“The weekly city girl column produced every Saturday has lost its lustre and relevance and is just like a church sermon … The previous city girl called it as it is. She was fearless, bold, not petty and worth reading … Old city girl never entertained nonsense, lame excuses and adult truancy. I don't know if also the so called handshake is behind the City Girls shift? I hope to reclaim back city girl soon.” Robert Musamali
This is an excerpt of an e-mail sent to me last week by a concerned fan. Let me start with a confession. Mr Musamali’s e-mail is not the first of its kind I have received in the recent past. I knew it was difficult to maintain a hard-hitting column, but I didn’t realise how tough it would be to manage change, more so among readers!
So today, I am going to bare out my heart on this page, and bring to your attention a new facet behind my “mellowing”. When I started writing this column in July 2014, nobody, besides my friends and family, knew my name or even the fact that I was a writer. In the journalism world, I was practically a “nobody”, a mere byline that appeared at the start of the feature articles. Enter the opportunity of City Girl column and suddenly I cannot introduce myself in public as “Njoki Chege”, preferring only to introduce myself as “Njoki”.
Two years ago, I was having a long phone-call with an equally, if not more controversial former newspaper columnist and I asked him. “Sir, how do you deal with all the noise?” He laughed for thirty seconds straight and told me “Well, I don’t deal with as much noise as you do — but, I have learnt to ignore it. And you? How do you deal with it?” I didn’t have an answer.
You see, there is a hefty social price to pay when you are running a column such as this. The price is heavier when you are a young woman.
While I enjoyed every moment of stepping on toes and entertaining millions of readers, I was, on the other hand, paying a massive price for being “The Infamous Njoki Chege” as my frenemies like to address me.
I became the butt of many jokes — some sexist and most downright offensive. As my name trended nearly every single weekend on social media, I became a weekly punching bag and dreaded Mondays because of the barrage of hate mail from “fans”.
The swampy parts of the Internet had a jolly good time, tarnishing my name with all sorts of rumours, half-truths and fabrications.
Then it dawned on me: When you are a young and confident woman who seems to have figured out your stuff, people will try to delegitimise you by attacking your morals.
It happens in the media, it happens in every industry — and I know women reading this are nodding in agreement. Never once did I complain, nor am I complaining now.
But even as all this happened, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if I was a male columnist? Would I be treated differently? There are tons of male columnists in this country who ruffle feathers — political or otherwise — but hardly do we get to see stuff written about their personal lives.
In fact, responses to their fiery columns are often well-thought-out fact-laden rebuttals, not a load of unprintable claptrap as was in my case.
I think part of the reason why this column piqued interest was because I was a young woman who had the nerve to speak her mind so courageously.
Many people, it seemed, did not so much as have a problem with what I was writing, but a problem with who was writing. I mean, how dare I, a young woman, be so independent minded? I am just musing here — I could be wrong, of course.
And now as I publicly announced a change in direction of this column, I find myself in a quagmire of sorts. My readers are the wind beneath my wings — I’d be nowhere without their support and love from them.
But I have to be firm and reiterate that this column will not be what it used to be — for many reasons.
I appreciate the support and concern of the readers, but if there was a time I needed their support, that time is now.
I hope you embrace my change, but more important, you understand the old City Girl is not coming back. Ever.