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.

 

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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

Bye Bye Boys, It’s Been Real

A recent interaction with a fellow Cameroonian of the male species left me feeling really salty. The pomposity of this guy, the way he tried to patronize me (one of my biggest pet peeves), the pretense of superiority which left him looking desperately silly… it rankled.  Of course, I applied the philosophy of #JeTeBloque to his ass. Why argue with a fool who will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience?

I thought about it and wondered why quite a few of my interactions with the males of my country ended like this. Maybe I’m just the arrogant, trouble making bitch some folks seem to think I am. Or maybe the fact that I clash with them is symptomatic of a bigger problem: the inability of our men to deal with  girl who is not particularly trying to impress them. I laughed and shrugged it off in the end.

And then this morning three of my friends disclosed recent conversations they have had with males of the same species, which got me pissed off all over again. You see folks, it’s not just me. I mean I am abrasive and irritable and I don’t suffer fools. But these ladies are some of the most level headed  women I know. The way these guys talked to them… belittled them, patronized them and insulted their intelligence… Let’s just say somebody would have been burying a son if that was me.

Quite a few of you menfolk have told me you’d be more willing to listen to me if I changed my approach and I still say kiss my ass. Because the truth, if you are willing to listen to it, is that you don’t have a problem with my approach. You have a problem with the fact that I am even daring to talk at all and openly criticizing your kind, because that is not what women from our part of the world do. The African women you are used to are mostly submissive and docile. Too focused on surviving in a world rigged by male dominance to truly challenge you beyond the acceptable levels of what is considered a “strong woman.” You know, that girl who will speak her mind and all but ultimately will allow herself to be silenced because there are ways in which a woman should express herself and whatever she does she must remain respectable. You have a problem with the fact that I am not toeing the line. That I have stopped trying to reason with you (as if you even have the least interest in hearing what I am saying, as drunk as you are on your notions of male superiority). Why do I say this? Because even when we try to reason with you, you dismiss us like what we have to say doesn’t matter and if we get angry… Oooooh we’re being emotional, as if we don’t have the right to be angry.

Fuck that and fuck you.

You, a christian man, try to force yourself on a woman. When she fights you off, you say it was God protecting his child (i.e you) from temptation? What in the entire hell? I hope you are sterile or have low sperm motility. You shouldn’t breed and perpetuate that fuckery. And now it is all OK and you and her are cool because you have asked God for forgiveness? What about her? Have you asked her for forgiveness? And then you have the nerve to lecture her on the evil that is the feminist movement? A movement which exists to protect women from hypocritical, morally corrupt predators like you? I hope your penis shrivels up and falls off. Bastard.

Oh let’s not forget about this other one who has the unmitigated bile to tell my girl  not to question the story the guy she’s been dating has been telling her about a girl in his past, who really isn’t in his past. His reason? “If you rock the boat too much he might start wondering why you are still single at your age.”  Na who di born these mugu them? Who models manhood for you cretins? Seriously?

Or the one who I asked to not grind his erection on me while were out dancing because it made me uncomfortable, who then asked me how it was his problem that I feel uncomfortable.

And then this…

You ask her to go to the movies with you. She says she doesn’t like going to the movies really. You ask what she likes. She says reading.

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Really?

Conversation moves on… you’re trying to chat this girl up and she points out that you have different belief systems which might makes things difficult. You then insist that she couldn’t possibly have arrived at her current way of seeing things by herself.

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You act innocent…. or maybe you’re really just clueless. She’s gracious and patient enough to keep talking to you and her work comes up… She explains what she does to you.

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How is it some of you do not know when to quit? When to back the fuck off and leave a woman alone when she has made it clear she really doesn’t want to interact with you? What did you eat today? Are you talking to someone in nursery school?

The problem is many of you will read this and get offended because I am “generalizing” but excuse me, when crap like this keeps happening over and over, YOU maybe different (or think you are) but there are enough of your brothers out there who simply are ruining it for you. Go and get them.

By the way, she’s going to be a doctor. Asshole.

/end rant

Birds of Squawk

Go fly around your gilded cages,
Go eat your store bought bird seed,
Let me fly free in the forest,
Let me taste the berries from the branch.
And if a hunter shoots me down
And puts me in a soup,
I’ll have known what it means to be free
And flit from tree to tree

You don’t envy my recklessness
I don’t envy your cage.
You value safety, I value freedom,
Must we be in the same page?
Why squawk your disapproval at me,
When my birdsong bursts free?
You’re the trained parakeet,
Peddling nonsense phrases,
For human approval.
Not me.

So flap your wings with your kind,
Pay me no mind. No really, leave me be.
My claws are sharp and my beak is strong,
I’ll pluck your eyes out, I will.

WHY AM I STILL SINGLE?

Why am I still single, you ask?
Sit down, let me tell you why.
It’s because I refuse to buy the lie,
I’d much rather pass by.
I’d much rather be alone,
Than let my heart turn to stone,
Because I have to harden it,
Against some fuckers bullshit.

Why am I still single, you ask?
Because I am that girl.
You know… that type of girl,
The one mothers and aunties warn you about.
The one who cannot take care of a man.
You know…the type of man they breed you to be.
Careless, clueless, helpless.

Why am I still single you ask?
Because I am bad ass.
With too much sass, too much brass.
To mess with someone as fragile as spun glass.
A man-child sitting on his lazy ass,
Too scared to take a difficult class.

So why am I still single you ask?
Stay seated, I’m not finished yet.
Because as lonely as I get,
I’ll not let myself forget,
The worst feeling of all: regret,
For all the miscalculated bets.

Image credit: Pinterest

Woman-Scorned

You hate me now
And I understand
No really, I do.
I’d hate me too.
But tell me something,
Was it your heart I broke?
Or did I just bruise your pride?
Because I never lied
My intention was never to be a bride
And yet you came
And came, and came…
For the fun
For the heat
From the sweetness
So why hate me now?
When you couldn’t say no?
When you couldn’t break me down
And build me to specification
When like a moth,
You flew to my flame?
Crashing into its heat
Burning yourself…