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January 16, 2019

Feminism means standing with others

I had coffee with an acquaintance the other day and she asked me what I do apart from writing about sex and being gorgeous (her words, not mine). I told her I am a feminist writer. She said I am too cute for feminism and declared she is no feminist.

This woman is in agribusiness — growing tea and raising goats. She is a wife and proud mum, as well as an avid golfer. She is active in her church and finds time to counsel young couples on marriage and how to build a happy one.

I asked her what she tells these young couples about finances and sex, and she readily replied that she encourages them to be open about both, to share the responsibilities and make decisions together. So I asked, "Discuss contraception and share that load? Set financial goals and work on them together?" She laughingly said yes but still insisted that she is not a feminist.

Look, I know the word feminist evokes images of angry women marching and picketing some cause or other. Perhaps you think we are all bitter and divorced man-hating harridans waiting for anyone to brush the chip on our shoulder and sema ng’we. Well, we aren’t.

A feminist is quite simply a person who believes in the equal treatment of men and women, and the provision of equal opportunities for both.

As with every revolution, we need all types to drive the conversation forward. Some will picket, others will lobby in their sphere of influence, some will prosecute offenders and yet others will counsel young couples on how to create peer marriages. Trust me, there is room for you and you could start here:

Less than four per cent of Kenyan title deeds are owned by women, this means we have a lot less access to credit

Sexual harassment is thriving in our work places. Can you lobby for a policy at work?

Marital rape and domestic violence cases are routinely ignored by our police and courts. Can you do something through your church?

1 in 3 Kenyan women and girls has been through FGM, and this takes her out of school and sets her up for nothing but marriage. Can you influence any of the practitioners?

Kenyan women earn less than their male counterparts for equal work. Do you work in HR? Are you an employer?

We make up 52 per cent of the Kenyan population, and even our leaders do not address us in their campaigns. If nothing else, we can ask that they share their agenda for us. And if this all seems out of reach for you, you can make sure your domestic worker is banking and that you pay her on time so she can establish herself as creditworthy.

To me the F word means I stand with other people against discrimination and for the empowerment of women. Does the F word fit you?

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