Oyunga Pala and The False Victim Complex

Oyunga Pala recently published an article entitled “Why I Am Afraid of Female Bigots”. In it he talks about how he was a panelist at the Future of Men discussion panel and how the men there were vilified by the women and pushed into a corner when they voiced their opinion about the issues that were being discussed. He also discussed how certain men’s issues were being pushed out of discussions and that we should address them more often instead of always focusing on the bad things men do.
I was at the Future of Men, in the second row. I sat there and I listened to all the comments that were made, at least for the first hour then I walked out in protest. I’ve written about it before, and I am going to write about it again. When I read this article it pissed me off to high heaven and I felt that just tweeting about it angrily was not going to help very many people so I decided to dissect the entire article and explain just WHY I was so mad. Because Oyunga Pala did not say anything new, he simply jumbled up several YouTube comments and stringed them into a deceivingly eloquent mess. I’m going to pick up key sentences from his article and break them down into what they really mean.

It soon got confrontational and any man who so much as dared to speak his mind (be politically incorrect) was shouted down.

Oh yes, the talk at Future of Men did get confrontational. The men who did become politically incorrect were shouted down. What Oyunga Pala fails to mention is WHAT EXACTLY made women so confrontational. Maybe it was Tony Mochama (a man), famous author who is currently under investigation for allegedly assaulting a woman, saying that women should be beaten if they decide to get too vocal. Maybe it was the fellow (a word for man) in the back who questioned why there were so many women present when this was a talk for men. Or the (same) guy who denied there even being a problem in the society. Maybe it was the dude who said that women shouldn’t dress a certain way and expect not to be treated how they dress. I mean if  you sit in a room where ludicrous comments like these are being thrown at you, are you going to sit there quietly?

Do you want a free pass to be politically incorrect? Do you really know what entails political correctness? Why would you want to be on the wrong side? Are male thoughts synonymous with political incorrectness? Is that the normal way in which a male mind functions? Please explain because as a woman I may not understand this.

Now in case you didn’t know, political correctness is the attitude or policy of being careful not to offend or upset any group of people in society believed to have a disadvantage. As human knowledge progresses our language changes in order to reflect our understanding of what is appropriate to say. Now you may not owe the world an explanation for everything you do say, nor do you have to change everything about yourself so that you can accommodate everyone; that’s impossible. You’re not here to please everybody. HOWEVER making the decision not to promote language that harms a large group of people (and clearly as he said, we were more than the men present, so I’m not lying) is not that hard. The way we talk to and about people is a reflection of who we are. So if you want to be rude and insulting to women, you better expect someone to get confrontational and shout you down.

For as long as women feel unsafe and aggrieved, ALL MEN are to blame and any man who doesn’t express open solidarity with women is a sexist. Therefore in order to avoid an argument, most men withheld their opinion and left the forum feeling vilified, attacked and guilt ridden.

*sigh*
Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. It is a system that puts a gender at a disadvantage while raising another. This is a system in which ALL men benefit from. It is because of this that women hold men accountable when they are speaking up against sexism. Not all men are responsible for all the horrible things that happen to women however some are. Women are not harming themselves; they are not being harassed by imaginary creatures or being raped by wood nymphs. It is men who are responsible for these acts.
I can see through your self-flagellatory tactics though, where someone has to jump up and pat you on the back and tell you “not all men are sexist! I can’t believe they would say something like that about everyone in the room! Poor baby, have a cookie.” It’s a childish tactic, comparable to a kid who throws himself on the ground in order to appear injured. You’re not fooling anyone, what you’re doing is refusing to take responsibility for your male privilege.
It’s not your fault you were born a man. There is nothing you can do to eliminate your privilege, not unless you have a magic wand that will crush the patriarchy in one wave (and if so why haven’t you?) What you can do is accept that you benefit from a sexist society because the odds are most likely always in your favour. Instead of wailing like a prepubescent toddler about how mean women were to you, you could take stock of your privilege and try to offset the imbalance of power. If you were actually aware of your male privilege, you would be helping stop the perpetuation of misogynistic beliefs, but instead you want to try to pose as the victim.

Men feel the need to be apologetic and adopt a change of behaviour in order to maintain decorum to suit women’s expectations.

Oh really? What exactly is the problem in maintaining decorum?
Men SHOULD be apologetic. They should at least note that they are in a more advantageous position and just by simply existing they get to experience certain privileges that women don’t get to. When you are in a privileged position, you shouldn’t be an ass to the people in positions lower than you. That’s not a very nice thing to do. I figure the idea of losing your privilege must be so terrifying and I empathize. However if you don’t believe men, yes, each and every one of them, HAVE to adopt a change of behaviour (and not for women, but for societal and cultural progress) you’re drunk off your privilege. Must be nice, eh?

The first step to avoiding confrontation in this contemporary reality is policing one’s speech lest you get accused of being sexist and disrespectful to women.

Yes. Very good. You should have put your pen down at this point.

In many professions, this is about as a big a blot on one’s reputation as being called a racist in a US presidential contest.

But instead you choose to continue. Hmm. Okay.
A man being called a sexist has almost no effect on his life. Hell, even assault and rape accusations do nothing. In this patriarchal system anything you do to a woman, can be swept under the rug. Look at Tony Mochama’s sexual harassment case. Whether or not the allegations are true, he has not lost his job, his books are still being sold, he is doing just fine. In fact, Tony Mochama was defended by hundreds of men even before he responded to the accusation while Shailja Patel was subjected to online abuse, trolling and insults. Her character and the character of the woman who initially reported the story, Dr Wambui Mwangi were dissected and their lives put up for public scrutiny, instead of the life of the person who was accused of the crime. In the case of rape accusations, Senator Wamatangi was accused of raping his househelp, he’s still a senator, still going about his daily business. If these examples aren’t sufficient enough, let’s look to Hollywood. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby, Kobe Bryant, all these men have been accused of rape, I don’t see anything wrong with their careers. They are not crying in a ditch somewhere, victims of their actions, they’re still making money comfortably.

I’m so glad you decided to bring up the parallels between sexism and racism. So so glad. Sexism and racism are equal in the fact that they limit one group while simultaneously raising another’s status. Men benefit from sexism the way white people benefit from racism. Both deny the privileges of one while oppressing others. When it’s a discourse on racism, we’re ALL oppressed because as Africans, male or female, we are at the bottom of the structural pyramid, united by descent and race. When it comes to sexism though, it’s no longer a problem. Now, you may not see sexism as being as bad as racism because sexism benefits men, so it’s okay for them to perpetuate it. If you look at it objectively you’ll see that the same silencing tactics white people use (not all white people!) are the same ones men use when silencing discourses on sexism.

Men are often labelled beneficiaries of a patriarchal system that accords them privilege over women and children on the sole basis of their genitalia. Yet what is often not mentioned in the same breath is that patriarchy is a system perpetuated by both sexes. They are several women who milk the privilege of a male based support system.

Men ARE beneficiaries of a patriarchal system. It’s not a label, it’s the truth. And it is true that women also perpetuate it. However in the case of men, they perpetuate patriarchy because it benefits them because what is patriarchy, other than the systematic order in which MEN hold primary power and everyone else is excluded. Therefore the women who perpetuate patriarchy do not do it because they are ‘privileged’ but because they are being complicit and it may have some (debatable) advantages. For you to suggest this is to suggest that the beggar eating the breadcrumbs you dropped on the table is eating a balanced diet. The male based support system is a product of patriarchy, because women statistically make less than men, are instantly questioned when they get higher positions at work (did she sleep with him?) and are shunned from careers that are male dominated. The safest option is to rely on men, because patriarchy makes it hard to rely on yourself.

And what exactly is this definition of “female privilege”?

The role of father for example is being rendered obsolete because it is something that can be stripped away by a woman at any time. A woman can have a child without male consent, deny a man access to his child and make him disposal. Father’s day for instance is now a tramping ground for women who feel they deserve accolades for single parentage.

WITHOUT MALE CONSENT? Because everything that must be done in this world must undergo the watchful observation of a man? If a man says yes to something in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does the thing still happen? Women can function without male consent, it is possible.
It reached a critical point in our society that women had to log onto Facebook, join a group and publicly expose men for failing to support their children in order for it to be addressed. Now before you go off the obviously derailing tangent off NOT ALL DEAD BEAT DADS (ooooh wait there’s already an article like that on your website) let’s focus on the matter at hand. Women who FEEL THEY DESERVE accolades for single parentage? Are you aware of the negative attitudes that follow single mothers?
No? Alright, lets Google.

Single mothers are....
Single mothers are….

 

Now single dads....
Now single dads….

When the internet alone has such horrible suggestions for your existence, you DESERVE an accolade simply for waking up in the morning and facing a world that has been conditioned to hate you.

We have created a unique problem that constitutes a generation of men who do want to be labelled sexist like their fathers were, thriving on female subordination.

How is this a problem?

Anyway, if you don’t want to be labelled sexist, DON’T DO SEXIST THINGS. DON’T PERPETUATE SEXISM. DON’T THRIVE UNDER FEMALE SUBORDINATION. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE. It’s that fucking simple.

In essence most men are feminist. They advocate for the rights of women for the simple reason that they owe their growth and development to female intervention and have daughters to raise.

NO. Most men are not feminist. First of all how could they be, when feminists seek to push men out of their comfort zones? There are so many negative attitudes that surround that term. Its normally associated with angry women who apparently hate men. They call us man haters, militant lesbians, misandrists, reverse sexists, FEMALE BIGOTS.

How are you a feminist when your entire article is based on calling us bigoted? It is a tactic of the oppressor to force harmful definitions onto subversive movements. It derails all forms of discourse because in this case, you have forced me, a feminist, to go into the defensive. Instead of moving forward and having useful conversations about what we can do to stop the perpetuation of patriarchy, I have to explain that we are not bigoted and how harmful that description is.

You can’t be a feminist if you define it using the patriarchal standards it rejects.The simple reason you think men support feminism is based on contextual empathy. That the only reason they care about women is because they were raised by them? So what about those not raised around women, do they get a free pass? Why do women’s rights only take center stage in someone’s life because their relatives just happen to be female? That’s… a problem. Its selective and isn’t true. Either you’re fighting for all women or you’re not. There’s no middle ground.

While we acknowledge that the fight for the rights of women is absolutely essential, it is not a license to lash out at men in this recycled narrative of collective blame.

It is a recycled narrative because nothing seems to be changing, or if it is, its not changing fast enough. Besides who are we going to blame? The wood nymphs from before?
Your first reaction to the demand for change is defensiveness. That’s the biggest impediment to progress. Nobody wants to believe they’re the problem. But you being told to do better is not bigotry! You HAVE to do better because you are in the position of privilege. Calling women bigoted is as mature as a student cussing out his lecturer because they were told to redo their bad assignment.

If you REALLY believe that the fight for our rights is essential, then a few harsh words shouldn’t make it less worthy your attention. Our tone of voice shouldn’t deter you from it. The idea that feminists should speak in a nice tone is nonsensical. You only want us to speak in softer tones because we’re easier to ignore that way. Spare me the idea that we should be palatable to suit your feelings. Are you saying that you were about to care about vast inconsistencies in the treatment of women but because someone was mean you won’t? Empowerment is not candy that you hand out to the best behaved women in the classroom. Get that very clear.

Unless we tell the other side of the story, of men rewriting the masculinity script, who take care of business, secure their homes, remain present in their children’s lives and are supportive partners, we shall continue to normalize bigotry against men for no other reason than their biologically assigned genitalia.

Oyunga Pala, you have consistently run a column entitled MAN TALK for several years, in which you have had an opportunity to do this. Again, I reiterate, for SEVERAL YEARS. You have had the platform to do this for ages and if you squandered it to write other things then that’s YOUR fault. And anyway let’s say you were a simple man with no platform or social influence, you would simply have to put on the television or pick up a paper to see your side of the story. The patriarchal world is a male centered one, never forget that. Everything, from politics to business to even professional cooking, is male dominated.

Do you REALLY want to talk about normalized bigotry for NO REASON other than biologically assigned genitalia? Have you ever heard women complaining about sexual assault? Street harassment? Rape? Have you heard of women being denied positions simply because of their gender? Have you not seen the sexualisation of breast cancer simply because it’s a cancer that starts in the breasts? SAVE THE BOOBIES? Are you not familiar with rape culture?! SHUT UP AND THINK AGAIN, before you talk about “normalized bigotry because of assigned genitalia.” This is what WE face every day as women.

Below all this there was a weirdly placed section on the plight of short men that I didn’t fully understand because it kind of just came from nowhere. BUT I have a few points.

Joshua Sang isn’t overlooked because he’s short, he’s overlooked because not many people have heard of him and not very many people are that interested in looking him up. His diminutive stature is just his most defining feature. Is that problematic, yeah sure, but it’s not a male crisis. Yes, your dating options may be limited when you’re short but so what? Everyone has arbitrary physical standards; if women don’t want to date short men you’re not going to force them to. Don’t pretend that men don’t have harmful standards that hurt women. That’s the entire basis of the cosmetics industry!

Causing Damage For Popularity

Now, before I start, I feel I should say that I’m not necessarily opposed to celebrity news/gossip sites. It’s not my cup of tea but a lot of people are clearly interested in what they do. There is a market for it and they have moved in to take advantage of that. Good on them. That’s not something I have a problem with. What I want to talk about is how some of them do it.

This is not going to be one of those articles where I tip toe around who I’m talking about. While they are certainly not the only guilty ones, I’m going to be focusing on Ghafla. They’re one of the most popular and if it has to start with somebody it should probably be them.

Over the past few days, there’s been talk about the whole Tony Mochama incident. In case you’ve somehow missed it, here’s a quick summary. Tony Mochama (aka Smitta) is being accused of sexual assault. The general accepted version of the accusation is that he was at a fellow poet’s house, he committed the assault on her friend and that there are a few witnesses. He has since denied any wrong doing.

Now, whether you believe this or not, I think you should see the problem with Ghafla’s headline.

RAPE!! Standard Group’s TONY MOCHAMA Accused! Here Is The Story!”

There’s no other way to put it, this is misinformation, plain and simple. They are unashamedly being sensationalist for the sole purpose of getting views. You can see this from how the actual article is phrased. It is, more or less, accurate…if you’re already aware of what’s going on. But if you’re not then you will come away with a twisted version of what is actually being said. I’ve already seen people on twitter peddling this ‘Ghafla’ version. By selling the story like this they’re making it easier for Mochama to deny the charges and harder for people to believe it.

I have already seen someone say “you’re telling me she was raped as everyone watched? Yeah right.”

Ghafla is a popular platform where a lot of people get their information. I don’t think that should be the case but it is. And as such they have a responsibility not to pull stunts like this. They do not get to stir things up so they can get hits. This situation is not theirs to manipulate for click bait!

Look at this headline.

“I DID NOT RAPE A WOMAN IN WAMBUI’s HOUSE”!! Standard Group’s TONY MOCHAMA (Smitta Smitten) Responds!”

This is one thing we can say for certain that Tony Mochama has not done. He did not say those words. The only ones actually pushing a rape narrative are Ghafla. No one accused it. No one denied it (because it was never leveled.) We are talking about a sexual assault. Yet, here is Ghafla shaping their own version of a story that will cause more people to visit their site. How fundamentally sick is that?

Listen up Ghafla team. Maybe you believe he is (or could be) guilty in which case you are derailing the conversation and making life harder for everyone else who does. Or you think he is (or could be) innocent, but then you are just fanning the flames by raising the charge. Most likely, I think you don’t care either way. You are literally just causing damage because it helps you meet your quota. STOP IT!

Here’s a few things you need to start working on.

One. You need to reevaluate how you view women.

Two. You need to stop trafficking in human misery.

Three. If you are already doing one and two then you need to get to a place where no one has to tell you why a tweet like this is wrong.

“Sexy Photos Of Natalie Tewa Who Was In The Accident With Wangechi the Rapper!! Must See!!”

Is that really so much to ask?

The Haunting Legacy

Kenya’s relationship with politics and the past is something I do not truly understand. In fact, I’m not even sure  it’s something that can be understood. For some reason, any political act older than a year or two morphs into something completely unrecognizable.

This has never been more clear than when reading the #Moiat90 tweets. I never thought I’d see the day when people would praise Moi. I’m sad I saw it. Right now I’m not even sure which was more shocking. The people who honestly said he was a good (even great) leader or those who had some weak justification for why he was ok after all.

‘”He had flaws but he was authoritative.”

“He was a dictator, but he’s lived for 90 years, what have you done?”

“He had shortcomings like everyone else.”

Some of it is just ridiculous.

“There was no tribalism in Moi’s reign” Uh….what!?

“Insecurity was not a problem under Moi. We were safe.” Excuse me?

You have no idea how much restraint it took not to start yelling at random people on the internet. Instead, I decided to compile a small list of highlights of the Moi “legacy.” It’s not conclusive, there’s definitely much more but it’s enough to get a snapshot. Enough to get an idea of the extent of the Moi era excesses. Here we go.

 

***

1977

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is arrested after his play Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I want) angers Vice President Moi. He writes his next novel in prison on tissue paper.

1982 – 1986

All political parties, save for KANU, are outlawed.

Following the 1982 failed coup d’etat several people are rounded up in Kamiti Maximum Prison which has been converted into a concentration camp. Hundreds of them are university students, a group that had challenged  the one party system before the coup.

The Special Branch  begins to act act as a tool of oppression. Arrests take place in the name of cracking down on “Mwakenya Activist rebels.” Several people are taken to the now infamous Nyayo House torture chambers

Some literature, the likes involving Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Malcolm X etc,  is banned and confisicated.

Sporting a beard becomes borderline illegal as they are associated with Marxism. Having a beard while being a lecturer is almost certain to get you arrested as a Communist Mwakenya dissident.

1987

Mary Anne Fitzgerald, A British journalist, is briefly arrested on trumped up charges after reporting on Illegal exports by businesses men connected to Moi.

1988

The Mlolongo voting system is introduced. Voters are supposed to line up behind pictures of their candidates. Intimidation is rife. And, if there is doubt about the result, the recount is not possible for obvious reasons.

The Police now have the right to detain anyone who criticizes the administration for up to 14 days.

Mary Anne Fitzgerald publishes an article alleging that the judiciary is under the government’s thumb. She is deported.

1989

There are plans to build a 62 story skyscraper in Uhuru Park topped with a statue of Moi. Wangari Maathai opposes the project as a waste of both resources the country doesn’t have and one of the few green spaces in Nairobi. While she manages to erode investor confidence she is forced to seek refuge in Tanzania.

1990

The Government breaks up the Saba Saba demonstration killing at least 20 and arresting hundreds.

Kenneth Matiba, Raila Odinga and Charles Rubia are imprisoned without trial for calling for multiparty elections. Matiba is denied medication and suffers a stroke.

1991

A play is banned for it’s political content. It is a rendition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

It is believed that the government is intentionally instigating and fanning ethnic clashes in order to demonstrate the folly of multiparty elections. From 1991 – 1996 KHRC estimate 15,000 people die in the clashes and 300,000 are internally displaced.

1994

David Makali, a journalist for The People, writes an article indicating that a court ruling saw interference from Moi and the government. He is jailed after refusing to sign an apology drafted by the court. He is one of at least 18 Journalists that year penalized through the legal system for criticizing the government.

1995

Clarion, a research group that has published a study exposing widespread corruption, is banned.

Mwangaza Trust which has campaigned for constitutional reform is banned.

The Safina Party is unable to officially register. Their application is not approved until 1997. One of it’s leaders, Richard Leakey is accosted in his home by a gang calling him a colonialist (sentiments echoed by Moi) and demanding that he leave.

1999

The High Court dismisses a petition filed by Mwai Kibaki against Moi for rigging the election. The reason given for the dismissal is that a copy has not been delivered to Moi personally.
It is ignored that this is because bodyguards prevented access to Moi’s office.

Moi declares that courts should not interfere in matters involving land and political parties.

Capture 2

***

There are things I didn’t fit into the timeline. Like amendments aimed at increasing presidential power to take away rights while reducing accountability. The intentional breaking down of the checks and balances that keep the Judiciary neutral. Significant portions of the countries wealth siphoned away. Possible assasinations. The list goes on and it only gets darker.

I truly wonder how many of our problems today can be attributed to the effects of that era still haunting us. Wounds we’re still patching up and healing from before we can even grow. The effects of that man’s legacy.

KENYA & SOMALIS: “Saving The Country”

“We have to do something! We can’t just sit back and do nothing!”

This is something you’re likely to hear if you bring up how Somalis have been treated in this country. They may phrase it differently but it always has the same components. There is an urgent, drastic something that needs to be done immediately or an apathetic nothing. There is never anything between those two options. It is a situation of extremes. One or the other. Now or never. Terrorism or oppression.

If you ask them if what’s happening is right they will sigh impatiently. They will give you that look they give people who do not understand the world and explain, as if to a child, that:

“Sometimes you have to do what is necessary. You should know that.”

If they are older than you they might add,

“You’ll understand that one day.”

Perhaps I do not understand the world as they so clearly suspect but that seems like a non-answer to me. Is it wrong but necessary? Or is it right because it is necessary? More to the point, why is it so necessary? Ask that last question at your own risk. The answers will often carry a thinly veiled accusation.

“Do you just want to let Kenyans die?”

“You have to consider the survival of our country!”

I have had this argument many times now. Sometimes with smart people. With people whose opinion I respect. And from what I understand, this is the summary of what they’re trying to say. Because we’re facing a crisis on a scale we’ve never seen before we have to take measures that some may find unpleasant. It is an ugly but necessary sacrifice. Put like that, it almost seems to make sense. Here’s the problem with that. The first part, the justification, isn’t true. That’s the effects of terrorism talking.

Terrorism works because of fear. It’s supposed to make you overreact, to think the problem is bigger than it is. It inspires the kind of fear a drowning person feels as they act against their own interests and try to take down the person rescuing them. This is why so many people are talking about terrorism like it’s the biggest threat in the country. It isn’t. It’s not even close.

Think of it this way. How many people get killed in homicides every year in Kenya? According to UNODC, in 2012, it was about 2,700 people. To put that in perspective, how many people get killed in terror attacks in any given year? In 2012 it was somewhere in the range of 4,500 people – worldwide. When you add up all the recorded terrorist attack fatalities in the world, inflate the number by a few hundred for any that may have been missed or underreported you get less than two years of one country’s homicides.

It’s a lot more disturbing when you consider that the 2012 rate of homicides has more than doubled when compared to what it was in 2007. If you want to rate crises, you can see which the more pressing Kenyan problem is. Yet, we would never stand for suspension of laws or profiling in that area. You’re never going to hear about an inquest into what community people who commit the most homicides are most likely to come from. And even if the information were available, we certainly would never act on it in the way we are towards Somalis.

I-am-not-a-terrorist-6

All this is not to say that terrorism isn’t a pertinent threat. It is. And I’m certainly not saying that the deaths caused by the terror attacks don’t matter. They do. What I am saying is calm down, take a breath and relax a bit. Our survival as a nation does not hang in the balance. On the list of things that are likely to kill you, terrorism is very low on that list. Which means we have time to think this issue through. To come up with proper solutions that will actually yield positive results in the long term.

We can’t continue to pretend that a lot of the people being persecuted for not having legal papers would not have them if the system was working properly. Or that we’re seriously combating terrorism when our anti-terror unit is still underfunded. And most importantly, we cannot deny that the state hasn’t been acting within legal boundaries.

You can see hints of the law being sidestepped in this UNHCR press release. If you want to see a more blatant legal breach you need look no further than this ruling the High Court made in 2013 relating to refugees and insecurity in the country. You can read the whole thing and see just how its directives are being violated. It’s almost prescient:

 “The State has not demonstrated that the proliferation of the refugees in urban areas is the main source of insecurity … Security concerns must now be viewed from the constitutional lens and in this regard there is nothing to justify the use security operation to violate the rights of urban based refugees.”

Sometimes saving the country means preserving our national identity. What we do. Who we are as a people. That means looking past the fear and making decisions that are ethical. Decisions that will help us in the long term.  That’s not easy, but it’s not meant to be. Or, to quote that ruling again:

The cost and burdens association with deepening constitutional values does not lessen the obligation of the State to,“observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.”   Every State organ is called upon to be creative within its means in order that every person enjoys, “the fundamental rights and freedoms in the Bill of rights to the greatest possible extent.”

Need i say more?