Tag Archives: African men

Shedding Culture

How do we go about doing away with aspects of culture that have and will never be beneficial to us, individually as well as in our different communities? This is especially difficult amongst African communities since “culture” is the invisible cloth that we are reluctant to take off. We cling to culture and constantly use it as justification for carrying out violations, especially against women.

One of Uganda’s daily newspapers, New Vision, published this interview with an upcoming female musician who was also the runner’s up in a Coca Cola sponsored singing competition in 2013.  It is evident from the initial questions that the young lady is a go-getter and has accomplished a lot as a result.  However, the interview took a turn for the sad when questions about relationships were asked. The lady’s responses were disturbing and heartbreaking. It is scary to know that there are many more African women who share  her sentiments.

When asked  whether she would leave if her man hit her: “If he hit me for the right reason, I would stay, but if he hit me over something flimsy, I would leave. I admit sometimes we do things that make our better halves angry. They are human too. When people get angry, they do things they can regret. I would still forgive him. My parents hit me since I was young, but do I hate them? No.” And what would this right reason be: “Maybe if I went out all night and didn’t pick his calls and then I was rude to him (which I am never), I would take the beating.”

Eh! Is there ever a (right) reason to hit a woman? The correct answer is NO, NEVER.  The fact that someone has somehow found a “right reason” is baffling to me. Equating being disciplined by one’s parents to being hit by a man is startling and an indicator of some of the negative aspects of culture that we need to rid ourselves of.

People are still steeped in the women should be “disciplined” belief. This is something that has been accepted and even considered part of many African cultures for years. It is considered normal, you know, just like breathing. Men have historically been taught that, as the authority in the home , it is up to them to ensure that people in the house toe the line, especially their wives/girlfriends/partner. A woman is considered a minor who has no business pursuing any of her interests without her husband’s/ man’s consent.

Despite all the progress that women’s rights movements across Africa have made over the years, this particular aspect of our collective culture stays the same. The opinion of the Ugandan lady in the interview above is just one example. How many of you have, or know a young African woman who has, been told that attaining higher education will make her intimidating to men? Will result in her not finding a husband? Because African men are not interested in women who are more educated than them or earn more than they do. “You can’t be too independent, no African man will want you,” is a statement that I have heard.

African women today are still expected/taught to bend over backwards and work overtime to appease the men in their lives. If the relationship fails then it’s your fault young African woman. You should dress to impress your man, keep him interested…pull out all the stops so that he doesn’t stray. You can aspire to be anything you want as long as your ambitions leave room for the man to be the head/leader. You should always cook…it’s a woman’s job…the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach after all. You can’t go out all night with your friends and not pick up his calls…how else do you expect him to show he cares if he can’t keep tabs on you? Oh, he hit you? Well, he was just “disciplining” you…your ways need to be corrected from time to time…you know how we women can get. He hits you because he loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself…yeah, sure, as long as that best version stays under his thumb and learns to respond to his every whim. So what if he is unfaithful?…you know how men are…they get tempted easily…forgive and move on. You can’t leave because he is cheating or hits you every now and then…good men are hard to find my dear.

It’s all very disturbing especially when you hear/read about a young lady buying into these notions. It’s sad to know that such beliefs are being, and by the looks of it will continue to be, passed on from generation to generation. How then will we enact societal change? How will we, once and for all, do away with this cultural bondage?



I found out recently that one of my relatives should have written a handbook on dating. If you were, are or have tried dating in this so-called modern times, then you know there are moments when you wish you had such a book to throw at some people.

When Aunty J (Yes, another Aunty J story!) was growing up, they lived near a valley. She had an uncle who owned an eshiriri, a stringed instrument with a drum-like base from the Luhya community. If you know anything about the Luhyas, it is that we love our music. He also had a girlfriend who lived on the other side of the valley. Every evening he would sit outside and play the eshiriri while singing. Now, I wasn’t there, obviously, but I have this mental image of him seating on a three-legged stool, wearing bell bottom trousers and with a healthy budding afro. He wasn’t doing it for money or communal entertainment. It was how he communicated with his girlfriend and requested her to come visit. Yes, people did communicate with their significant others pre – the text message. I can imagine he inwardly willed the air to carry his  music over the valley and direct it straight into his girlfriend’s ears. He would play and sing until the girlfriend heard him, and wouldn’t stop until she came over. She always did.

It’s a far cry from what happens these days. Nowadays people simply text “Wanna come over?” and that’s on generous days. When they are feeling stingy with their words then it becomes “Cme ova?” Seriously people, no effort left to put in this dating game huh!? Is this the downside of technology,are we just becoming lazier as a people or is it that changing times have altered the dating game?

When I was in high school, people communicated with their girl/boyfriends through letters. Yes, good ol’ snail mail. The highlight of these letters was the song dedication that your girl/boyfriend/object of your affection/apple of your eye/current crush wrote either at the end of letter or on the margin or both. People carefully picked songs with lyrics that conveyed a message they couldn’t write outright due to nosy concerned teachers who occasionally opened the letters and read them, before passing them on to the intended recipient. Ah, the boarding school struggle. Extra creative people wrote poems that waxed lyrical about all the recipient’s attributes and the sustenance the sender drew from these. Of course there are those who sprayed cologne or perfume on the letter so that the recipient could get a whiff of them. During the holidays, it was face to face meetings and long telephone conversations. I thought our dating game was up there until I heard the eshiriri story.

That was all before everyone had access to a cellphone/ smartphone. Dating in these smartphone era is something else. People will try and fail miserably  to woo you through WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and such. Then they get shocked when you give them an ample serving of side eye and keep it moving. What does a person expect when they contact you on WhatsApp and paint a picture of the rosy future they hope the two of you will have even after years of not hearing from said person? Seriously? Where is the effort people? Where is the e.f.f.o.r.t? No one is asking or even expecting you to play the eshiriri and sing or string together a sappy poem, but dang…try a little…just t.r.y. Heaven knows many of us would pick the strumming of that eshiriri  over “Cme ova?” any day.

True African Woman a.k.a Being Expected To Exist Solely For (African) Men

Who is considered a true African woman? What qualities must one possess in order to be considered one? If you lack said qualities, then are you considered a “fake African woman” or perhaps “a man”? Well, your guess is as good as mine, dear reader.

I have pondered about the concept of a true African woman for a while. Perhaps it is because I have been accused on more than one occasion of not being a true African woman. I say accused because people make it sound like you are committing a crime for refusing to be shoved into their myopic boxes, where you are expected to compete for air with their misguided opinions.

It seems that for one to be considered a true African woman then every single move they make and every breath they take should be solely to appease a man. No, African ladies, no, you cannot simply do things for yourself. Your every step should be designed to make (African) men happy. In case you forget this, even for a millisecond, society is more than happy to remind you.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter on social media about the introduction of Camay, a luxury beauty product targeted to African women, into the Kenyan market. As an African woman, a Kenyan, and a person with more than a passing interest in beauty products, I was curious about Camay. I read a handful of blogs about its launch, the products in the collection, as well as the fragrances they have. The bloggers all had nothing but high praise for the products. Given that Camay is targeted to the African woman, I was interested to see how the company marketed it in their adverts. Hmmm…that is where the disappointment began. Below are the three Camay Kenya commercials that I found on YouTube.




In the first one, the lady sprays her deodorant and then twirls into the arms of her significant other. Because obviously it is impossible for her to want all day protection and the good smell just for herself. Why would a true African woman want that, hey?

In the second and third one, the lady has discovered the way to her significant other’s heart – Camay soap and lotion. The man is always in a hurry but a quick shower using Camay’s scented soap and a stop over at his job will stop him in his tracks, and enable him to realize that she is the queen of his heart. The soap is targeted to African women. African women work too! Why couldn’t it be that she took a shower and went to her workplace, and had very productive day? And still smelled good at the end of the long work day?

When the man is not in a hurry he is apparently busy. What’s the remedy to his busyness? Why, Camay lotion of course! Again, why couldn’t it have been that she had a busy day but the lotion kept her skin glowing and soft throughout? Can’t African women want soft and glowing skin for ourselves/just for the sake of/because it makes us feel good? Is that not a possibility?

Additionally, if your significant other is always in a hurry/busy such that you have to resort to such antics just to get a fraction of their time, then maybe you shouldn’t be with them. What’s going to happen when they get bored of the scents or are no longer amazed by your glowing skin? What’s going to happen when YOU get tired of the scents and want to change to scent-free products?

It’s just an advert, you say. Well, it really isn’t just that. It reinforces some of the negative and constraining attitudes with which women are viewed in society. Camay isn’t the only one either. The media is chock-full of such.

It’s about time we, as a society, let go of these notions that we cling to about a true African woman. All my African women, how many times have you heard the following: You should learn how to cook so you can find a husband, Our men like conservative women, You won’t get a man while dressed like that, Our African men will be intimidated by all your education, Wear some lipstick but not too much – you don’t want to scare the men away, and of course, You are too much of a feminist for our African men, among others. Obviously if you fail to tow the line then you are rapidly told just how much of a true African woman you are NOT!

It’s ridiculous I say!