Finding Epie will not fix our rape culture problem

I was about  20 years old and in my final year of university when I was first sexually assaulted by an adult man.

I didn’t resist.

Don’t get me wrong I was in shock that this was happening to me. ME of all people. Like what?! Which motherfucker??! I was enraged, livid, murderous. He knew me. Knew my parents. Knew my family. Knew I was the kind of girl who could speak for herself. I knew his wife, his children. That didn’t stop him. I daresay THAT was why he targeted me.

And I didn’t resist.

Why, you may ask?  Because what I felt at that moment as he slid his hands up my thigh, as he pushed aside my panties, what I felt was resignation. Resignation and a bone deep tiredness born of disappointment, disillusionment and disgust. That moment was a culmination of what I had always known about my community but had hoped would be something I was wrong about.

As a girl growing up in Cameroonian society, you understand pretty quickly that you are not yours. Yes, you are you but you are not yours. You are there for men (regardless of their relationship to you) to control, to look at, comment on, maybe admire…or grope, insult, dominate and eventually own, because that is what marriage (still the highest achievement women can have in our society) is in our communities. Ownership. Don’t believe me? Look at the disproportionate praise and admiration men who do not treat their wives like trash get. Never mind that being married to someone should mean you place that person’s welfare as high as your own.

I was 10 the first time I was catcalled. I was walking up Clerk’s Quarters road in Buea trying to catch a taxi to GRA where we lived. A truck full of soldiers drove by to the camp at Long Street and the whistles erupted almost immediately. I ignored them. Realizing they would get no response from me, one of them called out:

Tu te prends pour qui? Avec tes grosses fesses la, espece de wolowos.

As I moved into my teens and developed as a woman, it became worse. It was almost as if my developing body was an invitation. I don’t need to give too many examples. Any Cameroonian woman (or African woman, or woman for that matter) can tell you what “worse” means. Worse is at home, at school, at work, on the streets, on the farms, in the markets. Worse is normal. Worse is expected. Worse is defended.

Worse is quite literally life. Your value as a woman in this society hinges on how well you can deal with worse. Your value hinges on if and how well you can love worse, marry worse, understand worse, make space for worse, forgive worse, turn a blind eye to worse. It’s why we praise our parents and grandparents relationships even though we KNOW the fuckshit the women almost always had to put up with.

This is the culture in which we live, move and have our beings. A culture where you as a woman are not safe from any man, regardless of his relationship to you. A culture where you are expected to take precautions to ward against a danger even though you don’t know which face that danger will be wearing when you finally meet it. A culture where you will ultimately get blamed and disparaged for other people’s decisions because you had the effrontery to become their victim.

I am tired.

I have written abut our communities and our messed up approach to sexuality Here, Here and Here.

 

11th-Principle-image-1024x906

Défi Lancé 

Here’s the deal

Let me help you make your choice

Here’s how I feel

Listen to my voice

You can let me be me

You can let me be free

You can give me my space

You can join in my race

I have no qualms with you

Going off to find things to do

I just won’t be your mule 

My life is mine to rule

But if you purport to lead

If you want to be the hand that feeds

If you want me to submit

If you want to play the beat

You better be exemplar 

A drummer like no other

You better be the mighty iroko that never falters

Your game always on

Your lead never wrong

Your patience long 

Your vision strong 

Or you can just let me be free

Let me be me

Let me have my space

Let me run my race

Can’t play fair if the “game” is rigged

I see a general awakening in the minds of women from my part of the world. I see that the concept of self-love, self-preservation and self-interest is gaining on. I see more and more young women raising their voices against the unjust and harmful standards our mothers and female forbears were held to. This is often situated in language encouraging young women to be responsible for themselves and their destinies. To not look at marriage or men as a way out, to demand and work for what they want and play the game too, and do it without complaining because this is just the game. I do this too and I do it because far be it from me not to encourage a fellow woman to reject a lesser life. It’s a big world out there and you too can make your mark in any way you choose, sis. Go for it.

What I’d like to see more of though, especially for Cameroonian women, is the acknowledgement of just how shitty, selfish, manipulative and fucking awful men can be. The acknowledgment of just how much almost all systems within the patriarchal communities we live in , whether economic, political, social are engineered to help men succeed and keep women out.  I’d like to see more honest conversations about the mental bracing, blatant opportunism and self interest that is necessary if one, as a woman, would prevail in this world. I’d like to see more of the acknowledgement that while we push young women to these feats of daring and accomplishment, we fail to equip them fully with every material and immaterial weapon in their arsenal, and thus set them up for failure at worst and an uphill battle at best.

Here’s a truth: Men, heterosexual men in particular – be it your father, brother, cousin, uncle, friend, lover, colleague, employer – will try to get the most physical, emotional and psychological labor, material resources etc out of us for as little as possible and we have been conditioned by our society to be ok with that. To allow it. We’ve been conditioned to think this is what it means to love a man, to have lived successfully as a woman, to pour yourself out as a living sacrifice, to take your very feminine essence and lay it out for a man to use and often abuse at his whim. You bear children, cook food, clean his mess, tolerate his rubbish and immature, inconsiderate impulses, you make your body and being available, take a step back at work, not assert yourselves, aspire for less so you can give them space to shine, without even realizing it, be modest, be humble, be meek and do all this regardless of any hopes and aspirations you might have. This, above all, is your calling. Saying NO to any of this at any level immediately brands you as difficult or complicated. Meanwhile the men in our communities have been allowed to imagine more, dare more, risk more, want more, have more, be more.

Now you are being told stand up for yourself because “woman eh!” and to do it with unimpeachable integrity while NOTHING is being done to ensure that this will be a level playing field. The game has been rigged from the onset but the only person really expected to follow the rules at this point is you. You are also being told it is your responsibility to demand and expect that men treat you better and simultaneously vilified for doing exactly that.

That’s a shame isn’t it?

You know what I mean, ladies. You run up against it time and time again. You’re doing everything right, but you end up holding broken pieces because you’re in a game where the men are looking out for themselves, with blatant selfishness and you’re running yourself ragged trying to hold them accountable to the ridiculous standards they have set but do not follow, so you can maintain your sanity and keep a clear conscience in the assurance that you’re a good person, but also not push them away because quite honestly, you care. You don’t want to be lonely.
Sis, it’s a trap.

In the words of one of my favorite women of all time, Ninon de L’Enclos

“Feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention.”

All the restraints that have been placed upon you are not designed to save you or protect you. They are designed to control you. To harness the deep resources of your mind, body and spirit and exploit them shamelessly while you fool yourselves with notions of moral superiority, all the while dragging around broken spirits and ravaged dreams.

Now am I saying that we go out and do unto them what they are doing unto us? Maybe.

Ninon again:

“It is strange that modesty is the rule for women when what they most value in men is boldness.”

Strange indeed, isn’t it?

Think about it. You’re being hoodwinked, ladies. Open your eyes. Don’t fall into the trap of letting the oppressor dictate how you fight for your liberation or empowerment, or what that liberation/empowerment should look like. Most importantly, do not let yourself be deceived into thinking you have to toe imaginary lines and follow rules which when push come to shove mean little to nothing. People may talk but people have always talked haven’t they? The world kept right on spinning.

Decide what you need to stay happy, sane and productive this world and go after it with reckless abandon.

I’ll write more about this subsequently.

Peace.

FPW

Gentle Reminder 

White people
The difference 
Between us
Is this
We have
Been tested
In the fires
In the waters
In the pits 
Ripped to bits 
And we’ve come through 
We are coming through
We have forgiven 
Seven times seven
We are healing 
And we shall heal
We are sanctified 
We shall be sanctified
We are free 
We shall be free

But you’re not

Found Treasure 

He fits right

Like that dress you found at the store 

So right you couldn’t believe your eyes when you first saw it

Firm luxurious fabric

Right color and cut

You just know when you touch the material 

That this one

Mmmm Hmm 

Yeah

Then you try it on and yuuup

He fits juuuuust right

You’re still in a little disbelief

You came to this store

Maybe needing a dress for an important event 

Kinda broke but hey

You what you can get right? 

And then you find this motherfucking jewel  

Or maybe you were just wondering 

Bored 

Meh, check out clearance

What else to do on a Saturday afternoon

And then bam! 

That dress 

A little rough from being on the hangar for too long 

But you KNOW you can rock it

He fits right

Surprisingly right

Now it might rip on me while I’m at a meeting 

I might need to hold my breath and not eat a lot at that party 

So the zipper holds

It might fall apart after one wash 

And I may only get to wear it once

Shit I might go home and it looks different in my apartments mirrors and lights 

Or it may become my closet staple

My old dependable

The one dress I know I can take on the world with

The one that got me that job

That gave me the courage to talk to that cute boy at the party

Whose seams held me together 

And demanded that I keep my back straight 

When the world weighed so that I slouch   

Goddamn 

He fits right

I’m gonna buy it

Mama Africa 

Before I knew the power of my own name

Or learned to hold its fullness in my mouth

You sent me to another home and told me to go

Now you resent me for calling another woman mum

And speaking in a way that offends you
Mama Africa 

The Way of Fire 

If you’ve ever felt the flames of romantic love burn out in your heart
Its consuming fire replaced by an intensity, softer but cooler, bright as the stars but possessing of their distant heat,

While fiery embers, alight with fire, red hot lava flowing with power, 

Is what you saw in the eyes of your lover,

Then you know the way of fire 

You see, dear one. You’re both fires. 

Sometimes it is you who burns. 

Sometimes it is you who is put out. 

That is the way of fire