#15. All hail the #PepperDemMinistries!
“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.)
#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.
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 🙂
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.