“My dress, my choice!” “My clothes are not my consent!” These slogans rung throughout Kenya in the wake of violence being propagated against women with the excuse being their dress code. In November, 2014, Kenyans took to the streets of Nairobi in protest of the recent incidents of women being stripped naked on the streets by groups of men who accused them of “indecent” dressing. The men propagating the violence used excuses such as African tradition against Westernization and Western feminism, religion against pagan indecency and so forth. For a long while the government has been slow to prosecute, until a recent victory: “Matatu driver, tout to hang for stripping woman,” writes NTV News this morning, July 19 2017.
This conviction comes as a great victory for the victims, the women that leave their houses wondering whether their skirts are the right length for the crowd of men standing by the streets to pass judgement. I don’t need point out the obvious, but well, we all know that it is not about the length of the skirt. It’s about the power to pass judgement and get away with it. The power that society has allowed to flourish.
I have grown up in many worlds and in each I was a woman. A woman and something else, and some cases the bottom line changed, but a woman alright. I have written enough essay prompts about woman as a symbol of authenticity, but that’s for next time. So my societies…
America woke up tense on the November 8, 2016. There was a great chance that at the end of the day Americans would have sealed their fate and handed over the highest office on the land to none other than the man who bathes in gold in all the golden glory of his tower, Trump. The day had begun gloomy, unfortunately winter had come early to the Walla Walla valley, perfectly capturing the political climate.
Earlier at a conference, my colleagues and I had a long discussion on the possibility of a Trump presidency. I was beyond convinced that he was either going to win or Hillary would win with a very small margin. Either way this day promised to be a rough day. So far the most powerful country in the world was subject to international mockery. Of course, I enjoyed every meme, and video that was a product of related comedy. Our conversation took us to my favorite kinda politics, comparative politics. I thought back to Kenya’s most recent elections and our decision to elect 2 candidates, both with active cases at the International Criminal Court for acts against humanity. To clarify, they were being charged for funding and propagating the 2007/08 post-election violence that saw one of the worst civil-tribal wars in Kenya. Yet, somehow, Kenyans elected the two men as president and vice president. Highest form of haha.
America has prided itself with exceptionalism, so the world sat in waiting looking to the empire that denies being one. How could the world rest easy? This presidential meant so much for immigration. The UK had just made Brexit a reality. We all know about that one. Two outcomes awaited the day for sure. Americans, who had been in denial thus far, were going to run to the hills declaring they didn’t know what happened to their America. Or, they would have shown the world how exceptional they indeed were the moment Hillary took victory. Either way, it was a turning point in America’s political history.
“I grab them by the pussy… and they let you when you are star.” The famous ‘locker room’ talk by the almost-leader of the free world.
Could people really elect this guy? Was society so rotten that a man that proudly talked of sexual assault could be elected president? Oh, and it was all caught on tape, and was getting away with it?
Well if society, whatever that may mean to you, has taught me anything, it is that a man, more so, a wealthy one, could get away with anything.
It was one of those difficult morning for me. I woke up particularly tired and absolutely apathetic. I was tempted to miss classes, but I had sworn better this particular semester, haha. I mean I assumed teachers would understand, but it was a promise I aimed to keep. I dragged myself around, even decided to go to the gym before my Chamber choir meeting. I was so worn out by the afternoon, because every interaction demanded that I shared how I felt about this fate. Every discussion left me feeling like walking politics, well which the US constantly reminded me of.
By the time I got to the writing center for my shift that evening, I was too emotionally drained to tutor. I was glad to find no one scheduled for my tutoring I decided to just be a bad employee. I left my belonging at the my favorite spot at the corner and decided to sneak a peek at the unfolding news being screened at one of the school auditoriums. You know the end of this fated evening.
This conviction is therefore a victory. Small as may be, we hope to walk around hoping that society flinches at such violence. In this post I celebrate, next I will celebrate the resistance. How did the Kenyan women resist and why this particular form of resistance? Join me next time as we talk traditions, taboo, despotism, etc.