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November 18, 2018

Emasculate or efemininise

So I was arrested recently. Before you judge me and envision some salacious crime, it was for a traffic offence.

I was driving to a retreat in Karen and my phone was about to die. A few minutes after I left my house I realised that I had forgotten my charger. I also had not written down the directions for where I was going and neither did I have the number of the venue. All this information was in an email. Accessing email on 3G when your battery is on its last legs can drain the entire thing.

I was driving on Ngong road, trying to get this email and call the retreat centre. After about 10 minutes, I found the email and dialled the number. No sooner had a nice lady answered the phone and given me directions when a policeman spotted me and stopped me. I panicked! I dropped my phone and stupidly kept driving. My hands started shaking uncontrollably and my right leg started trembling. “Had I really ignored a policeman?” I was digesting this reality when I saw the guy, who was previously on foot, hop onto his motorcycle and follow me. I indicated that I was turning into a petrol station and he followed me. I jumped out of the car and started to apologise profusely. Never in my 18-year driving career have I been this left of the law. I was terrified.

The cop was furious. Livid. So enraged in fact that he could not look me in the eye. All he kept saying was: “Msichana, leo utalala ndani!”

I tried explaining what had happened and how panicked I was, knowing that I had to get the information I needed before my phone died but he wouldn’t listen. In an impassioned litany he kept repeating: “Utalala ndani!” After about five minutes, I stopped talking and just looked at him. He quashed his mantra and said I had refused to stop for a policeman in uniform and that young girls like me needed to be taught law and respect.

I know enough about the male ego to recognise it at play. Usually if you are caught, act submissive. It shuts up and accepts the validation of your silence as an offering at its altar. So I shut up and listened. This man felt I had disregarded his profession, its uniform and most of all his sanctioned masculine authority when I (in Isis mind) refused to stop.

Five minutes into his indictment of me, he paused and again said that I would sleep in a cell. I gave in and agreed to follow him to Karen police. Long story short, I paid the cash bail and drove out of the cop station a free woman. In the heat of the moment it might have seemed monumental but really, it was a traffic offence. I walked away having paid the fine but I would bet that that man’s ego is still healing, now weeks later.

Men walk around with a delicate porcelain cup on their heads called masculinity. The wrong words, a scathing look, even standing in a kitchen for too long can break this cup... They might emasculate the cup bearer. I am grateful that I do not carry this cup. Grateful that I cannot be ‘effeminised’? Is that the word?

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