My 23-year-old movie guy called me ugly and lazy. He called my best friend and I feminists too. He thought being called a feminist was an insult, so he insulted us. To his knowledge, feminists are unattractive, unwomanly and tend to act like men. I was unattractive; for having ‘shaggy, unkempt unwomanly unattractive’ black hair, not shaving my eyebrows, dressing in sweatpants and always having different conflicting ideologies. She was unattractive for wearing baggy trousers and having unkempt non-styled dreadlocks.
He pointed out that I was too chatty for a woman; always questioning a lot around me. He had also noticed that early in the morning; I am always leaving my house in Pajamas to get breakfast. All these, he said, is because I claim not to care about the societal expectations of a real woman by calling myself a feminist. Feminism had corrupted the woman in me. He had been observing me. He had had enough and needed me to stop acting like a man or else I wouldn’t have anyone desire to date me.
He also needed me to stop watching thrillers and investigative based TV shows and venture into love dramas, comedies, and series to get an insight on what men want and who women should be like. In this suggestions, he pointed out that my choice in the amply shows I BUY from him was what the Kenyan Film Board needed to oust with, to make a woman great again. I smiled through the one-sided conversation. It was a pain to listen to him and his friends, but I had no choice. He had held me hostage with my flash drive. All this while, his cousin who is also a workmate in the store was laughing at me as he asked me, “why don’t you put on any makeup? Every woman should wear makeup and dress up!”
He had also noticed that I was pretending to work by calling myself a writer and an activist. “I assume your rent is paid by your parents. I have never seen you go to work. If you do, it must be quite the mediocre workplace to let you show up in sweatpants and crocs or sneakers.” He let me know that people were actually responsible enough to pursue their careers.
He needed me to get off my butt and get a real job like everyone else around me. I badly needed him to read my articles and see if they were good enough for him but that would be seeking validation from him. I wanted to tell him that I am in a stable relationship but that would sound defensive. I had no way to defend myself.
He let me know that I had wasted my Sociology degree and my economics and statistics classes by writing, instead of looking for a real job. He had been listening to me, not because he cared but because he needed to understand why I was whom I was, a feminist. He named a few organizations I would try interning with and gave me examples of his family members who worked for such organizations and how great and satisfying their lives were.
My neighbor had also told him during one of their chats, that my house was too unkempt for a woman. My neighbor has been to my place once to borrow me a charger and notified my movie guy that I was not living like a woman. Residing in a ‘youth-based neighborhood,’ I felt watched. I felt betrayed too, by my neighbor. How the heck did they even get to talking about me? So, he needed me to change. He also needed me to eat healthier and work out a little bit. I would be gorgeous if I shed off a few pounds, he noted. “Skinny women are more attractive compared to fat women,” he told me. “That’s why no one is hitting on you. It would help if you dressed up and put on some make-up.”
He pointed out to and referenced another lady buying movies in case I needed pointers on dressing up and putting on makeup to look like a woman, and she asked me to give her my number, instantly. I declined politely, appreciated her concerns and stood there painfully waiting for my flash drive. “Stay fly!” He told her as she left the shop chuckling.
I am a strong independent minded woman, but for the few minutes I stood there, I felt minute and ugly. I cannot lie; he got to me. I shaved my eyebrows the next day. I had been postponing it, but finally, I called a friend to do some magic tricks to the brows. Words had hurt me. Words defeated me that day, as a writer and a vlogger, I admitted that perhaps he was right. I needed to be more woman. More pretty. That is the perception of my society of feminists. To him, and his cousin and I assume a few others, feminists are unattractive and unwomanly.
Undoubtedly, this is an issue faced by most young women no matter how educated you are, what career you are in and whichever age group you live around when you try and be you; be different. In Kenya, feminism is that dirty little secret. If spoken up about, or voiced for when harshly condemned; it makes you a whiny little bitch who is most likely to end up alone. There is the misogynistic aspect of the society that dictates what is expected of you, and then there are the cultural norms that are threatened by your ideologies. I realized as soon as I walked back to my apartment: being a young feminist is not just hard anymore, it is the most difficult person to be right now, and it takes a lot of heart to stay sane.
The other day, I met him and his cousin on the streets and he bluntly told me in the loudest voice possible, “You are growing fatter. You never listened to my advice?” Everyone around us turned and looked at me. I felt like tears were filling my eyes. I had to walk faster. He laughed, I smiled and I kept walking. No one could see me cry. No one could see how much sadness had immediately filled my heart. I got home, opened my laptop and wrote on my other blog. You can find it here. Yes, I had grown fatter – he just never asked me why. I couldn’t tell him I was 8 weeks and 5 days.