh, look how woke I am. I can use ‘hetero normative cisgendered bias’ in a sentence!” “Trump is a racist, sexist, ableist bigot that can never be the president!” It’s always a performance.
Him: How do you even know all that?
Inner Him: (sighs) I’m you, one way or another. You created me, and like god and his creations, in your own image.
Him: Okay. First it’s never a performance. These are people who just want to make a difference, and they have social media for that. Second, why the negative energy? Chill, bro.
Inner Him: Make a difference, huh. These are people deeply drawn into the call-out culture. All they do is lash at anyone they deem morally corrupt. They have the 140 character limit for that. Oh, I hear they do something they call threads these days. Anyway, it’s hard to tell if these guys have a genuine political commitment to change things for the better or they’re just being fans.
Him: They had that Congolese singer face the law for assaulting one of his female dancers. Ha! In your face! Explain that away.
Inner Him: (pauses for a while) That’s one way of looking at it.  Or, we could say that the guys who witnessed the actual assault reported the matter. Did the heavy lifting. Your horde of online activists were left to do what they do best – call out. You know, with overly used phrases like “person X is a racist who shouldn’t be in our country”.
Him: (clearly irked) Are you implying calling out people who do bad things isn’t one way of fighting the evils they perpetrate?
Inner Him: Nope. I’m just saying that’s only a step. There are further steps to be made. And stopping at one of them doesn’t help much as much as we’d like to think. One could say that we have Trump as the US president because of such. Liberals spent the better part of the campaigns mocking Trump and his supporters. Time which they would have otherwise spent debunking Trump’s myth about Moslems being terrorists or his immigration rants that would turn into policies. Instead, we had them glued on their phone screens, typing away patronizing sentiments towards Trump supporters. That, as far as it goes, is my theory.
Him: (reaches out for his cigarette pack and a lighter, then lights one) Are you by any chance anti-liberal?
Inner Him: Yes, and so should you. You label yourself anarchist, after all. Not that I’m against liberal values.  Far from that. In fact, most of values overlap. We both think oppression is a bad thing. The difference, however, is that libs just happen to rant about it. My ilk, on the other hand, are doing something about it. We plan and stage insurrections. We fight all power structures that put us in chains. We fight capitalism. We fight the state. Libs make exceptions. They don’t fight capitalism because, after all, most of them fall under the middle class threshold. Fighting capitalism would mean taking something from them. Libs don’t want to be a part of any insurrection. And if they are, all they do is vilifying those who choose non-pacifist tactics. Look at their passionate hatred towards the Black bloc. In other words, they put themselves on a pedestal.
Him: Wow! Impressive. Proudhon would have been proud of you.
Inner Him: I’m more of a Kropotkin guy. Proudhon, other than his criticism of private property, was by and large a douche. Guy was sexist. He fought systems of oppression but couldn’t patriarchy.
Him: Okay. Enough of the politics already. I’m waiting for my significant other and I just want to be in the mood when they arrive.
Inner Him: (clears throat) Do you love him?
Him: (acting surprised) What? Of course I do.
Inner Him: (long pause)
Him: What? Okay. A bit ambivalent about that. They are transgender. I’ve never dated one. So, it’s basically trial-and-error kinda thing. Wait, is referring to them as “they” even correct? I mean, they’ve never fully identified with genderqueer. And they switched from woman to man…
Inner Him: You said you loved them. How can you not know such an important detail about them? HE really doesn’t care about pronouns. Oh, he’s never had se—
Him: (abruptly cuts Inner Him) All right. Now that’s you swimming in territorial waters. Let’s not get there.
Inner Him (locks eyes with Him) You’re scared of his silicon dick. Hahaha! What happened to your liberal values on sex? You know, about gender being a non-issue. About there being sheds of grey when it comes to gender and sexuality. See, that’s the problem. You hold views, mostly good, but you can’t live them. Ian loves you, but you don’t really, owing to the fact that he has a silicon dick, and his suggestions about you being the bottom. You’re straight, but you want to identify with the non-straight. Now, you’re facing dissonance of sorts. All you have Ian do is spend the better part of your being proving that he’s worthy of your love. Obviously, fake love.
Him: (clearly provoked) I’m not facing an identity crisis, if that’s what you’re implying. You say something else and I’ll fuck you up! Inner Him: (laughs) Will you? Full disclosure, I’m only an extension of you. Your creation. You say you like Mr. Robot, although you think it ripped off Fight Club. I’m like Mr. Robot to Elliot. You might want to think about how it would look like if you beat the shit outta me.
Him: You’re not even real. Shut up! Inner Him: No. You shut up. I’m your gauge. Your guardian. I made it my responsibility to always bring you back to normal whenever you go off the rails. That’s exactly what I’m doing right now. You’re wasting someone else’s time, yours too. You don’t love him, he’s just one of your experiments. The truth is bound to come up, eventually. But there’s a chance. Break up. Save him.
Him: (plugs in earphone) I’m not listening to you. Not anymore.
Inner Him: (unplugs Him’s earphone) Damn it, Him! You have to listen. You –
Ian: (walks in on ‘them’, holding two Cuppa coffee) Hey! What’s up? Introspection or what? You seem to be talking to yourself.
Him: Honey, we’re breaking up.
Ian: (smiling) Okay. Oh, wait. What?!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Man, Check your privilege. By Aduwa Otieno

I will tell you a short story:
It’s almost 10PM.  My female friend and I are leaving Pawa254. We are from an art event, busy discussing how person X is a terrible poet and why we think person Y’s politics on gender is just bullshit. It’s just the two of us when we arrive at the junction that connects Valley Road and Upper State House Road. My friend, let’s call her Wangari, has to walk to town to catch a jav home, I, on the other hand, only has to walk to Mamlaka. Normally I’d just walk up Nyerere Road, then branch at the intersection with Mamlaka Road. But I’m in the company of a woman. , and that Serena stretch doesn’t look safe, at least for her. So, we trek all the way down Valley Road, connect with Kenyatta Avenue till we get to Odeon, where she gets a jav home.
You probably don’t get where I’m getting with this. Or, you just don’t see the moral of the story, especially if a man. You are not entirely to be blamed for not recognizing the gist of the story. You’ve been raised in a society that normalizes privileges to men at the expense of women. I’ll break it down for you.
Wangari, just by being female, is more likely to be a prey to sexual predators and other assaults perpetrated by men. I walk her to Khoja because, unlike me, she has to worry about her safety. She has to worry about the possibility of rape and being mugged, among other aggressions. I don’t worry about anything while walking back to Mamlaka. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen to me, as a man? Get mugged? But I don’t have valuables with me. And worth noting is that I’m relatively able-bodied. That means I’m less likely to be raped or assaulted than Wangari. And this comes as advantage by the virtue of my being male (and being able-bodied). That, friend, is male privilege. And it’s no rocket science how it marginalizes women.
Male privilege can be defined as unearned advantage men have over women just for being male. Obviously, male privilege is a creation of patriarchy. ALL men, believe me, are beneficiaries of it. Many men and even the marginalized fail to recognize this because it is deeply entrenched in our cultures, spaces and even religion. Its pervasive nature makes it hard for someone to view it as a gender issue. There are countless examples of male privileges that happen before our eyes, and we raise not a finger.
Before I began writing this, I was scrolling through my Twitter feeds. One tweet captured my attention. It was about a Saudi woman who, after reporting that she was a victim of rape, gets accused of extra-marital sex instead. It never felt real until I clicked on the link and read all through. The sexual aggressor, obviously male, was nowhere in the picture. To understand how male privilege is at work here, you need to look at the cultural and religious aspects of a country like Saudi Arabia. For a start, Saudi is deeply Islamic. Religion, as you probably know, codifies morality into absolutes that in most cases just aim to serve men. Pick up your holy writ. Look up the gender of those who happen to pass down the laws to the lay people.
In the case of the Saudi woman, the injustices perpetrated on her can thus be safely said to be religiously sanctioned. She lives in a sphere where consensual sexual is a non-issue when a man wants to bust a nut. She lives in a society where the law (codified by men) are harsher on women who have extra-marital affairs than male sexual aggressors. She lives in a culture that doesn’t even want her to drive a car. She lives in a country where writers of my kind get jailed or killed for merely stating this. Than a man could get away with rape just shows how male privilege is normalized in the Islamic world.
Here’s another instance: Male X, driven by the need to physically resemble Channing Tatum, decides to hit the gym. Female Y wants a Teyana Taylor body too. (She’s been watching Kanye West’s Fade video on repeat) They both meet at the same gym. In the process of lifting up heavy things and putting them down, it gets unbearable hot. Male X, without giving it any thought, takes off his T-shirt (size s, by the way. Yet he has a big upper body). Female Y, though, can’t bring herself to doing the same. Given the years of cultivation of the male perception that her nipples are for sexual arousal, she can’t possibly be like Male X without inviting the male gaze and other sexual micro-aggressions like sexual slurs. She’ll likely be called a slut. She could get slapped by some law with fancy words like ‘indecent exposure’. And the worst that could happen is sexual assault. Non-consensual sexual acts. Nobody has anything agains Male X taking off his shirt, but everyone will have everything against Female Y if she does the same. That’s male privilege.
This painfully reminds me of the incidence with Embassava touts. Men, of course. They undressed (read: sexually assaulted) a woman because apparently, how a woman dresses tells about what she wants to be done unto her. This is a case that captures the male privilege to authority. They feel like their authority should be extended to women. The walk around with a moral whip, lashing at any woman they deem morally wrong. Still on male privilege to authority, I’d argue that’s why we have mostly men in positions of power. How many women do you see in positions of authority? They were many back when Africa still valued its women. Back when Victorian ideals about women hadn’t been imposed on us. When Mekatilili Wa Menza were figures even men revered.
Male privilege also manifests itself in the academic sphere. Here’s your homework – use Google or your library to know why there are few female scientists and scholars. Tally up their numbers and then contrast with their male counterparts'. Also, look up the experiences these women go through while in the academic field.
Male privilege, just like other privileges, serves to marginalize a group of persons. Usually the minority. For instance, there’s straight privilege. Here, LGBT guys receive the short end of the stick. Imagine how hard it is, if not possible, for a gay couple to receive a marriage certificate when compared to hetero couple. Imagine how problematic it is for a genderqueer person to walk into a public washroom only to find that there’s only the gender binary, male and female signs on the doors.
Acknowledging that you, as a man, is a beneficiary of male privilege shouldn’t be seen as an admission of guilt. It should be an acknowledgement that women are victims to a system that lends you the upper hand. With that insight, you can work towards purging the structures that allow for such privileges.  There are many things you could do to balance the scales. For example, if your female colleague at work, who works just as much as you (maybe even more), gets paid less than you, raise a voice of concern as a start. Boycott if unheard. In other words, always check your privilege.
Beloved women, pick up your arms. It’s your fight. Be at the battle forefront. Fight to your last breath. That way your daughters won’t be put to chains by the society of men. If you don’t see a glimmer of hope in that, who will?

Photo credits to:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Let's feminist... Woman up! By Aduwa Otieno

Imagine a world where matriarchy was a thing…
I prefer sitting at the back. Be it in a class or just at any other gathering. I take comfort in imagining that no one’s watching. It’s you doing the watching, silently judging.
This one time I’m in class, at my usual spot. Our beloved, PHD-holding, been-to-Nyayo-house lecturer, brings up an argument: women can’t run a family business. To support their case, they tell a story about a friend of theirs who got scammed by the wife. To seal his argument, he mentions something about "women knowing their place”. There was a round of applause. I was still reeling over that when a lady, few seats from this pathetic sexist, raised an objection. She seemed pissed, rightfully so. Even then, she maintained her cool and said something along the lines of “screw gender roles!” Not having a sensible counter to that, the teacher replied with a “read the bible” suggestion.
I imagine even the religious find that problematic. He used religion to justify a system that victimizes women.
Yes, it’s hard to make sense of anything that violates your sensibilities as a woman and a feminist. Our lady, perhaps sensing a likely defeat, gave up. I think walking out would have been a revolutionary act. What would Emma Goldman or Chimamanda Adichie do? Not sure about the latter, but the former, given her political leanings (she was an anarchist), would have thought of “direct action” of sorts. Something between a slap and a full blown assault. [Pauses to reflect on Adichie’s disapproval of Beyoncé’s brand of feminism]
It dawned on me that we’ve been doing it all wrong. We don’t need equality between the sexes, we need female supremacy. That’s why Lucy Ellmann has been making a strong appeal to me lately. Look her up. She identifies as a radical feminist. Oh, and she has that up-in-your-face attitude. In her rom-com novel titled Mimi, she argues for matriarchy. She attacks patriarchy head-on. She imagines most vile things as creations of men. Like war. And yes, she alludes to history to back up her claims. She even goes back to when matriarchy was a thing. Before men took over, then remodeled everything to fit the male worldview. To balance the scales, she makes a rather radical suggestion: men should surrender all their property, including money, to women of their choice. As a start she had her loving husband do that. [Pauses to read a Twitter thread about the classic ‘not all X are…’]
Look around. Why do you think that a lady, even with the glaring fact that high heels are a pain in the ass, is still rocking them? And the wig? The mini-skirt? You guessed right – men want it that way. She’s living in a world that’s unjustly a male set-up. Men hold the view that a woman’s only worth is their physical attractiveness. That’s why you have men, mostly white, overlooking Serena Williams’ achievements because she doesn’t meet their standards of beauty. ‘Oh look! She’s a good tennis player, but that only counts  if she has a pretty face too'. Maybe also layer that with the race issue. Black and beauty aren’t bedfellows, apparently.
Ever asked yourself why that ad just before the news o’clock is that of a pretty woman? We call it exploitation of female sexuality for profit-making purposes. Consumerism pairs up with misogyny and what you get is female sexuality commodified. (By the way, I’d bet an arm that capitalism is a man’s invention. Women, I think, are socialists)
“Sure, some people are attractive. But so what?” That’s Lucy Ellmann in one of her online articles critiquing the obsession with looks. Hollywood, for example, fosters this  kind of obsession. In Hunger Games, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is a revolutionary. But, for maximum relatability, they had to make her beautiful. Not just that. In Home Sweet Hell, women are portrayed as manipulative beings and psychopaths. Men, on the other hand, are portrayed as hardworking and only women bring them down. [Pauses to read an article by Laurie Penny – Are You Man Enough for Birth Control?] Sometimes, though, they repackage ideals we cherish as feminists and then sell them back to us. They did a great job with The Suffragette and Carol.
Back to ‘not all men are’. I was under the impression that it’s obvious  this line of argument is bullshit when the problem in question is rather systemic. In the case of  racially motivated police shootings in the US, it never made any sense to counter criticisms of racism with a 'not all (white) cops are bad’. That alone wasn’t enough to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement. Borrow that line of thought when bothered with a tweet about men being trash. Imagine how wrong it is to call a woman sexist. She could hate men of all kinds -- good and bad. But given the lack of structural support (men have patriarchy), she can’t possibly be labeled as sexist. It could be prejudice on a personal level. Even then, that would be a stretch. Can a black person be racist? The answer is an obvious no. But some would still argue otherwise, clothing it in confusing terms like reverse-racism. [Pauses to curse why the front seats at Safaricom Jazz Fest were mostly occupied by whites]
Feministing is something one can do as long as it takes. There’s always so much to talk and rant about (in my case, mostly the latter, seeing that women have been victims for ages now). The take-home point is clear – men are trash (clearly repeated by those ‘woke’ individuals on Twitter ad nauseam). A reversal of things feels necessary. I want my mom as the head of the family. In place of oppressive patriarchy, let’s have loving matriarchy. Oh, and if you find Lucy Ellmann’s proposal okay, surrender your property to women, if a man. If a woman, asking your boyfriend or husband to do that would be a start.
I choose  to identify  as male, by the way.