Why Kenyan men no longer need women


Dating now is like applying for a passport in the government office: if it works, that’s because you don’t need it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

When I was growing up in the village, we were part of a cartel that had some little money. That means we had a TV. A JVC for that matter. On that TV, there was a show that I loved. “Deal or No Deal.” I never missed it because it proved to me what I consider the ultimate human frailty and design flaw: we’d rather avoid losses than acquire gains. In other words, we hate losses more than we enjoy gains.

For those still wet behind the ears, the show was played by a single contestant, choosing from 26 sealed briefcases with various amounts of cash from one penny to a million dollars. The player’s job is to eliminate the cases one by one.

Throughout the game, the player is offered an amount of money or prizes to quit, being asked the titular question, "Deal or no deal?" If the contestant rejects every deal and eliminates all the other cases or boxes, the player keeps the money that was in the original case or box.

If this sounds familiar that’s because that’s how it feels like being in a relationship with the modern Kenyan woman. You never know what’s in the box, and more often than not, it’s never a good deal. So you keep going, opening box after box, looking for that one million (hence the trite phrase you are one in a million). Until recently. Somehow, somewhere, something changed. Men stopped playing. Men stopped opening the box. Men stopped needing women. At least, not in the way they used to.

I grew up watching my father get things done for him. His clothes were washed. His house was cleaned. His water warmed—and were it not for his shyness, which runs in the family and is ergo hereditary, I am sure my mother would have washed him too. I don’t know, maybe she did. His meals, especially, were cooked out of hunger, not just selflessly but also selfishly, out of love yes, but also out of service, out of duty.

Switch your TV to the typical modern woman, and everything is a debate: if I cook dinner, you make breakfast. Courtesy gives way to confrontation. Nothing is too big, or too small, to become a contest. While I am progressive-ish, the intersexual dynamics have gotten clogged in the red tape. Dating now is like applying for a passport in the government office: if it works, that’s because you don’t need it.

Kudos to society for affirmative action and egalitarianism, women are now equal partners to the table (more on that later), but all is not well. With declining fertility, sexual liberation, and the rise of “normalising” everything from casual sex to pineapples on pizza, we may have just shot ourselves in the foot. (Un)surprisingly, as we have become more equal, the economic gap has increased with work and education becoming more competitive—giving birth to this strange creature, this new man, who is hyper-individualised, shunning society and realising that being a Mr. Nice Guy doesn’t get you far in life. It certainly won’t get you the ladies.

When I was growing up, such men needed women. My uncle, an engineer could solve Euclidean geometry but ask him where his socks are and all you would get is abujubuju. The one time my father cooked us ugali, he used a fork—yes fork!—ati because he didn’t know where the mwiko was. Or what a mwiko was? I don't know. My grandfather is 80-something, and he has perfect eyesight, but ask him to show you where the kitchen is and suddenly, we have to hold a harambee for his eye surgery in India.

Somewhere between now and then something happened. Men just stopped needing women. It was gradual, then it was sudden. Think about it. Clearly. Detached. Honestly. What the modern woman can do, the updated male can do—and in the Pro Max version. What’s that thing Achebe said? When the mother cow is chewing grass, its young ones watch its mouth.

The previous Saturday, I washed some dirty linen here and confessed I stopped going for sleepovers in Roysambu (or Thika Road really) because that woman’s house reminded me of why Nairobi ends at Moi Avenue. Even the TikTok accounts I follow are of men sharing tips on how to spruce up your home. This is not your typical man’s man, but a self-aware kind of man, a manish man with a house that is cleaner than my pure love for chapati ndondo and the reason why I don’t date ladies from Thika Road in general and Roysambu in particular.

One of my closest friends cooks as a hobby. But to tell you the truth, I visit him often not because I care so much about him, but because he is always cooking. He knows his way around the kitchen and can beat up a wicked omelette. That’s where I learned that you heat the pan first before putting oil. You didn’t know that did you?

You may be thinking, yeah so? A woman can give you a family. Gotcha. I hear you. But if we are talking children, it’s the same women coming with them to the table. I mean, can you even throw a stone in Kilimani without hitting and causing structural head damage to someone’s baby momma?

So what exactly are you bringing to the table because it is not sex? If my DMs are anything to go by, ladies are underperforming there, running out of steam and making the government passport printing machine look like it’s not working only because it has been overworked. (Psst! Men, I shouldn’t be telling you this but I have found a massage parlour in Kilimani that has straightened out a lot of my bones. Eritreans. Wahabeshi. Mali safi. If you know you know.)

Lest you think this is an attack on women, let me stop you right there. Most men I know are pro-women. Philogynists. And—hold on, let me just check my receipts—oh yes, even though I have never bought the ‘male feminist’ propaganda, I can categorically tell you this: I would rather hire a woman than a fellow man. Of course, merit withstanding. Thus, ladies, you can’t rebel or throw your toys out of the pram or play victim—even this very paper itself is your safe space.

Consequently, what are you offering Caesar? Nothing? Nada? Zilch? Think. What does the modern woman bring to the table? Whatever it is, no deal.