Update: Irony of Ironies…. #YesAllWomen moved on to #EachEveryWoman because the creator of YAW got death and rape threats… I tire life…
The #YesAllWomen hashtag took over Twitter yesterday in response to the video where Santa Monica Shooter Elliot Rodgers vowed to take revenge on all women who rejected him, calling their rejection a “…crime and an injustice.” Basically, this fool went out and killed six people because he felt rejected by women who chose to be with “obnoxious” men rather than with him.
The #YesAllWomen campaign features women detailing their experiences where they have been threatened, disrespected, attacked and violated for exercising their simple prerogative to exist as women.
See some of the tweets here.
I read through the tweets and while they grieved me deeply, it struck me that these stories of assault, disenfranchisement and insecurity – all of these stories, are pretty much the rule for African women, despite over 150 years of feminism. Some of the circumstances which generate these aggressions and oppressions are even codified into law in some African countries, or considered part of our “culture”. Take the recent examples of the Muslim Sudanese woman sentenced to death for marrying a Christian man, the Kenyan Law which permits a man to marry as many women as he wants without the input of any wives he might already have, the Chibok kidnappings which were simply the tip of the iceberg, seeing as Boko Haram militants has been raping, impregnating and pillaging their way through Northeastern Nigeria for years before this attack, and the women in beaten and tortured by men who put pepper and sticks in their vaginas for the “horrible” crime of stealing pepper (while some one videotaped and put the video on the internet).
We might look at Elliot Rodgers actions and think these are the actions of unhinged Westerners suffering from the disintegration of their society, but these stories happen in our communities too! When I was seven years old, a lady three houses down from ours in Clerks Quarters, Buea had to live through the horror of having her husband ( Lover? I can’t remember their status) stab and burn their twin baby boys to death and then stab her older son repeatedly (he survived), for the simple reason that he thought she was going to leave him. We know and have witnessed husbands beating their wives to a pulp for small slights, male relatives stripping widows off land and property, the plight of “housegirls” caught between lecherous husbands and jealous wives, Niger’s “fifth” wives and the day-to-day “can’ts, shouldn’ts and don’ts” that women in our communities face. These things happen in our countries and they happen because women still operate in a social, political and economic context where their very lives are dependent on the whims of men; fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, husbands, employers etc, who feel entitled to liberties based on nothing other than the fact that this is a woman they are dealing with.
Even worse many women still feel that “feminism”, the demand to be treated with equal respect and consideration, is unAfrican. Commenting on this, writer Naomi N. Nkealah presents an uncomfortable situation where African women wrongly interpret feminism as being “anti-male, anti-culture and anti-religion” and instead of trying to understand and appropriate the concept and redefine it in a manner that appropriately expresses their cultural experience, they reject it completely, often to their own detriment. We cannot reject the notion that we are equally valuable without then being complicit in the injustice we face, seeing as those injustices are rooted in the idea that we are NOT equally valuable.
I wonder what a #YesAllAfricanWomen twitter campaign would look like. I wonder what horrors we would see if regular women from across the continent came forward to tell their stories. I wonder what else could be done differently to move this situation in a better direction because, truth is, even the efforts of NGO’s and humanitarian aid efforts are subject to the caprices of whatever government situation they are found in and the subjugation of women is well and truly steeped in African politics and cultures.