Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Women who Lay Over Us

Women are not equal to men. In structure, in theory and in practice, men are more equal than women. Sure, love takes its toll equally on all; some more than others. Sure, the sum of this ‘some’ is not entirely made up of women; experience and interaction abound to prove it.

Sure, money should be split equitably between the sexes. Yet many a girl gets what she wants, many a times, based on what she can give ‘back to sender’.

Lay over – a temporary break in a journey; 
usually imposed by scheduling requirements. 

This is where the needs argument usually comes in.

“I have needs to take care of”, says Stoopy, in justifying her multiple streams of income. Streams – you will often find – that she pays for in kind sex, love without benefits, or smiles and pet names. 

Sometimes, just sometimes, streams that are paid for in rape allegations and entrapped alimony.

Watching world wrestling this weekend, the ironies of our hypocrisy – as concerns the stereotypically weaker sex – could not have been clearer were they erected in crystal pillars. It was a tag-team match, one in which two guys chose to beat the brains out of each other’s brawn. We shall call them Egg-face and Egghead.

The guys went at each other. Fought hard, fought smart…or some semblance of it. The rules of a tag team are that a teammate usually does not interfere with the ongoing fight. Egghead’s tag-team partner would thus remain in his corner, until such a point as Egghead tags him in. At that point, Egghead leaves the ring, taking his associate’s position at the corner.

Further, unless Egg-face can get to his partner before Egghead’s partner-in-crime gets to him, then – ideally – ‘new blood’ should continue to pound on him.

This particular match was different. Whereas the tag-team partner is usually another man, this time, on the sidelines stood female reinforcements. Two women wrestlers. We shall call them the sidelined girlfriends, henceforth SGs. Two things quickly emerged:

There was a special rule for the Eggs’ SGs. If Egghead tags in his SG, then Egg-face has to tag in her counterpart. Because men do not fight women.
The match was won when Egghead’s SG hit Egg-face below the belt. You know, in the luggage; in ‘the boys’. Egghead then took over, pinning Egg-face to the ground for the 3 count. Game over.
Now let’s recap. A woman cannot be hit by a man, when in the middle of a fight she signed up for; that would be wrong. She is not structured to be hit in a fight, within a ring, by a guy. Her body is her weakness, in this fight.

The same woman can hit a man. She can take him out by going for his weakest point, his weakest weakness. This she can do at a time when she is not supposed to be interfering with the action in the ring. She can then stand by and watch a strong man mop up, and take the credit for her kill. Her body is still her weakness, you see, in this win. Because while she can opportune a hit that cripples a guy momentarily, physique says she might not stand any chance pinning the man down.

Before Westgate took over Kenyan airwaves, two similar women had been consistently portrayed as the shamed queens. Rachel Shebesh, a Member of Parliament who took a gubernatorial smack in her cheek. Caroline Mutoko, a Radio Diva who took an unsanitary senatorial blast in her ear.

Two women who were in a fight with two men. Let me rephrase that.

Two powerful, privileged, obnoxious women, who purport to speak for all Kenyan women, pit their fists – metaphorically speaking – against two powerful, privileged, obnoxious men, who purport to speak for everyone. In a fight whose rules these two women expected to control, having carefully choreographed it to be on the record.

For a second, let’s walk away from the fight I feel coming, as to whether so-or-so deserved – womanly as she was, is – the reaction her transgressing action brought bare. Let’s walk as far as Germany, shall we?

Lay over  To postpone for future action

At the heart of the Holocaust, it has emerged, were women as brutal as Hitler’s men. A mother, who shot fat-nosed Children of the Ark. A nurse, who injected lethal fluid into Jewish campers, turning their blood as cold as her own.

These German women were complicit to the white-washing of Jewish lives from German nationalism. They killed, directly or indirectly. Just as the terrorist who allegedly warned a pregnant lady he clearly liked, that there would soon be a stampede at the Westgate Mall, was her savior.

Yet only a small number of these women, such as Irma Grese – a concentration camp guard – were punished, and fittingly so, for their crimes in Nazi Germany. Like the accountant who helped Pattni, aka Pastor Paul, rob Kenya blind with government sanctioned scams, or the lawyer who fattened his career protecting Nyayo’s corrupt regime, the naming and shaming game did not apply to these women.

Closer home, a young girl took a knife and stabbed her father dead. She had been repeatedly raped by her guardian, and could no longer take it. While the penalty for rape is surely not death, this case was, and is, justifiably a case of self-defense. For one, she could not possibly rape him back; but more so, rape is a twisted power play, one that deprives its victim of choice, not to mention scarring them both physiologically and psychologically.

I do wonder, though, if the tables were reversed, whether a 17-year old who killed his female guardian would be pardoned on a self-defense claim. Whether his plea would be given a slap in the hand without warranting a visit to the doctor’s, at the very least, to help him with the trauma that got him to take another’s life. I wonder if, simply because he were male, the question would not be as to whether there was any immediate danger to his life.

I wonder if, as with the case of Duduzile ‘Dudu’ Manhenga, it matters that life is precious, and unless it is taken justifiably, then it matters not by whom; just how, and perhaps why. Dudu has been called, in disclaiming her culpability in an accidental homicide, both a 'good person' and a 'woman of God.'

While Dudu's case has many complexities that have little to do with her femininity and a lot to do with her Godliness, even as I write this, a big part of me feels sorry for her. That part of me that feels that a woman should be excused for her actions, simply because she is a woman, and the world has not cut her enough slack. 

The same part that forgets to tell girls - as we tell them that they can be anything, as we tell them that they can be like men - that the world they live in does not truly think so. That the men around them will not live in fear of defilement as they walk home late at night. That they do not have to worry much about what happens to their bodies when they're drunk and passed out at an inconvenient spot in a ditch. That while it's OK to push for equal opportunity, equal circumstance can never be achieved.

That same part, I would imagine, that this comment recently criticized in a discussion I was involved in:
[There is a line between] "rape" and consensual sex at a party. Getting drunk with a girl is not necessarily sexual assault or rape [sic]. It still bothers me that it is expected that a drunk man is responsible for ALL his decisions and actions, but a drunk woman is not responsible for her decisions and actions. Where's the equality?

Either drunk people can still make sound decisions about sex, or they can't. Pick one. 
Lay over  To place on top of; to superimpose
What many women do not always get, in getting what they want, is what they deserve. What their needs often forget, in justifying what some women get – usually and quite simply because of their structure – is the inherent irony. The irony in expecting to be taken seriously in complete disregard of what you look like, when your other hand willingly accepts money and gifts; because of what you look like.

The irony in complaining about the world’s evil hold on women’s necks, when in the same breath expecting women to receive lighter or no sentences for their transgressions.

There’s a million voices
To tell you, what you
Should be thinking
So you better sober up
For just a second.

-   Youssou N’dour.

To rape… to abort; two unwanted mutually inconvenient verbs that demonstrate just how much more men equal, than women.

These two verbs; two doing words that pit their choices against each other while consciously ignoring the woman. Choices that society’s misinterpretations of feminism forget to mention. Mention that some men choose to rape a woman of their choice. Mention that when a woman aborts, it is often out of lack of choice.

Not every woman, society’s feminism seems to ignore mentioning, aborts for lack of choice. Being born male, contrary to society’s ignorant double standards, does not herald a predisposition to rape a female.

Two words that are consistently peddled to generalize women’s fears and struggles, while simultaneously in many cases pitting men in general as the cause of these fears and struggles. In one fell swoop ignoring the fact that these are not, should not be, absolute issues.

This, especially not, where gender were concerned. Because pitting men against women, not only defeats the purpose of seeking a solution; it entirely closes our eyes, locking out the few in society who do not ascribe to our definitions of gender.

What happens when we refuse to think for our selves? Absolute and systemized pigeonholes become systemic definitions of right and wrong, and provisions for selective absolution. 

By labeling yourself - dear feminist, dear counter-feminist, dear activist - you simply label others. Because a label asks them, from the get-go, if they are "for us; or against us." 

Written by Fred Wambugu Maina.
Photo by Fungai Machirori.

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