A while back, a woman on Twitter accused Tony Mochama (Smitta of Pulse) of sexual harassment and the issue caused a furore. Many discussions arose from that incident, some which had very valid points. I did not comment on the issue then (on the blog) though I contributed to the online conversation on Twitter. Here was my take: sexual harassment is wrong. Period. Now the choice of media was another issue altogether. I do not advocate to putting someone up on a public court and putting his reputation on the line. What shocked me in the course of those discussions is that at some point in the conversation several men accused us (women in the conversation) of feminism. Strike One.
Last week a woman was stripped by Embassava touts for being ‘indecently’ dressed – As if the loud music in the matatu and ‘forgetting’ your change is not bad enough, why not add stripping female customers to the list of lousy customer service and the Kenyan tout job description. This incident has spiked a lot of reactions from various people. In the course of discussing this issue in class today, one of my classmates said “Sometimes women dress very indecently and they get what they deserve. You are only defending her because you are a woman.” For a moment, I was too upset I had trouble breathing. What? How a master’s student can reason and talk like that is beyond me. Strike Two.
Because I don’t want to wait for strike three to happen (honestly I don’t think I can take it) let me talk about the elephant in the room; Feminism. But before we get there, let me set something straight. There is no justifiable reason to strip a woman naked in public. So what if her dressing offends you? Get angry, talk about it but by all means don’t touch her let all alone strip her. If I hear one more person talking about how women dress indecently as a response to this stripping issue I will burst. It is the same ridiculous argument that people use to justify discrimination. Simply put, it is intolerance and it is wrong! As a society, we hold different values and so we will disagree with one another every now and then. And it is OK. However, no individual holds the moral authority to punish another. We live in a civilized society (at least I hope so) and we should act like it. As a Christian, #MyDressMyChoice is more like #MyDressGod’sChoice. This informed by my values of modesty and decency. However, not everybody believes in the same things that I do. In this regard, I am allowed to take someone aside and talk to them about their dressing but the last buck lies with that person.
Back to the elephant. For the longest time I have always seen feminism as a negative thing. And why shouldn’t I? Every time feminism is talked about there is almost always a negative connotation. Most of the time it is used as an insult – “you are such a feminist.” Like, you should be offended because I called you a feminist. It was only after I was accused of being one that I actually researched about it. So, what really is feminism?
According to the dictionary, feminism is simply the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Now I know in the process of fighting for equal rights, some women got carried away and wanted men banished from the earth 🙂 That is not the feminism we are talking about. We are talking about feminism that is concerned about the girls in the village who are married at a tender age and wants them to get better opportunities in life. We are talking about the feminism that looks at girls not attending school because of their periods and looks to provide pads to them. We are talking about Beyond Zero campaign, being concerned that many women die during childbirth and looking for ways to better maternal health.
As a Christian wife, I have written severally on women and submission in marriage and being a suitable helper. No, by advocating for feminism I am not contradicting myself. Far from it. I strong believe that each of us (men and women) have our roles for which we are suitable for. I also agree that there is a certain order God put in families and in that regard of roles, we are not equal. However, when it comes to opportunities of education, health, security and respect for human rights we are equal. Every person (male or female, black or white, young or old) is entitled to these things. So if we are talking about feminism that disregards men and refuses to respect them then I am not a feminist. If we are talking about feminism that is keen on doing things to prove that we are as good as men, count me out. But if we are talking about feminism that is worried by levels of rape and sexual harassment of women then I am feminist. If we are talking about respecting women, hearing their opinions (both in private and in public) and giving them equal opportunities then by all means I am a feminist.
Let me clarify here that is no competition of the sexes. It does also not mean that because I support respect for women I therefore do not advocate for men to be respected. They are not mutually exclusive. Not at all. If I am vocal about women issues it is only because as a woman, I can fully identify with them.
I also ask that we put bottom lines with regard to certain issues. For instance, sexual harassment is wrong, regardless of who did it and to whom it was done. The same way when someone is killed we don’t seek to find out whether the victim was male or female before we can agree that murder is wrong.
So, other than wife, aspiring mother, family blogger etc I have a new title; feminist and I’m really happy about that. I invite our men to fight this battle with us. You are our brothers, fathers, boyfriends (friendzone counts) and husbands. Honor us, be enraged when we are treated with disrespect. Stand with us, we promise to stand with you in your battles as well.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.