Tag Archives: media

#MyDressMyChoice : SOME PUBLIC PERSONALITIES AND MEDIA STAY FAILING WOMEN

The past two weeks have really been dark in Kenya. A woman was stripped naked by a gang of matatu touts because they claim she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing a skirt and a tank top. Someone recorded it and put it online. Another video circulated after that of yet another lady who was stripped naked by another gang of men. They also claimed she was dressed “indecently.” She was wearing pants and a tank top. Just this past Monday, another lady was stripped naked. The gang of men who did it claimed she was dressed “indecently.” One of them used social media to brag about his active participation in violating the woman. This is what our country has come to. This is the kind of hostile society that women have to live in.

Kenyan women have been using #MyDressMyChoice to not only decry these acts but also express their outrage, share their personal experiences, demand better treatment and advocate for the upholding of women’s rights. From this hashtag, women organized a protest that was held this past Monday.

Of course, as with anything that involves women, you know the foot soldiers of patriarchy where ready to march in and blame these violent acts on women.  Because obviously the sole reason that women are violated is women themselves. It has absolutely nothing to do with men and the entitlement they feel towards women. Nothing. Yes, that is the chewed up grass that such people are trying to sell us, and expecting us not to recognize it for the bullshit that it is.

A media personality wrote a blog stating that “…”My Dress, My Choice” Movement, though with it’s heart in the right place, will only be an excuse for some girls to dress skimpily…” Ha…because the only thing that women want is to “dress skimpily.” Never mind that #MyDressMyChoice is about more than just dressing. It’s about fighting for our rights. It’s about demanding the respect that should be accorded to us regardless of our outward appearance. It’s about upholding our presence in this world as human beings and not objects. It’s about putting an end to violence against women. But these are all minor details to this particular media personality.  Plus they don’t quite fit well into her “be a good girl, show self-value by covering up and you won’t be attacked” narrative.

She then claimed that protesting is the wrong approach. She added, “Don’t fix a wrong with a “wrong” & by that I mean taking to the streets will not change much, just today these street hooligans are at it again! the strike could just make these foolish men fight even more.” Fighting for our rights to JUST BE and walk around without fear is apparently wrong. Protesting is an important step in the change that we all want to see. But hey, why should we protest when we can just stay silent and hope that our silence will shield us from assault? That has clearly worked out well for us in the past.

Another personality tweeted, “…scan your environment and dress accordingly.” Basically, you are to blame if anything happens to you and the perpetrators use the way you are dressed as an excuse. Why didn’t you scan your environment? Why didn’t you dress according to it? Ha…you better get familiar with the handbook on dress as per your environment, woman! Better yet, consult the men in your environment about what you should wear.  The truth is, a woman might scan her environment, and decide to wear jeans and a t shirt to be safe, and still get stripped because they will say “her jeans were too tight,” or “she was enticing us with her walk.”

A gospel artiste wrote, “However, am also against women walking around half naked. Let’s not argue with facts well known to us… we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful.” What is half naked? Is it when our legs can be seen? Or our knees? Or our arms? Maybe our shoulders? She doesn’t clearly define what it is. That second statement is funny in the ignorance-is-real type of way. “…we are Africans, where nakedness is shameful,” is a fact!? How so, when there is numerous evidence, pictorial and otherwise, showing that our African ancestors did in fact walk around in various states of nakedness!? They really must have been steeped in shame then, huh!? Good thing the missionaries and colonialists threw some clothes on them and reminded them that as Africans, nakedness is shameful.

She then adds, ” No matter how much we may argue about this, exposing your body is not right,” and “If all of us women dress in a respectful manner, chances of being stripped are very very low.” Exposing your body is wrong!? According to who? What counts as exposing? Showing your toes? Or maybe palms? What is a “respectful manner” of dress? Who determines this? So our chances of being stripped are diminished based on how we “dress in a respectful manner”? Oh wow…how come we didn’t think of this before? Obviously all that women need to do is “dress in a respectful manner” and all the violence we face will magically disappear.  Of course she had to end her comments with #YourDressYourCharacter. You hear that all you dress-in-a-disrespectful-manner types!? Your character is defined by nothing else but your choice of dress. Ah ah…please spare us.

It really is a problem when your opinion puts others in danger. The above personalities say they are against the stripping of women. However, they proceed, in the same breath, to make statements that uphold the very same systems that have for years harassed, assaulted, violated, trampled upon and silenced women. To say that women should dress “decently,” “in a respectful manner,” “according to their environment” is to say that we, women, call the violence upon ourselves. It is to tell women that we have no right to personal choice. It is telling us that our choices must be tweaked and reworked until men find them acceptable. It is to say that our bodies do not belong to us and therefore we have no agency over them. It is to shift the blame from men, where it belongs, and place it squarely on  women. It is to shame and blame the victims.  It is to explain away the assault. It is to preserve rape culture. It is to deny what the stripping really is about – power, control and patriarchy.

The media also seems to be invested in this blame game.  K24,  hosted Robert Alai, a person who tweeted that he would strip or sponsor the stripping of anyone dressed “indecently,” on a panel to discuss dress code. Really!? Because there is a discussion to be had about this? Because his tweets about endorsing violence against women weren’t harmful enough? Because his views and those of people like him need to be amplified on a national stage? K24, to host such a person and air his views is basically you saying that you in one way or the other support them.

Not to be left behind, Nation FM had a discussion on one of their shows. The question, “Is it right to undress a person in public for dressing “indecently”?” They had a number for people to call and chime in. Seriously, that this is even a question is a problem. Is there really a debate to be had over this? I know media houses are all for the “two sides to every story” but when it comes to violence against women there are no two sides about it. It’s not debatable. You can’t rationalize violence against women. The choice of pictures that Nation FM chose to use in reporting the protest on Monday was also quite telling of their stance on the matter.

The media houses are clearly more interested in ratings than using their platforms to advocate for an end to violence against women. What do they care though? As long as they get their paycheck at the end of the day.

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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.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjDBWpnb0sE

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3Pz-7S3iEo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYEq8tseDi4

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!

Kenya’s Red Line Train Ride

Hmmm…after the events of this week, I am now convinced the Kenyan government is taking us on a tumultuous train ride to Nowhere Land. They are playing us like the ukulele while at it too. We currently have a digital government whose key security (and everything else really) strategies are speculation and the blame game. I am not sure how they figure they can propel a country forward based on such. How are we expected to continue entrusting them with our lives when they have repeatedly shown they cannot be asked to ensure the safety of Kenyans?

This past Sunday, al Shabaab linked militants attacked Mpeketoni, a Kenyan coastal town, killing at least 49  people and injuring several others. They also set buildings and other property on fire. That attack lasted for hours. On Monday, al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. According to Mail & Guardian, in a statement sent to Reuters, al Shabaab said, “Commandos last night carried out a successful raid on the town of Mpeketoni.” They added, “Kenya is now officially a war zone and as such any tourists visiting the country do so at their own peril.” The reasons they gave for the attack are the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the extrajudicial killings of Muslim leaders.

Joseph Ole Lenku, the cabinet secretary in charge of interior security, came out with the full force of a circus act, describing the attack as “heinous”, calling the attackers “bandits” and stating that they had crossed a “red line.” Which red line, you ask? Well, guess we might never know since Ole Lenku didn’t display any of Netanyahu’s illustration skills, but I digress. He then claimed that security had been beefed up across the country after the attack, and the attackers had been chased northwards by security forces. Basically, rest easy Kenyans, the government has your back NOT.

The militants called bullshit on this security facade by returning a day later. They must have known what we now know…the government stayed asleep. This time they attacked Poromoko, a village close to Mpeketoni. They killed at least 15 people and set houses on fire. Residents told the BBC that at least 12 women were abducted in the latest attack. They also said that the government did not send in enough forces to protect them after the first attack. Evidence that Ole Lenku was putting on a show. Only he knows who it was for.  Al Shabaab also claimed responsibility for this attack.

This is where the circus plot gets lost.

In an address to the nation, President Uhuru decided that this was an opportunity to gain political mileage. He went in on “reckless” and “divisive” leaders hell-bent on creating hate and intolerance. He also said that such leaders make it easy for terrorists to operate in our country. He then stated, “The attack in Lamu was well planned, orchestrated, and politically motivated ethnic violence against a Kenyan community, with the intention of profiling and evicting them for political reasons. This therefore, was not an Al Shabaab terrorist attack.”  Eh…say what!? Wait just one minute Mr. President. Didn’t al Shabaab claim responsibility for both attacks!? Or are they lying to us? If so, to what end? We have had several unclaimed attacks, why would they pick this one out of all of them to claim!? Something does not add up here. Who is fooling who, sir? And while we are on the subject of profiling and evicting people for political reasons…isn’t that the same thing your government is doing to ethnic Somalis?

President Uhuru further added, “Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous attacks.” Ok…you have evidence but yet no arrests have been made? What is being done to ensure that those involved in the planning and execution will face justice? What about the abducted women? Do the local political networks have them? Are security forces looking for them?

Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements that President Uhuru made is. “It is now clear that intelligence on this attack was availed to the security officers in Mpeketoni.” What!? In short, the attacks could have been prevented but they weren’t. Why, Mr. President, why? Why was there no action taken? What were security officers doing? Sitting on the intelligence and hoping nothing would happen? Or do they lack the resources required to act on such intelligence? Just what exactly is going on Mr. President? Or intelligence isn’t acted upon until the “red line” has been crossed? I would assume that the possibility of Kenyans losing their lives would result in action but apparently the government would rather cling to inaction.

Of course the President had to throw in this usual statement, “I am satisfied that for the most part, our security agencies have performed well and thwarted innumerable terrorist and other criminal conspiracies and attempts.” Every time there is an attack, the President makes a similar statement. He makes it seem like the security agencies are on top of their game. So how come they missed all the attacks that have happened!? Why weren’t they able to thwart those particular attacks? If security agencies are performing well, why aren’t some of them acting on the intelligence they are provided with!?

At the end of the day, President Uhuru and the rest of the government, all we want is to be safe. We want to be able to move around the country without fear. Security in our country has gone to the dogs…that is undeniable. Whether the attacks are orchestrated by local political networks or terrorist groups, the bottom line is insecurity is on the rise. It is your responsibility to protect the inhabitants of the country that you lead. We can be each other’s keepers, as you suggested in your address Mr. President, all day every day. But if we have security forces that fail to act on intelligence and a government that couldn’t care less about its citizenry, then how is that useful to us?

When a handful of countries in the West issued travel advisories, our government was up in arms. “We will find tourists elsewhere,” they said. When it became obvious that more countries were unwilling to remain silent as their citizens travelled to our attack-prone nation, the rhetoric changed to “Tembea Kenya.” Domestic tourism is great and should in fact always be encouraged and promoted.  However, it does to not deter attacks.

Now that you have realized that Kenyans are after all not bulletproof, what are you going to do about these attacks, dear government? How many lives have to be lost before you cut the BS and actually come up with an effective plan to put an end to these attacks!?

 

What about the lion’s tale?

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed reading. I have been fascinated by words since I learnt how to read the ones that are longer than three letters. I remember looking forward to the end of the school day so that I could read the newspaper on the way back home. Although I don’t remember a lot of the content, I do know that I was amazed at how words were being used to report stories.

It was through reading newspapers that I began to desire a career in journalism. Sure, at that age, I wasn’t particularly aware of what exactly having a career entailed, but I did know that I wanted to do what the newspaper writers were doing. Yes, this was back in the day when journalists and the media in Kenya had as much freedom as a butterfly in its larval phase. And this is where the lion comes in. It is said that until the lion learns to speak, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. With all the restrictions placed on the media back then, they were pushed into the glorify-the-hunter ( read government) corner. I remember a time when the news broadcast started with the president’s less than extraordinary activities. The newspapers on the other hand could not openly criticize the government. Any voices of “dissent” were not tolerated.

Thank heavens for new laws and undeterred activists that have ensured that we now have media freedom. We still have a long way to go but what we have now is so much better than what we had or rather what we didn’t have.

With the freedom, one would expect that the media would get better – represent the common mwananchi, amplify the voices of those who have been forced to whisper for so long, evaluate the government and call them out on their inconsistencies and tomfoolery (we all know they have a pit and then some full of that), and generally keep the public informed. Instead, the reverse is happening. The Kenyan media seems to be competing for a clandestine Mediocrity Award. Reading the newspapers is for the most part distressing. If I was a kid today, reading newspapers would discourage me from pursuing journalism. One wonders what the editors are getting paid to do and how some of the journalists were hired. Articles consist of poorly constructed sentences and improperly placed punctuation marks with a side of events that follow no logical sequence whatsoever. In addition to that, there is the typical mixing of tenses and misspelled words. Really!? In this day and age when the spell check feature is bold about underlining questionable words?!? If there is even any news value in the articles it is often lost amidst all these clatter.

We depend on the media to not only keep us informed but also tell our stories. We hope that they can now give us information and stories that could not be shared back in the day when anything but the regurgitation of government communication was a sin. We want them to share information and stories that continue to be ignored by international media (another batch of hunters) that has laser focus on reporting on the negatives of this or that African country. Prior to the elections in Kenya, earlier this year, CNN did a report on how people were in the forest preparing for election violence. I am not linking it here because it was so ridiculous and should be archived as one of CNN’s failures. There was an uproar by Kenyans particularly on social media about the video. The reporter in question stood by it and claimed that it was an accurate portrayal of events despite evidence to the contrary.

Why do I bring up this story? Well, I want to emphasize to the Kenyan media that the stories you tell and how you tell them are both very important. You are the ones with the platform to tell our stories accurately, with compassion and the dignity that they require. You can’t possibly do this if you continue down the shoddy journalism road. You have to step up. The only other option is the hunter…err…I mean international media telling our stories. We all know they look at us through stereotypical lenses so that won’t work.

All this simply to say – Kenyan media, can we please have some professionalism. Yes, that includes the individuals who are in charge of your social media platforms.

CNN, Steubenville Verdict and Rape Culture

The verdict on the Steubenville Rape Trial is in- guilty as charged. There are many ways to frame the news and this is how CNN decided to do it.

Both reporters and the legal expert divided their time between discussing the emotional state of the convicted rapists, the promising futures they had and the lasting effect that the guilty verdict would have on their lives. Complete with visuals of the boys breaking down in court.

The boys’ are referred to as ” …two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…”

Hmmm…what about the 16-year-old girl that they violated in more ways than one? What about her promising future? What about her life? What the rapists did to her was vile and it will have a lasting effect on her life.

If these boys were such “good students” and “stars” then they would not have raped her. It doesn’t matter what state she was in- drunk, tipsy, sober – there is no excuse for rape…E.V.E.R.

CNN has sunk to new lows with the way they reported the outcome of the trail. Why is it that the reporters are so sympathetic and worried about people who knew exactly what they were doing when they were doing it? Unlike the victim, these boys were not forced to participate. When videos and pictures of the rape were circulated, the boys were seen as victors by some their peers. This is a grave that they dug for themselves in which will be buried the promises of the future, the potential academic success and all the stardom that comes with their talents. They did this to themselves.

You know that rape culture is prevalent in our society when you see media coverage of rape framed in a manner that victimizes the oppressor. It’s even worse on social media. It is heartbreaking to read the derogatory comments that people are making about the 16-year-old girl and see the praises being heaped upon the rapists. That there are some people who seem to be more distraught about the fate of the boys rather than that of the victim is saddening.  In such a situation, how can a human being vilify the victim?

We, as a society, need to dismantle rape culture. We need to shift focus from teaching women how not to get raped to teaching men how to respect women and honor their wishes and know that rape is not an option…E.V.E.R.