Mantalk: Dear men, whoever said you have a right over a woman’s body, lied


Your silence is stabbing someone’s back. Literally, and figuratively.

Photo credit: Pexel

What you need to know:

  • You know in your circle that man who makes lewd jokes about sleeping with children, those who flavour the different versions of masculinity—“alpha,” “beta,” “incels”—treading on shaky, ever-shifting ground, an active volcano rumbling in the distance.

To be completely honest, I was planning on writing about something else. I had promised you a positive article, something for the optimists and those who read palms (or work at KRA) — stay on the lookout for that one. Coming soon.

But not right now.
You see right now…I can only think about one thing. If we are being really honest? This is not a great time to be a young woman in Kenya. Scratch that, this is not a great time to be a woman in Kenya.

Read: Mantalk: Where did all the young men go to?
Over the past few weeks, media outlets have been refreshing their feeds with news over femicides—the deliberate killing of women—here, there, almost everywhere. Just this past week, after the untimely death of Starlet Wahu in a short-term lease apartment, barely four days later, another lady was found chopped up in Kasarani, with her head missing. And that’s in Nairobi alone.
I am wary of turning this into a he-said, she-said think piece because the truth is somewhere in the middle: Killing is wrong, gender notwithstanding. And I have a hunch that it is mostly men committing these crimes, and I put it to you that we as men don’t call out each other enough. We men don’t hold our brethren accountable. We men are the reason women fear us.
Here’s a true story: Two weeks ago, I was travelling to Nanyuki via public transport. I am generally an impatient person and the time the matatu would take to get full wasn’t auguring well with my itinerary. What would Jesus do?

As any Kenyan knows, we love shortcuts, and I had some whimsical ancient wisdom to back it up: ‘When you start to walk on the way, the path appears.’ The path appeared alright, in the form of this turnboy, asking if I was in a hurry to Nanyuki (yes), and if would I be willing to pay 100 bob extra (yes) if the car was fast and the passengers were fewer (definitely yes!).

Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, he took me to this private Toyota Wish car that was parked at the edge of Accra Rd, and told me that Kenyan thing that every Kenyan has learnt to detect with their innate sensor: “Hii gari imebaki mmoja tu iende!”
Inside, however, were three well-built men with faces harder than the economy.

My internal surveillance immediately went off. Was it their manner, fidgety yet menacing? Was it the fact that it was an all-men car, but they didn’t have the weariness of travellers? It must have been their eyes, dark like there’s no one home.

Suffice it to say, I channelled my inner Rosa Parks, “Nah!”; told them “Si you let me pick a soda for this long journey, nitanunua one litre so we share. Naenda hivi nakam.” I think they are still waiting—for the soda because they will never see me.
Men, in general, are scary creatures. From childhood, we are trained to fear men. That old century philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli said it is better to be feared than loved. Remember when our dads would storm into the house, and everyone including the rats would scamper away in dread? I wouldn’t want that for my children.

A presence that instils fear. There is an unnerving obsession with men wanting to be feared conflating that with respect. You want your name to ring in people’s brains. That terror equals good. Gentleness equals bad. That might be sexy in Russian tsars and commando movies, but out here in the real world, it is revolting.

How did we get here?

Because of the same reason you are reading this article: You hope—nay expect—me to point and say this is the motive, these are the people killing and this is why. And while that will be simplism at best, I am a relentless preacher in the desert, that this is a matter of personal responsibility.

First, security starts with you. To tell our girls that meeting with a stranger in a secluded area is risky if not careless. And before you start throwing the stones, to turn the mirror and tell men to call out other men. Because let’s face it, men are the greater perpetrators here. You know in your circle that man who makes lewd jokes about sleeping with children, those who flavour the different versions of masculinity—“alpha,” “beta,” “incels”—treading on shaky, ever-shifting ground, an active volcano rumbling in the distance.

Or that one who says, with a smile on his face, “Naeza tandika huyo msichana vibaya sana!” and then calls for another round, and you, like a child on a mother’s teat, smiles and laps it all up because they finished with: "Kwani hujui jokes?” We all know these are the dudes who will pick up the machetes.

The young “in their prime” males, the walking time bombs, alienated and angry, conniving and calculating, we like to watch them in movies get pushed to their breaking point, watch their faces as they get news of the straw that breaks their camel’s back.

We are voyeurs of their agony, a society that trivialises then fears their pain. Thus, we deify them, give their story a rainbow tiara, and rewrite it as an underdog script about an unjust world that drives young black men to violent excess.

We tell them it’s not their fault, we laugh at their ‘jokes’, we nod when they say, “Lakini that girl, what was she doing in an Airbnb alone? Shauri yake!” Men have been conditioned to think that they have a right over a woman’s body.

And then we wonder why they kill.

These are the consequences of a virtue-signalling society that celebrates and rewards victimhood. The cuckolding of a nation. The Colosseum of gender wars. I write this because I have a platform. And I will use this platform to tell men to hold each other accountable.

To send a message to the ‘neutral’ people out there: The right to life is universal. To stop hiding behind words. To tell them that “seeing both sides” means having blood on their hands and choosing to remain on the sidelines isn’t ‘taking judgement off’, it’s abetting. Indecision is a decision.
And your silence is stabbing someone’s back. Literally, and figuratively.