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, 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.

 

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

Too good to stay relationships?

I suppose we all have, ok.

maybe not all of us.

some of us maybe?

a few of us?

Never mind! For those of us who have read the book, Too good to leave, Too bad to stay, the knowledge that it could be time to leave, or time to commit, probably comes after Diagnostic question #20. Is there a clearly formulated, passionately held difference between you that has to do with the shape and texture and quality of your life as you actually experience it?

Well, my passionately held belief regarding marriage proposals is: “nothing shall be so extravagant to make me feel coerced, in debt or guilt-tripped”.

Imagine, then, my utter horror every time I read or hear of proposals where helicopters, expensive antique cars, serenades, videos on social media etc are involved.

If you are raised by an Nmom who cares lots about how things look outwards, they will enjoy the proposal so much they will say yes on your behalf. If you have a totally “balanced” mom NOTE: DOES. NOT. EXIST, they will see the nice guy you are turning down.

a-lady Being “a lady“, brought up by narcissists, I get my knickers in a twist, and see vividly imagine all the limitations that come with this kind of proposal.

  1. will I ever be able to get pissed at this guy without feeling like the biggest A-hole of this city??! A guy who proposed with a helicopter; can I get really, really pissed at him? Scream/shout at him? slam the door behind me? throw an IKEA plate at the wall near him I am conscious enough to NOT throw an expensive plate? lock him out of the house when he promises to come home early and then “looses track of time” 2 weekends running?
  2. Can I say NO to sex with this guy? You know; I am tired. I have a headache. a backache. an ear ache. my hand hurts. my toe feels weird etc NO. TO. SEX.  with super nice guy without guilt?
  3. Can I dislike this guy’s morning breath? mother? feet? can I dislike anything of him without feeling like the worst person EVER? I mean, poor guy, he proposed with a helicopter. He has a bank loan since then.
  4. Can I question this guy? not too much, this ego apparently needs stroking just ask him “are you sure about that darling?” without feeling like the most disloyal lady in the world? I mean he is the best, isn’t he?
  5. Will anyone ever want or bear listening to me when I want/need to vent about the dysfunctional relationship I am living within? Most people I know may enjoy my dysfunctional relationship a little too much to want to loose it. Yes, I know, crazy world!
    • The frenemies were not impressed with the proposal in the first place. According to them: “OMG! you are soooo strong, I never thought anyone would want to marry you!! & now this??! Congratulations!!”?
    • Nmom is more worried for my welfare: “Is he hitting you? violent? drinking too much? unfaithful to you?” answer:”no mom”. He just treats me like maybe worse than he treats his car.
  6. My real friends are exhausted by all the attention I have been getting from my beau boo boo, babie, babe, darling, lovie boo boo, strawberry muffins, cheese cake, tea with honey, who “works less” in order to spend more time loving me.

You can see why I am not married, eh? I win the “Overthink everything!” contest.

African Woman, I am not a feminist but...., I am not a politician but..., Life Lessons

Bye Bye Michelle!!! Finally you are leaving President (Mr) Obama!

Delusional, I know. I am born Kenyan. So I feel a kind of pride in the name Obama, though according to his birth certificate, he is American. Most of the jury in my head is still out on that one.

I am a woman, so I feel my feathers flutter every time Mr Obama, the man, not the president smiles. More on that later.

Back to presidential matters, I will remember Obama’s commitment to reminding us all of our responsibility, to not only seek change but also, to foster the positive changes that have improved society. See his speech at the women’s rights conference held last summer:

“We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure, and our boys to be assertive; that criticizes our daughters for speaking out, and our sons for shedding a tear.

We need to change the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality but gives men a pat on the back for theirs. We need to change an Internet where women are routinely harassed and threatened when they go online.

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, penalizes working moms. We need to keep changing the attitude that prioritizes being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace — unless you’re a woman.

We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color.

[…] We need all our young people to know that Clara Barton and Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Roosevelt and Dorothy Height, those aren’t just for Women’s History Month. They’re the authors of our history, women who shaped their destiny. They need to know that.

A woman did not magically appear on a space shuttle. It took Sally Ride’s relentless commitment, Mae Jemison’s boundless courage to shatter that glass ceiling…

Rosa Parks wasn’t simply a tired seamstress who sat down by accident. She was a civil rights leader with the eye of a strategist and the heart of a warrior. She had the confidence to board on that bus, the courage to risk her own life and liberty for the sake of ours.

That’s the story that’s still being written, today, by our modern-day heroes like Nancy Pelosi or Sonia Sotomayor or Billie Jean King or Laverne Cox or Sheryl Sandberg or Oprah Winfrey or Mikaila Ulmer or Michelle Obama — the countless ordinary people every day who are bringing us closer to our highest ideals.

That’s the story we’re going to keep on telling, so our girls see that they, too, are America — confident and courageous and, in the words of Audre Lord, ‘deliberate and afraid of nothing.'”

Back to non-presidential matters; when Mr. Obama finally swaggers away from me, away from us, I really really really want to crank call Michelle in the middle of the night and ask her “why you??!”. Of course we all know the answer to that question. The lady is gracious, stylish and classy!

I don’t want to be attracted to the Obama the president, because that could lead to Lewinsky:sh problems. As we have learned, this could ruin one’s best years, especially if Michelle turned Hillary:sh.

African Woman, I am not a feminist but...., Life Lessons

Gentlemen alive and well in Scandinavia

In December, I read an interesting piece which challenged gentlemen to avoid Scandinavia because their services were really not needed. Or appreciated.

Today, on my way home from work on the commuter train, the presence of a gentleman made itself felt. And I immediately remembered the piece referred to above. So when I got home, I googled away and found it. So I could share it with you.

An old man stood beside me on the commuter train. He looked really tired & uncomfortable. He spoke softly to me or maybe to anyone who would listen about how crowded the train was. It really was the most crowded train and all seats were taken. So when we came close to the next stop, the old man started to look around in case something became available.

Things move fast in commuter trains in Stockholm at rush hour. Especially for an older gentleman. Chances were very slim that he would move fast enough to actually occupy a seat before anybody else.

There was a young gentleman standing behind us, not that we knew of him; until he came to the old man and asked “would you like to sit?” old man answered gratefully without hesitation “yes, please!”

We thought the gentleman had a seat to offer. He didn’t. He made it his business to find a seat. He walked off behind us, asked some young men who were sitting if they could get up for the older gentleman. The train had started moving. A seated young man stood up immediately. Our gentleman came back to the old man, held him and walked him to the vacated seat. Slowly, warmly, lovingly.

help-a-needy-manMy heart has melted. I have feels all over the place.

We young, strong, attractive feminists who can support ourselves on our own feet & backs may not need gentlemen anymore, but that doesn’t mean that a gentleman’s presence is not needed or appreciated.

If you feel gentlemanly and gallant, serve those who need it most! Only, when you are done helping the old man, or the old lady, or the sick, please lift your eyes and look around! We young, strong, attractive feminists are watching, appreciating, getting all those fuzzy feels and some of us are single and looking.

 

 

African Woman, Borrowed, I am not a feminist but....

Borrowed: Equal pay for women isn’t just fair—it’s a game changer for the economy

Here’s why.
Tales of passion by @Isabel Allende is worth listening to @Tedtalks just to understand that standing up for >50% of the world population is the right thing to do. Now & going forward.

And while on careers and pay, does anyone really do this?? Or is it a joke to keep us on our toes?! Elizabeth *wink wink*? Seriously?!

Borrowed, I am not a feminist but...., Rantics

Girls sentenced to be raped for brother’s crimes. Really??! Seriously???!

A all-male council decided that two girls, a 23 & a 15 year old, should be raped and humiliated.

Why? because their brother stole another man’s wife. It’s like living in the stone age!! In some places, women live worse loves than homeless dogs. Women are stoned or disfigured with acid for their own crimes. Women are raped and married off for the men’s crimes*. In some places, whatever a woman does, she can’t catch a break!

God, I wish I could unread that because that was annoying to read!!

moving on to nicer topics:

My maternal grandmother, Lia, eloped with her secret boyfriend, Reuben. They went to his parents’ house, had dinner, slept in his little hut, woke up the next morning and announced they were married. And then they left for the city together. That’s it! no bridezilla moments, no caterers, no banks robbed and loans acquired. Just declare yourself married and it becomes a fact.

2 years later, they married the traditional way, parents and relatives meeting. Dowry agreed upon. I know what you are thinking! Yes I do. You are thinking, “dowry?? Women are not for sale!” And you are annoyed. I am with you. only  I challenge you to keep your hat on and remember that this was in 1920, and we are not here to unwrite history. Atleast am not. We are here to  influence & drastically change the present & the future.

Anyways, over 50 years later, Lia & Reuben got legally married, not in church, just at the registrar’s. To make sure they got the papers they needed to own property together. Colonialism was over but papers were still an important factor if you wanted to “own” anything. Even a wife.

In my childhood, I heard lots of talk on how many choices, potential husbands, Lia had and how she chose the worst of them. Lia was apparently a beauty. There are no pictures of my grandmother in her youth so I cannot have an opinion on that. I can imagine she was pretty, headstrong and she definitely had one of the most wonderful laughs I have ever heard. She was 16 years old when they eloped. Reuben was 17.

According to myth, Reuben was the poorest, quietest and most adventurous of the choices Lia had. He was restless, the opposite of stable. So Lia and Reuben moved from the countryside to the city, and then to the coast and then to the west of Kenya. After almost 10 years and parents to 3 children, they went back to the countryside to build a house (not a home). This was done purely to please relatives. And they were back to moving around. Both of them worked all their lives.

I call it myth because Lia in her old age was adamant that she never had choices. My sister and I asked her why she chose Reuben and not anyone else of her many suitors. She answered that Reuben was the only choice she had and she took it. But she also noted that her family had several guys lined up as choices. Only problem? she does not remember who they were really, she never looked at them. Her brain and heart were preoccupied with the plans to elope. There was no space for anything else. It took 2 years to plan a simple elopement.

They eloped because Reuben the vagabond could not afford to marry her the right way. He and his family had nothing to offer. And they could not wait for him to amass wealth, because wealth would never happen to Reuben. Thank God.

In some places, Lia would have been stoned to death or burned with acid. or raped? And Reuben would be challenged to find another girl, of good morals (read virgin). Because the whole would be blamed on Lias morals, the lack of them.

Men are often expected to lack morals & forgiven, even celebrated for it. Women live & die to uphold their own morals & cover for men’s lack of the same. In many places still.

*Pity is, in some places, love easily escalates into a crime that could kill several women and ruin several lives. Sigh