Why I Need Feminism

Whenever I arrive home before dusk, I pocket my boda money and walk down a path that cuts through a beautiful hill. I love this shortcut because it gives me a workout and speeds my transition from an office drone to the happy, cheeky Mildred they know at home.

After a downpour though, the path becomes hell. Shoe-swallowing ponds develop, frogs jump unexpectedly out of the thick grass and the mud becomes treacherous. I use the path regardless and every time I survive a fall, ask myself, “Mildred, are you secretly suicidal?”.

Things get bad

Recently, I slid badly and in the process of steadying myself, looked behind to find a man watching me. I think he wanted to pass, but didn’t want to speak to me, so he just stood and waited. My first thought was, “what kind of MAN stands there silent when a WOMAN is falling in front of him?”

This was followed by a shame that hasn’t left me yet and a realization that I need to spend more time working feminism out in my head. I wouldn’t have had the same expectation of another woman. I’ve been conditioned to believe that a man owes me protection and compassion, just because I’m female. Is this equivalent to the way random men feel its normal for them to approach me with a sexual agenda on the streets of Kampala? Or is a society judged by the way it treats its women?

This brings me to the study recently conducted at Makerere which revealed that 6 out of 10 campus girls feel obligated to sleep with a man who has “spent” on her. Sadly, I recognize this impulse. I condemn it in the strongest terms possible.

Chivalry has become a sexist trap. It is “expected” that a man will foot the bill when he’s wooing a woman but today’s guy, when he does this, feels like he’s paying both for the food/gifts and rights to vagina-time. I advise that dates be subjected to thorough discussion beforehand. Who is paying? Why? What are the expectations of both partners? Relationships need to be negotiated like business deals.

I struggle with the name of this column (Stiletto Point) because of the shade it casts on my content. Before reading me, people assume that I only write about ‘cute’ and sparkly, ‘girly’ things.

It also attracts weirdos.

At a party one time, a stranger recognized me from Barongo’s excellent caricature. I was happy until he started to complain about how all women writers are irrelevant man haters. This is the moment I should have walked away.
He then said that women are not equal to men in the workplace because they’re less productive due to periods and maternal leave. An argument ensued but I soon realized it was useless and proceeded to order cocktails and to point the waitress in his direction. Small victories.

Women’s bodies are not considered their own. Abortion isn’t frowned upon because fetuses are being denied the right to life. If that were the case, children would not be denied the right to life everywhere around us! Hunger, war, apathy and abuse has done more damage than abortion ever will. We’re perceived as baby-ovens and not human beings with the right to be selfish with our space, bodies and finances. All the rabid pro-lifers in Uganda  need to dedicate more energy into healing those broken, irresponsible, badly-brought up men who yell “Kill it!” at confused, scared and emotional women. Let’s start with that.

Feminism is a cry for social change by people who are fed up of being abused and treated like half-humans because of the sex they were born into. I need feminism and so do you.

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The politics of clothes

I recently read the stories of two young women from Delhi who were brutally gang raped.  They’re both dead now. The 17-year-old committed suicide because of how the police officers handled her case. Apparently, she was told to settle the matter peacefully with her assailants and to marry one of them. I am paraphrasing heavily, so I hope have the gist of it right.

The way I feel reminds me of how shaken I was when Daily Monitor ran a story about how one Ronald Kibuule told youths in Masaka that a law was in the pipeline which would regulate the way women dress. The purpose of this is to avoid rape, apparently.

What utter bum-rash.

From when we are small, we are told in age-appropriate ways that men are sex-crazed dogs that will catch and ‘spoil’ us if we’re not careful. We are also told to view the lecherous comments of men on the street as compliments. Our society is stuck in a mind frame where the body of a woman is hers until a man wants it, and then he can pick from a plethora of justifications for his actions.

This is why a boda man, a wheelbarrow pusher, a douchebag in his SUV all will, without a second thought, comment on what a lady is wearing and if she slaps or spits words of disgust at him, watchers will judge and call her “unladylike”. What do people think? That we women walk around with big shields around our emotions that keep us unaffected by these stupid comments? What kind of society is more inclined to defend a sexual predator and to blame my clothes for his sins against my dignity?

Please. Let’s not get it twisted. Rape existed before the miniskirt. It exists in societies where women are culturally required to cover most of their skin. It exists in societies where people celebrate their nakedness. It exists in Kampala that is a mix of many cultures. A rapist is a rapist and he doesn’t need a trigger to rape.

My miniskirt and low-cut blouse will no doubt cause arousal, but my society should be women-friendly enough to recognize that a man who looks at me and thinks, “must force into sex now” is a devil that deserves the strongest punishment.

Feel free to judge a woman on every other level for wearing what you call ‘skimpy’, but for heaven’s sake do not insinuate that a man who rapes her is justified on any level.

I leave you with two stories. A little friend of mine, all of eight years old, was ‘squeezed’ against her will by a group of boys during a school party. They surrounded her and touched her all over. Now they aren’t adults, but recognize that it is the mindset with which they are being brought up that makes them believe it is normal, even funny to do such a thing. Oh. And she was wearing a big dress with lots of petticoats.

The other story is my own. I was in senior 5, on my way from school. I was wearing school uniform, a grey skirt and a grey sweater. As I was stepping out of the taxi, I felt a weird pressure at breast level. When I looked down,  I found the finger of the now-amused and leering conductor rubbing against my sweater.  I wanted to vomit on his face, cry and to bemusedly comment about it to my friend, all at the same time but ended up not doing any of these things.

This man did not fondle me because of the way I was dressed. He did it because he was a disgusting and disrespectful human being.

Be ashamed, greatly ashamed if you believe that clothes cause rape. You wouldn’t think the same if women began raping men and then insisting that it is their fault for looking so ravishing in trousers.

Look at her! Her joy is encouraging rape! Her knees are sending me a message. They are screaming rape me! Mssswww

Look at her! Her joy is encouraging rape! Her knees are sending rapists a message. They are screaming rape me! Mssswww.