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ARUNGA: Why I’m angry and afraid

Tuesday October 24 2017
lupiweinpic

Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o wrote candidly about her experiences with Mr Weinstein in an opinion piece published by the New York Times on October 19. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Every so often, for a female, there is a week that one goes through that reminds you why women are often portrayed as the weaker sex.

The irony, of course, is that women often do the stronger things – childbirth, which we all know most adult males on average cannot handle the pain of (there have been tests to prove it), rearing children and nurturing relationships (many men seem to be allergic to commitment) and keeping families going in the absence of a make figure, a situation several Kenyan homes have been left in, and not of their own volition.

But weeks like last week served to remind me just how vulnerable females are; in spite of the burdens we bear that are not ours that we somehow power through simply because we have no choice.

This was one of those weeks about choice, because it seems like pretty much like everyone in Hollywood is a sexual predator who takes choice away from the women in Hollywood.

CRUEL INTENTIONS

It was the week when Harvey Weinstein's cruel intentions were laid out bare in front of the whole world, much as he forced the girls in his power to be laid out in front of him.

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Some women got away from him, and never worked for his company, Miramax, again, such as Lena Headey (Cersei, from Game of Thrones); others, like Rose McGowan, who said she had been raped by Harvey, did not fare as well.

Even our own Lupita was thrown into the mix, when she wrote an open letter detailing how she got away with some body contact, a lot of threats and a lot of fear.

But the comments and the consequent backlash from Lupita's article, and all the other women who came out to tell their story, and the Kenyan women who continue to tell theirs, is what is truly baffling.

The comments below Lupita's thread on the Daily Nation saw infantile idiots commenting about how fame makes ugly trolls suddenly rear their heads to ride on bandwagons – I paraphrase.

There were many such comments diminishing and degrading her experience to mere lies and jokes. I was appalled.

Whatever humanity has become is not too far from what people write on Twitter, because if you can even think of something so horrific to write, then surely you also think like that? I'm going to tell you why.

NOT ABOUT LUST

Sexual assault is rarely about an insatiable lust that cannot be quenched, and is almost always about power.

Many women who actually talk about sexual harassment only do this because they are a bit stronger from when something happened to them, or want the perp brought to justice, or wait until an avalanche of accusations starts with a small one that snowballs into something they can join. Whatever the reason, people – men – can't keep expecting women to act 'rationally', or 'speak up sooner', or act the way they would act, if assaulted.

And this comes back to the weaker sex point. We are weaker in the sense that there is a problem in the dominant group, encouraged by a deeply misogynistic patriarchy that says when someone grabs your boob in a matatu, no one is going to do anything about it. If a kange (tout) forcefully takes your arm, it's easier to just keep walking than cry out because you don't know what drama that will bring.

When you're raped in Kenya, the chances that a cop will actually believe you are painfully minimal – and let's not even start talking about how the hospitals treat rape survivors. It's a deplorable circumstance we are barely existing in.

Women don't speak out because they can't, for whatever reason; and sometimes, even because justice will not happen just because they speak out. After over 20 women have come forward with testimonies about Handsy Harvey, all he got was a week of therapy and a slap on the wrist – he had to leave his company, which he's been running for years and years on the tears and tits of young actresses he victimises. He's already made millions upon millions from his decades in the industry. He doesn't even care, at this point, and he's denying everything. One man against dozens of women, literally, and there are still people on his side. Sounds a lot like Bill Cosby to me.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

What can we do? I don't know what there is to do if the dominant group does not call out the sewage in its rank.

Sure, in this respect, perhaps women are weaker, but men need to understand why women say men are trash all the time.

It comes from a place of hurt and vulnerability like the one this week has brought to me. A place that knows you are most likely to be attacked and assaulted by someone you know.

A place that wonders why men feel the need to say that they're one of the good ones when they're probably not, and yet they want a cookie for, as @RookieKe said on Twitter, acting like a basic human being.

If you don't wear labels, all men look the same to us, because when you think about it, a woman saying no to a man is a lot more likely to have her career end or get abused or even killed when she says no to a man, than the inverse being the same situation.

It comes from a place that knows that so many men are rapists, and so many other men support it by staying quiet and encouraging lyrics about waiting until girls pass out to take them home. These are the men who are trash. These are the men who are hurt by this phrase.

 

In a final example of how men are trash, because they know what happens and do nothing if they are not the perpetrators themselves, and how men need to call other men out because we all know men don't actually listen to women – Harvey Weinstein's good friend Quentin Tarantino knew first-hand that Harvey was This Guy. He knew he was a predator. His own girlfriend even told him so, when they got together, because Harvey had even tried something with her. He heard things from people, and according to his own testimony, even saw some things. But Harvey's been doing this for decades without pause, and Quentin said he never spoke to him about it. Why? Why would you not say anything in a situation so dire where lives are being ruined because one man can't keep his hands to himself? (The answer, by the way, is because men are trash).

Another example – Aaliyah's uncle, who, when Aaliyah was 14, introduced her to R. Kelly, even though we all know what R. Kelly has been doing for years, because he's been doing it for years. Her uncle sacrificed her on the altar of the King of Contemporary R&B and put her into a situation where he knew for a fact she wasn't safe. Why? (Say it with me...)

Closer home, to Cyprian Nyakundi who, after the Adelle Onyango spoke about her experience with rape, dared to put up a post saying that there is no way someone would rape someone so ugly.

This poor example of a human being actually wrote those words and left them there for all to see. Why? (again...) Please note that even after reporting this to Facebook, Facebook declared that this post is not against Community Guidelines. I wonder who made those guidelines?

Probably the same guys who suspended Rose McGowan's account on Twitter when she started speaking out.

Guidelines that refuse to let the internet be a safe space to prosper even after these vile and perverse attention-seeking posts are published.

Every one of you who makes sure you buy a gun when your daughter is born do so because you know exactly what men are like. You lie and claim you don't, but you know exactly what I'm talking about. So this week, I'm calling out all of those men who are the idiots who say 'I don't know anyone who's been sexually assaulted' or, 'My friends are not like that', and yet the majority of women on your timeline are writing #MeToo in solidarity with all women to share our stories of assault. You're not only privileged and entitled, but also the worst kind of ignorant – wilfully ignorant. Have a look around and talk to actual people, for God's sake.

Do I sound angry? Of course I sound angry. I AM angry. I can't not be. It's impossible to see 1000 likes on Nyakundi's post and not be angry, and afraid. So yes. I'm angry.

 

But I'm not wrong.

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