Saturday, July 01, 2006


Wanjiku came to dialogue on sexual offences; all she heard was their Vagina monologue…….

Of all the peculiar habits of Kenyans, the one that gets me all miffed is forgetfulness. Kenyans are incorrigibly and pathologically forgetful.

Every Kenyan has an opinion on last night’s news. Everyone wants to be seen riding on the crest of the day’s euphoria. Our adrenaline burns on today’s Marga-this as yesterday's Githongo and the previous day’s Referendum and what have you take the back burner. We never dwell on an issue long enough to learn from it, yet history, painfully repeats itself. Who cares? We are people of the moment. Yeah, no wonder- same ass different dick- we stay shafted!

Like swing through the Kenyan Blogosphere on any given Monday- same issues, same perspectives. (It is a sort of ‘aggregated tautology’) Then kicks in the back-slapping-I-agree-with-yous- of the comment boxes. Everyone is on the same script. It’s like a poor-kenya-support-group-come-soak-your-mouse-pads-till-the-next-post! No, it is more like a transcript of the past weekend’s barroom conversations.

(Oh, but Kenyans are inveterate barroom Intellectuals; Commissioners of Inquiry and Eminent Persons.)

Now that the Sexual Offences Bill proved to be a Premature Ejaculation, that was quickly forgotten, I uncap- unsheathe?- my pen and work its plunger to tumescence…

If you were to listen to our nascent ‘feminists’, you would take it for an inalienable fact that the male member- of parliament?- considers the term Sexual offence an Oxymoron. That is obviously a blatant misrepresentation by individuals who chose to take Penis Envy literary. Allow me then to posit that even though (Patriarchal) folk wisdom has it that a hard-on has no conscience, there are many amongst the male of the species who can subdue their primal instincts via their superego. Men who are- NGO speak back atcha- Consensus Builders.

Nevertheless, of men’s reaction to the SOB, much has been said; of its merits- or lack thereof- a lot more. The Bill was passed, anyway, but by that time it was too emasculate- and I apply my choice of word there- to bother us. Besides, some titled colonial relic had shot a dog or something which kept our mouths otherwise engaged.

Because by the time of the Bills passage it had long left the realm of National Debate, I cannot categorically say that there are those people who felt that in its redrafting, their baby had been thrown out with the placenta. I also then cannot say that there are those who made a joyful noise with the realisation that the words cruel and unusual would not be used to describe their foreplay.
Then one question I couldn’t answer, though was, who were this so called Feminists? Of course I have heard of feminists, it is the kind of thing I have read in the International News pages or pulp fiction. In Kenya, though, I didn’t imagine that we had feminists- only Maendeleo ya wanawake and that chama thingy for buying sufurias and njahis. The women that I know do not describe themselves as feminists and neither do they fit the feminist mould as I conceive it.

I have heard that in the West, feminists do not shave their armpits. Neither do the women in my village. I do not know why they do not do it in the West but I know that the girls in my village do not shave their armpits because they cannot afford Veeto or a Bic razor.

I read that feminists In the West used to have rallies where they burnt their bras, but when I walk down Tom Mboya Street, all I see is Wanjiku- who cannot tell a D cup from a melamine one- trying out… “Fifty bob! Fifty bob! Bei ya nyanya….”

Since I, P. Mwananchi, only knows wanjiku, then I can assume that Kenyan feminists belong to a yuppie-True Love- Eve- reading- Minority. (You know the type: Basic Pay- 60,000; Car Loan- 30,000; Rent- 20,000; Food/ Utilities- Who knows?)

These ones can roll down to the Carnivore in their Starlets for an evening of Vagina Monologues. These ones say that the O is for Orgasm, yet their mothers thought it was for Ovulation- they were child bearing machines, you know!

I am told that the feminists have dildos- purchased with credit cards over the internet obviously because even studded condoms are technically illegal in Kenya. What I wonder is that since the feminist are so trendily, politically correct, are their dildos from alternative- consumer- natural- manufacturers?

Id Est., are the dildos:
a) Environmentally friendly, non- CFC, non- GM?
b) Manufactured under fair trade agreements and not in Chinese Sweatshops?
c) Tested on animals…lol… Human Beasts?

Finally, do any of them call their mothers after the Vagina Monologues?

Uko Wapi?
Ah, mambo makubwa… kuna nini huko mwanangu?
Mama, Ku— inaongea peke yake…!

(Come on Ms. Femme, say Vagina in your mother tongue… say it loud!)

How can Ms. Femme make her mother understand? Her conformist and conservative mother who has always shrugged her shoulders and clung, subserviently to the self same Female Genital Mutilating traditions designed to clip her wings and her clitoris.


Keguro said...

Does one need the label-or title-feminist to critique violence against women? Need feminists be atavistic (bra-burning was very 70s), "politically correct" machines who reject sexual freedom?

As an aside, I am weary of attacks on being politically correct, many of them on the Kenyan blogosphere, by individuals who, to my mind, do not understand the history or necessity of what came to be called political correctness.

Surely, we cannot take the frequency or consistency of blog postings as a measure of one's political commitments or beliefs. At the same time, one needs to respond to the moment in which one lives. One might follow, perhaps, the Potash example, which, if read a certain way, is an unfolding chronicle. Archives help to chart a history of thought as it unfolds, as it lives alongside what is most current. (This is why on encountering a new blog, one spends time on the archives, or should.)

Does Wanjiku need the name or title feminist to understand she wants equal rights? Perhaps not. But we do little in positing the pure village woman against her urban sister.

Acolyte said...

I can in no way hope to be half as eloquent as he who spoke before me but here's my $0.02.
I am very familiar with Kenyans' needs to opine about every issue under the sun even though they evince total and utter ignorance.
Does our collective forgetfulness prove true the colonialists belief that the african does not think of tommorrow but only of the present and what fun he can have without thinking of the future?
I do agree that the SOB has been reduced from a ravaging lion to a kitten that ravages furniture with blunt claws.
I have always felt that many women in Kenya ascribe to feminist ideals not as a mean to uplift or emancipate their sisters but as an indicator of westernisation.
It was once asked how the Eve woman of the year festivities impacted the life of wanjiku?As the priviledged pat themselves on the back for work well done MYWO continues to implode silently in the background.
As these women embrace dildos,sylvia plath and voice feminist platitudes they need to know that you need to be able to walk before you can fly.There is a link between chama ya mama and the next stage of feminine consciousness and renaissance in Africa but in my eyes they are not it.
Yes feminists out there feel free to flay me.....

Texter said...

Um, was this an indirect/direct dialogue with a certain posting?

Are condoms really illegal in kenya? Because the Sudanese govt is now requiring clinics to pass them out and teenage girls are getting them by the handful (watching out for their men's dildos). And what is wrong with a dildo? I agree with keguro (quite eloquent) that people partake of all sorts of imaginative resistances and stances with or without the term "feminist." It's true that there is a variant of feminist that coincides with westernization and spoofed expertly in Song of Lawino. But believe me, people (and women) came up with alternatives and prosthesis even before the advent of the cyberskin dildo...

Sichoki said...

There are feminists (very few) and there are non-feminists (many more)who are vocal about women's human rights and about ending sexual violence. A vast and overwhelming majority of these voices are of women. Most of the criticism of these voices comes in predictable form:
1. These 'feminists'! Westernized! Urbanized!
2. They know and do nothing for rural women
3. They are urban! Shame! They drive cars and live comfortably! Starlets!

I mean these women will never win. Damned if they do (who are you to speak for rural women?) and damned if you they don't (why are you silent? where are the 'so-called activists'). The Kenyan blogosphere has a disdain for 'activists' (it is a dirty word. (Look at you, are you an 'activist' or something?) in general and feminists in particular. It has become wrong to be conscious of the political and human consequences of what one says (are you POLITICALLY CORRECT!!???!)

Yet Kenyan feminists remain a mysterious phenomenon, nobody knows any they can speak of, although they have a lot to say about the them. A lot of venom to spill.

spicebear said...

a quote that immediately comes to mind is rebecca west's - " i myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. i only know that people call me a feminist whenever i express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute."

that said, though feminism is a flawed philosophy, it is futile to have feminist olympics where one is deemed to be more of a feminist than the other. kenyan feminists come in all forms, from the woman in a chama (which are a form of support in themselves, they don't only deal with sufurias and njahi's) to the professional woman who drives a starlet and goes about her business.

though not everyone who labels themselves feminist is one, actions speak louder than words. you dont have to call yourself one to walk the walk. and as sichoki says, damned if you do, damned if you dont.

WM said...

Okay, I swear I'll write something as soon as I stop laughing.....

Shiroh said...

Ngai Potash,.what do you have against feminists?

Anywho your first few paragraphs were on point. Kenyans forget so easily and are very euphoric.

I came to talk about book lists? YOu were saying

POTASH said...

I am a firm believer in Social Evolution- based on the Darwinian model of a linear progression where all societies must and get to a certain point with time. Apropos that, African social definations, in a contemporary time, come from those that the west has already defined and are based on the predefined parameters. Therefore, there can be a tendency amongst the African to appear atavistic... we have just got where they were in the seventies.

On being PC, well such terms are really momentary, they mean what we want them to mean when we use them. It is my opinon, anyway.

Uhm..on blog postings, you realise that I am talking about the lack new perspectives to the issues of the moment. For instance I find your views refreshing even though I do not relate to your perspectives- you being a colonial inheritor( your own words)and all. I would want to celebrate differences, not to find a support group for my thinking.
Finally, naturally wanjiku and her urbanite sister have nothing in common, yet the urbanite purports to speak for her- that is what has me miffed

I winch at your allusion to that colonial fallacy. Fallacious because if the African had the luxury of believing in life after death, how then can he be said not to think of the future? (Well, you know I can not resist an analogy that tends to the metaphysical- but it is an apt one.)
The recognition of the connection extant between chama and an African feminist ideology- a positive one- is quite a brilliant observation on your part aco. Empowerment, really has to move from rhetoric and platitudes, into models that are home grown and tenable. It is what I have always argued for in this blog, but detractors view it as NGO bashing and my legendary pseudo- intellectual posturing.

POTASH said...

Actually, it wasn't dialoguing specifically with that post because as Keguro observes, this blog is an unfolding chronicle. Yet as I am saying, there is need for a new perspective, so see this as being, not counter to your post, a sideshow to it. (Like, I am picketing your
Condoms aren't illegal in Kenya, it is studded condoms- by virtue of how they are marketed as enhancing the sexual experience- that are illegal under the Public health Act.
I am under no circumstances against dildos; I was illustrating the 'selectivity' of those who scream political correctness.
P.s: I loved the song of lawino- the painted lips and all- man I was like in primary school when I read that, and yeah, Okot Bitek's 'dramatic verse monologue' is quite relevant to my disjointed one.

POTASH said...

Uhm, certainly a combative response. But do you realise that your talk of winning is what seems to be my beef. You see your activism, as a war, I see mine as a journey. A journey where, I get to a metaphorical Canaan, not alone. i.e. fat paycheck, but with those of shared ideals.
Why should it be about winning? Allow me to use the cliche that women are their worst enemies, if this is about winning, then all those women in the village circumcising their daughters are the hindrance not this sorry blogger.

That is a beautiful quote. I was looking for a defination of feminism, you got me on that.
Uhm, there is need to differentiate between the economically independent woman, and social/culturally liberated one. Their are lots of women who pay their own bills but still, live in mental slavery- I know many of those than I know feminists.


I am not against feminists. I just do not know who they are. Now thanks to spice I have a working defination.

It is imperative to note that I am consistently and passionately for the empowerment of women. I am not a misorgynist, no ma'am, no.
But I blog ideas, I want to define and redefine my paradigms, I want to impact on the Kenyan thinking not by always agreeing with everyone but by, at times, questioning, the ridiculous nature of the donor driven models that we live by.

Keguro said...

For some reason, the wonderful phrase "donor driven model" makes me think of insemination.


POTASH said...

Inseminate; You know I can choose to use the meaning of injecting semen but the feminists would castrate me. So I will assume it in the context of planting ideas.

Donor driven models are based on what some think tank in Washington thinks we Africans want.
Their thinking is based on research data which can be inteprated to mean anything. (I fancy myself as a social scientist yet I believe that most of the qualitative research methodologies we apply aren't based truly on empiricism but rather, conjecture)
This data, sourced from self styled Africa consultants is what is used to build development models, or to instruct such other paradigms for African Consumption..e.g Structural adjustment programmes, anti FGM, and what have you.

This ideas are injected into the minds of paycheck hustlers, who continue to tout them as the way- only way- forward for the African. Yet, as you say, loads of the Africans who embrace these models do not understand their historicity or necessity.

(Now I am thinking of posting on the modus operandi of these think tanks....)

m said...

Look at it this way -- many people, including most self confessed feminisists, do not actually understand what a feminist is. To be honest, I don't either. I don't see why to champion women's rights requires a title any more than championing human rights, or indeed any other rights.

It is also very amusing to come across one of these self styled feminists who hold their fellow women that choose to live a simple rustic life in the rural sections in a very fine disdain.

POTASH said...

Hear hear!

Keguro said...

Play nice.

Must I ask sokari to post a feminism 101?

Or should I ask black academic to whip y'all into shape?

I had an ongoing struggle last semester trying to teach my students the value of attaching particular struggles to particular identities. Let's not forget the declaration of human rights was signed with apartheid and colonialism alive and well. It was necessary to name identities that seemed not to be covered.

Judith Butler continues to be my favorite thinker because she always returns us to this fundamental question: what or who qualifies as human?

Without asking the question and understanding that some categories of people do not seem to qualify as human, we cannot begin to understand the need for social movements under multiple other names. And, it seems to me, the declaration of human rights is woefully inadequate given when it was authored.

POTASH said...

If I can recall from my MUN gigs in High School, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came out in 1948, it thus predates, universal sufferage in the worlds greatest democracy.

Using the right to vote as a fundamental human right, then there was a time that a white woman was more human than a black man in the USA.

Yet, there was a strong feminist movement- so watered down, by the romantic novelists. (I wonder whether the romantics are expressing their kind of feminity or they are products of social conditioning in a patriachal society!)

Of course, Keguro, the fundamental question becomes on eof definations. And in this regard my question remains, how do the feminists in Africa define themselves ?Against what parameters? Against what dehumanising forces?

njoki said...

Thanks potash for answering my email.I had already read your blog archives before I sent the email. I had rather enjoyed your writing style and content. it left me inarticulate with respect. please keep it up!!!

Acolyte said...

@ m
It is also very amusing to come across one of these self styled feminists who hold their fellow women that choose to live a simple rustic life in the rural sections in a very fine disdain.
The same thing is evident here in the way many feminists look down on women who choose to be housewives and rear their children instead of work.
It is amazing how some women take pride in the fact that they can't cook as an indication of freedom from the patriachy.It's good to be free but isn't it cheaper and better to be able to cook your own food?Or maybe that's the patriach in me.
@ sichoki
I think the disdain comes from the fact that most of this e-activism translates to zero action on the ground.I know a blogger who is based in the U.K who says her dream is ICT access for rural women in Africa.Other then some pithy posts there is nothing to show on the ground.To some extent Kenyans are tired of lip service, fancy slogans and want action.

spicebear said...

i see an interesting discussion has evolved so let me chime in once again.

it's strange that there seems to be a train of thought that suggests (correct me if i'm wrong) that economic empowerment and social and cultural awareness seem to be mutually exclusive. because heaven forfend that a dido using, starlet driving, vagina monologue enthusiast who is a terrible cook to boot should claim to understand what "wanjiku" is going through, right? or that a githeri cooking, cow milking, shamba tending woman in the village can relate to the struggles of a woman in the big city.

but there is truth when it is said that sometimes the foreign funded NGO's sometimes don't see the big picture. as i said before, not everyone who declares that she is a feminist is one. however, expressions of feminism can't, nor should they be, packaged in a little box of understanding to be presented to all. feminism as i see it, is both a journey and a battle. its about social and cultural awereness and economic empowerment and a plethora of other things.

i see no reason why the "eve woman of the year awards" cannot coexist with the chama at neighbourhood level and vice versa. there is disdain going both ways (yup, i've seen it) but in the end, i find it difficult to label good feminist/bad feminist the women who decide that their tool of empancipation is a dildo or a jembe, or both. or whatever. maoni yangu tu (cant say my two cents cos the way i am long winded, haha)

Acolyte said...

@ spicebear
Don't draw lines where none exist!We or at least I am not saying that you cannot be well off and in touch with the latest trends and not be a feminist but in my opinion feminism has become a trend in itself with many Kenyan women.
For me the Eve of the woman award is bollocks because in many ways it does not acknowledge the greatest woman of them all.The so called Wanjiku.It is more of a gathering of the gynaeosticrats which instead of serving it's purpose on paper to stop division often enhances it.But now Im blabbing so let the show continue!

Anonymous said...

Thanks y'all for talking...uhm gotta run though..
Njoki, well not lots of people read archives. We are people of the moment see, we have to be seen commenting on the latest

POTASH said... can I comment annonymously on my blog...mistake. I never comment annonymously anywhere...mistake

njoki said...

In my opinion to know your past is to live your present and to hope for your future.Or something similar to that.And your Blog archives are like a free-three- course-meal for a starving reader. I find that i cannot opine on this particular subject because i'm not very passionate about it. In my opinion we all(men and women and everyone in between) have to claw our way through life. In my naivity,I feel that it is our individualizim that differentiates us, and not the oft-generalized-society-cliche's, whether westernized or Africanized.But I'm more often than not wrong.

Anonymous said...

It is hardly flattering of the debaters in this blog that a simple debate on the sexual offences bill and FGM can so quickly and easily degenerate, yes degenerate into a quest for a working definition of feminism. Alice Walker long ago abandoned the word for more african sounding WOMANIST.

Truth be told, when i saw the post i was expecting some specifics on the actual bill. But no, all i saw was gloss and gross generalization of what wanjiku was and why she is not a feminist and what a feminist was and why she is not wanjuki. Is there a legal difference between the the urban and rural woman? Also there is a mistaken perception that rural folk are poor and ignorant, alas they one the richest and most independent kenyans.

Allow me to kick myself if you had handled the specs issues on another blog. In this one it was woefully lacking

I will leave all of that alone and make a comment sexual offence bill.
Specifically on marital rape! ( did this make past the re-edit?)

I have only one word for marital rape, it is called DIVORCE. Marital rape has no place in our laws, ladies you either dish it or get a divorce. If the man is violent, let it be handled as assault (sexual or otherwise).

POTASH said...

well annonymous, I am a thinker and not a writer: I therefore cannot argue for or against other peoples interpratation of my words.(there is always the touchy issue though of annonymous commentators... good faith is required!)

In truth, the Sexual offences bill, is gone and being Kenyas we have forgotten about it.

There is no legal difference between the urban and the rural woman only an obvious perception of world views. I do not think anyone refuses that there are economically empowered rural folk, it is just that statistically, the rural folks are more marginalised. We are talking demographics here, not individuals that we know.

About specifics, what specifics? I use illustrations that are relevant to my narrative and not those anyone else assumes to be so.

In my opinion marital guidance and counselling is a better solution to marital rape, why should we work on the opinion that everyone is an incorrigible sinner?

Your opinion as always is appreciated. As they say opinion is free; facts are sacred.!

Texter said...

Yet as I am saying, there is need for a new perspective, so see this as being, not counter to your post, a sideshow to it. (Like, I am picketing your

Well, I can't agree with you more that we need new perspectives.