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

#13.  Gay Marriage….and how to love your neighbour as yourself 😉

I’m a Ghanaian, living in Ghana and I love it. I have lived in a couple other countries and I still prefer to be Ghanaian living in Ghana than anything else in the world. But sometimes the way we behave and think makes me feel like I’m living in a banana republic and the monkeys are eating all the bloody fruit. And the fruit is laced with high grade marijuana.

I wasn’t going to talk about the gay marriage between the former School prefect of Achimota College and his Canadian partner; I really wasn’t. Beyond wishing them a happy marriage and praying for them, I didn’t see it as any big thing to write about.

Of course I was wrong; I had forgotten my geographic location. I’m a Ghanaian living in Ghana and I should have known that the gay wedding of a former Akora will garner more media attention than the fact that there are news reports of at least two police men who raped young women in Accra. And social media did not disappoint – there’s plenty of diatribe about it on my Facebook feed to annoy the shit out of me.

And since I can’t keep all that annoyance to myself, here, dear Reader, is your share.

If/ when my internet stops acting dodgy, this is what I’ll post:

Dear Steve and your husband,

 

Congrats on getting married and thank God you remained true to who you are. Thanks to your honesty, you’re happily married to a man and not to a woman, making her life and yours miserable because you can never have a fulfilling sex life with her and because you would inevitably cheat on her and make matters worse. And assuming you actually did have sex and she conceived, what a nightmare. Bringing a child into a loveless marriage is a form of child abuse we don’t like to talk about here because we like to pretend that it’s really not as bad as it sounds.

And thank God for your mother who stood by you and loved you and respected your decision to live your truth. How many more homosexuals would live honestly and sincerely and not wreck homes and marriages if they had mothers like her? Honestly, your mother deserves a sainthood.

GAY MARRIAGE II

And to all saying homosexuality is a disease and it’s a manifestation of sexual abuse or sexual disorder, let’s clear this up : the American Psychiatric Association expunged homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM-II 41 years ago. (DSM stands for  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and it offers a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. Long and short – to psychiatrists and psychologists it’s the Bible) I understand that some leading psycho-analysts have some studies on that but that’s 20th century psychology. We’re in the 21st century and those studies have been disputed.

Secondly, although there are cases of boys turning to homosexuality after being sodomised, that is a smaller percentage than boys being born homosexual and knowing from an early age that they were different.

Thirdly, feeling sorry for homosexuals isn’t the solution because homosexuality isn’t a problem. It’s a sexual orientation. The problem is the hatred and antagonism against the homosexuals and the umbrella LGBQT community. Pity has solved nothing in this world; if you want to feel any emotion, feel empathy, feel compassion, try for understanding and humility  and for heavens sake – try for some KINDNESS. They aren’t monsters with pointy ears and scales, they are people. Men and women whose sexual orientation is different from yours doesn’t make them less than you or you better than them.

And to my Christian brothers and sisters running themselves hoarse shouting about abomination etc etc – the Bible is very clear about plucking out the log in your eye first before removing the speck from another’s; as well as fighting for your salvation with fear and trembling. How far with that brethren and sisthren in the Lord? Have you plucked out the log yet before looking for someone’s speck? Do you know where you’re going when you die? Have you made it right with God? Are you in right standing with the Almighty?

Mmmmhmmmmm. Don’t worry – I’ve got all day, I can wait.

And in the meantime, does anyone have some champagne to spare? I do love a glass of bubbly at weddings ❤

GAY MARRIAGE

Throwing Political Tantrums

#13. Of Whiners and Whinees

Ghana’s Deputy Trade Minister Robert Ahomka Lindsay cannot understand why expat Ghanaians bitch and moan so much when they return to Ghana. He can’t stand the “Oh my gosh, it’s so hot” “Oh my gosh, the roads are terrible” “Oh my word, why don’t we have electricity?” “There’s no water running from the taps” and most annoyingly….don’t hit him with the ” Oh my GOD, nothing works in this bloody country. It took me 7 days to get something small done that could have taken me 20 minutes in London/New York/Cape Town/Abidjan.”

It’s not that he doesn’t understand where the expats are coming from since he’s one himself, but he’s been in the system long enough so he knows that whining about the crap doesn’t solve any problems.

And, being the diplomatic genius he is, he decided to tell a gathering of several hundred participants at a gathering of Ghanaian expats during the recently held Diaspora homecoming summit.

Pity he used the word ‘whining’; he could have made a real hit if he hadn’t come across as such an insufferable ass.

Yes, what I said is offensive but it’s no where near as offensive as being told that the issues and challenges I face as an expat in my country is me ‘whining’ like a little bitch who has nothing bettet to do with her time.

Seriously, if you live in Europe or America or (closer to home) South Africa for any stretch of time, it takes an enormous amount of love to pack up and move back home because…..nothing works the way you expect it to. Ever.

One of my cousins who is a trained nurse living in the UK wants to move back so badly she’s chewing her finger nails off. But she can’t because when she submits her CV to the Ministry of Health they give her the run around. And they’ve been giving her the go-come, go-come treatment for months now.

And it’s not like we’re bursting from the seams with trained nurses….but it seems no one wants to help her out without a little something lining their pockets first.

Moving to Accra after years abroad is not a huge a culture shock because of the influx of cafes and coffee shops and shopping malls. But there are still some things that take a whole to get used to.

Like unreliable Internet. Imagine running a business that depends almost entirely on the Internet and you can’t access your site because your ISP doesn’t have service where you live. And not that you live in Kasoa or something; you live in Dansoman.

Or how about moving back in June and realising that when it rains everything moves 20 times slower than it did before (which means for some places, nothing is happening. Rainy day = holiday)

Don’t get me started on Ghana Man Time which is legendary; now we tell people the event happens an hour before it actually does so we can guarantee that they’ll be there at least 20 minuts or 30 minutes into the event.

Traffic in Accra can be horrendous; in no small part due to the narrow roads and the pothole -riddled roads. Shoddy road construction is an art form in this part of the world.

And don’t get me started on the peeing; in Accra men think every other gutter is their toilet and happily relieve themselves when the urge strikes. In fairness, many women do too; but they tend to be more discreet. The guys on the other hand? Find the nearest tree or gutter, zip down, look around briefly then handle their business. When they’re done, they shake Big Willy and lock him away til further notice. If you lived in a city with available public toilets, all this free-range peeing will get on your last nerve.

Don’t get me wrong; to be an expat is a grand adventure for the most part but most of us agree that Ghana(our beloved country) could do so much better.

And that’s why we fly back, leave behind the trappings of another person’s development and come to figure out which role we can play in making sure Ghana gets to where we all need her to be – strong institutions, vibrant economy, African powerhouse.

And if we tell our leaders our complaints about a system that is basically a clusterfuck of poor planning and ad hoc decision-making, and they tell us “stop whining. ….nobody likes a whiner” we’ll decide whether to stay or travel back to where systems work, my ‘whining’ is addressed and the skill set that took us many years to acquire and  earns 10 or 15 times more money than we  would make  in Ghana

And if you think the diasporans are simply complaining……imagine if it was a summit for Western European investors and they enumerated the samended concerns the diasporans did. Would they be informed that “nobody likes whiners. Stop whining” ?

No.

He would have known how to frame his words like someone who was raised by parents and not by wolves.

Naniama kadankada.

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:

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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?

 

Natural Hair Minute

#1. Yaay! Wash day!

Define freedom.

Freedom for me is when I release my cornrows after keeping them for three weeks. That feeling when fresh air passes through each strand of hair; the thick curls that form from doing LOC consistently; the joy that comes from holding my hair out and examining my ends and deciding dispassionately that yes, my split ends situation is getting better and yes, I will trim them anyway.

 

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And then there’s washing my afro hair that I call Ohemaa. There’s something magical about washing those thick coily tresses; soaking them in water; lathering up with my bottled alata semina shampoo of choice before deep conditioning it with my honey-infused conditioner. Then wrapping it up in a shower cap and towel for 30 minutes, rinsing out, trimming the split ends then threading my hair or braiding it whilst I figure out what next to do with it.

I love wash days……especially when I do it on Saturday when I can wash and get other things done like cook and do laundry and clean my house. (Yes, I’m a feminist who’s a domestic goddess. If this offends you, take matches and start burning the sea)

And in Accra I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to products because, as one of my friends pointed out to me, the natural hair movement is strong here.

A lesson I picked up from washing my hair on Wednesday was this : I am waay more patient with my hair than I am with any other aspect with my life. I tried perm rod curls which ruined my ends and left them weak and so damaged that I didn’t just trim them – I had to chop off at least an inch. In fact, it was a very sad distin. 😦

But its been almost a month since that event and I’m gradually seeing my hair get back to its previous large halo style. I don’t stress myself out when my hair doesn’t grow quickly because I know that it doesn’t grow long, but it does grow thick.

I don’t compare my hair to other textures because Ohemaa and I have come to the understanding that we’re not in competition with anyone for any reason. Natural hair is a marathon not a sprint.

I don’t suffer bouts of hair envy although I am surrounded by women with beautiful afro tresses – my sister Tricia number 1. Her hair reaches middle of her back after a two inch trim. Somehow Ohemaa and I have reached that point were we don’t project our hair insecurities on the people around us.

After a minute of reflection, I realised it won’t kill me to apply some of these principles to my life – don’t envy, be patient, love regardless, focus on what’s important and don’t be that woman who projects her issues onto others and then plays the victim card. (That’s not a cute look)

It’s been 24 hours since I made this decision and to be honest, it’s been tough, but so far, so very very good.

xoxox

 

Random Thoughts

#4 : Me and my ‘overrated feminism’

Feminism – 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.

Feminist – one who ascribes to feminism.

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It all started with a picture on Facebook. A good friend of mine and former University of Ghana classmate posted a picture of a young woman smoking (what looked like) shisha and getting her groove on at a club. Not a particularly unique pose. But his caption though “This one too wants to be a mother someday”; that caught my attention.

And my blood immediately boiled over and steam poured out of my ears. I was tempted to wave it off; after all he’s the same friend who posted about women who look like Alicia Keys on Facebook and Wiyaala in real life (and I still can’t believe that he didn’t understand when I pointed out to him that his comparison was insulting). I didn’t want to get into it with him again. But I scrolled through the comments and found my friend Affi telling him to ‘get of his judgment throne.’

I couldn’t just leave Affi there all by herself; I had to pitch in. Otherwise who knows what other drivel would have followed to invalidate her comment. (Or try to. Have you met Affi? Her voice is soft but her skin is thick)

So I asked him that there are men in the club who are fathers, so what’s the point of his argument? From that point the discussion degenerated with him telling me my ‘overrated feminist posture’ made me lose the point.

In hindsight I should have asked him: ‘Do you think your mother was a saint before she gave birth to you?’

That would have shut down the conversation and brought out all the ironic male idol-worshipping of their mothers which doesn’t relate to women who are not mothers.

But that’s a conversation for another day.

BLACK FEMINISM

People like to use the term feminism as a cuss word or an insult or a slur; especially if you’re a single woman who happens to be a feminist. In that scenario, you are the one people warn their married female friends about. Here are some examples :

“Don’t talk to her because she’ll advise you to demand your rights, fight with your husband and leave him. You know she’s jealous of you right? And the fact that you’re married?” So yeah don’t speak to your feminist friend; stay in your marriage were your husband beats the black off you every other day, then uses your money and has the gall to have sex with women half his age and get angry with you when you confront him on it. Don’t listen to your feminist friend, cos clearly she’s jealous of your ideal home life.

“If you’re in a relationship and your man is acting up, don’t listen to your feminist friend who will tell you to speak up for yourself and demand some accountability. Because she’s single and clearly jealous of your relationship and wants you to join her in Single Sister Land.”

“When you’re married you have to juggle house and home and the kids. And remember, your husband is your first child, he needs all the attention. So get ready to cook and clean and wash after him and the kids and manage your career and still look 22 otherwise a real 22 year old will snatch your husband away. And just because you work a 12 hour shift doesn’t mean you can’t stop what you’re doing and make the man a meal. Because you’re his wife. And please don’t listen to your feminist friend who tells you you’re not a pack mule and it’s okay to ask for help and ask your husband to help. Because if you do, hell, he might just do it.”

“Eish, you people should take it easy with this feminist thing oh. Otherwise your husbands will beat you.”

“You know my Reverend says that feminists are disrespectful and …don’t respect their husbands.”

These and so many others I hear from men and women and each of them have first degrees from sterling universities, some have masters, others run their own businesses, one I almost dated. People who I feel should know better.

And why?

Because I’m a Ghanaian woman who believes that other women should not be discriminated against and should be given equal opportunity and equal recognition for what they do.

And because I’m a Ghanaian woman who lives in a very patriarchal society, it is somehow an anomaly for me to want to believe that a society where men and women are treated as equals is impossible.

Question – why do so many people assume that to be a feminist means you have to be single and female? The feminists that I admire and look up to are married with children and careers. The first people who encouraged me to excel in my career and not worry about anything anybody says were men. Looking back, I realise how fortunate I am to have men as well as married women who are feminists to guide me to this path.

And yes, they are all Ghanaians. Each and every one of them.

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So why is being a feminist a badge of honour for some and a dirty word for others? Is it because feminists are always trying to right a wrong? Is it because we always look angry with steam coming out of our ears at the masculine hegemonic bullshit posturing that we’re exposed to on a daily basis? Is it because for every success women chalk up, for every victory against discrimination there’s an incident of patriarchy that makes us realise there’s still so much work to be done? So much education that needs to be done?

Well, whatever the reason, I’m not giving up my place in the fight for a society that respects women as highly as it respects men, one which recognizes the contribution of women to society’s development and one which treats women and men as equals.

And if you don’t like it, take a deep breath, grab your matches and go and burn the sea.