What happens when you are asked to stop being a feminist, put on some make up, stop dressing like a man and shed off a few pounds?

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.

Feminism is of no use to African women – unless they need to be less of African women.

Feminism is not relevant to African women. The misery we feel as African women in our noisy efforts to be treated with respect and ask for equality and equity is simply because we got educated by the white man. Why would an African woman want to marry someone she loves rather than someone her family loves? Why would an African woman complain when at 16, a wealthy and slightly educated 50-year-old man wanted to marry her? Why would we be against polygamy and FGM and sexual harassment? Which real African woman wouldn’t enjoy being grabbed in public? Would a real African woman not enjoy losing six children through childbirth and having 13 more in their place because they couldn’t plan parenthood? Which woman, wouldn’t want to be ridiculed because the man responsible for her pregnancy refused to take responsibility and hence she got shunned? Not a true African woman.

Despite all the various efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion, despite all the affirmative action and the advanced education with African literature trying to shed a light on the empowered African woman; African literature has not been a friend to Feminism. It has depicted feminism as UnAfrican in every way possible.

In as much as African literature is covering feminism, feminists in our African bestseller books are either sexually promiscuous or they have left their husbands to become prostitutes so that they can fend for their families. Makes me wonder if there aren’t any decent other jobs for African women in the survival settings. In the case of our female heroes in the very books we are forced to read in the school curriculum such as Muthoni in the River Between; they die from the very practices we are voicing against- FGM. Why would a strong African woman be potrayed as a rebel against her Christian parents by choosing circumcision? Is that what defines a strong African woman? These are the books we are subjected to for us to pass our exams and become high-value women in the society? A book where any woman that speaks up- is a dead woman.

African men have been claiming that education ruined their women. My own teacher told me education ruined me- I should have focused on a better career rather than be a feminist. Ha! Can you believe my eyes when I read it? So, feminism is a career now? By Jove I almost peed on myself laughing until I realised the seriousness of the context and immediately stopped laughing.

Turns out, they do not need educated women because we take up their roles. We speak up, we get jobs, we have a choice on the number of children we want, we start our companies, we join in on activism, we get good grades and heck- we can voice for those who are not as privileged as we are. Men do not want that. They prefer early marriages and overpopulation and circumcised women and a woman who only listens and never talks. Those are educated men I am talking about. The men that cyber bully feminists online- African Feminists. The men that ask women to get a husband so that they can stop being feminists. The men that ask Feminists to stop polluting the African woman. The men that use education as their asset but deem it a liability for women. The men that cry foul the minute a woman progresses. The educated men who use their influence to paint an African woman in an inferior setting. The writers, the CEOs, the teachers, the priests that ask women to stay in SGBV marriages and our leaders who defile our children without any shame- without any fear of the law because they are the law. Case example of Kenya MCAs who were found with underage girls and zilch has been done. African women… Sigh.

The African woman cannot at any point have the privileges with her trust and honor that the African man does. Relationships and sexuality are a gamble for the African woman but a necessity for the man. A woman’s nudes are shared every day on the internet, and we all gang up against the owner of the nude. What we are forgetting is that men share their Nude pics, but we never see them spewed on the internet- wait I am not talking about the Indian nudes we receive on our messenger daily, no not those. I am speaking about real nudes from our boyfriends and lovers. It is a two-way traffic on such matters but what do we do? We sit high, greater than the maker of the universe and pass real harsh and hardcore judgment on the African woman. A common phrase used in Kenya today is Dunia isimame nishuke. Well, so that you know; the world is never going to stop for you to alight just because a woman took a nude picture and sent it to some douche bag.

Last year, the tabloids alleged a feud between 2 feminists. Chimamanda and Beyonce. 2 black women- with different lives and backgrounds and heck- cultures. I was asked by a few women and friends to weigh in on the matter in relations to who was a better feminist, with better ideologies and how the feud would have gracefully been embraced in a feminist way. How could I?

I am a 24-year-old woman living in a one bedroom apartment in one of the largest formal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya in Africa- A place called Eastlands. Eastlands is one of Nairobi’s largest estate. A vast one at that. At 1 P.M every day, one of my neighbors is beaten by her husband. Both she and her co-wife, he clobbers them in their studio apartment. They wail and plead and ask for forgiveness. In the morning, they see him off- as the good wives they should be. My other neighbor gives her advice on which cream to use to heal faster. I am moving out and one of the reasons is because I gave out a different advice on how they can leave and now I am an enemy of the people. The main reason I am moving out? That is a story for another day. My other neighbor wants to be a lawyer. She has no money for school and her grades do not allow her either. So she braids hair- talking about her dreams. Most women in Eastlands are house wives or work in salons or own a stall or they have a temporary job. Just like I do. I have good days and bad days too. I was unemployed for a whole year after graduating. I got a 2 month old job. I am back to being unemployed. That is the life of an average educated woman in Nairobi. If you are lucky enough, you get a low paying job So how could I talk about Beyonce and Chimamanda?

I experience different issues from the two feminists every day. These entails dust, noise, being groped, struggling and by Jove- having a boyfriend; something most African feminists shouldn’t have and is something that makes me less of a feminist. After all, it is said that feminists hate men. African feminists are supposed to hate men – that is possibly the reason why they keep trying to have a better society for women. How could I weigh in on which ideologies were better between the two? Mine seemed better from where I am seated. Mine worked for me. I could get comfortable tabling my issues down and feel like I am part of a movement that advocates for gender diversity, equity, equality, and inclusion. So, I shrugged and sighed. A deep sigh. I was an African feminist, and that made me UnAfrican. How could my opinion make my situation better?

Recently, I posted on Facebook that I am in a relationship, which I am; and the replies I got made me realize that Africans (I have Facebook friends from all over the continent)- have an expectation of Feminists that we must uphold to be considered one. Feminism to us is manual from the Western world, and we are buttons to be pressed daily. Martha Gellhorn, a woman who claimed some feminists were using feminism as a party rather than a movement; a woman who was the first female war correspondent, and a woman who divorced Ernest Hemingway- the man who had never been divorced but did the divorcing is my icon. Heck, her ideologies are far different from mine. In Africa, a feminist is not a human being that deserves a listening ear and understanding but is a machine and is expected to come with a manual and fail safe. She is a woman that refuses to be African. She is a lonely woman, a lesbian perhaps or simply not good looking enough to be tamed by men. Ha!

Feminism is UnAfrican because we have refused to let Africa be flexible, accepting and embracing and until it does – let us redefine African culture, norms and traditions. Feminism is the only way to become a better continent and until we accept that; feminism is just a label and not a movement.If you believe that feminism is of no use to African women, it simply means you do believe that African women do not deserve respect and inclusion globally and that, sure is a shame. If feminism makes me less of an African woman- I can live with that!

Happy Anniversary.

2 years ago, I had exhausted my years living recklessly in my 20s, I was at rock bottom. I had broken lots of hearts and I had had my heart broken as well. I was financially irresponsible. I had no sense of direction. I was drinking too much and partying in an alarming rate. I hadn’t gone home in a while. School was equally depressing. My grades were dropping. The final year was a disaster. I remember walking from a Religion and Science class to my room, with a heavy heart.

I got into the house, drank some tap water and reached out for my notebook to write. I was not the woman I saw myself to be growing up. I was silencing the voices in my head telling me to be myself and I was ignoring my own conscience. I was not myself and I needed to start from somewhere. I was itching to write, not only for myself but for women who need a voice to relate to. Or else, I would sink.

“I need a better solution. I need to voice for myself before I lose my mind.” I turned on my laptop, started researching on better ways to voice for my ideologies while influencing women in a positive way. I knew there were tons of women out there almost giving up without a community for support. Nerdyclues was not my first blog. I had 2 blogs before nerdyclues. I had a blogger account and wrote on Google +. I used Facebook as a writing platform as well. I remember starting out with giving women relationship advice with a bit of activism voice on rights. “Walk away, stand up for yourself, know your worth! Save as little as you can. Know your rights” I would write.

When I turned 22, I stopped writing about relationships. I was a sociologist and the feminism that was so dormant was awakened and roaring. I started pointing out societal issues affecting women. I became a social change agent. I wrote about sexual injustices in Kenya, wrote about environment conservation and women, I wrote about women that I look up to, had guest bloggers, wrote music and book reviews and also wrote about my own experiences as a strong woman facing life challenges everyday. I finally started writing on matters I believed in. I was doing it. Stats did not matter. All I cared about was writing. It is total exuberant to see 100,000+ stats.

I write today because it is our 2 year anniversary as the NC community. It has been 2 years of laughter, tears and sometimes- indifference. I have never felt lonely because I know I have a listening ear and amazing fans. I have never faced harsh criticism or have never been bullied by my audience even with my most controversial posts. I have been embraced, loved and given an ear. I have lived and loved and felt like I belong with the entire NC community.

In the 2 years that I have been writing, I have survived the toughest moments of my emotional life by talking about it. I have been given advice by total strangers and I have given some in return. I could never ask for a better audience. I could never want a different audience. I am braving into 2017 knowing that this will not be a lonely year because I have a family of 9000+ people who care about what I have to say and I care back.

Happy anniversary NC community. Together let us be fierce!