Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Instances of Sexism in Kenya
Kenya is a country that has made various advancements, especially so over the past two decades. However, some pockets of society remain 'backward' for lack of a better word, and discrimination is present in many cases, ranging from racism to sexism to homophobia.
I reached out to some people and asked them to share their experiences with sexism in the country. While most of the stories below are from people I know, some are from newspaper articles or stories I've heard through other people. In the interest of keeping these accounts readable, I've presented them all in first person. Please feel free to comment with any you'd like to share!
-As a 'mzungu' man new to the country, I was prepared to adjust to a level of development that wasn't equal to that of my home country. However, one thing took me by surprise (and still does); whenever I went out to a restaurant in the company of one or more females, the check (bill) was always given to me, regardless of whether I was paying or not. To add to this awkwardness, when I was given the bill, most of the time the women I was with didn't even offer to contribute. I don't mind footing the bill once in a while, but I think it's rude to assume that I'll always pay just because I'm a man.
-Incidentally, as a woman who values her independence, it annoys me extremely when I go out to a restaurant and I am never handed the bill. If you are unsure who is paying, put the bill on the corner of the table instead of handing it to the nearest man and seeming like a sexist jerk!
-I find it annoying that whenever I visit a certain family friend's house with my father and brothers, and alcoholic drinks are being served, my father and brothers are always offered things like whisky, beer and rum, whereas I'm not even given the option; I'm expected to stick to 'ladylike' drinks like wine or soda.
-As a woman who lived in Nairobi, I have to live with the constant frustration of knowing that 'society' is watching my every move, from what I wear to what I drink to what I say to whom I associate with, while my male peers seem to escape this close scrutiny. If in the future, I was to get a divorce, I know without any doubt that this same society would place all the blame on me and would even go so far as to shun my family, whereas my husband would be the recipient of lots of sympathy. This double standard absolutely disgusts me.
-My father passed away a few years ago, and needless to say, I was struck hard by this blow. Imagine my shock and horror when my own relatives told me to 'be a man'. I was not permitted to shed tears and grieve the loss of my own father, or even to talk about how I felt with my mother. My female cousins however, were encouraged to 'let out their feelings' and were supported fully. I would have loved to get even just a hug from some of my relatives, but was denied even this basic comfort.
-As a child, I remember going to visit another girl my age, to play at her home. Everything seemed normal up until dinner time; I was extremely confused when her father and brother were sat down and served first, and only when they had almost finished were my friend, her mother and I permitted to join. At that age, I didn't understand what was going on, and only remember feeling extremely awkward and mentioning the same to my parents.
-Back in secondary school, a male friend of mine told me he had a crush on me and would like to 'go out sometime'. I excitedly reported the same to my mother, only to be told that 'girls didn't go out with strange boys'.... whereas my brother had been openly dating a girl for a few months with the full approval of my mother.
-My friend lives in an extended family. If a decision is to be made that doesn't involve what is to be made for dinner that night, his grandfather, father and uncles sit down to do so without the input of the women in the family. Similarly, if they wish to get together with another family, a man from her family will call a man from the other family, and the women will just be informed about what the plans are.
-When I got married, in addition to having to live with my in-laws, I was not allowed to keep my last name. When I suggested a compromise, such that my husband and I both took my maiden name on as a middle name, I was laughed off.
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