In recent weeks, people I usually respect have been airing their miserable views on the murders of Sharon Otieno and Monica Kimani, two women with different surnames who have been united in death. Deaths occasioned by, we must assume, men.
Of course, we’re not talking about those other, less visible women who are regularly killed or abused, whose names are relegated to single paragraphs in our dailies because of their own or their attackers’ poverty. Poor, dead women don’t sell newspapers, except in traffic jams.
Recently, all this culminated in me calling aside a speaker I overheard addressing a group of girls: ‘Look how you girls are getting yourselves murdered!’
As a man, I disagree. As a father of daughters, I disagree.
It seems that every time a younger Kenyan woman chooses (…or has few choices but…) to get into a relationship with a man older or richer than herself, she becomes designated a ‘gold-digger’, to the extent that we feel entitled to assert that: (a) she is to blame for her own murder, and even (b) that she ‘deserved’ to die.
This is similar to the wicked nonsense that women choosing to wear short skirts are asking for rape, another miserably common crime.
But any man holding such views is a damned shame, a fool, and a disgrace. He is a stool sample that can’t even muster the decency to masquerade as anything other than turd; he is feculent with his own self, which is dung.
For these women are, all of them, entirely innocent, and when any man suggests otherwise following something as cruel as murder, those men have extracted themselves from humanity, from society.
Simply, in our society as with so many others, men have disproportionate power and, in many cases, wealth.
No man unjustly possessing such power should ever be exonerated if he further abuses that nasty privilege by additionally denigrating women on any level, from words to murder. No! Therein lies sadism.
During these last couple of weeks, even some ostensibly less offensive calls have worried me, as they should worry us all. For example, when men say that parents must raise their girls better, in order to avoid the sad fates of Sharon and Monica.
Read it again, men, and read it well: it almost sounds like you’re making a threat, doesn’t it, like you’re saying that unless we teach our daughters to be ‘good little girls’, you’ll exact some punishment?
Now, I’m not suggesting that parents should ever shun our responsibility to raise our children to the best of our abilities, but what I am saying is this: (a) at least balance your calls by adding that we need to turn our boys into better men, and (b) accept that indeed it is boys/men who are the problem. And never tell me that ‘Boys will be boys’; that only leads to ‘Men who are arseholes’!
Further, never imply that I should groom my daughters to be shy and retiring in long skirts and low voices, so they might live their lives beneath the radar of men, as if this world justly belongs to men.
They should never have to suppress their decision-making. Yes, I hope my young daughters will occasionally listen to my counsel, and it may well be that in the future they ask themselves, when choices emerge, ‘What would daddy do?’, but I’ll never feel that they have the obligation to do this with their lives. Their lives.
I wish them free from the interference of men, including, as they mature, freedom from me; the choice to listen, adapt or reject what I might wish, which wish, if converted into an expectation that they must listen and act only as I say, would be oppressive, no?
No. Ours has for too long been a world in which men may do what they will, and in which women must accept men’s will.
And we seem to be saying, when women are killed - killed! - that the solution is to bully women further by advising them to retreat into stereotypical cocoons, wherein they are obedient, sweet and invisible.
This only exacerbates the problem of the abuse of women because it makes men feel that any girl or woman who chooses to be assertive deserves to be punished and that we, the men-with-privilege, have the right to do it. Ogres, we are!
Men, come on: purge yourselves of this feculent wickedness. Make the choice (you know, those choices that you disproportionately have) to respect women’s choices, and their lives.
And know that every time we say ‘gold-digger’, we are the problem, and are despicable.
It is time for men to listen to women, and act as they request. In short, to change.
- Stephen Derwent Partington completed his postgraduate studies at Oxford University. He lives in Machakos County and writes the ‘Random Blues’ column for The Nairobian.
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