Random Thoughts

#16. Midweek Reflections

I’m thinking about everything that has happened on social media over the past 7 weeks or so. You know, when Pepper Dems Ministries came over and basically forced us all to put up or shut up when it comes to gender issues in Ghanaian society.

I’ve learnt so many lessons from what has occurred on Facebook to diverse personalities. Let me share some of them:

  1. If you have an agenda to push, pray (if you’re a Christian), plan, research, get your core squad, then DO IT. JUST DO IT. Don’t mind anyone, speak your truth, and keep on speaking it until you get your message across.
  2. You are not on this earth to be liked by everyone but to fulfill your purpose. On your way to fulfilling your purpose you will piss A LOT of people off; people you love and admire and people you don’t give a fuck about. It doesn’t matter; keep on speaking it.
  3. Social media keeps receipts. Facebook keeps receipts. This is a very important lesson I learnt by watching certain events unfold in slow motion before my eyes on my news feed. It was like watching a train wreck; horrifying to witness but too compelling to turn away from. If you think you can bully, denigrate, insult, engage in blatant discrimination and spout venomous diatribe and then, when you literally ‘meet your meter,’ you want to play victim, Facebook will remind you that IT HAS NOT FORGOTTEN. People you don’t know from countries you have not heard about will write about you and quote you back the shit you spewed on previous threads. If you want to maintain your peace of mind and some semblance of a brand beyond social media, keep your nose clean and pick your fights wisely. Let me repeat:  FACEBOOK DOES NOT FORGET. FACEBOOK KEEPS RECEIPTS. Ayoooo.
  4. If your driving purpose on this earth is to troll other people’s pages then claim subs/insults as your personal property then take snapshots to gain some sort of sympathy on your personal page…see point 4, pray for forgiveness and amend your ways. REPENT BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE LORD! Facebook judgement day ain’t a joke people! Facebook keeps ALL the receipts.
  5. If you see a movement growing and gaining traction and you don’t agree with it, Google what the issue is about first. For the love of God, Black Jesus and the Sweet Holy Spirit…Google it first.Engage on a level of intellect and decorum. Be original and creative; have goals, a vision, a mission and a unique hashtag that is not a rip-off.
  6. And whilst I’m at it, let me chip in that if you want to argue on ideological differences please, Grammarly App is still free. If you’re an unrepentant grammar snob (like yours truly) then it’s essential to respond to crisp English with crisp English. If you’re comfortable writing in pidgin, go and find another person’s wall to argue on. Unless of course you want your argument to be reduced to having your statements marked and edited. (You know what, forget this point. Stay on the page and argue with your pidgin English. The Petty La Belles will love to have you around so they can correct your grammar with one hand and argue with you on the other hand. Yes, I have seen this happen too. I was hollering after reading a thread like this. Picture me, in my office, hollering and crying. It wasn’t pretty but I didn’t care cos it was so darn funny.)
  7. If you’re on the wrong side of history, don’t be selfish and drag people into it. Really. Just be wrong all be yourself. You’re not Jesus and this is not the Great Commission. Okay? Just chill.

Of course it’s only Wednesday morning in the middle of October 2017 and I’m sure by the end of the week more issues will crop up with more lessons for me to learn. When that happens, trust me, I’ll update y’all 😉

But until then, more love, blessings, rich coffee…and fresh pepper.

 

P.S: The leadership of Pepper Dem Ministries were invited to a meeting with the Information Minister, a Muslim man who identifies as a bold, unapologetic gender activist. When a prominent member of government and a prolific Muslim endorses your movement, you know you must be doing something right. Let me buy a bigger blender; the pepper we grind must be done on a larger scale for a larger audience 😉

PDM MEETS THE MINISTER

 

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Figuring Out Feminism

An introduction and a disclaimer

Everybody’s feminism journey is different. Mine started as a quietly growing unease  that is growing into fully fledged rebellion at situations and scenarios that are unpalatable and in direct conflict with Ghana’s image of itself as a hospitable country that respects its citizens.

Unless, of course, I’ve been wrong about this country all along.

My feminist education has been in leaps and spurts –  20 years of nagging my mother about cultural practices I didn’t understand; followed by one intense semester of Gender 101 with Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo (one of Ghana’s most famous communication experts and a staunch feminist); followed by  fallow periods of nothingness but reading Ms Magazine and asking God why Hilary didn’t win the US elections.

But on a more personal note,  I saw how girls, young women,married and single women and older women are treated in Ghanaian society and it made me pause. There’s something quietly cruel about putting someone down based purely on their gender- and then expecting the woman to swallow it and accept it because…culture.

So to help me understand what feminism is especially within a Ghanaian and African  context and especially as a Catholic woman who has questions about her faith, I’m starting this blog to encourage dialogue between you, dear reader, and myself. All comments are welcome; let’s talk about gender stereotypes,toxic narratives and learn a thing or two about breaking down the walls of patriarchy and inequality one brick at a time.

 

I’m ready when you are.

Random Thoughts

#15. All hail the #PepperDemMinistries!

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I want you to pepper dem for me.”

The words of a friend of mine who had just told me of her horrific experience of being raped at the hands of a youth pastor. For the first twenty minutes, our conversation had swung between the extremes of shock, anger, then stifling back tears of rage. (That was me, trying not to break down over the phone as she shared her ordeal. I’m my mother’s daughter; I don’t believe in crying more than the bereaved)

After promising to help her with a psychologist and a lawyer, I asked her what I could do for her and she said “I want you to pepper dem for me.”

I was stunned briefly, then I chuckled hoarsely and promised I would do just that.

A month ago, who would have thought that the #PepperDemMinistries, a group of feisty young women who were fed up with the toxic patriarchal gender narratives in Ghanaian society and decided to advocate for its change in the most innovative way possible – would succeed? But they did, they ARE and it’s creating an avenue for very honest conversations about gender stereotypes in Ghana.

First, they hilariously #FlippedTheScript and replaced the word ‘men’ with some of the inane comments uttered about women. For example – women are their own enemies. When one renowned broadcaster intentionally unintentionally threw shade at his male counterpart on Facebook, the offended party took advantage of the editorial segment of the TV show he hosts to rant about his colleagues’ actions. (I didn’t watch the episode myself but from descriptions, Paul Adom-Otchere bitched worse than I do on day 3 of my period.)

PAO

#PepperDemMinistries had a field day; with the hashtag #menaretheirownenemies flooding newsfeeds. And when that died down, then Afia Schwarzenegger and her husband (or was he ex at the time?) and their marital woes spilled out of their house and into the streets of Facebook. And #PepperDemMinistries came to the fore again with truly witty pieces that reflected the shallow way Ghanaian society regards women by putting men as the subject matter.

They did this for two weeks whilst I had an internal dialogue as to whether to fully commit to the movement or not. Hey, this was a big decision for me; I’ve always believed in human rights but to decide that I am a fearless, shameless, fierce AF, arrogant, God-fearing feminist wasn’t a decision I could make lightly.

But eventually I did. And why? Because I saw the cracks in the facade of the ‘happy, hospitable Ghanaian culture.’ Because I had felt the sting of being treated as less than because I am a woman. Because I have been pulled into hugs by men I’d rather not touch but I’ve always given in to …what? Appease him because an instinctive part of me is afraid of his reaction if I reject him. Because my mother has warned me on countless occasions that “I can’t speak to a man like that.” I’ve always been resentful of that statement but when I paid attention to the domestic violence narratives, I realised she was trying to protect me : don’t speak to a man like that otherwise you’ll give him grounds to hit you and use your voice as an excuse.

And it’s an excuse that will bat nary an eye. “Oh, she provoked you eh? Don’t mind her, it’s her fault; she should have known better.”

When I opened my eyes wider and saw rural women in Ga East of the Greater Accra region who would only be allowed to buy land if they had their husband or male relative in tow…or how too many pastors and laymen manipulate Ephesians 5 to maintain that the woman should be submissive aka the doormat of the marriage. And even how the sermon at the weddings go – 90% of “woman do this to keep your man happy” and 10% of “my son, call her sweetheart and darling.”

So wifey carries the weight and people will still call her the weaker sex.Seriously?

The hypocrisy was just a bit much and all the lessons Prof. Gadzepko exposed my Gender 101 class to shifted from theory to glaring reality :  the ways adverts, language, politics, movies, songs and the media (among many others)demean women; and how toxic masculine hegemony truly is to both sexes.

Because every script #PDM was flipping was uncomfortably, painfully, annoying true.

The most important negative stereotype  #PDM broke during their first 2 weeks was that of The Ugly, Barren, Single, Lesbian, Bitter, Man-hating Feminist. When I saw their picture the first time I was like…”Wait a damn minute. They look nothing like what people have been describing them!” All of them young, early to mid-30s, some married, some with kids, all career women, and with the craziest sharpest sense of humour I had ever seen. And this I gleaned without having met them yet 🙂 Then when I met them in person during the first Meet-and-Greet, they totally smashed that misconception into the ground.

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That’s when I decided to join, decided to write,  flip scripts,  play with words, join the movement and do my part to change the narrative.

And a month in I have to say…thank you.

Thank you ladies behind #PepperDemMinistries for being  loud, bold, fierce, intelligent, well-read women on social media and beyond. (#WhoHumbleEpp?) Thank you for creating a space for men and women to debate gender issues candidly and passionately. Thank you for accepting everybody – men and women, Christian, Muslim, Atheist and Still-Trying-To-Figure-It-Out. Thank you for honouring the rage behind the stories. Thank you for not judging. Thank you for collecting all the receipts and not leaving any woman or man behind. Thank you for laughing out loud at people who don’t understand and who won’t learn. Thank you for being Flat-Out Fabulous. Thank you for accepting me into your tribe; as a baby feminist I think #PepperDemsMinistries is the perfect incubator 🙂

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In a month you’ve gotten recognition from famous feminists and gender advocates, Ministers have applauded you and movie directors and actresses are hailing you.

And most importantly – thank you for giving my friend (and countless others like her who would have suffered in silence), the strength to fight on, knowing there’s a whole army of women and men who have her back.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I promised my friend to #Pepper that arsehole and his organisation so I gotta get started whilst the pepper is still fresh.

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Random Thoughts

#12.  ‘Rasheeda’ + ‘Anita Erskine’ + ‘Boko haram feminists’

Just some of the terms that have been floating around ever since Rasheeda aka Rasheeda Black Beauty accidentally released her nude video. I haven’t watched that video but I have not been immune from the vitriol she has faced over it.

My two cents on her video are as follows:

RASHEEDA BLACK BEAUTY

Chile, what in the hell were you thinking? (say it in a Southern Black Woman’s voice) Did you think you were Kim-bloody-Kardashian with a mama called Kris Jenner who can spin any old crap into a money making venture? Did you think you were a white American and your whiteness would shield you from public ridicule and disgrace?? Okay – let me just ask, were you thinking about this at all?

Now that that rant is out of the way I will proceed.

People make mistakes, bad ones, terrible ones; and with my history of fuck-ups I am the wrong person to be throwing stones. But the difference between us is that I have been lucky enough not to have my stupid shit recorded and then shared thousands of times across social media platforms.

I’ve been very lucky.

And you dear Rasheeda have not.

But I like your attitude though; the way you bounced back and apologised via social media to your fans and supporters (#teamRasheeda/#malafakasquad) and (for the most part) we have forgiven you.

And to show how much we’ve forgiven you we’ve delegated one of our finest sisters to extend an olive branch to you to see how she can help you channel all your latent passion into something more useful.

THE ANITA ERSKINE

Enter the second trending name of the week – The Anita Erskine. Internationally renowned radio and TV  personality, MC extraordinaire, brand ambassador and all-round nice person; Anita reached out and did what hordes of teeming Ghanaians failed to do – she extended a hand of friendship, love and support to a young girl who made a bad decision and was in need of some guidance. And she did it using what John C Maxwell calls the ‘velvet covered brick approach’. She wrapped up her criticism and disappointment with Rasheeda with a warm sheen of affirmative words.

And why did she choose that approach ladies and gentlemen? Because  honey still catches more flies than vinegar.

Which leads to the third and perhaps most controversial term I have encountered due to this incident – boko haram feminist.

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This is a term used by award winning journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni to describe feminists who he describes as extreme in their thinking, liking them to extreme Christians or fundamentalist Islamists. In his blog piece, he added Anita Erskine to his lump sum definition of boko haram feminists because she chose to stand in the gap and offer support to a 16-year-old instead of standing on the sidelines and condemning her for her actions.

After reading Anita’s letter, Manasseh’s blog piece and a similar piece written by Austin Brako Powers, I realised that the two gentlemen had taken Anita out of context and misunderstood her stance. Which I suppose is a fair conclusion because it’s quite a nuanced letter and one would have to read it with a very empathetic pair of glasses to fully grasp the import of what Anita was offering.

And then there was the term ‘boko haram feminist’. Seriously? What the actual hell?

Sigh…….

Of course I lost my temper when I read it but I was at work and couldn’t flare up the way I wanted to; so I stewed on it for a while. And whilst pondering over it I asked myself – and really, what is so wrong about being extreme in your beliefs? The Bible says explicitly that God can’t tolerate lukewarm Christians – you are either hot or cold; if you’re in the middle He’ll spit you out.

And really, come to think of it, how many causes or battled were won (or lost) by being moderately aggressive?

Was it the fight against segregation in the USA? Nope

How about the fight against apartheid in South Africa? Nee man.

Or the right for women to vote? Yep, there was some fighting there.

Or the fight for Ghana’s independence? Self rule now over self rule in the shortest possible time?

In every single instance mentioned off the top of my head, the battle was fought and eventually won by extremists; people who took a stand and sacrificed everything in order for it to come to pass. Some gave up their lives for ideals they could only dream their children will experience in their lifetimes.

Yes, there are crazy, sadistic extremists who have brought nothing but pain to the world; but for the most part, our world as we know it, the freedoms we (especially Black people) enjoy, is only because our forebears fought with ‘boko haramic’ intensity for them to come to pass.

So – that being said, who is a boko haram feminist?

Well, in my estimation, a boko haram feminist is one who has decided that equality between the sexes is a do-or-die affair for him or her and will not stop until it comes to pass. S(h)e has decided that the life s(h)e is living and the challenges s(h)e is facing are not challenges s(h)e wants their child to face. A decision was made, a line was drawn in the sand, and the resolve was set and the armour was strapped on.

No more…. there has to be a change….. we have to find a way to make the change.

And its through the work of the extreme feminists behind us that so many reforms have taken place and more and more women are breaking through the glass ceiling.

It’s time for all of us to leave no body behind – whether she’s a science and maths genius or a 16-year-old thrust into fame via social media.

There’s room enough for all of us to grow, blossom and shine.

Leave no one behind.

Random Thoughts

#10. Feminism does not mean defending the bad decisions women make

…….and other bubbles about feminism that need to be burst

 

Every time a powerful woman missteps this comment creeps out, “Well, it seems the feminists are doing a bad job.” Or “better not comment else the feminists will get you” or “Just wait, the Facebook feminists will jump on it and attack you right now.”

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This is Ghana in the 21st century and folks still don’t know that feminism is defined as a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to such opportunities for men?? (Definition courtesy Mary E. Hawkesworth)

But how is that even possible? For such a contentious issue in Ghana’s media space, it’s confusing/annoying/amusing to me that many still don’t know this.

And my confusion/annoyance/amusement hits the roof when incidents like the following happen:

  • When the 2017 edition of the National Maths and Science Quiz ended with Prempeh College taking the trophy again, people asked “Why hasn’t a girls school won yet? I guess the feminists are not doing their job well.”
  • Or when MP for Dome Kwabenya stood before a cross section of her constituents and lied that she was responsible for the financing a senior high school in her constituency,  some people  “Some are saying the way she is being trolled on social media is above and beyond what male politicians go through. And some gender activists are saying this will discourage women from participating in politics. Hmm, it seems that I don’t know what feminism is about.”

 

And when it happens like that, I don’t know whether to scream or cuss or bang my head against a wall and keep banging until my brain is numb. Or maybe I should stop checking my Facebook; that way I won’t read these comments and get so heated up.

But all this theatrics goes on in my imagination. In reality, I take a deep breath and take every one of these instances as a learning opportunity and proceed to educate my friends.

I start with defining feminism and then explaining why their argument is so asinine ignorant.

Let’s start with the NMSQand the fact that a girls school is yet to win it : for years that trophy basically lived on Presec, Legon campus; the boys have a formula for winning that starts from form 1 and they have honed it over the years. The girls schools simply need to master the combination of book smarts, application under pressure and confidence to handle any question thrown at you before a crowd of several thousand (plus those who follow on social media)Performing at NMSQ is akin to public speaking – it takes skill and a warrior mindset and the ability to focus under pressure.

As for Adwoa Safo’s case…di33333….she did what all politicians do – she lied to her people to make herself look good because Congress is up soon and she needs to garner her support base. But then she got caught on someone’s smartphone; and he/she shared the information and now…..#Safolie is trending on social media with some of the most ridiculous and amusing quotes ever. My favourite is still this one:

ADWOA SAFO

 

Notice in both those situations my belief in women’s rights and gender equality didn’t factor in at all?

But somehow, with some learned people on Facebook, this was not the case. Somehow feminists and the feminism movement are somehow implicated in there…..somewhere.

Sigh.

So just to be clear – feminism is not about defending or supporting women who make irresponsible decisions; it’s about fighting disparities between the genders.

We good?