Feminism as an African Woman

I really hated growing up as a girl in Kenya, I did everything, all the house chores as my brothers played football. It is my duty to choose how to seat, how to talk, how to dress and how to behave in order to be a “respectable woman in society”, while all the boys had to do was exist. From a young age, I found this extremely unfair. It is not fair that, not only do women carry the entire world on their backs, but we also have to deal with societal pressures and expectations of perfection.

During my adolescence, I was not allowed to play with boys, I was told boys are dangerous, I was told boys are the enemy, what made me sad is, the boys were never warned the same. The boys were told girls were sexy, having girls, especially many girls, was cool and exciting. Once the boobs and the butt start showing, no matter what age the girl is, it is over for you, forget the word peace while walking down the streets. The disrespect and sexual harassment is a whole article on its own. The boys were told sex was fun and made you a man, the girls were told sex was dirty and made you a slut. It was your duty as a young girl to protect yourself, no matter how stubborn the men were. I was was told never to dress in a certain way around males, but the males were never warned the same.

I always wondered, why is it that I should always consider my way of dressing and movement, but the males are never taught to stop harassing women sexually. For them “it is okay, that is how men are,” for me, “you are a girl!” That is not how girls should behave!” I was told not to tag boys along , or else I would get pregnant before marriage, or worse, if I am seen with different boys, I would not be seen as a “good woman” in society, but my male mates were never warned the same.

I was told to act right so that I could get married at the right time and to the “right man”, but the boys were never warned the same. I was told that I should be married at a certain age, but again, boys were never told the same. I saw older women being taught everyday on how to survive in marriages, be good, be respectful, be submissive, cook, no matter how busy or how depressing your life gets, always! always strive to be beautiful or else! your man will look at other women and even worse, leave you.

On my side, this is what i always heard:

“Be stupid, if you want to survive as a woman, especially in an African country, be very stupid, even if you feel constantly disrespected, it is better that to be seen as an unmarried woman. No matter how much you have to sacrifice, even if it means loosing yourself to make others happy, it is better than to have fingers always pointed at you for being “A bad woman!” No matter how much you hate the societal pressures, no matter how much you wish you were in a respectful, loving relationship, that is but a dream, here, that is not how things work, you get what you get, there is nothing you can do about it,  and that is just how life is.”

I saw girls wasting their time on beauty to appear more attractive, not for themselves or their self-confidence, but to compete for men, while men jumped from one woman to another. And this my friends, this is where the imbalance called in our generation “feminism” came from. As an adult African female now, I understand.

I understand that the society is extremely imbalanced. I fully understand the meaning of sexism. I understand that the imbalance in the society is based on the fact that, one gender is taught white and the other gender is taught black. I understand that one gender is taught slavery and the other gender is taught freedom.

Where is the balance? How can these two species co-exist with each other? It is true, men and women are not the same, but does this give any justification for the women to constantly feed on the pressure of perfection. I mean, it is not enough that I have to scream hours and hours in the hospital just to give birth, after carrying a child for nine months, in no position to even have a glass of wine. But even after this, I have to come home and be the perfect wife, the perfect female, the eye candy, always beautiful to look at.

Okay, enough said, I hope for a generation that immensely understands and respects the term “equality within genders”. Women have been oppressed for so long that we have men making decisions for us, and honestly, it is enough.

Nyawira Mithayo

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