Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caster Semenya: Rethinking Gender in Kenya

Facebook, my friends tell me, is my stage. I have been on this stage for a few years only and through Facebook's 'interractive theatre', I have had to, as Sylvia Tamale would have it, learn,unlearn and relearn what exactly it means to be a woman, and perhaps more specifically, to be a black woman strongly committed to the feminist agenda.

The events of the past few weeks in South Africa and the world have sent me thinking more about the question of being a woman. I constantly have had to revisit the place of women in a patriarchal world and mostly when this patriarchy is engineered by patriarchal females. Caster Semenya has been my name in some circles. Mrs Semenya has been my latest asset after my numerous other assets of identity. I have my personal feelings about 'Mrs' as a title but that aside, I am deeply disturbed by my being a Mrs Semenya a name which could possibly refer to Caster Mokgadi Semenya's mother in Limpopo. What does 'Mrs. Semenya' say about gender stereotypes? How does my being Mrs Semenya buy into the same debate about Caster's being male or female? What are we actually saying when Caster becomes my boyfriend? What does this 'labelling' say about the people using it? What is invoked by such ridicule of a woman who has been at the centre of IAAF's gender testing (whatever that could be)? How about when this label is given to me by women? What can I make of this when the women are Kenyan (the country of my origin)? How does such ridicule of Semenya reflect the place of gender in the Kenyan society?

I am deeply disturbed, to say the least.

Perhaps it is easier to laugh and make fun of a black woman that has been labelled 'male' or 'not quite female' by white males. It is, indeed, of no consequence to you when that woman is not your sister, your country mate, your mother or even you. It is of course more fun when that woman is a Caster Semenya with a deep voice, facial hair and masculine physique. It is a lot more comic when IAAF claims to have found much more testerone in Caster's genetic make-up than is 'normal' for a woman.

Of course, you are not Caster Semenya. Neither am I.

I agree she is not Kenyan and may be it get's easier for you to laugh at her because she won a gold medal against your own Janet and many others. But wait a minute, where does this leave you in issues of gender and inevitably, the question of race?

I am a worried Kenyan woman.

Am I perhaps too emotional about an issue that doesnt concern me? Am I just carrying burdens of the world? No, of course not. This deeply concerns me and burdens of the world are my burdens. I cannot fathom what exactly is going on with Kenyan women and others elsewhere. I feel that it is time women took issues of women representation very seriously and personal. An insult to Sarah Bartmann remains an insult to me as a black woman. I take it personal when Caster Semenya is considered to be too good for a woman. I feel deeply insulted as a black woman when black female bodies are paraded for the male gaze in hip-hop, rhumba, advertising, in the fashion industry etc. It is an issue of grave concern to me when young men and women form groups on Facebook for women to post their pictures so that they can show how HOT they are. I have no issue with 'brief dressing' (I am so guilty here) neither do I find make-up problematic but my concern is when such 'skin exposure' becomes an exhibition of black female bodies soliciting affirmation (usually from males).

I refuse to buy into stereotypes about how a woman should look like. I am not going to be part of what appears to me to be an emerging, material, flashy 'women oppressing women thought'. Count me out when a disturbingly high percentage of Kenyan women decide to be patriarchal females in a society in which the same women are emotionally, physically and otherwise abused, children are raped over and over etc.

Come to think of it, how loosely can we still take these matters?

I am off to facebook.

Friday, August 14, 2009

the trouble with freedom

And so there I sat, spat and stared
Sat right under the shadow, the shadow of an image I forfeited
Spat outta my mouth bitter litres; the bitterness of shame
Stared at the dream ; yes, the dream I gave up
But I just sat; sat, spat and stared.
But I just sat; sat, spat and stared
For I knew not why you were there
There where I once was; a place I once ruled
A place in which they mint; mint such greatness
And I stared at how ugly I looked; ugly outside the centre
I stared at how ugly I now looked
But unto me you stared back and spat
Spat not bitterness but scorn; the scorn of failure
The failure of a heroine; a heroine famous for failing
And thus I swore; to cry freedom I swore
To cry freedom I swore; to be that which I always was
And freedom you granted but I still sat, spat and stared
Sat on my big bum that only knew swinging and farting
Spat out the aftertaste of gossiping and backbiting
Stared at you as you said, "Buddy, that's the trouble with freedom;
you knoweth nay what to do with it"

if only you wore mascara

on me did it dawn with a frown
the ache, pain and sting in town
yes, the hurt i had to put down
put down the twinge and rage on a page

and so i sat and pewed
thus firm with my bum
and into my mind they came
two bold lines of blackness

the lines of your tears
the tears of your pang
the pang in your tongue
unto men to say, 'if only you wore mascara'

do call me reactionary

Forget not to call me reactionary
When I look you in the eye
And shout with all my might to fight all night

Call me reactionary and I'll be glad
When I call you a racist
And clearly state for respect of animals can't call you a dog

Please do call me reactionary
When I cry and try
To say gays are human, man or woman

Call me reactionary I say
When I call you all names
A bigot, polygamist, a misogynist worth no feast

But as you call me reactionary
I can only click my heels and swing my hips
My reaction to the ignorance of your arrogance

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

if only i was a grown-up

when i grow up, i aint sure i will
perhaps if i grow up, just if i will
i will be all i ever wanted
for all i ever wanted was to grow up

not quite to grow up, perhaps
but just to be a grown-up
or do all that grown-ups do
well, just to be a grown-up

if only i was a grown-up
a grown up even for a day
i would do that thing
that thing that all grown-ups do

if only i could be a grown-up
perhaps i would be a better woman
if only i were a grown-up
even without growing up, i would

i would be a grown-up
a grown grown up in a grown-up life
but a dream mine may be
or a nightmare of ever being

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Of Menses, Pain and Dirt

I call it womanhood
My sort of femininity
This thing called being
The being of a woman

I no longer call it dirt
When I sit and mess
(are menses a mess?)
Not the mess that I get
From that male gaze
Staring at the mess
The mess of my menses

I love it; just being me
A woman in pain
Yes me in pain and dirt
Because these menses
My productive reproduction
Makes me me
The woman of my being.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Of hacked emails and the 'powerlessness' of denied access

Perhaps this is the last time that I am posting anything on this blog. Someone might just ban me from it by changing my password, changing my secret answer, changing my country of residence or whatever else it is that I may need to reset the password.

I have been proudly telling my friends (and now enemies)about how cautious I always am about spam and scam. The brilliant side of my brain advised me to have as many email accounts as I could possibly have and of course with different names. So, me thought that I would have an account with yahoo (in fact I have two yahoo emails), hotmail, gmail, and as fate would have it two institutional email accounts.What my brilliant side of my brain forgot to tell me (and which the daft side of the same brain worked on) was that I should never have anything linking any of the emails to each other.

In total, me has five email addresses ...oh that was before they got hacked. I now have two addresses (both institutional), I have five email addresses but with access only to two. I do not have access to the other three because my password is wrong!! That is funny, right?

I am devastated to say the least. One of the yahoo emails is my primary email and I use it for very important contacts and information. Somehow, however, I miss my hotmail account access the most! I use it for FACEBOOK men! For the last one week, I cannnot access my Facebook page (could someone please tell me what is going on there?). The facebook addict in me is having a nervous breakdown (or is a nervous condition?)

I feel violated, annoyed, disrespected and utterly irritated.

How do I begin to think of signing up for FB afresh? Where do I even begin? It is the most incapacitating thing that anyone has ever done to the person of my being.

I have lost almost all my contacts. I feel like I am closeted away from the world happening around me. I feel like I am being stalked. I feel like a helpless African slave in a caravan to Europe. I feel like a passenger in a hijacked car. I feel like a homosexual forced to act hetero. I feel angered.

Perhaps I am so angered because I never thought of myself as a target for scam and spam. Perhaps I feel so violated because I thought this always happens to my less computer-wise relatives and friends. Perhaps I feel so incapacitated because I no longer have control of whatever is sent out to my contacts in my name.

It is one (and all) of these things that worries me. "Your email was selected randomly and you are the winner of...Please send your details to this account", "My name is ... I am stuck in (somewhere in Europe, Gaza, Darfur etc) and i decided to send this email to all my friends so that you could debit my bank account number...for my rescue", or even having yahoo/ hotmail notifying their clients of me as a scammer! OMG these things freak me out. Just imagine googling me and the first result that comes up is my expertise in scamming!

Perhaps I shold not be so angered. But hey, I would be less irritated if it was only one email...

If you do not see any more posts here, I have lost access to my blog.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taking Lessons from Maya Angelou

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Stop throwing tantrums about the whole principle of reduction that my title uses and listen to me. Don't you like it when you say to a dog, "sit" and it does? Now you are sitting!

Today is Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the USA (before this, I did not even know that G.W Bush was the 43rd)...Now I know. If anything has propelled one country in Eastern Africa called Kenya to fame, besides, wildlife, tribalism and a WWF champion one Lucy Kibaki aka madam first lady, that thing is Obama. Never in recent times has anyone's private life been so public like that of Barack Obama. Never has the whole world looked at one person and dissected his life like surgeons would do to a body in a theatre. Now we all know Obama's kenyan granny is called Sarah, we even know the date that his Hawaiian granny died, we know he quit smoking recently...we know just too much about Barack Obama.

Most Kenyans now know more about Obama than they know about one Mwai Kibaki besides his golf expertise. I hear Kibaki still says that when he grows up he wants to be Tiger Woods. Kenyans all over the world are just overwhelmed by Obama's accending to the US presidency. When the little boy (the son of our soil...dont you wish Wahome Mutahi, alias Whispers, was still alive to write about this?)became Illinois senator, Kenya Breweries Limited (now EABL) brought us a cheap beer brand called Senator and we all drank to Barack Obama.

Definitely, EABL is not going to give us a beer called President because the title conjurs up in the Kenyan mind an image of a person worlds apart from Obama. In fact this man is so different and ugly that he decided not to have his face put on the Kenyan legal tender (notes and coins). Hey, that is besides my point...Lucy and Mary know better, it is the beauty and beholder thing.

Today, thousands of Kenyans are in Washington D.C (I still dont understand why there is Washington D.C and Washington the state) for Obama's inauguration. Breasts and bums brushing and shakes and hugs passing all in jubilation for Obama. Introductions have been extended from "My name is Kimani wa Mugo" to " I am Kimani wa Mugo from Kenya". Suddenly, it is a prestigious thing to be Kenyan. But hey, I can't believe that in the midst of all this, I am glad that Barack Obama snr left his family in the USA at such a tender age.

I am sure you are now thinking of me as that same sadist blogger with no new year resolutions.

Whether we admit it or not, to me, Obama is a wandering Kenyan sperm that happened to be caught up in a favourable 'uteral' space. Hey, no need reminding Kenyans that Obama is actually American because they know this it's only that Kenyans love their parties from funerals to child naming ceremonies.

Well, thank God Obama Snr never brought little Obama to Kenya as a young Kenyan. Thank goodness Obama is not a Kenyan citizen but an American. If Barack Obama was truly Kenyan:

1. He would be dead by now because Kenya is allergic to good politicians (but I aint sure he would be as good).
2. He would be guilty of tax evading because he would definitely be the member of parliament for Kogelo, that is if he survives political assassination also called disappearance.
3. He would be caught up in the Luo/kikuyu thing. Of course he would be just another Luo looking for fame.
4. He would be shutting down motions on legalizing prostitution and ending up at Koinange Street at night.
5. He would have to put up with all the crap America says and does to the rest of the world.
6. He would be in millions of pictures on their way to the West asking for Aid for starving Kenyan children and never getting a thing.
7. He would be one of the thousands of former Nyayo House detainees and possibly wouldn't get the two beautiful daughters.
8. Kenyans would have had less public holidays last year
9. That journalist would not have thrown a shoe at Bush because he would not have anyone to compare Bush with.
10. I would not be writing this blog.

I am going to write a letter to Barack Obama Snr, to thank him for the favour he did the world by not bringing up Obama jnr as a Kenyan. As you drink and party to Obama's inauguration, please remember this great sperm donor, one Barack Obama snr and pour libation!!

Lol, some things just cant be captured in a poem...well, the more reason I aint a poet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Died Last Night

sometimes when i close my eyes
i see better than when I open them
sometimes I want to keep my eyes closed
to see all i cannot see with them open

many times when i close my eyes
i see just circles, big layered circles
other times once my eyes close
i see drops and dots and doodles

Several times once i close my eyes
i want to keep them closed
to make sense of all i see
to read those circles and dots

last night i did not want them closed
i wanted to stay awake if only to have them open
not to see the bigger dots called circles
to avoid those smaller circles, those dots

those dots and circles i know
are a variation of the same thing
different sizes of my life challenges
and did not wish to see them last night

thank heavens i died the whole night
thank god i closed my eyes not
pretty cool i opened them neither
because i died, died an awesome death

i died for hours last night
before I realized my might
to just win the fierce fight
and not prove enemies right.

i have died many times before
but last night I died a death
a death never before died
a larger slice of death it was