Ivy Wangechi rests in her birthplace, Nyeri, where she was buried on Thursday. The final-year Moi University medical student’s promising future was abruptly cut short by a childhood friend in a fit of inexplicable masculine rage.
There has been no shortage of opinions on her death, whose sheer brutality adds to a growing list of young women senselessly killed in their prime.
Right-thinking Kenyans are lost for words at the frightening aggression of men towards women. Just as we’ve been outraged by extrajudicial killings perpetrated by men in uniform, so are we struck in the almost copycat aggression that’s targeted at young women. No one, male or female, deserves to die in the manner we’re witnessing. It’s time we asked the critical question: What is provoking this madness?
Saturday Nation columnist Austin Bukenya appears to have put his finger on the problem when he wrote recently: “I am almost sure that the era of the presumptuous male (the ‘androcene’ epoch, if we can indulge in a new coinage) is done and gone… Society is reading from a complete new script, and the sooner we learn to read from the same text, and interpret it accurately, the better it will be for all of us and for our relationships.”
He was commenting on when a handshake goes beyond the elbow in men and women encounters, an apt reference in situations of violence against women over rejected love. It’s violence that says, ‘If I can’t have you, no-one will,’ as if she was made to order for you alone!
Bukenya adds: “…we men should disabuse ourselves of the caveman conceit and fallacy that forcing our attention on women is a way of paying tribute to their attractiveness, brilliance, or generosity.” ‘Caveman conceit!’ Thanks, Prof Bukenya!
This is where the problem lies. In spite of change, men are still stuck in a caveman conquest-based mentality, which seeks to subdue fellow men and women; a truly self-centred view of power. The caveman in men has failed to change with time, even as women have changed and continue to change, much to men’s consternation. The ground is shifting under men’s very feet.
What has happened? Over the years, women have analysed their situation and named the cause of their oppression: exploitation that leads to suffering. They call it patriarchy, misguided fathers’ rule. Having named it for what it is, they’ve sought to liberate themselves by pointing out what’s wrong with patriarchy in order to redeem it from itself.
Redeeming patriarchy means restoring utu — humanness — as originally designed by the Creator. Women have proceeded to redefine, liberate and empower themselves. Men’s reaction to women’s self-liberation is, sadly, what Bukenya equates to ‘caveman conceit’ that vilifies the women’s movement and repulses their efforts to reach out to men as partners rather than antagonists.
Men need to critically redefine themselves as to what it means to be a man since the genital perspective has failed them miserably and proved to be destructive of not just their lives, but also the lives of others. The ‘conquest’ power game has proven destructive to all.
Get it right, men, including politicians, one of whom is facing charges relating to fatal knifing of his mistress, including their unborn baby: power is not about domination; it’s about service. It’s about utu, which spells the power of love, the defining message in this Easter season. Love is not sentimental; it’s the Christ-like human ability to seek the good of the other, not because of who they are, but in spite of that… for their own sake. Obsessive love — the driver of the many deaths of young women that we’re witnessing — is actually a misnomer, and better called morbid jealousy.
Love is actually the character and essence of utu, which is not just at the heart of our African worldview, but also of Christianity, whose membership is celebrating Easter, the greatest feast in their calendar. Love doesn’t force itself on others. It’s the essence of authentic manhood, which is inimical of the rampant brutality we’re seeing, and should never define men.
Dorothy Kweyu is Revise Editor (Consultant) at the Daily Nation. [email protected]; @KweyuZita.