Speculative Fiction: The Final List

It’s about that time of the year where we here at Will This Be A Problem present our annual anthology. This year, we tried something a little different from the usual. For the 2016 anthology, we opted to incorporate an open call for submissions. The theme was Speculative Fiction and we received stories from across the continent.

And so, I present the stories our judges picked for the anthology.

“The Mortuary Man” by Mark Lekan Lalude (Nigeria)
“What Happens When It Rains” by Michelle Angwenyi (Kenya)
“Future Long Since Passed” by Lausdeus Otito Chiegboka (Nigeria)
“The World is Mine” by Kris Kabiru (Kenya)
“The Real Deal” by James Kariuki (Kenya)

A bonus story from WTBAP:

“The Last History” by Kevin Rigathi

And the prize winning story –

“Rise of the Akafula” by Andrew Charles Dakalira (Malawi)

The 3rd issue of our anthology will be released in the coming days. For now, see this beautiful cover art by Peter Marco, based on the winning story.

final-cover-small

 

Book Review : Tropical Fish

The African short story is an established art form, as is the African storyteller. It is a comfortable format, requiring less commitment from both the writer and reader, but still delivering an engaging experience. In the case of Tropical Fish, an anthology from Ugandan author Doreen Baingana, eight stories are woven together into a satisfying whole. The premise: three sisters – Patti, Rosa and Christine Mugisha – come of age casually and normally in Entebbe, in a post-Idi Amin Uganda. He does not make a personal appearance (unlike the cleverly named President Munino) but his shadow looms long – Indians forcibly expatriated, roads unrepaired, universities descendent.

Tropical Fish

Against this background different moments are lifted from time to map the departure from childhood worlds invented for the fun of it to worlds invented for survival – the worlds in which adults take refuge. This larger scope is neatly encapsulated in the very first story, “Green Stones”, using Christine’s voice. The most introspective sister, Christine can be considered the main character, and in her memories we find the moments when sunlit motes turn from floating molten gold to signs that someone somewhere didn’t dust well enough.

The short story structure does leave a few moments of discontinuity – Christine’s later travels, for example, are of uncertain motive. Rosa and Patti are only a year apart and apparently attend the same high school, but seem bafflingly oblivious to each other. Certainly a sister’s presence in the same school would have had an effect on Patti’s suffering and Rosa’s experiments – whether helpful or not. Formative events also have no cumulative effect – once an episode is closed it is closed, with very little reference to it later.

Considered on their own, the short stories are all of good quality, varied enough in tone that different readers are bound to have different favourites. Special mention must be made of “A Thank You Note”, Rosa’s declaration of life and war. In this story as well as “Passion”, her voice is deliberate and bold in its determination to experience life through sensuality. “Thank You Note” in particular is wonderfully written, evocative and cynical and eminently self-aware. Talk about a refusal to go quietly into the night! It is defiant life screaming refusal at the abyss, Edith Piaf singing about regretting nothing, nothing at all. A life measured and accepted as hers, chosen deliberately and whose consequences are accepted with dignity. Against considerable odds, Rosa chooses her way and is satisfied.

This attitude is a key illustration of how calmly sex is handled in these stories – as something to be explored, tamed and ultimately owned through consent, experimentation and reproductive health. The tone is never preachy, and so natural curiosity and exploration co-exist comfortably with a  “lifelong training to catch a suitable mate.” It is treated with as much consideration as religion, something which takes much deeper hold with Patti than her sisters. Patti is not mocked or made out to be a fanatic, except perhaps by her less enlightened classmates. Ms. Bangaina, it seems, is commendably capable of allowing for multiple ways of being.

Indeed this multiplicity, a prime component of the immigrant’s arsenal, is something Christine struggles to gain when she leaves Uganda. Questions of identity and home arise in the final tales, where the romantic turns prosaic.  Christine dabbles in white men and goes abroad, and after a long sojourn as a foreigner, truly becomes one on her return. She is caught in the classic trap for those who try to carry home within them – the realization that this is the only place the home they visualise exists. Beyond this, then, what is one todo? Accept reality or change it?

When it comes to her questions of identity there seems to be the same self-consciousness present in much of African literature: an avoidance of the Western gaze so deliberate it sketches out a negative space that still identifies it. Here we are, Africans reading and writing about Africa, not anybody else.  The search for representation that we all feel consciously or not – is this what creates characters who search for missing connections in the novels they read? It grows into the self-conscious irony seen in the mild derision Christine feels for  Zac, who has convinced himself he is black American,  or in the crowd of bayaye  who yell insults at a white man in a language comprehended only by his black, female companion.

The inclusions of local language and games and food in the books we read are regularly recognised and remarked upon. And so for a book that chronicles the early experiences of young women – a description that would fit many of the books I loved when I was younger – I wonder what my reaction would have been to these inclusions if I read it then. Would I have so obviously appreciated them? Would they still be felt as a homecoming? Before I ever listened to Chimamanda and others wryly comment that Blyton gave no explanations for lacrosse or snow, before I ever met Achebe through curriculum-mandated set books – would I have just enjoyed the stories, free of the burden of analysis? And yet –  would that same self have picked this book off the shelf at all, or ignored it in favour of other options simply because it was written by an African and so probably not my thing?

In any event, meta analysis aside, I’m glad I read Tropical Fish, and would recommend it to anyone looking  for a good, quick read that is equal parts thoughtful and entertaining.

(Nairobi-based readers may buy a copy of Tropical Fish online  from Magunga.com)

Speculative Fiction Call Out

This time, we’re doing something a little different for the Will This Be A Problem Anthology. A public call out.

The theme this year is Speculative Fiction set in African countries and we will be accepting short stories from any African citizen.

wtbap

Here are the submission guidelines.

  1. Your story can be Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magical Realism, Alternate History or an unholy mash of any them.
  2. While your story must be set in an an African country, feel free to place it in any timeline you please. You may also set it in alternate versions of these countries. i.e. A Kenya that was never colonized.
  3. Our target length is between 2000-5000 words. However this is just a baseline, if the story is strong enough it can be longer or shorter.
  4.  Send your work to submissions@34.193.184.231 in doc, docx, odt or rtf formats. Do not send it in the subject of the email.
  5. Send a small bio about yourself, what country you’re from and what name you would like the work to be published under.
  6. Only submit your original work.
  7. By submitting a story the author allows Will This Be A Problem to include it in the WTBAP Anthology should it be selected.
  8.  Submissions should primarily be in English though pieces of dialogue and the text may contain other languages.
  9. The submission should be previously unpublished.
  10. If your work is published somewhere else after the Anthology is released we request that you mention Will This Be A Problem as the first place of publication.
  11. Submissions close on the 1st of November, 2016.

The WTBAP anthology is provided for free. We do not make any money off it and thus we do not (as of yet) pay for submissions. However, this year, there will be prizes for our favourite story.

  1. If the winner is from Kenya, the prize will be:  Ksh 3,000 and the Imagine Africa 500 Anthology edited by Billy Kahora delivered from the Magunga Book Store
  2. If the winner is from any other country: 30$ paid via paypal and a kindle (or kindle app) book gift of A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar OR Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Book Review : Born On A Tuesday

“There is no moral. I just felt like telling you a story.”

Before narratives became a Buzzfeed-era buzzword, they were made of music and prose and poetry: vehicles of information as old as humanity itself. The world as we know it has amply provided certain types of narrative that as consumers we then modify with our own nuances. But the world is becoming both bigger and smaller and modification of a larger [mostly Western] narrative with a local flavour is no longer enough. We need to know about the other cultures that exist, islands like our own in a sea of Made-In-China-For-America pop culture. For this reason there are increasing calls for stories from the marginalized for the marginalized.

born-on-a-tuesdayBorn On A Tuesday by Nigerian author Elnathan John is one such story. Through its narrator Dantala we sit in on seven years in the life of a Hausa boy as he deals with challenges both ordinary and extraordinary. Dantala’s growing pains and joys take place in a radicalizing state in Northern Nigeria – a place arguably less fictionalized and explored in mainstream Nigerian literature than say Lagos or Enugu.

Elnathan John has been quoted as saying Northern Nigeria has no demand for nuance, which may explain the almost bare style with which he handles language and plot. Descriptions are perfunctory, deaths are banal, and violence is so casual that you can be halfway through a paragraph before realizing the people in it are under attack. It makes it hard to deeply engage with the events and characters, most of whom are sketched in broad strokes. Despite this a layered complexity is still present, especially in the depiction of the religious and political landscape.

As a reader with a Christian background in an increasingly Islamophobic world, it seems unusual to encounter a novel where the milieu is entirely Muslim, and positively so. There is a pervasive sense of community, especially in the calls to prayer and rhythms of life wherein resides the comfort and security that remains one of the chief attractions of organised religion. Questions of fate and the existence of evil, difficulties of interpretation and the resultant frictions are tackled in conversations  between characters as well as Dantala’s own inner voice. Thus, beliefs and tenets are explored that would otherwise be mere stereotype, or banners around which the non-Islamic world is called to rally in fear.

The mosque is a natural refuge for Dantala, one to which he often returns and finds succour.  His life is rooted in it, and while religion seems to hamper for him the excitements of his peers, he is perfectly happy to think himself above pursuits such as football and pranks. However, it also complicates his relationship with sex, which is very tainted in this book – the only sex that is described as worth a happy giggle is in an illicit affair, which is a shame. It is commendably inclusive, though, with sodomy being treated no more or less haram. Dantala is just as anguished by and afraid of homoerotic wet dreams as he is of his first sexual encounter with another person – a hand job from an unnamed female prostitute.

Perhaps it is these difficulties that lead him to treat women with none of the compassion we come to expect from him, and it is frustrating to read. It is hard to decide whether this is a reflection on the narrator, the society he lives in, or the author. Female characters in the book play one of two roles:  either mother/provider, or whore. Interestingly,  Aisha, the main love interest, manages to be both. While still in her dimpled, big-breasted maidenly bloom, she reminds Dantala of his Umma, but once she is married sports a gold Mecca tooth, as last seen in – surprise, surprise – the prostitute’s mouth.  Women suffer in the sidelines of this book, which in itself is not unusual as everyone does. However, they are denied any means of survival apart from being long-suffering and enduring. In a book already short on levity there is painfully little female laughter.

To describe this as a coming of age story is inaccurate, as everything Dantala will become by book’s end he already is when we first meet him under the kuka tree. He is unhappy with the world as it exists but his fatalistic acceptance of it allows him to move through time and space with resilience. It is this resilience and instinct for survival that make sure there is a story to tell at all. His escapes from peril mean there is always a new episode in a rather circular repetitive life, and against considerable odds the book manages to end on a note of continuity – life goes on, if and as Allah wills it.

3-5starsg

 

Overall this scores a ⅗, and would probably score higher if it passed the Bechdel.
(Nairobi-based readers may buy a copy of Born On A Tuesday online  from Magunga.com)

The Decolonisation Project

Decolonisation! A term I got acquainted with when I first commenced my studies at the University of Cape Town. It’s rather a peculiar term that I had never heard before and I must say, I was confused at first about its meaning or significance. How do you undo something that has already manifested itself?

My idea of colonialism stemmed from the vague education system I received in high school. The chronological events of colonialism: the Berlin West African conference, the partitioning of Africa, the arrival of missionaries and the colonial administration systems. Therefore, with such a layman’s understanding of colonialism one that emphasized the course while neglecting the cause, the consequences, implications and effects I really wondered what people meant when they spoke of decolonisation. Did it mean we ought to reverse the whole colonial process? As in go back to Berlin and redraw the borders and build ships and take back all the descendants of the white man? Take back all they stole from the hinterland? It sounded rather unrealistic for me.

There ought to have been more to this, perhaps I was missing out on something and was oblivious to a more conscious understanding of what colonisation was exactly and its implications.

Exploring the concept of Colonialism

Have you ever heard of the poem “the white man’s burden”? This is a poem which grasps on the idea that the white man was burdened with the task of trying to civilise the dark continent of ‘savages’. That is what they called us. To them, civilisation involved causing a paradigm shift in the mentality of the natives. It was a doctrine that regarded the natives lost souls in dire need of redemption, education and a new language. One wonders what was to be left for the natives to take pride in.

Therefore colonialism primarily involved addressing the mind of the native in a way that would lead to a people with an inferiority complex. A people who might unconsciously disdain their uniqueness, colour, customs, culture and heritage, discarding it for the culture of the white man.

Another important aspect of colonialism was the issue of divide and rule. It all started from the macro level by dividing territory without the consent of the ethnic tribes. This proved to be problematic for it meant imposing unity among different tribes and perhaps separating tribes without any consultation with those tribes. On the micro scale, this division entailed enticing enmity among the natives, tampering with and undermining their existing customs and elevating the ‘good boys’ at the expense of the traditional chiefs which resulted in tension between the former and latter.  

Then, the most apparent aspect of colonialism was the extraction of Africa’s raw materials, which further boosted the economies of the metropolitan states of the colonisers while impeding Africa’s growth.

Therefore what does decolonisation entail?

If we are to address the issue of decolonisation pragmatically, in a way that does not make it ambiguous and cause confusion like it did for me when I first heard of it, we ought to begin by addressing the key elements listed above. This means for the purpose the article, trying to achieve decolonisation first entails deconstructing the mind-set and mentality of Africans. Dispositioning them from a state of inferiority to one of self-pride.

Decolonisation also entails promoting the ideology of unity and Pan Africanism. This might assist in fixing our continent which is deeply entrenched in intra conflict within states of which Politics, ethnicity and religion remain the genesis of the conflict. Decolonisation also means addressing the major problem of Africa’s resources which seem to benefit external players. We dwell in a neo colonial system that has found inconspicuous means of continuing to suck out Africa’s wealth while disguising itself as the functional global economy.

Well, is the Decolonisation Project Practical, Viable and Possible?

  • Knowledge is Power.  Addressing the mentality of the African people will take a great amount of effort on both the people instilling this knowledge and the people receiving it. With the education system pervasive in Africa, one that emphasizes primarily on making people potential job candidates, we might not reach the level we want as a continent. We need to incorporate elements in our education system where we expose students to different narratives of African literature, ones that are also intellectual and not primarily academic. Ones that do not enforce a white supremacist doctrine.  

    Now, we are forced to depart formal education with the mentality that civilization and modernisation is western and affiliated to whiteness, neglecting the fact that Africans and black people have made major contributions to the world’s modernity. So what we need is an education system that exposes the detrimental effects of colonialism and its impact today, while promoting a culture of breeding think tanks and problem solvers with solutions on how to fix the problem. Only then can we envisage the decolonisation Project’s success.
  • The problem of Unity. Unfortunately, we have not excelled on the topic of unity and we might not have taken any steps in this journey of a thousand miles.  This is linked to the previous point as our education system can also endorse the agenda of uniting and appreciating each other as Africans in our distinctiveness.
    I am also convinced that unity should not be a concept that is only ideological but should carry practicality in it. If Africa does not promote a culture of interaction between states, through regionalisation, trading and more multilateral and bilateral relations we will always remain a delusional continent. This notion stems from the neo liberal school of thought and the ‘prisoner dilemma’ notion that states are likely to cooperate together when there are institutions that promote practical interactions and trade among them. I was impressed by the recent development as there might be an introduction of the African passport. However, its implementation remains in question.
  • Thwarting Neo-Colonialism. Today,  Africa remains a continent that boasts of its mineral wealth but shies away from the fact that it remains an impoverished continent up to date This is the incongruent nature of Africa’s current affairs. Many will blame the international system for continuing to undermine Africa’s potential however I must state that the endurance of the enemy’s oppression is partly determined by our tolerance and acquiescence. The main problem remains political. Africa suffers from the cancer of unscrupulous leaders, who enrich themselves at the expense of the economies of their respective countries while serving the interests of the western and eastern giants hungry for Africa’s goodies. Therefore decolonisation in this regard will depend on the willingness of the leaders to prioritise national goals and the national and African vision above their self-interests.

Decolonisation

My next article will carry the same theme as I analyse the African Union’s contribution to the decolonisation Project.

 

On Mourning: Repetition and Re-memories

The word “again” is a signifier of time and memory. “Again” recalls a time a thing that is happening now happened before. I imagine—which makes it true, if not factual—that every language has a word, or words, to signify the repetition of things. Once upon a time, certainly, there must have been no use for it, but that is a time that must only be remembered through imagination that becomes fiction, but once was not.

Again-ness also connotes movement. There must be distance between the thing that happened and its subsequent repetition.

Mourning is permanently in a state of again-ness. If we were to count mourning as we count things, like chairs and buses, there was, I imagine, a first mourning. It might have been a pain so bad, the person or people who felt it may have thought there could only be one such time for it. And then, as with other things, the person or people moved away from the mourning. Maybe they forgot it, maybe they did not. If they forgot it, it did not feel like it was happening a second time. But then it happened a third time and a fourth and a fifth, ad infinitum. For us to mourn again, we remember that we mourned before. And then we remember why we mourned before, and we find that there are finite causes of infinite mourning.

That is not to say that it is impossible to become stuck in the first mourning, but that there is certainly movement, even if it is away from the first instant of our mourning, such that a second one can come in a fresh wave before the first one is ever left behind—if mourning was a bomb, or even an entire war, then Palestinians barely have time to look up after the first mourning comes before the second one hits.

But even if, hypothetically, there are periods in every person’s life free of mourning, they are not in sync, which means at any given time, there are large numbers of mourning occurring. And because this happens again and again, because of time and memory, because there are finite causes of infinite mourning, mourning threatens to become banal. When it does this, sometimes we forget—forgetting is a significant exercise of memory—which of these causes are the reason for our mourning, or when this mourning began, or when the last mourning ended, or which mourning felt better than the other, or even that we are mourning at all.

Sometimes, then, our mourning begins to look like misremembering.

It has been 105 days since Garissa.

My brother was born in 1997, and this became an important year for it. 1997 was an election year. 1997 was the year a Ugandan newspaper claimed Moi was possibly the second-richest man in Africa after Mobutu Sese Seko. 1997 is when the Remuneration of Teachers (Order of 1997) was signed. For me, 1997 was the first time I had a bath on my own, by candlelight because KPLC had done its thing. My mother was in hospital, having just given birth to my baby brother. My father filled the tub for me, lit the candle and left me to my devices.

This is a misremembering. I recently recounted this memory to my mother and she told me it couldn’t be true because in the January my brother was born, I was just under three years old. My father has many parental shortcomings, but she said he wouldn’t have left a two year old alone in a bathtub, and with a candle nearby. Furthermore, a wonderful woman named Regina was working in our home at the time, and she had given me my baths every day since my mum had gotten too heavy to. 1997 was the year Daniel Arap Moi ‘won’ his fifth term of presidency. In 1997, Ksh. 100 million was raised at a KANU presidential lunch, with meals being sold for as much as Ksh. 5 million.

My memory of time, then, is factually incorrect, but my memory of place and action remain true—I just must have been older, my brother was probably sick and hospitalised and my mother must have been with him that night. But memory is often an interweaving of different strands of logic until they don’t make sense anymore, and this one insists on assigning itself to January 1997, so I let it because it is important to me but ultimately harmless. At the time I began to piece it together, I was also piecing together other memories—none of them my own—of the Kenya that had been kept out of my textbooks. So, in 1997, Wangari Maathai ran for president, yet I recall a teacher telling my all-girls class that women couldn’t be president. In 1997, the Kenyan government “admitted” that NYS recruits were receiving military training; my mother’s stories about her time in the NYS sound like boarding school escapades. In 1997, the Office of the President, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Information, Transport and Communications ignored an alert on the El Niño floods that killed hundreds of Kenyans and left tens of thousands more homeless, although a government helicopter rescued Lands Minister Katana Ngala from his home in Ganze.

I am still picking up snippets of what it was like to live in the “Moi years”. My cũcũ still recalls being followed home and having her phone tapped because she worked for the university, and she insists she had it easier than most. Even though I was born eight years before he finally left office, I have been made to understand that these were his “milder” years, at least for a certain class of Kenyans—the years after Kenya’s first multi-party elections, the years after a thing called democracy came to pass. Kenya was, apparently, a better place for it, but the fear hadn’t dissipated. I didn’t feel it then, but I hear it when our memories were forced to merge with others’ that came before us, like when my teachers forcefully drumming the Loyalty Pledge into our tiny brains. One time, many years after Mwai Kibaki became president, my teacher declared that Moi was the best president this country had ever had, and for several months, I took and spoke it as gospel truth. I was not the brightest kid—it took me a while to realise that “because my teacher said so” was not a sufficient answer to “Why?”

Around the time, real or falsified, of my monumental bath (it was a big deal, ok?) my understanding of “President” was “owner of everything in the country”. When I began to remember the bath, I realised that I spent my childhood going around with the persistent thought in the back of my head that Moi owned everything—the bathwater I was sitting in, the candle, the soap, the wash towel, our apartment, a university, a road, a stadium, a number of choirs, a high school. I cannot know the fear of the Moi years because I did not carry it, but that was my understanding of it, aided by the framed pictures of his scowling face everywhere—be careful with things, because he owned them.

In April 2015, shortly after #147NotJustANumber began to trend online in honour of the (then) 147 students killed by Al Shabaab at Garissa University College, the Kenyatta (II) administration—christened the “hashtag government” by Kenyans on Twitter—launched #2YearsOfSuccess. Understandably, this distraction didn’t sit well. As I read the indignation, anger, disgust and disbelief in tweets from people who responded to the government hashtag, I remembered a recurring sentiment from the last two years during which terrorist operations carried out in Kenya (by non-state actors) have spiked—that even the Moi years hadn’t been this bad. Sometimes, our mourning looks like ahistorical nationalism.

*

I learn about the Westgate attack from Twitter, shortly after it began, all the way from my college dorm somewhere in South Africa. Quotidian language narrated quotidian violence, especially that after the legislation of shoot-to-kill. I am only slightly alarmed, knowing that whatever it is will be over before anybody knows exactly what it is but the tweets keep coming. I call my mother to make sure my family isn’t anywhere near the mall. This is how she learns about the attack. She says my brother is at home, but I call him anyway. And then I call him again. And again. He finally picks up after over thirty minutes of incessant ringing, during which panic is hitting me in fresh waves every time I refresh my newsfeed. He is at a friend’s house. I realise then how painful breathing has been.

For four days, everybody is looking at Nairobi, and yet I cannot possibly mean everybody. For example— the people I live and learn with appear not to know until the third day, and my tongue is too heavy for food at mealtimes, let alone conversation. “Everybody” as it is deployed, though— and I use the military jargon deliberately— means “mainstream media”, “[select] world leaders” and people, especially (but not only) white people, in the omnipresent and suffocating West. Eventually, my campus-in-a-bubble catches up with the news; to be Kenyan now is to watch faces fold with sympathy for weeks after.

The number stops at 68. A few days before the attack on Charlie Hebdo writers, Boko Haram attacked Baga, a village in Nigeria. The circulating number of deaths is about 2000. The number tied to GUC is 147, or 148, even though, at the time, it was suggested the death toll was closer to 200 than to 150. When I sent in the first draft of this post, 14 people in Mandera were still alive.

[Sometimes, our mourning looks like numbers in our Math exercise books waiting to be marked before they let us go home.]

There is a certain kind of outrage that arises that feels familiar. Its language is one that I’ve used several times for many years before now. It is built on a word: nobody. In the tangles of race and capitalism, of proximity to the centre and of peripheries, of class and productivity valuation, there is space for only one group of people— “everybody” — and its opposite, “nobody”, which, by definition, cannot actually also be a group or a person, but ends up being one.

That is, nobody is talking about Baga. Everybody is talking about Charlie Hebdo. Nobody is talking about Garissa, or Mpeketoni, or Lamu. Everybody is talking about the Boston Marathon bombing. Nobody is talking about #BringBackOurGirls— at least not anymore. Everybody is still supposed to think back to 9/11.

“Why are folks always begging, looking for reactions to the West? So what if Europeans don’t comment on Garissa? Is OUR grief not enough?”

  —Kinna (@kinnareads), 06/04/2015

In the space left by “nobody”, there is keening, screaming, accusations, questions, grieving. Yet our mourning has been made to look like—

“I’m a little confused. Is this atrocious because the international media is talking about it or because school children were tear-gassed?”

—Ndinda Kioko (@ndinda_), 19/01/2015

But then, you are scrolling through your timeline, your dashboard, sometimes even through Whatsapp, or when you pick up a newspaper, there are photos of bodies, everywhere. Sometimes, there are words for the positions these bodies are in: littered, strewn, scattered. Like dirty laundry. These photos serve the function of moving mourning from the space that nobody occupies to the one that everybody does. They are necessary for everybody to tell the story that nobody has been telling. Without these pictures, everybody cannot help nobody grieve. So sometimes our mourning, though it may not sound like anything, comes in shades of black and brown.

*

I am told they are blocking the roads in the City Centre that run outside Parliament, the President’s office, the Vice President’s office for security purposes, but Kenyatta and Ruto will have breakfast in a high-end café to inspire Kenyans’ confidence in them.

In the days after April 2, Senator Mike Sonko asked, on social media, why the students had not done anything to limit the scale of the attack. To ask what the Kenyan government did to prevent the attack is to dig up stories and memories of what the Kenyan government, pre- and post-independence, has done to warrant the attacks.

Removal of Somalis from Laikipia reads the head of a letter from July 1928. The Somali Problem in Laikipia: How It Was Solved reads the headline of an article dated May 1926.

It has been 31 years since the Wagalla Massacre, a violence so unimaginable, it slips through the cracks of collective memory. And yet someone, more than one somoene, imagined it. More than one someone remembers Wagalla every day because memory forces unwanted imagination.

It has been just over a year since #KasaraniConcentrationCamp. A Google Maps search points you to Moi International Sport Centre.

I was told, after Westgate, that a group of women had overheard the attack being planned, and had tried to inform the authorities, that they were dismissed because they are sex workers. To ask what the Kenyan government did to prevent the attack is to remember the relationship the state has with women.

About the widow of a man named Ibrahim Effendi, who lived on two acres of land in Nanyuki for 15 years after his death, the British government says, “The question of this woman’s prescriptive right does not therefore arise.” This is in 1929.

During the four days of the Wagalla “operation”, nearly every girl and woman is raped and/or assaulted by KDF officers.

Listening to Mike Sonko, and the government’s “Security starts with you” rhetoric, many women are not unfamiliar with the cruel and violent trope of victim-blaming, because we know it every day. Even though we mourn as families, as friends, as what-if victims, as communities, sometimes our mourning is very, very lonely.

*

Some time in 2014, I overheard a conversation between two Kenyans in my school. One, a freshman, was not sure he was going home for the holidays because of the explosions in Gikomba and on buses in Nairobi. The other told him he had nothing to worry about: “people like us”—that is, diaspora Kenyans with money, with options— never visited markets, never used public transport.

Sometimes, our mourning looks like distance, removal. Sometimes it is not mourning at all.

It’s been 105 days since the Garissa attack, and I still cannot think of my campus, any campus, without thinking about GUC. Many times, I wonder how long it would take to spread fear like a blanket over the 7000 students in my school— how long would 4 men need? How long will a larger group (50? 139? 275?) of men in government-issued fatigues take? Could this happen here? Probably not. Do I, then, have the right to mourn in this way? Should my grief look like this? I don’t know—there is no guide to grieving.

In the last 105 days, while reading all I can about Garissa, I learn that some language changes when memory is reworked; some does not. In 1997, nominated MP Mohammed Shidiye called the insecurity in Garissa a “festering wound that has gone untreated for over 30 years” while demonstrators accused the government of harassing Somalis. What the media calls “[suspected] terrorists” today were called “bandits” then. For 105 days, I have been trying to find the vocabulary to make sense of the road to Garissa, not because there is no information, but because there are too many things to remember, too many lies to untangle, too many phases of and faces for our mourning. Sometimes there is coherence but most times there isn’t, so instead, I take bits and pieces from different histories, I borrow from other people’s work and scrap together this post.

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!

Here Cometh The Feminists

The movies were wrong. The alien invasion did not come in spaceships. It did not come with beams in the sky or crop circles in the fields. We did not even even see it coming. The invasion came and went, we were occupied and we did not even know it.

You’re skeptical. I understand, but look around. There’s a chance that the invaders are with you or near you right now. The species that wants to destroy everything you know and bring all of us down. You’ve no doubt heard of them. They go by the name…. feminists.

We have all heard many things about these feminists. Disturbing things. Unsettling things. Things that spring from the same well that inspired Dante’s Inferno. But I wanted the truth. I wanted to know what it is that they truly want. So I decided I was going to meet one. Against the advice of those wiser than me, I braved the danger and agreed to interview a feminist.

One of the things I have heard about these feminists is that once they fully posses a woman they do not shave their legs. Hair grows wildly covering them from knee to ankle in a wild mane. It is a strange phenomenon. It reminds me of the Arabic story where King Solomon meets the Queen of Sheba. His advisers warn him that he should not trust her for her legs are covered in hair like a goat. Solomon, in his general all-knowing fashion, tricks her into revealing her legs and confirms these rumors. This tells us that the feminists have been around for a long time. And, more disturbing still, that even the wisest man in the world feared them. This will not be an easy interview.

The feminist arrives and there are oddities. For one, she is smiling. This is odd because feminists do not smile. Their faces are permanently scowling. The bitterness of their hate for men, sex and children, and by extension their hate for happiness, is never far. It occurs to me that a smiling feminist is a dangerous thing. What would make a feminist smile? Will I leave this place alive? Will this be my tomb, a burning bra flying high above it to celebrate (another?) feminist kill?

“Hello,” she says cheerfully.

There is no sign of her man hate or innate bitterness. It is almost as if these things do not exist. I can now see how so many feminists have made it in the media. They are excellent actors.

“So,” I say carefully, “what is a feminist?”

“THAT,” she says a little too loudly (as is to be expected), “is a complicated question.”

“How so?”

“A feminist is a lot of things. We don’t all believe the same ideas and we don’t all agree on how to express them. But at it’s simplest, a feminist is someone who believes in political, social and economic equality between the sexes. A feminist is someone who sees the gender divide and the attitudes towards women and wants that to change. Basically, a feminist is someone who is tired of seeing women treated like shit.”

I flinch. A woman using language like that. A feminist indeed.

“I’ve heard this before but…aren’t women equal already?”

“Is that a joke?” she says, her eyes narrowing. There is a hint of menace in her voice. The mask is dropping. “How can you look at this world and possibly even say something like that?”

“Well. Personally I think it’s mostly fixed…”

“Abuse! Rape! Violence! And if you don’t think these are common then how casually they are treated certainly is. People act as if this is the way things ought to be. As if women should not complain about these things. Do you not see how men treat women everywhere?!”

“Look. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Some men are bad. Completely sick in the head, but we must be equal in this. Some women are also bad. So if you think about it, not all…”

“Don’t you dare.”

“What?”

“Don’t you dare try to say not all men.”

“But it’s true right? Not all men are bad.”

“So fucking what? People just use that as a way to not deal with the conversation. When we’re talking about ways to reduce traffic accidents you don’t hear not all drivers. When we’re talking corruption you’re not going to accept a goddamn ‘not all politicians!’ That is not a conversation that even needs to be had. Enough men act, enough men condone and enough men do nothing for it to be a giant, global problem. The phrase not all men means nothing here. And if you still think it does then never talk about any problem in the world because guess what? Not all fucking human beings!”

I say nothing. It will do no good. Clearly, feminists cannot use logic. We stare at each other for a while no one saying anything. Finally, I ask:

“Why are you feminists always so angry?”

“Because there’s a lot to be angry about.”

“Yes, but what if you filtered your message. Were nicer. If you weren’t always shouting. Don’t you think people would listen more?”

“You think that hasn’t been tried? How do you think feminists get so angry? We tell you over and over but you don’t get it. You really don’t. We shout, we whisper, we’re kind, we’re mean but nothing sticks! Everything you say after shows that you haven’t even thought about it. Not really. And how can that be? Truly, I don’t get it. How can that be?”

“That’s not fair. You’re just doing what you always do. You’re making assumptions. I have thought about it. I know I respect women. I don’t mistreat them but you want me to be the enemy. I’m not. I came from a woman, we all did. Women I respect, it’s feminists I have a problem with.”

“You see? You respect women because you came from one. Or you were raised by a single mother. Or because you have sisters. If you thought about it you’d know that that’s a terrible reason to respect someone. You’re related to some women and that’s where you stopped thinking about it? That’s it. How about because women are human beings?”

“That’s a lot of talk but it’s just over complicating a simple matter. What’s wrong with respecting women because of my mother?”

“When was the last time your major reason for respecting a man was your father?”

“Feminists! Always always overacting. Listen to yourself. Nowadays a man can’t say anything without starting a fight. We cant even compliment a woman without it being a big deal.”

“Is that what you call what happens? Complimenting?”

“Yes. I do.”

“Just compliments. Ha. Tell you what. Next time a gay man cat calls you or gropes you I want to see you take it as a compliment.”

“That….that’s not the same thing!”

“Isn’t it? So it’s not unwanted attention or contact?”

I stare at her appalled. A gay….WHAT!? JESUS! These feminists are mad. Mad mad women.

“Look at you,” she says showing that infamous feminist sneer, “so shocked by just the idea of it. The idea alone! How often does this even happen to anyone? Do you even know anyone it’s happened to? Why does it scare you so much? Are you not just afraid that gay people will treat you how you treat women. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“If you’re not willing to take this conversation seriously, I have nothing more to say.”

“Running away then?”

“This is why no one likes feminists.”

I walk away on that note unwilling to listen to anything else. I can see that these feminists will be a danger. A grave danger. They are a plague that we cannot countenance. They will destroy our way of life if we let them. They are enemies of men. Even enemies of women. You heard what she said about my mother. And so my brothers and sisters, we must fight them in any way we can. We must not let them take over our women.

If the feminists want something then we must not let them have it. If they fight for something, we must fight against it. Do not bother justifying yourself comrades. You saw how little they value logic. Tell them they are wrong because they are feminist. That is enough. But if you are brave and you think you can convert them, tell them the truth. Tell it to them over and over. Do not let their slick talk fool you. They have tricks to tempt you away from truth. Hold on to it and repeat it. Do not let them win.

Brace yourselves my brothers. Here cometh the feminists.

***

ADDENDUM

I chose to tackle this topic this way because, quite honestly, I’m already angry. To write in a completely serious tone would have probably not ended well. The past few days have been one sexist act after another around me. The fact that it’s annoyed me so much and I wasn’t the victim and I’m a man should probably answer all your “why are feminists so angry” inquiries. If I had to actually personally deal with this nonsense i’m not quite sure what I’d do.

With this approach, there is exaggeration (obviously). The entire alien angle is the way people misrepresent feminism and completely refuse to understand it. The stereotypes they hold and the entire “otherness” they ascribe to it all of which I turned up to level 10.

The arguments that follow however are more or less accurate. These are the most common answers given to these issues. Ask any feminist and they will probably tell you how much of this kind of thing they’ve had to deal with and more. Everything in the man’s quotes has been uttered almost word for word on several occasions. It is not the minority view. If anything it seems to be the main narrative.

On that note, I’d like to shout out every woman who has to continually listen to the kind of thing I’ve covered here. Specifically, my co-blogger, Olivia Kidula. Liv is like a feminist super hero. Less superwoman more of The Punisher. She will not put up with your sexist bullshit for even a second. On twitter and in person, God help her victims. There are times she’s been criticized for things I’ve written on feminism. These critics suddenly changed their tune when they found out I wrote it as if the arguments had also changed. It’s alright though, she dealt with them.

Another person that deserves recognition is Samira Ali who inspired the central idea for this post (which puts her post inspiration count on this blog to two. I might have to start paying her). She’s had her share of scraps with people who think working women are scary and other stupid ideas® ( Now available in all Sexist social networking accounts everywhere). She’s a well of brilliant ideas. Seriously, this girl knows her shit.

Follow these people. You’ll be entertained and your TL will be smarter and funnier than it would have been otherwise.

All you women in the movement, keep fighting the good fight.

As for you men, someone please make a Kenyan version of this t-shirt.

Addressing Rape Culture

[Trigger Warning: This article may be traumatising to victims of rape and sexual assault.]

A girl you know has a reputation for taking a different guy home every time she is at the club. A man who has been watching her decides that if she said yes to the first 20 then his is also implied… When she goes to the police for help they question her about the number of sexual partners she had, what she was wearing, whether she was drunk. They dismiss her case and blame it on her history of being a slut. She goes home dejected and vows not to speak up again. If the case makes it to court, she faces the risk of having her entire sexual history dragged out by the judge and this will add to her humiliation.

A young woman goes to a party with friends. A guy who has fancied her sees this as an opportunity to turn her long standing refusal of his advances into a yes and begins to ply her with alcohol. Eventually, the young woman becomes intoxicated and passes out. The guy, knowing full well she will not remember this in the morning, has sex with her unconscious body. The following day, nobody will scold the boy who intentionally got a girl -who had clearly expressed that she did not want to sleep with him- drunk so that he could take advantage of her, but will question her behaviour and why she wasn’t more responsible. “You should be more careful at parties,” they tell her “don’t you know what happens to girls who hang out with the wrong crowd?”

A male student is in his final year of study. His female lecturer has yet to sign off on one of his courses that will allow him to graduate. His father has put extra pressure on him as he is the first in their family to go to university. This is why he does not tell anyone of the things she makes him do in her office late at night. He knows if he tells his peers they will mock him. This is his mess, he got himself into it, and will do it until she signs off. He has no choice.

This is an example of rape culture – a normalised attitude to the crime of rape that leads to a society where both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death.

In a rape culture, people are surrounded with images, language, laws and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate rape. Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is unavoidable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”

Still don’t understand?

Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what to wear, how to wear it, how to carry oneself, whom to trust, how much to drink, to learn self-defence, to never let your guard down and failure to adhere to the rules means it’s your fault.

Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people, whether strong or weak, careful or not.

Rape culture is street harassment, it is being groped in public transportation, it is treating women’s bodies like public property.

Rape culture is the narrative that boys can’t be raped, that wives can’t be raped, that sex workers can’t be raped.

Rape culture is rape jokes. No sir, you weren’t JUST JOKING. Rape culture is using the word ‘rape’ casually in conversation. “That exam raped me” That’s rape culture.

Rape culture is even hidden in the imaginary friendzone. Yup, the friendzone, that mythical land where a man believes that he is entitled to sex with a woman simply because he was nice to her for an extended period of time. And yes, even women are guilty of this.

This lax attitude to the word rape, this feeling of nonchalance about a crime that happens in Kenya every 30 minutes, to boys and girls, women and men, regardless of age or dressing or whether they were drinking, is a huge problem. It is dependent of society believing that women owe men sex, that consent is not necessary and that they should take what they want from us whenever they deem it necessary.

Rape and sexual violence is normalised and that’s a bad thing. We would rather believe that these things are perpetuated by bad men wielding axes in dark alleyways even though two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. We would rather believe that the terrible realities we hear about aren’t real or that, at least, we can’t do anything about it. The truth is ugly. But by denying the obvious we continue to allow rapists to go unpunished and leave survivors silenced.

But blogging about it is not enough. Pointing it out on a forum tends to reduce the intensity of the message. It reduces it to a long winded conversation that will be forgotten when the wi-fi is out. So this is my solution.

I would like to go to high schools, everywhere in the country and educate young adults about the extent of rape culture. And I need your help.

We will go to schools, both private and public, in suburbs and impoverished areas, teaching them about this societal ill that will face them as soon as they are out of school. We will teach them about street harassment, victim shaming, slut shaming and all the things that are encapsulated in rape culture.

Sign up here to add your voice to #StopRapeCulture.  Since the problem lies in a culture that is entertained by degrading acts and images of women, the solution is to look at the individual acts as a symptom of rape culture and solve it holistically.  We all have a part to play in allowing rape culture to exist—so, we can all do something to eradicate it.