Sunday, 16 July 2017

Normalizing Patriarchy and the Ridiculing of Kenyan Women

Sage Smudge

Enough with this nonsense. Not when lives are at stake.

I have had it up to hear with ‘rape jokes’, ‘sexist jokes’, body shaming and the casual normalisation of making a mockery of women and their daily struggles and lived realities.

This running for Women’s Rep stunt by Maina Kageni of Kenya’s hard earned affirmative action seats to try and at the very least acknowledge and restore some historical injustices that prevented women from being voices of influence and decision making in this country. It took two decades, insurmountable resources, blood and guts to get a semblance of equity in terms of gender equality in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It is not perfect and we have a long way to go to adjust our attitudes and norms particularly around women in political leadership but this was a huge moment in the long arduous journey.

We got our independence in 1963 and it was not until 1969 that we got the first elected woman Member of Parliament. Several women have broken the glass ceiling since then even running for the highest office in the land. But despite this, the ratio of men and women occupying positions of political power, leadership and decision-making has been dismal, low and frankly tokenist through out the time.

There are of course several contributing factors, a major one being the ugly head of patriarchy; an oppressive system that has contributed largely in indoctrinating beliefs and practices that subjugate Kenyan women and their gender role in society. A lot of the demonstration of women and their role and responsibilities have been largely diminished, highly regulated and viewed and controlled from a mostly masculine gaze. And the genius-ness of patriarchy as a system of power is how it has co-opted women to be the custodians of a lot of these discriminating practices in order to ‘keep other women in check.’ So we have our work cut out for us to shift our mind-sets and reformulate why and how we think about each other incorporating notions of social justice and equality.

For over 20 years committed activists in the Kenyan women’s movement tirelessly worked to expand the spaces so that today, with under a month, more Kenyan women have opportunities to access and control more aspects of their lives including democratic processes.

What Maina Kageni did was an absolute insult to women through out the ages who have suffered and continue to suffer the hands of a skewered system that even with policy reforms and picketing and expansion of platforms to oppose it, is still a threat and dangerous to any woman today challenging the status quo of patriarchy; as agents or drivers and not just recipients of development outcomes, and either as voters and or as political candidates seeking to transform this country.

Even if my little rant will go no where but to a rather quiet blog; I hope it resoundingly makes a strong protest to denounce this casual reckless sexism that is detrimental to our fight to level the playing field that for so long has been out of Kenyan’s women’s reach.

The absolute lack of shame and the blatant contempt with which his so called party symbol serves to make people laugh and shame a certain kinds of women who have the freedom and autonomy to be as she sees fit is a low blow. It is the height of insult to make coarse humour at the expense another. THAT IS NOT HUMOR, THAT IS RIDICULE.

At a time we ought to be focussing on making our so called democratic space in Kenya less dangerous and more conducive for women candidates we are instead spending and wasting time over this loudly sexist rhetoric for more readership, notoriety and ratings.

Shame on you and anyone who pats your back on this nonsensical ridiculing in the name of a publicity stunt.

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