Stop!

My brain does this thing where it worries, nay, panics about the wrong things.

I would like to say the reason I don’t smoke is because I’m health conscious. I worry about my health like I worry about my phone screen; constantly but vaguely and only because I know how expensive it would be to fix. So I dot on my health, not because I’m concerned about staying alive, but mostly because I don’t want to get sick. Believe me, it’s not always the same thing. I digress. The reason I don’t smoke is paranoia. I’m convinced smoking will affect my reproductive system. I don’t remember much of my standard five science to judge on the validity of this worry. I do know however, I should worry about my lungs more. But somehow, my brain worries about my uterus more than my lungs when it comes to smoke inhalation, never mind that I recently just realized that I don’t want children.

A while back, I had a really nasty cough. Objectively speaking, I should have been in hospital the moment the humming in my chest sounded like the dying engine of an old, beat up truck. But like I said, my brain worries about the wrong things. I ended up in hospital only after I got it into my head that I had typhoid and that every second I spent on my bed laughing/coughing/chocking about Schmidt’s verbosity, my intestines were tying themselves into a noose that would somehow travel up my digestive truck and strangle me. In case you’re wondering, there’s little to no correlation between a cough and typhoid. (Take my words with a pinch of salt though. Remember what I said about standard five science?)

So I ended up in hospital, insisting I get tested for typhoid. You guessed it, I was good on that front. I just needed cough medicine. The cashier knew my mum so she suggested I just leave and she’ll remind her to pay the next time she sees her. I didn’t mind paying as I had a bit of cash in my M-pesa. All I had to was grow a third arm to operate my phone as my usual two were busy covering my mouth due to my incessant coughing and rummaging through my bag for a handkerchief, my phone and creating space for the cough medicine. Somewhere between the seconds it took to realize I wasn’t going to get a third arm, I had to work with my two(again! Story of my poverty-stricken life), I caught my reflection in the mirror. Maybe it was how inadequate I looked, or the m-pesa message informing me of my deplorable account balance, but standing/hunching there, it hit me with a startling urgency just how badly I needed health insurance.

I’m an adult now. I’m off my dad’s medical cover. Cue chest pains and migraines.

Fast-forward to about a week ago. Specifically, to the fuckery that is the Kenyatta National Hospital. I’m not proud of this, but the moment I read about the allegations of rape, my immediate thought was, “I need very good health insurance.” I know it’s selfish to make this about me, but for the life of me, I couldn’t imagine just having given birth and then getting raped. And so I thought, maybe if I have good health insurance, then if it comes to it, I can give birth at the Karen hospital. It’s less likely I’ll get raped there. And then it escalated to, “you know what, heck ‘em. I’m not having kids.”

The absurdity of that thought isn’t lost on me. Okay, to be fair, the decision to not have children was already in the pipelines. The KNH rot just catalyzed it. Believe me when I say this however, I am not the only woman who has ever thought they could buy their way out of rape and gender-based violence in general. Even as I write this, I can’t help but think, there is a thirteen year old somewhere thinking, if I just stay in school, if I don’t go home for the holidays, maybe I won’t be married off to forty-five year old so and so.

Seriously, every single day, women are forced to live by a rape schedule. We have this list of things that if we do, then maybe, just maybe, we won’t get raped. Use your keys as a weapon, don’t walk alone at night or in certain places, don’t enter a matatu that doesn’t have women, don’t go to his house, don’t wear a short skirts, don’t flirt too much. Society is constantly telling women how to not get raped, and not doing nearly as much to teach men about consent, about not raping women.

Just stop raping us. You know?

Women have been forced to give up experiences, to rearrange their lives into schedules that will less likely result in violence. Maybe if I go out less, maybe if I don’t date as much, maybe if I’m not as friendly. But it’s all just maybes. Because even when we’re minding our business in our houses, you still break in and dehumanize us. I’m not very conventional, so giving up motherhood isn’t particularly weighing on me, especially if it reduces the risk of suffering male-cruelty (because let’s be honest, marriage is an extreme sport for women.) We’re married to you, but you still beat us up and cheat on us. It doesn’t matter that we give up our autonomy, our dreams, our desires.

It’s just heart-breaking that male-cruelty is a defining experience for womanhood. Think about it, every single woman you know, has been mistreated in varying degrees by a man.

Stop! Just fucking stop it.


Hello.

You might remember I mentioned a few posts back about a project my friend and I were working on. It’s going to be published in the next seven-ten days so please stay tuned for that. It’s going to be a periodic journal and our first issue is focusing on sexual violence against women. Please tell a friend to tell a friend. We’ll let you know on it’s accessibility once it’s available.

 

 

Silent rants.

I.

You’re annoyingly wiping a coffee stain off your favourite white dress, cursing under your breath when you hear a booming voice in front of you say, “You shouldn’t do that you know? Ladies shouldn’t do that.” You raise your head, cradling your half-empty to-go cup as a weapon, hoping he’s some sort of laundry expert, giving you some much needed advice on how to get rid of a coffee stain. He’s wearing a smug smile on his face and even though the tight skinny jeans and multi-colored sweatshirt, isn’t really much to go on, you know he’s not a laundry expert.

“Shouldn’t do what?” you ask hoping he’ll stick to the laundry-expert persona you made up for him.

“Real ladies shouldn’t curse.” He reiterates.

Look at him in jeans so tight it makes you want to pour the remaining half of your coffee on his crotch just to let him know that as unlikely as it is, things can indeed get worse for his crotch. Look at him smile, exposing his yellow teeth and pasty tongue, purporting to know how you should live your life. Shouldn’t he be more worried about the beads of sweat trickling down his neck towards a chest you simply refuse to visualize?

“If it eases your pain, I wasn’t trying to be a lady.”

“It’s a shame. You’re dressed in white and if you didn’t curse, you’d be really attractive, a real queen.”

“My loss” you respond in mock somberness.

What you really want to say however is, “Don’t call me a queen. Don’t use this supposed complement to leverage me into behavior you think would be pleasing and deserving of your respect/desire. Women don’t go about their days worrying about how aesthetically pleasing they are to barely groomed random men. We don’t have to prove that we are worthy of your respect.”
He hurriedly exists the coffee shop. Maybe he sees the edges of your mouth quivering, ready to plunge into a feminist rant.”

II.

You didn’t want to wake up today. You didn’t want to get out of bed, hustle to get into a matatu, travel all the way to your college and have your senses assaulted by the heat and dust. But life has to be lived and stuff has to be done, so here you are, in a matatu playing music so loud, you can feel the throbbing in your throat.

Here you are, in dark-red lipstick and your nicest underwear flipping through A Tale of Two Cities. Nice underwear because they make you feel like you can conquer the world and dark-red lipstick because it says, “don’t fuck with me. I may be tiny but I am witty and I will hurt your feelings.” A Tale of Two Cities because, what on God’s green earth is going on Charles Dickens? You’ve been on the same page for ten minutes. You’re sweating a little bit, trying not to question your intelligence, because really you fool, you should have taken your cousin’s advice and started this venture into the classics by the works of Leo Tolstoy, when you notice his crusty hands.

They are rather distracting and so you offer him hand-lotion. He sneers and hands it back to you, saying it would be gay for him to use it. You can’t blame someone for not wanting to smell a particular way. You retouch your lipstick, pull out strands of your hair and because you really don’t want to go back to your book, you ask him, “Is it because it has a girly scent?”

“No. It’s hand lotion” he says irritably.

You know you should leave him be. You hate it when people try to have conversations with you in matatus. Hell, you hate it when somebody sits next to you when there are plenty of other seats available. When did you become this person?

“Huh? How is applying hand-lotion gay?”

“You wouldn’t get it. You’re the kind of girl that walks around with hand lotion and retouches her lipstick every ten minutes. If you were light-skinned, I’d think you were a slay queen.”

What?

You plug in your earphones and do what you’ve always done in matatus; stare out the window the entire time.

You find the use of the term slay queen as an insult problematic. It builds on the stereotype that pretty women are dumb. As such, you have to choose; will you be smart or beautiful? Beauty and brains is a phenomenon.
You were going to tell him off as you alighted the matatu but you noticed the skin between his toes is cracked and you decided you were even. You may have to worry about people misjudging your intelligence because of your femininity but that guy has to wrestle toxic masculinity. Poor guy can’t even moisturize.

​On Complements.

I think I was ten when I read somewhere that men like women who know how to take a complement. My ten year old self thought, “that’s great. Men like women who know they are smart and beautiful.” I thought men liked it when you agree with them when they complement you. 
As it turns out, that is not always the case.

Yes, there are men who don’t like it when you don’t “accept” a compliment. I don’t think anyone likes it when they tell someone they are beautiful and have them say something like, “you don’t really mean that.” Yes, I mean it. Why else would I say it? I think it is sad, especially for women, to be unaware of their good qualities. Because society more often than not, will tear us down. You cannot afford to do that to yourself. I think everyone needs a sense of pride. I think everyone deserves to believe it when they are complemented.

A lot of times, when a guy says, “hey, I think you are beautiful” and you respond with a “thank you. I know”, they will take it back. They will tell you to not be cocky because you are not even that beautiful to begin with. That they were only complementing you to start a conversation. You’re probably thinking, no one likes an arrogant person. But why is a woman knowing she’s beautiful arrogant? 

I find this ironic because our culture conditions women to care so much about their physical attractiveness but doesn’t place the same emphasis on men. Men grow up knowing that their looks play little to no role in their lives. So why is that we shame women for believing they are beautiful? Why is it that women who spend time and money on their outward beauty can only be shallow and superficial and dumb? Why can smart girls only be ugly?

I got one word for you. Patriarchy.

Patriarchy requires women to be led (read oppressed), to have no control over their lives. To not know what they want. Patriarchy requires women to be ashamed of their sexuality, that or she is a slut. Patriarchy expects women to be timid and take crap, that or she is a bitch. Patriarchy requires women to be beautiful but somehow oblivious to it, that or she is superficial.  

It might seem insignificant that a man would get offended that you are aware of your beauty, but what he is really saying, is I’m threatened by you. Because a woman who knows she’s beautiful and strong and smart, knows she’s deserving of equal rights. And that is a threat to a culture that profits from women doubting themselves. Case in point, would you imagine the hit the cosmetic industry would take if women woke up one day and decided their bodies are perfect? That their stretchmarks didn’t need removing and their hair didn’t need straightening.  That the acne on their face is only proof that they are humans capable of communing and being impacted by the elements. That whatever shape, size and form and bodies take as we go through life is just but a testament to our strength, that we can take on life, wage and win wars(mostly against ourselves, but still) and when all is said and done, we’ll only grow and morph. 

So when people tell you, “don’t be cocky”, what they are really saying is, reign in your power. Dull your shine, don’t blind us. But it shall never be your responsibility to accommodate ideals that break you. May we always be the women that refuse to blush, may we always be the women that say “thank you very much. I noticed my banging ass too.” 

 

Dear Son,

If I’m being totally honest, I am terrified of having a son. I don’t think I get men. No wait, I do get men. And when I say I get men, I mean I have put a lot of work into appreciating my sense of self, I really couldn’t care what goes on in a  man’s head in regard to my being. So actually no, I don’t get men. I just know how to use my voice to tell men what I want, to demand respect and to say no to shit. Also, I try to be a really good listener; a skill that I do not think I will ever master, but will never stop trying till my lungs give out. 

It’s boys I don’t get. It’s adolescents whose voices have just broken, and they are getting a little tall and trying to understand how their height and dropped balls factor into their lives. It’s spuds with unformed minds and shaky opinions and wandering eyes and a newly found sense of lust. It’s boys whose groins are just beginning to appreciate the effect of a female ass and hands just itching to touch a pair of breasts. It’s the boy locked in a bathroom with a page torn out of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and he isn’t quite sure how to use his hands. It’s boys using a shaving razor for the first time, wrecked with insecurities, wondering if the package in his hands is big (enough.) It’s college boys who don’t know how to politely approach a woman. It’s college boys who refuse to invest in soap and maybe even cologne. It’s college boys who walk around campus in bathroom sandals and get offended when a girl won’t look in their direction. Generally, I don’t get boys struggling to be men. Boys who are yet to understand the nobility of their strength, or better yet, what strength there is in nobility. Boys just shuffling around, trying to find a solid place to plant their feet and grow. Boys with ambition but no character, boys with brains but not enough manners, boys with vision but no means.

And it scares me that someday, I may have to raise that. To be an anchor to my son when he goes through this challenging phase, just trying to find himself. How do I do that? What could I possibly tell him? Because I don’t have much experience with men. I don’t have brothers and I have never really lived with my dad. Sure, my best friend is male, but he’s always been more of a man than a boy. But more than that, I am scared that even after I’ve done my best, even after I’ve spent half my life trying to raise him into as great and as good a man as he could possibly be, he’s going to leave home, and go out into the world and society will ruin him for me. I’m scared that society is going to creep up at him at night, and erase everything I’ve taught him. I’m scared of the perverted fellow intern that will send him nude photos of his ex-girlfriend and more terrified that my son will look. I’m scared that he’ll come back home for Christmas break with sagged jeans and a computer full of pornography and a tongue uttering sexist slurs to his sister. I’m terrified of the war that will go on in me; between his mother who loves him unconditionally and a woman who wants to cuss him out and maybe even disown him.

So from me, to my future son. I know I’m only twenty one and I know nothing about being a man. But someday you are going to be twenty one, trying to find a job, struggling to be a brother, screwing up at being a boyfriend, learning how to be a friend. This is to tell you that whoever you become, you’ll always be my son. That I might screw up a little bit, but whatever you go through, whatever disappointments life throws at you, whatever victories you achieve, I’ll always be in your corner. That we will grow together and the list I’m about to write will only get wiser.

First of all, I’m totally fine with whatever sexual orientation. I will welcome and love whoever you choose to be your (life) partner. That said, I have a thing against PDA (Public displays of affection) so please keep that to a bare minimum when I’m around. In a nutshell, I won’t care who you fuck, just don’t do it in my presence, or my couch, or my kitchen counter. I’m not saying you shouldn’t experiment, by all means, experiment your heart away.(yeah, that’s a weird thing for a mother to say to a son)It’s just that I’m working so hard at ensuring my house has quality(expensive) stuff, please don’t ruin that for me by the memory of you being “experimental.” You’re my son, I love you, but that’s just gross.

Second, home will always be home. If I mess up everything, I hope you grow up knowing that there is very little that will make you unwelcome.( I should probably say nothing, but who are we kidding, you’re not going to enter my doors if you are a serial killer.) With the exception of immoral careers, I will support you. You don’t have to be a doctor or an engineer. You can be a drummer or a swimmer or a photographer. I’m working hard to ensure that whatever you choose to be, I will have the resources to ensure you are the best at that. If you want to be a musician, I will take you to the best music school, I will buy you whatever instruments you want to play. But even if life doesn’t turn out as I want it to, I hope you know that happiness and fulfilment doesn’t come from material things. I hope you understand that happiness is a choice, and an active one at that. I hope I raise you to understand that true fulfilment only comes from doing the things that you are passionate about, the things that make you happy. And I pray that even if you don’t turn out to be the strongest guy around, you will have the bravery to go after the things that make your soul dance; be it the weird boy in your school or a nerdy programming class. I hope you know not to measure your growth by what is popular and applauded but by what is noble and kind.

I hope I raise you to value your humanity above your masculinity. I want you to understand that it is okay to cry and show emotion. I want you to be the nice guy that opens doors for girls and pulls out chairs for them without expecting favours in return. I want you to be the guy that values friendships (with all genders) and goes out of his way to show it. I want you to be the guy who shows up with pizza and beer at your male friend’s house when he has been dumped and gives your sister flowers when she’s cramping. I hope you don’t grow up measuring your masculinity by mundanities like how many girls you’ve slept with or how good you are at playing FIFA. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with you playing video games. I just don’t want you to be the kind of guy that feels emasculated when a girl beats you at it. I hope you are the kind of guy that loves wholeheartedly even when he’s been hurt before. The kind of guy that buys flowers for his girlfriend’s mum and buys your girlfriend tampons when she can’t leave the house. I’m saying that I hope you turn out to be a good human being; a kind, generous, loving human being. A boy that values nobility over strength. A boy that uses his strength to help elderly people carry bags, and carry children across the road and not to bully the timid guy in class. I want you to be the guy who befriends this timid guy. I want you to understand that if you are stronger than your sister, it is not to intimidate her into doing all the house chores, but to help move the heavy furniture. But more than that, I hope you never outgrow your mother. That you never stop trying to be her friend.

But more than that, I hope I do not do you the injustice of raising you with a fragile ego. An ego so easily punctured that when a girl says no to lunch, it results to insults and threats. An ego that won’t let you be vulnerable or admit to not knowing something for fear of rejection or ridicule. I hope you know to accept defeat and reach out of your comfort zone. I hope you have a curious mind that will ask questions and learn from your mistakes. I hope you never let failure define you or stop you from gaining new experiences. But I also hope that you have a sense of pride. Not the kind that comes before a fall, but an assuredness in who you are as a person and what you deserve. I hope you know to walk away from toxic relationships. I hope you never let a girl use you just because you may get to sleep with her someday. I hope you never have to beg for respect. I pray you learn to stand up for yourself and settle for nothing less than your worth. I hope you know when to begin a relationship and when to end it. That you will know to tell someone when you are falling in love with them and they make your heart beat faster. That you’ll also know to tell them when you’ve met someone else or the passion has died, or you want different things. Basically, I hope you know to speak your mind and that your words will always be graceful and polite, but firm and clear. I also hope you learn to be on the receiving end of these words. To be composed, understanding and rational even when your heart is breaking. To wish them well and mean it even when you never want to see them again.

I hope you have good taste in music. Because everyone needs a sound track to their life. Especially when you are Twenty one and girls are ignoring you and school is hard and you’re broke and just barely getting by. I hope you will listen to more than just HipHop. That you’ll listen to soulful music; music that will give you goose bumps and make you want to cry. Music that will make you want to bang your head against a wall and scream when you hate your life. Music that will make you want to heal the world on your good days.

I hope you never lose your child-like sense of wonder. I hope you go for walks and explore the woods beyond our house. I hope you build train sets and castles. I hope you have pillow fights and build forts. I hope you never outgrow you spider man sheets and socks. I hope you never stop watching cartoons.

I pray that you love books. That you will read everything, from restaurant menus to graffiti on buildings. Because books contain more than just words. They contain ideas and dreams. Because a well-read boy is a great conversationalist. And a great conversationalist attracts great, smart girls. Girls that will challenge you and give you great conversation and adventure and with enough experimenting, great sex. Girls that will push you to be the best version of yourself.

I hope you have a morbid (dark, weird and twisted) sense of humour. That you’ll make puns, lame and nerdy alike.

I hope that you don’t lose yourself trying to fit in. I hope you know that normal is an illusion. I hope that you’ll always take weird as a complement.

Please be smart.

I hope this list is good enough.

Ps. I was going to name you Dilan. But there is this show called Modern Family with a character named Dilan that is very dumb and that ruined that name for me. If at all this is possible, pray that I name you something that won’t be used to taunt you.

Why thank you. I am indeed angry.

So I have a resting bitch face. This means I almost always seem angry. It makes it very difficult to approach me. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I enjoy that. It gives me the space and freedom to be in my head, and not be aware of my surroundings. So the very few times I notice a guy working up the courage to walk up to me and strike a conversation with me, I can almost bet his opening line will be, “You seem angry, but I just wanted to say you are beautiful.” More often than not, I usually find myself wishing they had stopped at “You seem angry.” I think that is the greatest complement anyone can ever pay me. Let Me explain that. I don’t want someone to walk up to me and tell me,”You seem like you have anger issues. You should probably see a therapist.” Though if someone did, I would find it refreshingly honest and maybe even sexy, because I do have quite a bit of anger issues. I think anger is my primary emotion. Just the mere sight of people enrages me. I am taking my introversion a tad too far. I digress. Here is the thing, I think anger is what drives change. If you can get angry, it means you care about something. It means you have the potential to make the world a better place, as lost as that course seems to be of late. Also, As I said before, It takes quite a bit of honesty and courage to tell someone they are angry. And the world needs a bit more honesty and courage. Telling someone they are beautiful is such a generic thing to say, so much so, it doesn’t even have to be true.

But more than that, I believe that people, especially women, are a lot more interesting. To tell them they are beautiful, would be to dumb it down. Because it is important for women to understand that they do not have to be beautiful. They do not owe society or men a symmetrical face. It is pretty cool to have a beautiful face, but you know what is even cooler? A kind soul, a curious mind, a big heart and my favourite, an angry personality.

Every once in a while someone asks me why I write and I usually just shrug. Because, what else I am going to do? Where else will I channel this anger? I can’t particularly say I know why I am so angry all the time. But I do know it has shaped me into a better human being. Is it exhausting to be on the verge of an emotional breakdown every single second? It is. It is exhausting as fuck. (Is actual fuck exhausting? I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion these days. As it should be. Because Fucking is a personal thing.) My whole point, before fuck hijacked my train of thought(I regret saying that. The double entendre. I’m not going to delete it though.) was that accepting and reeling in my anger has shown me the depths of my personality. I don’t think my eleven year old self knew I could care so much about feminism and racism and corruption, let alone be so outspoken about it. My anger helps me understand other people’s anguish and I think that has ultimately made me a better writer, if I do say so myself.

I keep visualizing the kind of world it would be if women owned their anger. If we understood that being angry doesn’t make us flawed and ugly. If we all understood that anger is an essential part of our humanity and that finding healthy ways to express that is integral in any kind of relationship. Think about it, emotional abuse stems from someone telling you that your anger, and feelings in general are not justified. That you are overreacting and being crazy. And if they do it long enough, you begin to believe it and doubt your instincts. You begin to rely on them to second your feelings, and before you know it, you are letting them tell you how to feel. And I think that is how we lose ourselves.

Now I’m not saying that our feelings are absolutely rational. But no one should ever make you feel like you have to apologize for feeling a certain way, for being angry. You can and should apologize for smashing his windows after a breakup, But you should never apologize for feeling hurt. Because when all is said and done, how you felt about things and people is the only measure of how full your life was. You can’t let people take that away from you.

What do we want? Control over our own bodies. When do we want it? Now!

My favourite things about people is that we are such paradoxes, or lazy and unmotivated, depending on how you look at it. We say we want to be happy, but stay in unfulfilling jobs and relationships. We say we want to be successful, but do nothing about that idea we had. We want to be respected and appreciated, but do not stand up for ourselves in the face of an injustice. But more than that, we have this immense capacity for compassion, even at the expense of self. There is very little we wouldn’t do for the people we love. This, is simultaneously my favourite and least favourite thing about myself. I don’t like it, because sometimes it gives me an excuse for my laziness and failures. You take a word as ugly as procrastination, over-indulgence, recklessness and you wrap it up in a beautiful word such paradox or a difficult word, say, complex, and just like that, our less proactive moments become palatable. But it also beautiful that I can be mean and kind, I can be selfish and generous, I can be good and bad. I like that my human nature allows me to be everything I want to be, that it doesn’t box me. I believe an understanding of this makes it a lot easier to live in a world that endeavours so much to make extremes out of us. A world that doesn’t seem to place tolerance, understanding and equality as the foundation for all human interactions. A society that has decided that there are certain aspects of femininity that girls and women should be ashamed of.

The hardest thing I have had to do in my life (apart from being a semi-normal human at social interactions) is unlearn the sexist, subjugating ideals I internalised as a child. Even now, I cannot completely say that my outlook on these things is purely based on my understating and appreciation for their necessity and not the vague memory of the careless, misinformed opinion of an ignorant acquaintance, an agreeable parent or a well-meaning grandparent. I cannot tell you how many times my mother remarks about my dressing and it takes all of me to not weep.

Here’s the thing, I generally do not like long clothes. I don’t even know why. I just don’t look at a long skirt and think, “hey, I would like to wear that.” That only happens I see shorts and above the knee dresses and skirts. I think my mother has nightmares about this. So I do her a favour and stick to pants and keep my less than “modest” clothes to when she can’t see me. The problem occurs when I’m home and I do not intend to leave the house and I’m in shorts and a vest. Even when she doesn’t say anything, it says everything. And I know I am not the only girl who goes through this with their mothers and aunts and grandmothers.  I cannot count how many times girls are told to not dress like prostitutes, or wear a longer skirt because short skirts make boys uncomfortable and they might just get this urge to rape you (I hope you guys can hear the sarcasm in my voice because my eyes are rolled all the way to the back of my head) While they do mean well and all they want is an assurance, as feeble as it may be, that we will be safe, the language they use to express this concern is counter-productive and just serves in perpetuating the implication that a woman’s dressing and largely, her body is not under her control. 

See, when you tell a little girl to not dress like a prostitute, you are implying that dressing is an assessment of morality. Which is absurd. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that makes you immoral is doing immoral things; like killing people. And the only thing that makes you a prostitute is getting paid to have sex. And even then, that is a personal choice and it’s none of my business. Even if there was a correlation between dressing and morality, a certain way of dressing does not cause immorality. Correlation is not causation.  As I see it, dressing is about comfort and expression and attractiveness and presentability. Would it not make more sense to tell a girl, “Wear a longer dress because it is chilly outside. Or because you look more attractive or more presentable in that.” And when I say attractive, I do not mean for the sexual gratification of men, I simply looking your best self. And when I say presentable, I mean appropriate; not subject to the judgement of others. Because dressing is never about other people, especially men. Which makes it even more absurd when we make girls feel like their dressing should take men’s comfort into consideration. Not only is it an appropriation of the rape culture of victim shaming, it is also dehumanising and sexually objectifying. As Chimamanda Ngozi put it, we are teaching our girls that they are mere props in managing men’s sexual appetites.  We are teaching them that they are only avenues of blame should the said management of men’s appetites not work and we end up with a rape victim.  We are teaching them to value themselves less; to put a man’s comfort above their own.

I am all for decency. But decency should never be used as a justification to undervalue others. To shame them for the things that they love. We cannot want to control how women view and treat their bodies and hide under the guise of decency, at the very same time shaming victims of rape and sexual assault and blaming it on a supposed indecency. A case example, a guy who sags doesn’t get little more than a few scornful looks but a girl who wears a short dress gets a myriad of things, starting from insults to rape threats. Why do we treat women’s bodies as some sort of abomination? Why do we shame them for letting someone see them? More importantly, why do people who are not the women themselves even get to have a say? We make our girls think that their naked bodies is something that should make them uncomfortable, something they should be ashamed of. Is it not enough that women already have to try to attain these impossible standards of beauty imposed upon us? I understand and support the concept of healthy living and having a body that doesn’t weigh you down. What I do not support is that the toned thighs and flat stomach and clear face should only be for the guy(s) you are intimate with. It’s everywhere; from status updates on Facebook to anecdotes on WhatsApp groups. Women are constantly told to cover up, that there are some parts of their bodies are only meant to be seen by certain men. So we are telling women to do the hard work and get a nice body, but not allowing them to flaunt it? I’m not saying that people should walk around naked, I’m saying that the decision to not walk around naked, should be left to the women to make. My point is, women looking good naked shouldn’t be about the guy she’s having sex with. It should be about promoting a healthy perception of self, about women loving their bodies; loving their reflection in the mirror. It should be about women feeling beautiful, for themselves.  Also, if we are going to treat naked bodies as taboo, let’s do it for all genders.  Let’s raise hell when men are shirtless all over the place as they always are. 

But above all else, women are sexual human beings. There shouldn’t be shame in this. We need to  be open and honest about sex. I’ve always thought of it as a pity, that I have never been able to tell at what point exactly I developed a healthy opinion about sex. It means, I don’t remember an authority figure being open and honest with me about sex. For most of my pre-teen years, I thought talking to a boy would get me pregnant. I remember when I was ten, my social studies teacher decided to talk to us about sex. Actually it wasn’t so much a talk as it was a reprimand after he asked the girls who are not virgins to raise up their hands and everyone was too confused to raise up their hands. I have never understood why a teacher would find it appropriate to ask ten year old girls in a mixed classroom about their virgin status. I remember feeling attacked and exposed and later on swearing to never have sex until I was married. 

While waiting till marriage to have sex is a beautiful decision, it is not a decision that should be made after a tirade. It should be based on information and experience. Choosing to not wait, is also a valid decision. It is not right that we tell girls shit like, “being a virgin is the best gift you can give your husband on your wedding night.” It is not right that we make girls feel like losing their virginity before marriage is a failure on their part.  It is not fair that the same standards and embarrassments are not imposed on men. What we should teach girls is that sex is beautiful and sacred it should be between consenting people. We should tell them that it would be easier if they were adults and are better equipped to deal with its consequences. But more than that we should make them understand that losing your virginity doesn’t define them. It doesn’t make them whores. It doesn’t strip them off their dignity and make them less worthy of respect.  But they should know it matters because it’s fucking personal and as my roommate says, “it should be with a friend. Someone you are comfortable with. Someone you aren’t scared to say no to.”

Can we just let women issues be decided by women? Can we not make it about men? And can we not shame women for being women?    

    

A little forwardness, that’s all I ask. 

I have this admiration for people, especially women, who are forward.  I mean forward about sex.  I guess it is because I struggle so much with social interactions, to be able to walk up to someone and go, “hey, I wanna have sex with you” feels like a stunt out of a super hero movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying random people should walk up to random people and request a dalliance. Depending on who and how you do it, it could be sexual harassment. And that’s not my brand. I’m all for people respecting each other, I’m all for consent if anything sexual is to happen. What I am saying is, if in this lifetime, or the next, but preferably this one, I am able to comfortably express my sexual needs to a man, without hearing society’s voice and judgement in my head labelling me a slut and a freak, it won’t matter much if I achieve little else,I will definitely go down in my books as the most phenomenal woman to ever traverse this planet. And just so you know, that book has the likes of Maya Angelou and Audrey Hepburn in it, so it’s no small feat.  

As a child, I unfortunately internalised the prettiness of a woman’s silence. We are taught from a young age as women that we are supposed to be seen, not heard. We are to do our hair, smile and look pretty. We are supposed to evoke desire, but not express it. Men are to find us attractive by the broadness of our hips, our inviting smiles, the glow of our skin and not by the contents of our brains or the words out our mouths. We are taught to let men hit on us, and only encourage the ones that actually do. Don’t flirt too much, don’t show too much skin, don’t laugh too loud. It’s desperate and it turns off men. We are not allowed to be picky, or even go out of our way to attract the kind of men we want. All we have to do is keep the man that wants us. So we have to cook and manage the house and raise the children, but more than that, make sure our men don’t stray. Because a man cheating on a woman, is somehow a reflection on her; the blandness of her food or her unwillingness to try certain positions in bed. Which is ironic, because we live in a society that deems it perfectly okay for people (read men) to use phrases like, “good dick will hypnotise a woman” but an abomination for women to applaud their sex game. It is understandable for a woman to stick by a less than average guy, because he gives her good dick, but incomprehensible for a man to stay with a woman because of the sex. She has to be a slut, if sex is the best thing she brings to the table.

So while, this is not the 1950’s and I cannot deny that men understand the essence of a modern-day woman. The woman who won’t do your chores and suck your dick (metaphorically speaking), but will give you great conversation and pay half the bills. Society still struggles with the concept of a woman being able to express her sexuality. We still tell little girls, to let the boy text you first, let him kiss you first, let him ask for sex. And even then, don’t put out on the first date, play hard to get, don’t make him think you are available, he might mistake you for a whore. We teach our boys to categorise the women in their lives. The kind they’ll just have fun with and the kind they’ll marry. We make our girls feel like they have to choose, will you be the fun girl or the wife? Will you be the booty call or the mother of his children? Why can’t girls have it all? Because I want it all. I don’t mean the booty calls and giving lap dances to strangers at a party. I don’t do that. But that decision doesn’t come out of judgement for people who do, it is out of an understanding of the mechanics of my soul. I am not a casual sex kind of person. I am not saying we have to be in a relationship, I am saying I want to have an emotional understanding of my sexual partner. And that is the only place that kind of decision should come from. It should be from an awareness of self and not because people told you that you have be a certain way, that you can’t do certain things because of your gender.

Because beneath my cynicism, I still believe in fairy tales. Well, sort of. I believe in finding the love of your life and marrying them and not getting divorced. I believe in making relationships work and not giving up on people. I believe in marrying your best friend (or at the very least a friend) and being there till death do you part. It could be the dumbest of my dreams, but it is the greatest of my hopes. I just want someone I’ll make puns with. I just want a friend I’ll be sexually attracted to for a really long time, eternity if I had it my way. But in the meantime, I also want to have fun. I want intimate dinners and poetry by a fireplace. I want Coldplay concerts and bitter-sweet goodbye kisses from an exotic man I just met on a trip; the inevitability of the end of an affair and the relief that my sins will stay with him. I want star-crossed love and blurred lines with a friend.  I want sexual innuendo and geek talk. I want to be able to wear sweatpants and mini-skirts just because I feel like it. I don’t want to be asked if I am not worried that sweatpants dull of my femininity. I want to be able to wear a short dress without being asked who I am trynna look good for. I want to be able to wear shorts to class and not have to worry about the lecturer misjudging the content of my character.  I just want to be able to be comfortable in my sexuality. I just want people to understand that I own my sexuality and whatever I do with it, or how I choose to express it is not a statement on my morality or intelligence or humanity.  And if I can get at least one person to see things this way, then my work will be done. Because to me, there’s more to feminism than ending rape and equal pay for women. My favourite bits are the ones that make women comfortable in their skin, the parts that allow women to stand tall and unapologetic for wearing their skin as they see fit. The kind that makes us realise that the quality of our lives should never be determined by society’s willingness to allow it.