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Women only dance night? No thank you

Saturday August 17 2019

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Are women leered at, spanked and groped in the average Kenyan nightclub? Yes. A dance night that men are forbidden to is however not the solution. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOAN THATIAH
By JOAN THATIAH
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A feature on an interesting new dance event in Nairobi made its way to my WhatsApp inbox this week.

The night, dubbed "Strictly Silk", is an all-women party right from the revellers to the Deejays and to the bouncers. Men only get to the door to drop off the women.

According to the team behind this event, there is a need to create safe nightlife spaces for women.

While the dance night is new, these past years, there has been a spike in the number of events, claiming that women need to retreat into a safe space to network or let their hair down.

Personally, any event where men are not welcome is a no-go-zone. Unless it's one where the issues being discussed are exclusively female issues like breastfeeding or childbirth.

WEAKLINGS

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Otherwise, what I see in the flyers is another attempt at turning women into victims. "Here is one more thing for you to do to avoid getting assaulted,” they seem to communicate.

An affirmation that women are cute and cuddly beings, too tender to deal with difficult men at the club.

That they just can't cut it in a man's world. I see someone attempting to take us to the 1960s when equality was just an idea and when this phrase ‘safe space' was coined.

If we had to have a space for women, a Taekwondo class where women were physically empowered would be a much better idea.

Are women leered at, spanked and groped in the average Kenyan nightclub? Yes. A dance night that men are forbidden to is however not the solution.

When we ask women to retreat to these spaces, we are assuming that they exist only in relation to men.

DETACHED

I only realised how uninformed the average Kenyan man is to the struggle of the woman a few months ago when talking to a male friend about FGM.

This man, who I have always considered well-read, was sure that the FGM procedure can't be as horrific as I was describing.

His reason? Women from his community — which records' very high cases of FGM — seem to enjoy sex and bear children. "Are you sure of what you are saying?" he kept asking me.

Like him, the average Kenyan man may have a rough idea of women struggles, but not know the gory details. How about inviting him to the table?

TEAM WORK

Instead of inviting women to secluded spaces, how about taking the safety campaigns to the regular clubs? Talk to your male friends, sons, and brothers.

Tell them that sleeping with that girl from the bar who is too drunk to stand is rape. That teasing the tea girl about her ample behind is sexual assault. Stop telling women to hide.

What will she do when she has to go out to the real world where men exist? What then?

It is a free world. Women are free to hold all sorts of gatherings; activism ones, support group meetings or even learning spaces.

Do not however do so in the guise that women need safe spaces to associate, learn, or dance. They do not.

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