African Woman, feminism, I am not a feminist but...., Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons

Black history month is here! Feminists, independent or autonomous black women?

My black history number one is always Wangari Maathai and all the women who have led the way here. Do you guys remember the Fourth World Conference on Women that took place in 1995? I do. After the conference, my father and the men of my childhood started to deal with women’s insolence, opinions and expectations with the answer “this is NOT Beijing, woman! If you go on like this, you have to move to Wangari Maathai!” Wangari Maathai was in Beijing in 1995 and she was divorced. When people in my childhood spoke about her, they said “she left her husband.” However, when I read about Wangari in the teenage years of discovery and defiance, I read that her husband had divorced her with the verdict that: “Wangari was too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control.”

Well, that made my mind up right there. When a man left me, I wanted him to say exactly those words, and nothing else. By the time I was twenty years old, I was referring to myself as a feminist, a word treated with contemptuous sneers in the circles I grep up in. A woman’s commitment to self-sufficiency astounds and scares. In Sweden, I sometimes get the question or the affirmation regarding how neglecting African men were of their women and how independent African were as a consequent. In the same sentence was the well-meant concern for how exposed the African women were to the men’s whims. I have not experienced African women as more exposed to men’s whims than the women of any other continent. Women in Sweden were and still are, in my observation, as vulnerable and exposed as the women in Kenya. The main difference I can discern between Sweden and Kenya, is that in Sweden, the word feminism is thrown about proudly, together with equality, human rights and other powerful words of the 21st century.

D:DCIM100DICAMDSCI0416.JPGMy mother was brought up by strong women and she made sure to extend us the same courtesy to my sisters and I. Obviously, we, as in most other societies, were brought up to be men’s support systems and reproduce. Therefore, we were military trained to find mates as soon as we could reproduce. I was, among other things, taught how to be a wife, a mother and a daughter in-law – to soothe, distract, coach, massage egos and nurture. A contradiction of myself, submissive when it served the family and tough as nails when it served the family. I was advised to always have a secret stash of money for myself that he didn’t know about. It was recommended that I find ways to keep myself busy so I wasn’t spending my days waiting for him because, apparently, idleness makes a boring, uninspired and irritated companion. I was expected to be his whole support system when he had none. However, I was also expected to be able to raise the next generation on my own, dependent only on other women’s wisdom and support. Hence, we were explicitly, implicitly and repeatedly taught to actively and consciously separate our support systems from the men’s. We were challenged to make our own friends, independent of the men and incorruptible by the men. Although impregnation or fertilization is dependent on men’s presence and continued existence, motherhood was not. A healthy, self-sufficient, holistic, autonomous individual that could live with or without a man. A rock.

Kenyans moving towards feminismDid the men get the same training? I have no idea! But here we are.

Both in Kenya and Sweden, most women always worked and still work just as much or more than the men. There is no fancy word to describe their freedom or captivity. Historically, men were of course the official bread winners, in both societies. However, women have always contributed, only without the trumpets going off to announce and thank them every time new shoes, blankets, curtains, school books and pens, children’s underwear and other necessities appeared miraculously. Traditionally, at least in parts of Kenya, women could not inherit property from their parents. So, the options were either to marry or make money and buy their own property. Even when a woman succeeded to get married, if she failed at generating her own income, she would be keenly aware of her destitution if the marriage ever fell apart. Her only hope was that the children, if she had any, would inherit their father and take her in when she was too old to take care of herself. No woman in any continent thinks that is fair or sustainable, therefore women’s perseverance at work and marriage.

In a world of shit hole countries and inter-country walls, I am learning to become untriggered, but I can still get a little sore when I am asked how I could become such a feminist, coming from Africa where women are so oppressed, with suggestions that maybe, I am reacting to the oppression. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was not taught anything else.

Is that feminism or autonomism? Does it matter what it is called?

 

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African Woman, Art & Culture, feminism, Life Lessons, sex

Lady Chatterleys Lover Vs. Kenyan Independence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was on TV this holiday season, and of course, we watched it. The details are irrelevant except the affirmation that I love the endlessness of the Lady Chatterley and Oliver story. But, every single time I watch or re-read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and get astounded, it is ruined by the context in my head.

The context is:

Lady Chatterley LoverIn 1959-1960, when the Penguin trial was ongoing in Britain, to un-ban D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover that was banned under the Obscene Publications Act 1959; my father was 12 years old and mother was 10. In Kenya, a state of emergency had been ongoing since 1952. Kenyans were rebelling against colonialism. In 1959, a good number of Kenyans, both men and women,  were tortured, raped, humiliated and murdered. In one such camp, Hola camp, the deaths of over ten detainees kicked the already rolling ball of freedom.

You will now think that I should have forgotten about colonialism and be able to enjoy a good story, dramatized as love. Well, I don’t go around thinking about colonialism. I go around thinking about freedom. The freedom to do whatever the heck I want. And in 1959, when the Great Britain was banning books that described sex, my grandmother assured me that she was still having the wild romp in the wild. Although it was banned as wild, primitive and unnatural by the masters of the world.

My grandmother was married to Rubeni since she was fifteen. Or, rightly said, they were partners for life. Their marriage was not a documented matter. Nor was it a Imprisoned by Societal Expectations kind of marriage. In Kenya, in 1959, marriage was a Together for Survival kind of agreement. Scratch my back, I scratch yours. I may love you, I may not love you, but if I respect you and we are headed in the same direction – I will loyally walk beside you. The religion and law of one God and one partner for life, came with the masters of the world.

So, every time I see Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the contradicting thought in my head is how a society can be fighting for a freedom for themselves, that is already a freedom elsewhere; a freedom that they call primitive, unnatural and wild when exercised by others, but a freedom they want for themselves nevertheless.

 

African Woman, feminism, Life Lessons, Love is...

Love Is – A Messy Kitchen

kitchen2
That kitchen towel is wet! On the dining table.

Love is: Knowing that the kitchen will be a total, utter, mess when he is done cooking, and finding it in yourself, deep down, to relax and let it happen anyways. The meal will be delicious, so why the hell not? You have already fought, nagged, blackmailed and sulked one thousand and seventy eight times about this, so why bother?

I promise, every second meal, sometimes the simplest one, like tea with sandwiches, he will use all the kitchen apparatus, cutlery and utensils available.

thumbnailThe dishwasher will not save you when he is done.

Relax, Love is everything that happens while you Live.

The five dysfunctions of a team
On the wall behind the dish rack, you can see the above. I love Artificial Harmony!
African Woman, Art & Culture, feminism, Life Lessons, Loves of a Life Time, sex

Veronica Franco – The Poetic Harlot

  1. a woman
  2. a prostitute
  3. a sharp tongued woman
  4. a poet of erotic poems that would put Lord Byron to shame
  5. a witch who was almost lynched by the holy church of crap
  6. a feminist walking around in what one would refer to as freedom
  7. in bed with king Henry III of France

I hope my after life will be that way. All my tardy skeletons forgotten in some old gutter where dogs find shelter. Little to find on the internet except wild speculation and assumptions.

My fascination with Veronica is total. Was she for real? I want to be her. Tomorrow. I want my real love to say no to me so I can become a courtesan, a good one. I want my real love to marry someone else so I can have the satisfaction of having him in my bed while his wife waits, dries up & becomes bitter. I want to read books and…oh what the hell!

I found a good article by Andrea Zuvich. I am in love with this woman and I am definitely ordering her poems!

On Women:

“When we too are armed and trained,
we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours;
and although we may be delicate and soft,
some men who are delicate are also strong;
and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards.
Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so,
they would be able to fight you until death;
and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women,
I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow.” (Lettere Familari 1).

            On Love:

“ I will show you my heart open in my breast,
Once you no longer hide yours from me,

And my delight will be to please you;
And if you think I am so dear to Phoebus
For composing poems, in the works of love
You’ll find me dearer still to Venus…

Know well, cruel man, the world will hear of it,
And, along with my sweet and bitter revenge,
Will carry the news of it to every place on earth.” (Terze Rime 2).

African Woman, Amateur Love Doctor, feminism, Learning to Live a Balanced Life, Life Lessons

Do Feminists Need LOVE from Men?

I had been thinking.

Pulling my hair.

Gnashing my teeth.

Scratching my back.

Picking at the pimples on my face.

Scratching my scalp bloody.

Biting my nails.

Re-counting my years.

Checking the wrinkles that may or may not be showing up.

Checking my awaited grey hairs.

Learning new things.

Getting promoted.

Investing the savings.

Thinking. Choosing. Re-choosing.

What a luxury! To have choice. All these wonderful choices.

Some mornings, I woke up sad. Some nights, I slept close to tears.

 

I can afford the rent.

I can feed myself.

I can pay my ticket and hotel room in Paris.

I can buy my own shoes.

The thought hit me.

To choose; when you have everything else and the only thing left to choose is love; you have to choose the love you cannot live without.

The silent question: “how to choose?”

Pooh answered: “You cannot go through your feminist life looking back at the things you rejected and miss & regret when you are 50, 60, 70 years old.

If you cannot say the below to the rejected, the left behind, the discarded, the not-chosen, or to yourself, and really mean it; then you cannot reject. Anything. Anyone. Ever.

  1. I do not love you. I wish you well.
  2. I love someone else. I hope someone else will love you.
  3. I am not available for you. I am prioritizing someone else.
  4. You have to celebrate one more birthday without me. And many more in the future.
  5. Someone else’s feelings and happiness mean more to me than your feelings and happiness. I hope you will be happy anyway.
  6. I will not miss you.
  7. I will not miss your voice.
  8. I will not miss your wonderful face.
  9. I will not miss your smile.
  10. I will not miss your jokes.
  11. I will not miss your body.
  12. I will not miss your body odor. In fact, I will forget it.
  13. I will not your input when I need input.
  14. I will not miss your feedback when I need feedback.
  15. I will not miss taking a walk with you in the city.
  16. I will not miss your/our friends.
  17. I will not miss your family.
  18. I will not miss watching TV with you.
  19. I will not miss spooning with you in the mornings.
  20. When I think of love, when I dream of love, when I speak of love; I will not think of you.”
African Woman, feminism, Life Lessons

Feminists Having Children

We should all have the same opportunities and the same pay for same work.

What does this mean for child care when finally, they arrive in my life? Do children need 24 hours of care from parents (read mother) to turn out well? To feel stable, to feel loved, to feel acknowledged?

One of my favorite quotes on equality is by Thomas Jefferson regarding how to treat people un-equally.

“There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”

We are turning 30. Friends and acquaintances all round are turning 30. Turning 30 seems to come with babies or baby plans.

I meet people, even close acquaintances, colleagues & almost friends who have children and children have become enough of a life. I feel so impressed.

Often, it is the woman who has stopped working, has decided to stay at home and take care of the child or children. The man continues to work. It is a smart calculation because the man often (not always) earns more. So he can support the growing family.

It becomes a catch 22 situation because women continue to earn less if they are away from work for long periods. It also leaves the policy setting and rule making to the men for those years when women are away being good mothers.

I am not making this all up. There is data to show how the loop repeats itself.

Apparently, to be a good mother, you need to dedicate your whole life to the child/children. I haven’t understood yet if this is a matter of feeling, appearing or wishing to be considered & therefore treated as a good mother.

Rarely have I met a man who has completely given up work to be home with the kids. Once, I met a man who took 2 years leave from his work, to follow his wife and children to New York, where, the wife had gotten her dream assignment. He was to be home with the two kids for 2 years.

He was back to work, working 50% from home, after one year. The taking care of the kids became too tedious and monotonous for him. He is a very good father.

In Sweden, to be home means that you are not “saving” any money to pension. That could make a very miserable life after retirement in Sweden, especially if you should divorce or husband should die early.

Nevertheless, those women who choose to be home with children make it sound like the best decision they have made with their lives. During the years they are home with their children.

When I worked with old people during my studies, most women who had been housewives had so bad income, they were dependent on the state and/or on the children they stayed home to raise. Since not so many children become stinking rich, most adult children have very little money to spare to make their old parents’ lives comfortable.

So old parents feel cheated that they can’t have more income from anywhere, which keeps them stuck at home on low budget. This time, no children to take care of during all the day’s hours.

The bitterness from both sides is so toxic you can smell it at Easter lunch instead of eggs. The guilt. The pity. The loneliness. And the lack of money.

The parents who worked and contributed to the pension are off traveling or playing golf after retirement. They can also afford better housing and care during old age.