This is an entry I have been writing in my head for years. As we all know, it is difficult to write in the head. It has to be put down on paper…or computer in this case.
I have never been able to define feminism. I don’t think I have tried. I have given equality & freedom a shot.
With varying results.
I am my dad’s daughter. A passionate African man with a weakness for alcohol and his children‘s education.
But my beloved dad had no respect for women’s rights. Not that he supported abusing them, at least not more than any man does.
He just did not see what all the hype was about.
According to him, mom had it well settled with him, she would own his property when he died. Her children would be educated and would therefore support her in old age if need be. He had married her in church, so she had papers to prove that she belonged.
What more did she want? What more could she want?
She could even work, which she did. earn her own money as long as she made dinner for him.
He did make dinner sometimes, my dad. He made the best egg soup ever when I had a cough. Others have tried and failed miserably at egg soup.
Some pre-conditions were in place though; we were sworn to not utter a word of it to neighbors. If neighbors knew dad cooked, he could be mistaken for one of those weak “sat on” husbands.
That he wasn’t.
In the mid 90s, A group of Kenyan women traveled to Beijing, China, to attend the global conference that was supposed to address women’s struggles and women’s rights in society.
note: my mom did not attend this conference. She could not even if she had wanted to.
Her only rule: “You hit me, I leave you!”
The only rule I have heard her put words to, anyways.
We women have many rules that we don’t utter. They are implied.
And followed by most clever men who want to be happy.
He kept his hands to himself. She stayed. 32 years, until he died of cancer & alcoholism.
That’s what I call women’s rights. To be able to demand what we want and be so sure & decisive that we get it.
Because no one hands you anything you don’t ask for. Apparently, not even God.
Never the less; dad could never stop talking about this Beijing conference.
He pronounced it Beching.
If mom came home later than she usually did:
Dad: “oh, so now you have been to Beching and acquired your freedom?”
If mom contradicted him publicly:
Dad: “I can see Beching has improved your brain capacity. You intend to take over the home?”
She had more brain capacity than he did. Obviously.
She did not preserve or marinate her grey cells with moonshine.
She was in control of the home. Had been for decades. She did not see the need to enlighten him on the fact.
He believed he controlled the home. His home.
Fabulous things the Beijing Conference has earned us
My mom’s standard answer: “yes, I have been to Beching, with the ticket you paid for me!”
Nothing mom did was of her own ability, disability, lack of will or will.
A bad dinner,
Sick and bed-riden,
A friend he did not approve of,
I was still quite young, but this relationship my dad had with Beijing has stayed in my mind.
And the question of what rights & freedoms the Kenyan women were demanding.
Women were already allowed to vote.
They just had to vote for the person the husband voted for.
But, seriously, with the way voting works; what woman wants to spend the time required to make up the mind and choose one candidate?
There are children who need looking after.
There is work. We have achieved equality & can work.
There is breakfast.
Every crapping day!
There is parents on both sides that need meeting once a week.
It’s not like men have these oldies on their TO DO list.
Sometimes, you even have to spend some time convincing him that he needs to meet his own mom.
She has called all week. 9 months plus first two years of keeping a screaming invalid alive deserves some gratitude.
Some have smothered infants. In their cat-like sleep. They think they will miss something or someone fun if they sleep deeply.
And they don’t know that they need their beauty sleep.
It’s not a crapping walk in the park!
Go see your I agree crazy mother damn it!
Good for you sister! if you have the best husband in the whole world, who is equal to you.
Some of us have a regular good guy. helpful, but he needs instructions.
There is laundry.
There is cleaning.
There is BFFs.
There is brunch.
There is big bang theory at 19:30 weekdays.
Seriously, sisters, WHO HAS THE CRAPPING TIME!?
Oh I forgot: women need approximately an hour a day in the crapping room. Alone time! Quality time!
Back to the point.
The things we women want have little to do with men
I did not notice the conference in Beijing, but I noticed my dad’s irritation at the Beijing conference.
So what did women want when they went to Beijing?
I have heard different answers on this:
Power? to do what?
rights? rights to what?
change? from what to what?
Freedom? from what? to do what?
The best part of moving from Kenya to Sweden was for me the women rights that Swedish women reputably enjoyed.
I had read that they were among the first to have access to contraceptives.
A good thing since my mom had seven children for lack of contraceptives.
she could have been satisfied with four.
Then my well loved brother Eric would not exist. And the world would miss a handsome, charismatic young man.
That the Swedish women earned just as much money as the men and had the same rights to own property.
That this earning power had freed them from under the men.
Cut the crapping crap! I don’t crapping have all day.
We Swedish women are just as dependent on the men as the Kenyan women are, if not more.
If not for money, for something else. But also for money.
Financial and material security is as basic in Sweden as in Kenya.
The difference is the amount. As said before, 30,000 Swedish kronor is equivalent to 300,000 Kenya shillings.
A single woman, even one with a job has problems making ends meet both in Kenya and in Sweden.
It’s difficult to buy property. To travel. To afford children if one can even have them alone.
It’s not only lonely to choose to live alone.
So why don’t we just define what we want with our lives and stop dragging men into it. They don’t have so much power.
They never did. Ever.
Not over women anyways.
- the power to be able to make decisions for myself.
My sisters have that, my mom has that, my friends have that. Nothing to fight for then?
Sometimes I cannot make the decision for myself because I lack the resources (money, time etc) It has nothing to do with the man!
- equal rights as every one else.Not as a woman, but as a person. I want to vote, if I can decide who to vote for, to travel, to marry if I want, to not marry if I don’t want to.
My sisters have that, my mom has that, my friends have that. Nothing to fight for then?
Sometimes, my rights are abused, ignored or denied. not because I am a woman.
Some times it is women who abuse my rights. It has nothing to do with the man!
Change is coming tomorrow, at it’s own pace
- change. From my grandmother’s life, from my mother’s life. A new generation.
My mother already had a better life than grandma. I already have a better life than mom. Some woman has fought for it, I am sure. But, Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said the only constant is change.
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All flows, nothing stays.
So, change is coming tomorrow! Whether we want it or not.
The challenge is to choose what change is worth fighting for.
- freedom. To do what I want. To choose my own ways.
To publicly display breasts in celebration of the Pope’s resignation. Because the pope has been limiting women’s freedom to publicly display their breasts?
We all know that one woman’s freedom is another’s prison. Just because I fight for, and gain freedom for myself does not guarantee freedom for my neighbor.
or even for my blood sister.
One woman’s revolutionary is another’s terrorist.
It only serves as an example, “it can be done!”. Eventually, it is the individual’s responsibility to find out what they want of their lives. and fight for it, individually.
That’s why in Kenya as in Sweden, there are women who are free, who have rights, who have choices.
And there are women who don’t have these things.
a woman says
“I wish I did this or that when I was young. But I married my husband and he did not really like it when I did that.”
Does the women’s freedom jump to mind?
I have heard this both in Kenya and in Sweden.
Many young women will do whatever is needed to meet a boyfriend. It is not OK, to be single for long.
That’s how it is in Kenya and in Sweden.
The things we women want have everything to do with men
The difference is: in Kenya, girls are raised with the hope that they will find a husband and hopefully a job. No one pretends otherwise.
In Sweden, we girls have to pretend to be independent, able, good girls while at the same time being completely dependent on men’s presence.
I expected that being a woman in Sweden, in the west really, should remove the pressure of finding a husband.
There is already the high pressure to find a job.
Can we have it all? Without consequences?
Self worth. Self dependency. Confidence. Husband. Children. Perfect house. Friends. Perfect bodies. Balanced brains.
I hope so.
Am not tripping.
Women are as abused in Sweden as they are in Kenya, if not worse.
Women are as disrespected in Sweden as in Kenya.
The difference is in numbers. There are over 20 million women in Kenya.
Only 4-5 million women in Sweden.
And it’s not only the immigrant women, that’s a myth. It’s all women.
If a woman has an opinion that men don’t like, she is accused of being sexually starved. Or she has sand in the vagina.
I had never heard this phrase before I moved to Sweden. That a woman is so strong-headed because she has sand in the vagina.
This only means she has not had sex for a while and is therefore in need of it. IT should soften her up.
But not just the men are being mean little people.
women are mean to other women. And to men. True and unfortunate.
The biggest threat for women in Sweden is “You should be raped & dismembered!”
The biggest threat for women in Kenya is “You need a beating & you should be killed!”
What’s the difference?
I have read: Women are their own worst enemies.
We, women are fighting for equality with men. They earn more. They have more respect. They have more power.
How do we women move from being weak without rights to strong with all the rights that men have?
I don’t think women are weak. Ever have been. The men species would die out faster than dinosaurs if they went through what women have been through.
Generations of women.
Women are resilient.
Do we really, collectively, want the same things as the men? I don’t even want the same things that other women have or want!
Can we do everything as well or as badly as the men can?
Because I can swear that he never can clean the apartment as good as I can. He vacuum cleans only the visible spaces.
And I have designed a better, Business process model than he has.
And, oh, don’t get me started on the dishes and laundry!
Does a woman’s power lie in competing with men? Or in knowing her strengths and weaknesses and using them to find a place of respect?
There is an old saying though: Respect is not given, it is earned.
OR: even better:
Knowing the men’s strengths and weaknesses.
which are many. the weaknesses that is.
am joking, keep your hair on, man!
finding ways to live in harmony with the men. If it is the men making decisions, we may be able to have decisions made that move us forward to the respect we deserve.
YES, I believe in women’s rights.
YES, I know African women have a long way to go. So we say.
YES, I work and support myself.
Beching made life better for me.
I am grateful. Gracefully.