Women

“Sasa Mwanamke, Utafanya Nini?”

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I like men who underestimate the power and strength of a woman. What am I saying…I don’t like them. I LOVE them!

I engaged such a man recently. We were talking about politics and somehow we ended up talking about women in relation to men. How we ended up there, I don’t really know. We started with discussing how politicians make promises during campaigns and how they get to office and could care less about fulfilling those promises. He claimed to understand where they’re coming from and tried to reason with me.

“Look here Renee, even you know that when a man courts a woman, he makes a lot of promises, some of which he doesn’t intend to keep…”

“So does it mean…” I tried to interject.

“No, no, no, let me finish. Let me finish!” he cut me short.

“You know how courtship goes. Before a girl accepts a man’s advances, the guy has to promise heaven and earth. You have to tell her you will fly her to the moon and back even if you have no cent to your name. Once ameingia box, she’s in your court, deal is sealed…basi, kwisha maneno….” he was feeling awfully smart.

To imagine that he thought that women don’t know this game!

Seeing that I was silent, he carried on as if to make me understand ‘these things’.

…kwani what do you expect, an actual trip to the moon? No! I have better things to do! And if the woman pesters me, I tell her zaa watoto kwanza and we’ll go back to the drawing board!”

At this point, I threw up my hands. Don’t even get me started! Anyway, I recovered in good time to inquire about a thing or two;

“Say you promise her the moon, right? And she really really wants that trip to the moon. And the only reason she agrees to your advances is so that she can get to take that trip … you know…to the moon? If that trip is not forthcoming, don’t you think she might quit you? Since you did not live up to your end of the bargain?

“Quit me?!” He laughed. No chortled is more like it. “Quit me and go where?”

See what I had to deal with? Am I the only one….never mind!

Sasa Tuseme ukweli. Let us be honest with ourselves here…Where will she go? To her parent’s house? She will not quit. She will stay. Eh? Sasa atafanya nini?

Sasa atafanya nini? What else can she do?

I smiled because I had heard that statement used by women a whole lot. Your husband batters you to pulp and you go, “Sasa nitafanya nini?” Then you stay put giving him the impetus to do it over and over. He cheats on you with anything in a skirt, and all you do is wonder, sasa nitafanya nini? He treats you like a doormat, but then again, utafanya nini?

Now this man was also asking “Sasa mwanamke utafanya nini?

I was thinking of a few choice words for him but I kept my cool just to see where his Neanderthal mind would take us.

“Ok. So you’ve never heard of any woman who has left her husband, no?”

“None?”

Lakini hata akienda, si unatafuta mwingine? Yeah…” he was nodding frantically. I’m sure he gave himself a mental high five and pat on the back.

Then he had a light-bulb moment “Kwanza akiwa na watoto, ataenda wapi na watoto?

I shook my head.

“Child support nayo?” I asked

“Child support what? If she chooses to leave on her own volition I will not agree to pay a single cent!”

“Wait, so you will play ping pong with your responsibility as a father? You will only provide for your children if the mother agrees to stay with you? Wow!”

WOW!

“Dude, she will sue you for child support and you will pay her every month with your payslip! Smell the coffee bwana!”

“Sue me? Hizi vitu ndogo ndogo you just have to know how to handle them. You get a good lawyer and he will make sure that you don’t pay anything.”

How does your lawyer change the paternity of your child, pray tell?

I really love men who underestimate women. Seeing a man like that, I rub my hands together and wait. Today’s woman is not that woman in that man’s mind. Today’s electorate is not the same one in his head either. You don’t get away with not keeping your word anymore.

This is how it works: You ask a girl out. She declines. I mean, look at you. Prove your worth or something! You act on your best behaviour. You promise her the world. She eventually accepts mainly because you are on your best behaviour. Then you talk to her like she really has a brain between her ears. Like she reasons. You know….like an intelligent human being as opposed to a sack of potatoes? You tell her to pardon you, that though you would like nothing more, you really can’t give her the world like you promised. Inform her that you will however make her your world. Promise her that it will be worth it in the long run. That you will use every day to try and make her the happiest woman alive. Play her Happy by Pharrell Williams for good measure. Dance to it too-but only if you’re a good dancer. Just give her your best and treat her with some level of respect. That is what every woman wants. We really can live without that trip to the moon you know!

Chances are, she will give you the benefit of the doubt. She will stick around. Not because her lungs will stop functioning or her heart will stop pumping blood if she doesn’t. No. She will actually choose to stay with you, you undeserving moron!

Something happens when you are the source of your woman’s happiness. You won’t know how it happens but that happiness radiates back to you. GIGO kinda thing.Try the Neanderthal’s way and you will be miserable to a point of despair. Are you miserable? Is your woman happy? Told ya!

The 21st Century woman does not ask “Sasa nitafanya nini?” She only thinks it for a while. Then she answers that question as she comes up with a plan. This woman quits men and she does just fine after that gentlemen! She does ok. She does not go back to her parents’ home. She buys her parents land and builds them a home. She furnishes it. Don’t get it twisted! She will leave you and you will pay her your share of child support. She knows her worth – make no mistakes about that.

Use all the flowery language you can master. Pick up lines and all. But get this. At some point, you will have to put your money where your mouth is.

You want a family? Close knit, intact, whole, hunky-dory? Treat your woman with some level of decency and respect. You want a broken family? Well, I just gave you the Neanderthal’s manual. Go ahead and use it. Soon you’ll be talking divorce, child support, court hearings, single parenting, wayward children…etc. All thanks to your chest. Yeah, the thumping of your chest! And when the days are long gone, you sit alone, and you think to yourself; “IF only I had treated that woman right. If only I could get a second chance…”

Men who underestimate women get their lesson sooner rather than later. I like the look on their faces when they realize that these creatures are smart as hell. I love it when they finally see how a home is bare and empty without her touch. I enjoy it when he finally understands that she sees it all. That she knows. That she has a plan. I really do get emotional when that chest-thumping know-it-all comes to the realization, albeit belatedly, that this woman can actually make it without him. I even get teary (give me a break!) when he finally appreciates her.

Ha! The politician too.

First published on the Storymoja Festival blog

Who Do We Fight For?

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The Storymoja Ideagasm this past weekend was one that left me thinking. As I boarded the ‘City Hopper’ bus heading towards Ngong road I had a lot of questions in my head.

I label myself a defender of women’s rights. A feminist. But who exactly am I fighting for? Do the people whose voice I claim to be, need my voice? Am I helping them or am I making their lives difficult? Or could it be that I am just helping myself?

I reached my destination close to 8pm in the evening. My family had all assembled at my sister’s house for dinner and all were wondering where I was. I explained that I had gone for a Storymoja thingy. ‘Thingy’ because you only give my mother a word like ‘Ideagasm’ when you have a couple of hours to kill explaining what you mean.

“Story moja huh? I will give you my story moja,” my mum promised me.

She honored her promise a few hours later after we had quenched our hunger and thirst. She started on a story about monsters who devoured some woman whose husband used to work far away in the city.

“Tell me about FGM.” She was leaning on folklore while I wanted the real stuff.

“FGM?” she asks

Kalenjins practiced FGM right?”

“Sure! We practiced FGM.”

She then told me a story. Her Story moja.

Back in the day, when a girl was considered old enough for marriage, she was circumcised and yanked into (Ok, maybe they gently tossed her with sympathy given what she had just gone through) a hut where she was to live for some time as she was fed and healed. She was thereafter, ready for marriage

It was, however. not uncommon for a man to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage and even settle the bride price while she was still in seclusion – I guess demand was high with some girls? Seclusion could take anywhere from one month (which was ideally the time required for her wound to heal) to one year. ONE YEAR! My reaction to this was: “Ile ne?” which was the closest Kalenjin words I could come up with for “What the hell?!” A whole year!? January, February…the whole 12 months?!

My mother patiently waited for me to get a grip before going on.

Should a man come and ask for your hand in your absence, your parents only had to say yes to the cows and you would be his wife when you were well enough to be someone’s wife. After healing from the mutilation, you would pack your bags and go to a man your parents had ingeniously selected for you. You had to believe that they had your best interests at heart and did not just dispose you off to spend your lifetime with a jerk just because he offered the highest bid.

One year! Forgive me, but I am still stuck on the one year seclusion.

My mum then told me the story of this specific young girl who went through pretty much the same ordeal. While this girl was inside the ka-hut, healing the wounds in her nether regions, wondering all the while about her future with her husband and the many children she was going to bear him – what else could she ponder about anyway – a man came along and asked for her hand in marriage. She was to make a technical appearance during the negotiation of bride price. A deal was struck and from that moment, she was considered the young man’s wife. She was fed and fed some more. She grew healthier and healthier (the word I really want to use is ‘fatter’ and ‘fatter’) for her prospective husband.

While still serving her time, something happened to the young man who had been pronounced her husband not so long ago. He was arrested for cattle rustling. Hehe…I laughed hysterically at this point, don’t know why I found this so hilarious. Young girl in seclusion, young man arrested for cattle rustling. He was to serve 5 years in jail. The young girl waited (faithfully) for this man she barely knew to get out of jail and come and take his place in her life.

Thing is, cattle rustling was an ego booster and it put a stamp on one’s manhood in a big way. Having been arrested, the young man held a lot of clout in the community. Time went by and the young man’s mother, now living with the young girl – her daughter in law – realized that time was running out. The young man’s mother knew that being the ish, one wife was not going to do him any justice. She therefore did what any mother would do at the time. She mobilized a bunch of elders to betroth another woman as her incarcerated son’s second wife.

I know!

They visited a certain family, whose daughter she had eyed for a while, I don’t know…weird? They proceeded with the bride price negotiations. This other woman was to be circumcised as well, and so she served her time in seclusion having become the second wife to the jailbird.

“It was nothing really. This happened all the time.” My mum said. Men could ‘marry’ another wife while their (first) wife was still healing. It’s not like he needed the first wife’s approval or anything.

Suffice to say that when the young man eventually got out, he was presented with two very healthy (ahem!) wives. Voila!

That young jailbird man was my maternal grandfather (RIP), and the young woman who had a co-wife shoved down her throat was my grandmother. My grandfather later added another wife to make three and they all lived their happily ever after.

This story from my mother told in a jovial, carefree mood did not do much to quell my thoughts about the ideagasm we had had that afternoon. I wondered, did these women feel oppressed at all? Did they know any other way of life? If not, who then decided that things needed to change and why?

I frowned, gasped and almost popped my eyes out unbelievably as I listened. It did not make sense to me that a man would ‘stock up’ on women just because he had the means. And that the same women were like pawns in a man’s world.

I wondered. When we fight for women, when we protest against certain ‘injustices’ as we see them, are we still doing so for that woman who is ok with having a co-wife because she believes that men are naturally polygamous? Are we still fighting for that woman who looks forward to being battered by her husband because then it will mean that he loves her? When we insist on having our voices heard, does that voice include the voice of the woman who lives for BDSM? If we fight for all women alike aren’t we infringing on the rights of those who have taken the face of oppression and made it part of their identity? Are we denying some woman her right to a co-wife? To a black eye, which according to her is a medal of love? Her right to sexual pain pleasure?

Still, I wonder.

 

First published on the Storymoja Festival Blog

He Cheats On You Because You Are *His* Wife.

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We need to come up with a list. Yes! A list of excuses for the other man. You know, the man who cheats on his slim, fun, adventurous (perfect?) wife? It isn’t fair to provide excuses for the fat woman’s husband, and leave the other husbands hanging. This borders on discrimination, if you ask me.

The man with a fat wife is taken care of courtesy of the article written by Njoki Chege on why men cheat. He can now sit pretty, have his cake, eat it, and have another one. The missus might come up to him, all crushed, teary-eyed, asking “Honey, why would you cheat on me? What does she have that I don’t? Why would you do this to me after everything that we’ve been through? I’ve been there for you bla bla bla ….”  Normally, he would be beside himself fumbling for words to explain away his despicable actions.

Oh, but not today!

Today, all he has to do is lift his heavy frame, protruding tummy and all (he’s been eating loads of cake, remember?) and walk briskly towards his special cabinet where he keeps his treasured reading material. He adds a spring to his step as he whistles the song;Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera… Guan-tana-meeeera, guajira Guan-tana-mera… He will take out the key to the cabinet from a bunch in his pocket and open it. Slowly, without saying a word to the fat, sniffling wife standing in front of him, he will remove THE precious newspaper sitting atop some playboy magazine. He will grab the paper with both hands and give it a kiss. He will open the page with the words “LADIES: It’s all your fault that he is CHEATING!” scrolled across the page and he will give it another bigger, wetter kiss. They should get a room right? Smiling, he will hand it to his sobbing wife. “It’s all in there, dearie. The answers you seek are all in there” he will pat her on the back sympathetically; lips pursed, and leave her to it. She will read the article from beginning to end. She will stop asking questions.  Her husband will go back to eating his cake. Having it. Gobbling it. Growing fat. Obese. Nobody cares if he is fat. No one will cheat on him because he is fat!

So things are cut out for that guy. Lucky bastard!  What about the one with a slender, slim, beautiful, high-heel donning, gym-attending, fun-loving wife? What is he supposed to say when he is caught cheating? Who will speak for him when he is faced by his angry wife? Doesn’t he have a right to some excuses too? Well, I think he does! I think we should give him some material to hand his wife too. In all fairness people. In all fairness!

It’s not going to be easy though. This woman hits the gym on the regular, dresses to kill, loves to have fun. She is a busy career woman and has no time to nag or keep tabs on her husband. She gives you your space and you (unbelievably) get to do you! She will be a tough one to crack. What to do… what to do? There sure must be something about her that is not right. Think people. Think!

I suggest we make this as brutal an attack as the one we did on her ‘imperfect’ counterpart. Where we called the other woman fat, we will call this one skinny – a pack of bones, if you like. Where we said that she stuffs her face like a pig, we will say she is an irritating nitpicking nibbler. We will focus on her obsession with beauty and fashion. We will point out how superficial she is! She is so vain, we will insist. Like, who the hell does she think she is?

Let’s do this people. Let us accord the ‘perfect’ wife’s husband the same courtesy we so graciously granted the fat, boring, nagging wife’s husband, shall we?

LADIES: It’s all your fault that he is CHEATING!

  1. You are too thin. A man wants to hold some flesh when he touches you, not to outline your skeletal framework. African men like voluptuous women. A woman with a well rounded behind drives her man crazy, haven’t you heard? Sadly you don’t have that. Can you therefore blame him when he cheats? Here, wipe your tears and munch on this chicken drumstick.
  2. You make your man insecure with your good looks. When you walk down the street, men stare at you like you are still single, disregarding the ring on your finger. Men are waiting to pounce on you…you drive him to cheat.
  3. You don’t act like a married woman. You still insist on having fun. Always coming up with ideas on where you should go for holiday, for dinner every Wednesday? Why don’t you grow up and gain some sense of responsibility? Your children are in school, so think school fees! Think mortgage payments! Think retirement benefits! Having fun ended with singlehood so get with the program!
  4. You have too much to say about everything. You should chill a little. Let your man be the man, you know? Talk less. Let’s see you more and hear you less.
  5. You don’t even call him to check up on him when he is out with the boys?! Do you even care about this husband of yours? Other women nag, but you just don’t care! If he cheats on you, it is because he wants someone who needs him.
  6. Look at what you wear. Should we even go there? You don’t dress like a married woman! That dress is too short, for chrissake! Stop exposing your cleavage! And you wonder why he cheats on you? You embarrass him with your slutty dressing. What do you want to achieve? You want his friends to hit on you? You want to attract the attention of other men? You whore?! (Too harsh?)
  7. Ask yourself woman; what is he supposed to do when you are out there living your life like he doesn’t exist? Cheat? Well…

I believe that all bases are covered on matters infidelity, don’t you? Should any man feel left out probably because he is unsure where to categorize his wife – maybe she is slightly fat or slightly skinny – please understand that it was not our intention to make you feel that way. We however beg that you don’t despair. The bottom line to all these excuses is in this one statement:

‘He cheats on you because you are his wife’- Use that. Remember to milk it dry.

Now please pass this list urgently to any man out there who is married to the ‘perfect’ woman.

He will need it soon.

 

First Published on the Storymoja Festival Blog