Radio Africa chief marketing officer Caroline Mutoko wrote a shocking but excellently inspiring letter to all the younger sisters and daughters in Kenya. In the letter where she detailed her lifestyle as a young girl, you might grasp why she is one of the celebrities listed among the 10 Kenyan celebrities who are no-nonsense takers as well as the reasons why she is still single. In her words:
The “Mollis” conversation is tiresome. But it presents us all with an opportunity. We have been given a chance to get to grips with the mind-numbing fact that women are still seen as objects and not as persons. Let me get two things out of the way quickly first — Shame on any and every woman who thought it “cute/bold/butch” to join in the filth side of the conversation. I weep for you. Who happened to you? What did he do to turn you into such a bottom feeder? Womanhood demands that you never throw another woman under the bus, and never publicly. Don’t you ever cry foul if any man who saw your pathetic stance tears into you viciously some day soon. You have called that curse upon yourself.
As for the young men who think women are rubbish, go to your mother and talk that filth — I dare you. Shame on you. However, I think it’s safe to say that you are currently living with a woman who has a constant headache or you are destined to be with one. A small secret from the world of women: no-one has a headache that often. Headache is code for “I’m sick to the gut of you and can’t be bothered with your clueless self today.” There! Now you know.
My column is dedicated to our kid sisters and our young daughters. They who must be so confused, scared and petrified as they watch and read the nasty things we have put on display in the past week.
Dear Kid sis,
As a young woman growing up today, I can’t begin to imagine how confused you must be about what is okay about sex and sexuality and what isn’t. When were you reduced to your crotch, when did we do away with your right as a person with the ability to decide for yourself? It starts in high school, when you are told to do it because, well, everyone is doing it. Sadly, in your teens, you are yet to know what you want or how. Yet the pressure is intense.
You don’t want to, you don’t feel like it, but sadly in that space, you are made to feel like an outcast if you don’t.
Once you buckle under the peer pressure and do it, you hate yourself, you turn the pain and hate inwards and sadly the idea of sex is entrenched as horrible and dreadful in your mind for a long, long time.
If it isn’t the peer pressure then there’s the “he-pressure”. The myths abound: His stomach will hurt, he’ll get blue balls, he will die (like really). I’m glad I had a mother who told me outright that no-one, not a single documented case exists of a man who died because he didn’t have sex with a young girl. Let me fess up kid sis, I wasn’t one to take everything my mum said as gospel truth, but two things worked for me.
My mortal fear of my mum and watching my peers who did do ‘the deed” spiral into despair and worse. I grew up in South B, I can admit today that back then, I envied those girls who the boys preferred because they weren’t “mean”. Back then I was made to feel bad because “Caroline wa Valley Road anatunyima“.
But my envy turned into pity within weeks. Those same boys turned nasty and shunned those same girls within the space of a school term. Those same boys came back to me and said “at least you’re not like her.” Those same boys sniggered and giggled when that girl walked past and hissed at her as she hung her head in shame. Those same boys fled when she got pregnant and joined in the nasty gossip about her in the estate. So maybe I didn’t really listen to Mum, but I watched the world around me keenly and learnt.
Between us, I went to university still a virgin. Looking back, thank goodness I waited.
Having sex is about choice, your choice, your timing, not your friends’ timing or a boy’s timing. This is a lesson you must learn today and carry with you through life.
My little sister, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Forget blue balls and stories about death. Today you live in a scary world, where betrayal is a digital device away. Your choice and your voice must matter. The guy you want to be with in your early 20s is the one who values your consent in every way. This is the guy who would never secretly record you. I’ve said this before, young love shouldn’t hurt. It shouldn’t hurt your head, your heart or your mind.
The primal instinct of any man, any real man, is to protect. Have your ever seen little boys trying to protect their Mums? They can be five years old and they will stand between their mum and perceived danger. It’s instinct. God doesn’t make mistakes — men come wired genetically to protect. The guy you want in your life is the one who seeks to protect your character, to protect your heart and of course your body. When you meet one who doesn’t protect your heart, your mind, your body and your name, your character, run!
Kid sis, I’m not done yet. If you survive university or your college years without having your self-esteem broken into a million little pieces. If you survive those years between 20 and 24 without being reduced to an angry girl who uses a “don’t care” attitude to cover for the hurt inside, then you’re fine.
If you didn’t survive high school or college without that hot anger and pain that makes it almost hard to cry, if you are finally crying as you read this, wipe your tears and make a decision to take back your body. Don’t you know how precious you are? You are a treasure. You are precious. As a woman there is nothing finer than you and what you have to offer when you are whole. Kingdoms have crumpled at the feet of women, thrones and titles have been abdicated for women, wars have been fought over women my dear girl — that’s how valuable you are.
I see you reading this, thinking “Me? Precious?” Yes, you.
Baby girl, we have done you wrong as women and men of a certain generation. We have given you the impression that you are worth nothing. We have given you shocking double speak. We seek to empower you in talk shops and seminars, yet we tell you that you can’t make a decision about your life, your thoughts or your body.
It’s criminal. The narrative we have given you is nasty. The messages we have sent you are not just confusing, they are detrimental:
- You must be thin — but you need a big behind to go with that. Men like big butts.
- You must be very sexy — but don’t be a slut.
- You must want to have sex — your feelings or say is totally irrelevant.
- You must be promiscuous but not slutty — If you sleep around we’ll call you names. If you don’t we’ll still call you names. Go figure!
- You must show off your body; men want to see it — but be prepared to be called a slut and be objectified by everyone including other women.
- You must be available to men — all men. Small runny nose types with weak limbs and croaking types the age of your grandfather. But note, we will spit at you for it all the same. However, if you choose not to be available, we will call you names and shame you into being a slut.
- You must accept advancements made by men — doesn’t matter who they are. Watchies, cab drivers, makangas, your juniors at work. Accept and be happy. There’s an ugly chick not getting any attention. Your decision and your consent are irrelevant.
- You must learn how to manipulate clothing to improve your breasts and ass. Men need something to look at. Why are you being mean? But please note, we will penalize you for it. We will put all your achievements down to your tits and ass.
- You must give up your interests, your ambitions and even your opinions to be an object of desire.
- However be warned, that after we have reduced you to a ‘thin-big butt-slut-in-sexy-attire who is promiscuous and to whom all and any advances can be made to. Once we have reduced you to nothing but a joke and a meme, we expect you to be a great mother.
But there is hope. All is not lost. Look through social media and you’ll see that the people speaking loudest against the objectifying of women are men. Men of your generation. Men under 35. The majority of men over 35 who dare to state that women are precious are ridiculed by women (gasp) and a few wimpish males who aren’t worth the air they breathe.
Through the clutter of nasty conflicting sexualised messages out there, you know where true north is. Seek it. Follow it.
If you remember nothing else, know this: If your life means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself. No-one can.