My Books Are Available on TakeALot.Com, And That’s A Big Deal

Everyone thinks self-publishing – or any independent creative work – is sexy. There’s this aura of grittiness, the allure of the idea of that you can grind your way to the top, the crowning achievement being that indelible interview on Ellen or Access Hollywood. It’s not just spectators who harbor this delusion; we artists and creative are guilty of this as well.

When I first began my foray into self-publishing in 2012, I held such delusions of grandeur. I am grateful that reality revealed itself to me sooner rather than later. I was able to spare novice authors who came seeking advice about how to precede in this peculiar sphere any fantastical ideas that would lead to inevitable heartbreak if they let this one idea guide their craft and determine their creative efforts.

“Disabuse yourself of the idea that you’re going to make any money selling books,” I said. “Write because you love it. Not because you want to become a millionaire. The odds just aren’t in our favor.”

It seems a dismal piece of advice to administer, but it’s the truth…especially if you write non-fiction. As much as academics pour into their written work, they are fed by a teacher’s salary and little else. Whoever said “Pursue your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life” should be taken outside and fed broccoli until their intestinal tract implodes on itself. Passion rarely provides the pecuniary stability that comes with practicality. Self-publishing is the perfect demonstration of this. It is a fickle and volatile course…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Being an indie artist means looking for the small wins and celebrating the unexpected scores. We keep turning corners, looking for surprises at the end of each one, all because there is little stability in our world. It’s madness. It’s an adrenaline rush.

I’ve watched my friends in music and film carve out niches for themselves, refusing decent paying jobs that would compromise their integrity or humbling themselves before a crowd who did not connect with their brand of artistry. All of this builds the reputation of the artist. It’s a bumpy road that jolts you with each step, but it’s all part of the process. It’s all a part of the struggle. A huge part of my struggle as an indie-published author has been distribution. Amazon, via CreateSpace, has been instrumental in my getting my work into the hands of readers, but their reach only extends so far. The market I really wanted to tap into was Africa, and the solutions Amazon provides aren’t practical for the audience I want to reach: children. Kids for the age group I am targeting with titles like Sally and the Butterfly and Close to Home are tactile. Then there is the added challenge of Sally’s format – a pick your own path book. Flipping through a Kindle isn’t conducive. Add to that, people in this region (South Africa) enjoy paper and as a whole, really haven’t embraced digital books.

I researched the cost of printing and shipping my books from the US and quickly discovered that I was being priced out of a market before I could gain entry. Surely there had to be a solution!

And then I saw it.

On a recent trip to Cape Town, we drove through Montague Gardens, an industrial hub in the sprawling city. Tucked away from the hubbub of the main road sat the enormous structure of TakeALot’s distribution warehouse – South Africa’s version on Amazon. I stared wistfully at the building wistfully, harboring a fleeting thought. Wouldn’t it be great if Takealot.com carried and distributed my books? The task seemed impossible, the idea TOO crazy. Who would I talk to? Would I have to reformat my books and get new ISBNs? Too many questions. I let it go.

Source takealot.com

But the Universe didn’t.

Two nights ago, a friend was at dinner and asked how she could find copies of my books. I have generally come to hate answering that question, because of the impracticality of the “solution”. But she was an American and is going back to the US, a set of circumstances that took the sting out of my reply.

“Amazon.”

“But all of the copies on Amazon are used. How can I get a new copy?”

ONLY used copies? That didn’t seem right at all.

I fired up my laptop and began a search myself. It seemed she was correct! Nevertheless, I knew that couldn’t be accurate. I expanded my search and discovered that Sally and the Butterfly (the book in question) had been featured on Parenting.com and a handful of other book related websites, unbeknownst to me.

And then I saw it.

Takealot.com showed up as one of the resources to purchase the book. Takealot.com, right here in South Africa. Takealot.com was carrying all of my children’s books AND Madness & Tea.

I nearly did a back flip.

This is a big deal for me. This is HUGE. Takealot isn’t just an online shop: it is THE online shop, as far as SA is concerned. They have painstakingly built a reputation over time. They are a trusted brand and deliver exceptional customer service. If they are carrying an item, you can trust its quality. Like I said, this is HUGE for me. It’s an answer to barely spoken prayer. It’s a big fat weight off my shoulders and it’s my win for 2017. I offer my thanks to the Lord, the ancestors and you for your comments of congratulations in the Discuss section below. 🙂

Prince Harry Ran Through A Field of Laoghaires to Find His ‘Meghan Donn’

Mo nighean donn (Gaelic). Translation: My brown haired lass

You’d have to be a fan of the series ‘Outlander’ to truly appreciate what I’ve done with the title of this post. And the answer to your unasked question is, yes. Yes, I’m right proud of myself. It’s a braw thing I’ve done there.

So! Prince Harry is marrying a bi-racial woman. Which is to say he’s marrying a BLACK woman, because in America, the One Drop Rule qualifies you for all kinds of privileges ranging from picking cotton to earning 60 cents to every white man’s dollar. However it now appears that the One Drop Rule can’t disqualify you from marrying into what is arguably the most famous monarchy on the planet (because there are other royal families that rule the globe, but can you name them?) and that’s a good thing. Not because we need the descendants of a pillaging, plundering group of people to validate our Blackness, but because once again, love gets to win despite the odds and optics. That’s always a good thing.

Laoghaire is big mad! image source: Glamour

Unless you’ve been living in a room made of aluminum foil, you’ve certainly gotten wind of the news that is dominating the headlines, the Twittasphere and the Book of Many Faces. Among the headlines you may have come across may be these from the Daily Fail, making reference to blondes who got away and so forth. It made me chuckle. Harry Windsor now joins an elect group of men who gazed over the big, blonde world laid out before him and said, “Nah. If the sista will have me, I’ll be hers.” It doesn’t happen very often, so yes, it does bring a smug smile to the lips.

The racial dynamics of this relationship that has those watching either elated, exasperated or enraged, there is an aspect to this union that has me wondering if Meghan and Harry are trolling us in some way. I don’t doubt their mutual affection for each other one bit – Meghan’s least of all because one has to give up a LOT in order to marry into royalty – but I think there’s something else at play that they’re not telling us. The Daily Fail may have unwittingly unearthed a joke at our expense.

Clues from the Daily Mail
Did they ‘miss out’, or were they merely props in a production much bigger than them? Hmmm…

You all know that Harry never had it easy growing up, especially after losing his mother, Diana, at such a tender age. You might recall all of the horrible things the British public and the tabloids said about Diana. They said Harry couldn’t possibly be Charles’ son, owing to his red hair. (They called Harry’s momma a hoe, y’all.) They said she was mentally ill. (They called Harry’s momma a crazy hoe, y’all!) They said she was an unfit mother. (Those are just fighting words. Diana was a good, good mother.) Despite growing up in the shadow of the negative press about his family, the shadow of his older (some say hotter) brother, the eclipse of the expectations that come with being the grandson of a monarch, Harry has turned into a decent young man. Sure, he’s shown a lack of propriety (and his ding-a-ling) on occasion, but what young man of wealth and extraordinary means hasn’t let drop his… ‘propriety’ on one occasion or another?

Dirty Harry on the left, Juicy Jaime on the the right

Fortunately, through it all, he had his father Charles; who may have been a crap husband to Diana, but was a heck of a father to his boys. If memory serves me correctly, regular sojourns to Scotland are what brought the three closer together.

You see where this is heading, don’t you?

 

***MOM MODE***

It was in Scotland that young Prince Harry first heard the tale of James Fraser, a red headed, lad not unlike himself. A youth with a heart for service, a love of country, and the air of a lovable rascal about him. Like young Jaime, Harry was an odd duck and trouble seemed to find him more often than he’d like, but the fates always smiled fondly upon him and guided him through his many scrapes.

Prince Harry would discover that those charms would make him irresistible to the blondes (aka Laoghaires) of his native land, and he would show his regard for them by taking the occasional beating or offer a snog or six in a hidden alcove somewhere. But deep inside, he knew that when the time came, he would need a woman – not a girl – to wife.

Meanwhile, half way across the world, Meghan who is three years Harry’s senior (like Claire to Jaime!) was enjoying the life she’d meticulously built, her profession brining her fulfillment. And like Claire, Meghan had been previously married. This would prove to be a point of contention for the Left Behind Laoghaires who would then go on to offer themselves up to Harry/Jaime because Calire/Meghan is naught more than a ‘used up’ Sassenach/negro wench. But Harry will be having none of that because JUST LIKE JAIME he’s sealed his commitment to Meghan with a ring he designed himself…the key to Lallybroch!

Meghan is Harry’s mo nighean donn: his brown haired lass. That’s all there is to the matter. This will be the romance that we talk about for centuries to come. Mark me.

(Yikes. Maybe I shouldn’t use the words ‘mark me’. It never turned out so well for bonnie Prince Charle when he did.)

*******

Tell me you guys don’t see this! I can’t be the only one who sees what’s going on here. Anyway, the haters be damned. We are here to celebrate this union. 2017 has been a special year for love and babies. Beyoncé had her twins. Serena had a magical wedding in Nawlins. Meghan is recreating her life under the auspices of one of the most successful series in television and print history. All this joy and it ain’t even Christmas yet.

Dear White People: Telling Black People That They Are ‘Not Like Other Black People’ Is Not a Compliment.

I suppose I should’ve been ready for it. It was a Monday afternoon, after all. These sorts of things only happen during queer times. Like when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday, when the moon is full during its lunar cycle, and – of course – Mondays.

I was so relieved that the chime at my gate was not tendered by the pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had cheerfully promised to tell me about the ‘most precious gift that God ever gave’ upon their return in seven days that I let my guard down completely. Instead of two rosy-cheeked women dressed in pastels and lace stood my gaunt, strawberry blond neighbor. She was robed in a shade of green that reminded me of a cross between strained peas in the baby food aisle, her hair hanging limply in a loose braid. Her watery blue eyes met mine. I smiled and gave her a hug, telling her how good it was to see her. She struggles with depression, you understand. She rarely leaves the house, if ever.

She was looking for my husband.

“He’s out of town,” I said. “Can I help you with anything, maybe?”

She wanted to know if he had a contract template she could use to compel a client to pay her.

“I’ve done all this work, and I don’t think he wants to pay,” she said, her tone concerned and rising just above a whisper. “I’m so bad at business…”

I encouraged her not to worry. Even if Marshall wasn’t able to respond to her immediately, Google most likely had a wealth of information and resources at her disposal. We spoke at length about the woes of freelancing: troublesome clients, invoices that go unpaid for what seemed like an age while the bills pile up exponentially… that sort of thing.

Suddenly she interrupted me with a timid gasp. Her gave held mine deliberately, almost intimidatingly.

“I’m about to say something,” she announced. “You’re Black. You know you’re Black and I know it. One of my best friends from Nigeria is Black…”

I twisted my lips in amusement. What was she driving at? My ethnicity thus announced and confirmed, I smiled in order to encourage her to get to the point she wanted to make.

“You and I are standing here having a normal conversation. You can connect the dots. My friend Tim* – who is also Black, Jehovah’s Witness and gay – can connect the dots. But I have to tell you, I cannot stand these Black South Africans. The mentality is just so… They just don’t get it!”

She must’ve seen the dark shadow pass over my face, despite the lopsided smile I kept plastered on my face. How my spine suddenly went rigid at the words “these Black South Africans”. Those people – like her – were my acquaintances and friends. They work, they love, they try to make ends meet just like anyone else living in this country, a lot of them a heck of a lot worse off than she, with her cocker spaniel who dines on chicken livers and the Old World Venetian inspired McMansion she calls home. I remained silent despite my discomfort because despite all my wokeness, protecting white female fragility and sensitivity is conditioning I have yet to break, when by rights I should’ve told her to go straight to hell. She must’ve taken my silence for concession, because she continued.

“You’re not like them,” she sighed. “You’re not like these other Blacks.”

She said the words as though they were a prayer – a wish that had been pent up inside of her for eons that she had been too afraid to speak and had finally gathered the courage to. Her thin lips pulled themselves into a satisfied smile.

This, of course, was not new territory for me. As a model minority, I have spent the past 20 years in America being informed by astonished white people how ‘articulate’ I am, how much my work ethic is to be admired, and how that must all be due to my African upbringing.

“I’m sure you’re really grateful just to get the opportunity to make something of yourself,” they’d say. “Why do you think that is? Why don’t African Americans have the same work ethic, the same drive?”

Soon afterwards, I’d be recruited to lead a team and show them how to manage their time and conduct their accounts the same way I did; one of my superiors going so far as to inquire whether I could get one of our CSRs to pronounce the word “ask” as it was spelled, rather than “ax”. I gently, but firmly, told her that was impossible for me to do.

“He’s from Brunswick and he’s Geechee.”

How presumptuous of her. Does one go to Maine and order the natives to alter the way they pronounce the word ‘chowder’? To her disappointment, Cyrus carried on saying ‘ax’ during his calls until there was other cause conjured to fire him.

Here before me stood another white woman attempting to flatter me by denigrating an entire group of people. I was appalled and incensed, but my conditioning to protect white frailty was stronger than my anger. I met her eyes measuredly and informed her – without malice – that there were white people in America who thought the same as she did: That Africans were more morally fortified than their African American counterparts. That Africans were smarter and more driven. That African Americans were inherently lazy and also incapable of connecting the dots.

She seemed genuinely stunned by the revelation…so stunned that she reflexively doubted and denied its veracity.

“No,” she said breathlessly. “I believe Black Americans, like you, to be very different from the ones down here. Trust me. I’ve lived among them.”

What could I say? I allowed her to dwell in her mental bubble. There was hardly any point belaboring the issue. This was confirmed when she invited me over for coffee soon afterwards and declared her admiration for Donald Trump, asking me if I felt the same way about Fuhrer 45. Again, she reeled when I revealed something contrary to her beliefs.

“But surely you don’t believe Hillary was a better candidate do you?”

“It doesn’t matter what I believe about Hillary. She’s not president. He is.”

“But,” she pressed, “what about the pedophile island she and her husband have? The one with all the little girls they abuse?”

You can imagine how that aspect of our conversation concluded. Hopefully by its end, she felt the adequate amount of shame and self-depreciation that someone who has been fed a steady diet of Faux News and/or the National Enquirer ought to have the decency to feel. I have very little faith in that, however. Anyone who has carried on thinking this long that there exists a remote island populated with children for the sole purpose of abuse is only capable of so much logic. The logistics of travel to such a destination alone represent bad business. This, naturally, explains her deficiency in entrepreneurial acumen.

People actually read and believe this crap?

My neighbor is a lovely woman, and despite her inherent and very conscious biases: One of those ‘very fine’ people on the other side that Fuhrer 45 spoke about, to be sure. If you happen to fall into this category and are reading this, please take this bit of advice in good faith. It is NEITHER flattering nor appreciated to tell your Black acquaintances that they differ from others and are therefore more worthy of your respect and/or association. It is a divisive tactic that has been used to create schisms in our communities since colonization and before. It betrays your unconscious biases. It is revelatory of deep, inherent racist attitudes that you hold about Black people and stereotypes, despite your belief to the contrary. To continue to do so says more about you than it does your admirable Black friend, and it’s nothing to be proud of.

 

 

Has anything similar ever happened to you? Discuss. 

 

There Are Days When I Still Mourn the Loss of My Maiden Name

Do you remember your early middle school crushes? Did you ever play that game when you wrote your name and substituted your surname for that of the class prefect you only dared to admire from afar, fantasizing about the day you would be wed? I did. And it was fun…until it actually mattered.

Remember day dreamin’ about your crush in class?
Image credit: How to intrigue a guy

For 27 years, I was Abena Owusua Malaka Gyekye. And then one day in the summer of 2005, I was not. I became Abena Owusua Malaka Grant – officially – when my new social security card was sent to me in the mail. I still remember how ill and shaken I felt when I opened that plain, white government issued envelope and witnessed the final erasure of the woman I’d been for nearly three decades. I’m shaking as I write about it now. It felt like a death.

‘Malaka Gyekye’ was no more.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my name. The totality of it. It does not roll off the American tongue with ease. In fact, there have been many days when my name had forced those same tongues to falter and finally halt.

“It’s pronounced ‘jet-chee’.” I was always obliged to offer an explanation. The quicker, the better. Americans were always butchering my name and in their effort, I felt like they were cutting me down at the same time. Like many African children who grew up in the diaspora, I too begged my parents to give me an “easy” name: like Cindy or Suzzie. I still remember the day that my father dashed those dreams after I’d formed that bright idea. It was after a particularly hilarious episode of Three’s Company. Janet, Jack and Cindy… Everyone was so white and funny and happy – and above all – had normal names. I was sure my dad would see the sense in my request, but he simply told my sister and I that he liked our Ghanaian names and that was the end of it. Poor Adwoa and I were crushed.

Fast-forward a few years and a move across the Atlantic later and that ‘difficult’ name was actually quite common. It rolled off the Ghanaian tongue like a cresting wave. Effortless. Rhythmic. Ordinary.

I had always known that ‘Abena’ represented a girl born on Tuesday and ‘Malaka’ meant ‘angel’, but as I grew and began to ask more questions about the rest of my monikers, I was astonished. Named for my grandmother, ‘Owusua’ means woman of honor. And Gyekye?

“In Larteh, it means to bind,” my father said. “It also means to scatter.” The difference lies in intonation.

How perfect. What a peculiar dichotomy. How volatile. How wonderfully unpredictable. I grew enamored with my name. The totality of it.

And then I got married and my name changed.

I knew before I walked down the aisle that I would be expected to take my husband’s name. The ministry we were a part of was completely opposed to women keeping their maiden names. Even the idea of a hyphenated name was an affront. I just remember a lot of screaming about henpecked men who are married to women still under their ‘daddy’s protection’ and if said woman refused to take her husband’s name, he may as well take hers. (This sort of talk went on for years.) And then there was talk of Eve no longer being Eve when she knew Adam, but then becoming ‘Mrs. Adam’…a fact that I still have yet to unearth anywhere in the Bible. So far as I can tell, God created Eve and she lived and ultimately died AS EVE.

Eve being presented to Adam. Image credit: Lester Kern

Nevertheless, I did as was expected and ‘eagerly’ affirmed that I would be sharing my betrothed surname when asked. Of course I would. It’s what good women do. Yet, I still couldn’t conceal what I was feeling about the impending loss of my identity from my husband. But he’s a man, and men never have to face these sorts of decisions (unless they are running from the law or the IRS), so he didn’t really understand the grief I was experiencing. And then there was the whole Western historical reasoning for a woman changing her name in the first place. After marriage, a woman became a man’s property and a man’s property had to be identified.

“I think it’s important that we all – you, me and our children – have the same name,” he said simply. “For me, it signifies unity. Not ownership or control.”

That gave me some comfort. All the same, I held out filling and submitting the paperwork for as long as possible. It’s no easy thing: letting go of something you once felt blinding animosity towards, only later to discover that that blindness and pain was attributed to its brilliance and beauty and not a sinister light as you first imagined. I miss that connection to my name, and to my father’s clan. I mourn its passing because I know that its restoration is improbable, at least as far as my father’s direct line goes. The chances of my brother ever having children go from zero to hell naw with each passing year. My sister has done her best, choosing to hyphenate her kids’ names with Gyekye, and my hope is that the name will endure via my niece and nephew. Who knows? I can only hope.

There are days, like today, when I think about my married name, wonder about its history and contemplate my apathy towards it. I’m a Grant now, which means some Scottish or English man sailed from the UK to seek or change his fortunes a few centuries ago and took ownership of an African man who’d been forced to forgo his. Not only was my husband’s African ancestor robbed of his physical freedom, he also had his identity ripped from him in order to become a Grant. Or perhaps someone in my husband’s lineage chose the name ‘Grant’ after emancipation, forging a new identity in the same way Frederick Douglas did. The point is, I don’t know. My husband has no knowledge or interest in the origins of his surname beyond a plantation owner by the same name who lived in “Alabama…maybe Georgia.”

This is my perpetual identity now. A surname shrouded in forgettable memory. An uncertain history. Unlike Gyekye, Grant is unremarkable in its meaning. And I grieve for this sad truth.

 

Anyone else ever feel this way about their married name?

 

 

I’m Terrified That My Daughters Will Identify With a Hashtag like #MeToo One Day

I’ve been sitting on this post for a week or better. The subject matter is one that people like myself – empaths – would much rather leave to our darkest imaginations than speak about, the risk being that the undesired event may come to pass. But if you’ve lived a day over 20, you know that refusing to speak about something does not guarantee its preclusion; and so it is with unease that I write about the hash tag #MeToo and all the sentiment surrounding it.

#MeToo has been trending online for close to two weeks now. The brain-child of Tarana Burke in 2006, Me Too was created to re-empower victims of sexual assault with their own voices and to let them know that they do not suffer alone in the face of this specific tragedy that so many women and girls are forced to carry silently. The hash tag went viral when Alyssa Milano encouraged all women and girls who had been victims of either assault or harassment to demonstrate the numbers simply using #MeToo. Many women went further by sharing harrowing stories of being assaulted by driving school instructors, relatives, co-workers, managers…essentially men that occupy the same spaces we do on a regular basis.

There is a misconception that the majority of rapes and sexually assaults are committed by strangers…some spooky man hiding in the bushes or behind a dumpster, waiting to attack hapless victims. The reality is far more sobering. 3 of 4 rapes is committed by someone known to the victim. A fair number of cell-owning teens (12–17) say they have received sexually suggestive nude/seminude images of someone they know via text. An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.

In short, we need to invest just as much time – if not more – instructing our children about the possible dangers those familiar to us pose as we do ‘stranger danger’. It’s uncomfortable and unpleasant to imagine that your favorite wise cracking uncle/cousin could do anything to debase your child, but the proof is in the statistics. And as shocking as they are, they only tell part of the story. Many incidents of molestation go unreported for the fear of “tarnishing the family name” or for the sake of the perpetrator, who may have a family of his own. We must consider his wife and children and what they would endure, should uncle be sent to jail after all.

I have three daughters with three very different personalities. I don’t know which of these an abuser would find most ‘attractive’ and therefore attempt to exploit. Is it my shy, sweet girl? Is it my fearless wildling? What about the unrelenting smugness of the third? Already my eldest child has experienced street harassment (while at her school, no less!) when a passing man hurled suggestive obscenities at a group of her friends through the chain link fence on the playground. No surprise when she cussed him out so severely that her friends had to pull her back and hush her. I think I still owe her ice-cream for her response. It’s the way I would’ve responded, but it does not come without its dangers. A man with a frail ago would easily follow her after school, or return with his friends to teach such an impudent young girl a lesson, when he was in fact the instigator. God, I detest toxic, fragile masculinity.

Stats say that 1 in 6 American women been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. In South Africa where we live now, an average of 110 people are raped every day, a number that includes a significant number of men. It was reported on SABC that South African men are raped at a rate five times that of the global average. Naturally, this makes me anxious for my son as well, and as he gets older, our conversations will certainly center on sensitivity to male victims of rape and molestation and how to show compassion and support for men/boys in his circle who have a diminished degree of separation from assault.

I worry, but what can I do?

Well, for one thing I can prepare my children by talking to them. I confided my fears in my friend, Lydia, who has “raised” younger cousins and who advised this:

“Make sure your children feel like they are safe to talk to you about anything. (How cliché, I retorted!) Demystify sex. Tell them about your own experiences and prepare them for the kinds of things men will say to lure them. Flattery is a powerful tool, and whether we like to admit it or not, we all enjoy that kind of attention at some point. But whatever they are feeling or are going through, they MUST feel secure in talking to you about it.”

It was sage advice, but it was good. Perhaps if this sort of advice had been dispensed a century or so ago, we might have lower numbers of assault today. Perhaps if our forebears had been more intentional about protecting victims and punishing perpetrators who abuse their power, authority and position, we might’ve mitigated the rates of assault. I ponder on these things because as I scrolled through my timeline, it nearly broke me to see #MeToo simply posted on the statuses of two women I adore, both in their 70s. It was a sobering reminder that the prevalence of assault has a long, enduring history, affecting those whom you might never expect and shudder to imagine having to endure such trauma. Yet another friend who’d also posted confided privately that though she did not share the details of her repeated assaults, posting #MeToo was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. That too was a sobering reminder that for all the thousands of stories that were shared, thousands more were not.

Still, I hold out hope that we are doing better by this next generation of girls, at least in this corner of the world. The other day, my son came home looking very self-satisfied. I asked him how his day was at school.

“Ugh. The bullies were really acting up today,” he said with the air of man who’d been fighting fires for 12 hours or better.

“Oh really? What happened?”

“This kid named Johan* was bothering all the girls. Hitting them and calling them names. I told him to stop because it wasn’t nice. I tried to stop him. One of the girls he was calling names was just minding her own business, and she went over to him and hit him back. Then all the girls hit him. Then he ran off.”

“Wow! I see! Did they get in trouble?”

“No,” he said. “Because it was after school anyways. It’s Johan’s fault. It’s like when you poke a beehive while the queen bee is making eggs and all the guard bees come out and attack you. Why would you do something so stupid? Bother the hive while the queen is making her eggs? What’s for lunch?”

Why indeed?

 

How did you react to #MeToo? Do you think the viral hash tag will make a difference in policy, advocacy or real life relationships? Discuss.

 

Lecherous Lecturers: Preparing Your Student For the Lion’s Den

It’s not the kind of message I was expecting to receive to early in the morning, particularly not from the individual in question. He is a casual (and one of my more pleasant) acquaintances on social media. Our conversation has run the gamut from history, to music, to women’s issues…but never this.

“A friend of mine was sexually harassed by a lecturer at Legon and didn’t know who to speak to and she spoke to me. She wants to be discreet about it…”

Sexual assault on campuses is a global problem.

My heart immediately broke for this unknown girl. Her distress is not unfamiliar to me. Although I have never suffered the lamentable circumstance of being assaulted by my instructor(s), I know many women and girls who have. We were in grade 6 when the English teacher at my elementary school, Soul Clinic, closed all the windows and doors and shut my classmate in the room with him during break time, forbidding us from coming in during that half hour with a strict warning. I still remember how stricken with grief she looked when she finally emerged from captivity. She never was quite the same after that.

A new school year already well underway, and most of us who find ourselves in the noble position of parent/guardian have parted with our hard earned money to purchase books and supplies for our charges, further equipping them with the same advice that was handed down to us during our formative years.

“Focus on your books.”

“Don’t have too many friends, and make sure to pick the right ones.”

“Don’t eat everything in your chop box the first week. You don’t know when we will visit again!”

For all of our preparation, some of us will be marching our children and wards right into the waiting arms of sexual predators – men and women of depraved minds who will fondle, slobber and lash them with all gladness. It is afterward that the victim will have to make the impossible choice of speaking up and reporting a teacher with tenure or maintaining silence in hopes of passing their course. Either way, the child’s life is forever marked by the event. How can you prepare your child to face something like that when many of us don’t even entertain the occurrence as a possibility? Things like this don’t happen in our communities – good communities. They certainly wouldn’t happen to your well-raised child at a school as reputable as Legon.

And yet.

There is an almost willful ignorance about sexual the levels of sexual, verbal and physical abuse that pockmark our educational landscape. The façade of peace and perfection is more important than its pursuit, explaining why so woeful little has been done to protect students who have their education held for ransom by teachers and professors who feel entitled to their bodies. As a nation, we’ve been indoctrinated with this belief: You cannot challenge authority and hope to get any redress. Even though I felt a duty to try to help this young woman with any information I could find, I felt defeated from the onset. One after another, the responses to my query were met with scoffs, confirming that instinct.

“Here, in Ghana? Please.”

“You are lucky if you graduate from a Ghanaian institution without suffering some form of harassment or assault. Even the boys aren’t spared.”

“You can report it if you like, but the administration will always take the side of faculty.”

“My professor offered me a lift back to campus, drove me to a remote corner, pulled out his penis and demanded I give him a blow job. I screamed and insulted him, which caught him off guard. When I reported it to the head of the department, I was advised to let it go because, ‘My insult seemed to scare him enough’.”

Everyone was apologetic, but the fact was that this young woman would have to take her lumps with the rest of the culture. Could it be that this was really the case? Could it be that in 2017 – the year of the super computer and concept self-driving cars and all the other shiny technological advancements that we on the Continent have embraced – that there are no mechanisms for students to report improprieties meted against them?

My stubbornness wouldn’t allow me to believe it. Fate, who disguised herself as Dr. Akyana Britwum, rewarded my pigheadedness with an introduction to his mother, Dr. Akua Opokua Britwum, Professor at the University of Cape Coast. Her research and publications cover sexual harassment, the economics of violence against women, gender mainstreaming in Ghanaian Universities, gender and land rights, gender and leadership in trade unions, organizing informal economy workers as well as trade union participation and representation.

Dr. Akua Britwum. Source: UCC

We spoke briefly about the incident that was brought to my attention. This is a condensed version of our conversation:

“ Sexual harassment from unwanted contact through assault and rape is prevalent in our educational institutions in Ghana. The experience is widespread; deriving from our (mis)understanding of sexual harassment; for a number unwanted touching patting no the backside, sexual jokes, exposure to pornography are just jokes any not harassment.

Some universities cover sexual harassment during orientation for freshers; but our experience at University of Cape Coast (UCC) shows that the space is small and students hardly hear or able to understand fully what has been said. We are therefore working towards providing a dedicated space of about 2 hours for training on healthy sexual relations for students. It’s a system that was piloted this year.

A number of facilities (to report abuse) are available at various levels.  In our basic schools Girls Education Unit’s school-based facilitators and guidance and counseling coordinators (GCC). All second cycle schools have GCCs. The question is how effective such systems are for dealing with sexual abuse and harassment. The officers’ lack the needed training and gender political skills to deal with the issues that come before them. However as you guessed rightly, funding and staffing remain real challenges.

Victim blaming/slut shaming is a big challenge especially around what is called ‘provocative/decent dressing’. And you find ‘prominent persons’ and politicians pandering to this discourse. Some men even claim to harass women because they have been ‘harassed’ by the way they dress. But women cannot lay claim to same; that they have been harassed by men’s dressing so they harassed the men in retaliation.   So, a girl gets raped and she is blamed for being in the wrong place with the wrong persons, in the wrong dress. She should have known better; if she decided to spend time in bad boys’ company then she deserves the rape they met out to her. She is in short, a deserving victim.

The boys or men are absolved of any responsibility whatsoever for their criminal actions. Worst of all they do not carry any stigma for having raped a girl. She is the one whose dignity is soiled for ever. The situation gets more complicated if the harasser has some level of social standing. The poor girls are made to feel guilty for bringing harm to such men and their dependents. The choice that is forced on them; either they choose to live with their sense of defilement, loss of dignity. Or report and carry a burden of guilt for making their harassers suffer the consequences of their actions: Jobs loss, jail term, etc.

In fact, we find slut shaming or victim blaming is one reason why most girls will not seek redress in situations where they have been assaulted or harassed. Worst of all some even believe they asked for it.

And among those who do find the courage to report, a number just drop the case. They come under such intense pressure that few have the courage to pursue their case to conclusion.

As a caring society and ordinary citizens there’s a lot we can do:

We have to begin by reconstructing masculinities in Ghana:

Let’s teach young men that:

  1. They are responsible for their actions
  2. Just as they can control all other actions they have full power to control they sexual desires;
  3. That it is stigma to be a rapist
  4. Rape or sexual assault survivors are not morally weak;
  5. Women should be assertive and not a threat to men.

Let us teach young women that:

  1. No man has a right to her body;
  2. They have a right to say no to sexual advances no matter who it making the ventures;
  3. They can withdraw their consent to sex any time they feel it is not right;
  4. Single women who have never married are not failures

Every one should:

  1. Stop blaming the way girls dress as a cause of sexual harassment;
  2. Support girls who are harassed to seek redress;
  3. Criminalize men who sexually harass no matter their social standing.

She left off with this bit of encouragement:

Be heartened that now something happens and those assaulted or harassed can seek and obtain redress on university campuses in Ghana. In fact, everyone going through harassment should see it as their duty to report and ensure they follow through the process for redress.

Image Source: Unicef

We teach our kids to call 911/999 in the case of an emergency. We tell them to stop drop and roll if they are ever caught on fire. We better prepare young girls/women for every other eventuality than the ones they will most likely face: street, workplace or classroom harassment. As we’ve just celebrated the International Day of the Girl, let’s rejoice in how far women’s rights have come, but be realistic about how much further we have to go. Arm your girl(s) with the right information. If you are in Ghana and have been the victim of harassment or assault on campus, contact CEGANSA at 0246219788 and speak with an activist/counselor.

If you live outside of Ghana, I implore you to look up resources in your community as well. Let’s work to make classroom and workplace sexual assault a thing of the past.

 

When Marriage Becomes Idolatry

Idolatry: extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. A fetishism. 

 

It’s a widely held belief that the wedding industry is the only viable, locally sustained industry in the Ghana. Oil and gas is still somewhat nascent and has yet to yield all of the promised gains that were dangled in front of the nation once drilling began. To boot, the oil-producing Western Region, despite all of the natural wealth and resources it provides, is one of the poorest and least developed of all 10 regions. Major industries that include mining, lumbering and light manufacturing have had to scale back production and in many cases lay off stay due to the protracted energy crisis.

The only “industry” that has been able to withstand fluctuations and pitfalls in the market is the wedding industry. No matter how bad (or good) things get in Ghana, someone will always be getting married…and they will source and spend excessive amounts of money to do so.

Can you believe that this is a cake?

On average, a couple from a middle class background can expect to spend anywhere between $10,000 – $30,000 on a wedding, depending on how ostentatious the bride’s (or in many cases, the groom’s) family wants the occasion to be. The costs rack up over time to include, custom made gowns, several changes of clothes for the reception, the tuxedos, the engagement, gifts for guests, food, event planners, reception venue, the cake, the Moet… There is always something “required” to have a “proper” wedding for the up-and-coming cosmopolitan couple. No attention to detail – or expense – is spared for our weddings. The shame of not having a wedding that was not the talk of the town at its conclusion is a burden many are unwilling to bear. It’s unfathomable! And the sobering reality in Ghana is that more attention is paid to the particulars of the wedding day than to the marriage between two people.

And yet, marriage is probably the most important goal a person can attain in modern Ghanaian culture. Not education. Not entrepreneurship. Not creating intellectual property. Marriage.

Whether one is happy in their marriage or not in Ghana is of little consequence. All that matters is that all persons of a suitable age (25, ideally) find a mate, go into debt in a desperate attempt to impress rarely-seen friends and extended family, a fulfill their social obligation to go and marry. The need to develop the attitude that makes marriage a successful institution is often overlooked. This is evident right from the knocking phase of the typical Ghanaian union.

In this phase, a man expressing a desire to wed his paramour will approach the potential bride’s family. He comes with drinks, cloth and whatever other trinkets that would denote him as a suitable suitor. If the prospective bride’s family accepts his offering, a wedding date will be set. Sometimes, the family will present a list of required items to be brought in exchange for the girl. Sometimes there is a haggling over that list. Historically, a traditional wedding on its own merits served as a legally binding union.  In some communities, a bride wouldn’t even have to be present in order to be married. (This has its pros and cons.) But now that Ghanaians have by-and-large adopted a hybrid of Western/traditional/manic approach to marriage, these rules no longer apply. There is an increasing number of “relationship experts” who tout the idea that a couple married in a traditional ceremony are not really married until they stand before a priest and do a white wedding…and of course pay the requisite fees that accompany such a venture. It is because of this pervasive view and the undue pressure that it brings many young couples (and their parents) that the wedding industry has become the money making monster that it is. Furthermore, now armed with the knowledge that he has footed the bill and bought his bride, the industrious male has no inclination to consult her on issues that will affect the pair of them once their union is sealed. He can make major decisions without her input or consultation, because he’s the “provider” of the house. (Note: A man is always “the” provider, whether his wife is gainfully employed and possibly out earns him or not.)

This is not common sense.

This is idolatry.

It is bowing to unreasonable phantom idea of what marriage is supposed to look like.

Pursuant to this (unnecessarily) expensive venture comes the barrage of marriage conferences – usually headed by men – promising women that their failed marriages can be saved if only they would further submit to their husbands. These women and their dissatisfied husbands are still in wedding mode, never fully graduating to the level of mature, selfless individuals who assess the problems in their marriage or plan goals around its success.

It is essential that perceptions about marriage change if we are to build strong families and raise productive individuals. It’s high time we review and revise what marriage means to us culturally, before it is rendered obsolete in this new century. The first notion that has to go out of the window is that a commitment between a sentient man and a woman joined in a traditional environment is inferior to a white wedding.

The second is a rabid need to push personal ledgers into the red when everyone is going to forget the particulars of your wedding by the time they attend the next event on the following Saturday.

The third is to remove the stigma around being single. Being single is not a punishment for a failure to submit to and comply with traditional gender norms, and being married is not necessarily a reward. In either state, you will create your own heaven or hell. Your life will be a success depending on your attitude and what you determine satisfies you personally.

If we do not cease this blind worship of an institution – and all that trappings therein (that has a 50% +/- chance of failure, might I add) – it will only yield catastrophic results.

Inquire of the ancient Israelites if idol worship ever yielded positive results. Selah.

 

 

 

Patriarchal Princesses Don’t Bother Me. Here’s Why.

In just four short months I will turn 40. I mention the coming of this milestone with pride and eagerly await its coming. Like 16 and 25, 40 is a one of those benchmark birthdays that heralds a shift in a woman’s life. For one thing, I will have achieved authentic ‘Auntie’ status owing to may age. (Some rogue elements began referring to me as ‘auntie’ at 37, but I let that slide because I am the embodiment of magnanimity.) As I understand it, fewer things begin to bother you at 40, ostensibly owing to the fact that one has spent one’s 30s pruning, plucking and scoring undesirable people and circumstances from one’s life. For me, those items include – but are not limited to – 1) Phone calls from unknown numbers. 2) People who go 20 in a 45/mph lane. 3) Women who cape for their own suppression, informally known as Patriarchal Princesses.

If I had to wager, I’d say that you are pretty impressed with my list. They are all pretty repugnant, aren’t they? But I’m here to declare with pride that they no longer cause me disquiet or trouble my soul! This is growth, especially with regard to the lattermost item. Patriarchal Princesses have perplexed me for years, but even though I don’t understand them (or their causeless cause), I accept that they are a part of our social ecosystem.

Why am I talking about this?

A few days ago, a post was shared on my wall from a woman I shall not name nor share the entirety of the contents of her publication. I wouldn’t want to embarrass her further because God is doing a new work in my life and I am submitted to His will. What she said really doesn’t matter. My reaction to what she said however does. I share the post and invited my friends (and the world) to laugh with me because as far as I (and history books and current events) was concerned, it was astonishingly inaccurate, woefully misleading, and hilarious that it was presented with all sincerity. As the African American proverb says: She was just loud and wrong.

Naturally, she got wind of my addendum to her post, and naturally my comments section morphed into Chernobyl.

Chernobyl. It was all fun and games until it wasn’t.

She was talking about methods that women ought to employ to get a stool at the table, and made some almost convincing points about why women ought to embrace their place as second-class, binary functioning citizens, but she goofed in two specific areas: the examples she presented to support her position and the language she used to describe their efforts. One of the few (but most effective) tools of the patriarchal princess is to bleach and re-write women’s history and achievements in order to suit their agenda. And so she asserted that women like Margaret Thatcher, Yaa Asantewaa and Michelle Obama did not make advancements in their careers or for society by being brash or assertive, but rather by ‘cajoling’ men to join their cause.

I confess, that this is what caused me to burst into a fit of laughter, because words and language matter to me. To cajole, by definition is to “persuade someone to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery, to deceive with soothing words or false promises.” (Merriam-Webster) Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister did not bear the hallmarks of a cajoling woman. This is a woman who literally said, “If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

No right thinking person would interpret Yaa Asantewaa’s speech to the gathered chiefs who had been insulted by then-governor Hogdson as an exercise in flattery. She basically punked the men in her company and said women would fight if they were too afraid to.

Keep in mind, Asante women did accompany their men to war in those days, but it was to provide auxiliary support in the form of singing and taunting the enemy. These men were taunted into action, not cajoled. And as nice as Michelle Obama is, she has been dubbed Marie Antoinette and the Queen of Mean by her detractors.

This particular woman belongs to a Facebook ministry that wants to “restore narratives” about what they deem as a woman’s proper place in her home and society. I hadn’t heard about their concerted efforts in that area until a friend of mine shared something from their wall with me that caused me no small amount of consternation. I’m going to share it with you, unedited, with my thoughts in parenthesis.

23 THINGS TO DO TO KEEP YOUR HUSBAND UNDER THE CONTROL OF YOUR LOVE

 

  1. Call him by a pet name (Naturally. Because any lapdog you ‘control’ needs a pet name.)
  2. Allow him exercise his authority as the head of the family. (What does that even mean?)
  3. DO not challenge him when he is hurt. (Who hurt him? How do you define ‘challenge’? Are we allowed to ask questions?)
  4. Be silent when he is angry. You can go back to him in his sober moment with apology n explain why you behave that way that annoyed him. (Sure. I agree in taking time out to cool off, but if my man is sulking, he doesn’t just get to be surly without engaging in an exchange to come to a conclusion about how we BOTH might have handled things better in the situation. Is he a two-year-old or a MAN?)
  5. Be quick to say “I’m sorry dear” when ever you offend him, insist on his forgiveness,appreciate and kiss him when he does. (He does me no favors by forgiving me. Forgiveness is a poison he must release from his heart for his own benefit.)
  6. Speak good of him before his Friends and siblings. (When he does good, trust me they will all know. Men excel at bragging.)
  7. Honor his mother. (The bible says to honor THY mother. Each of us will do our own honoring.)
  8. Insist that he buys gift for his parents and so be sure that he will do same for your parents (Why is the burden of buying gifts on him alone? What kind of unnecessary pressure is this?)
  9. Surprise him with his favorite dish especially when he has no money at hand and never delay his food. (Now he’s suddenly broke? Okay…but you JUST said he needs to go gift shopping, so how am I supposed to magically afford the ingredients for his favorite meal? Nambia?)
  10. Do not allow the maid to serve him food when you are at home. Because u may lose him to her. (This one has always intrigued me. I assume my husband would be tempted by the waakye seller and the waitress. He should respect himself and his vows and leave the maid to do her work.)
  11. Give him a warm reception with an embrace when he returns, collect his luggage and help undress him. (I used to do this for my son when get got off the school bus. I suppose it’s alright. I’ll make sure to put a big next to his bowl of Spaghetti O’s too.)
  12. Smile when you look at him and give him occasional pecks when you are out socially. (I have no quarrel with this. PDA is lit.)
  13. Praise him before your children sometimes. (Why just sometimes?)
  14. Wash his back while he is in the tub or shower. (If he asks me to, I will. But no one wants you rushing into the bathroom while you’re trying to enjoy the steam.)
  15. Put love note in his lunch box or briefcase. (Who is love note?)
  16. Phone and tell him that you miss him. (If he’s out of town sure. But we can’t be raising a generation of needy chicks who can’t function whenever their men go so far as the sidewalk.)
  17. Dial his number and on hearing “hello” just tell him I love you. (Because Stevie Wonder.)
  18. If he is a public figure or a politician, gently wake him at the early hours of the morning and romance him to the point of demand. He will not be entice by any other woman that day. (LOLOLOL!!!! You clearly don’t know our politicians.)
  19. Tell him how lucky you are to have him as your husband. (If I have to undress, bathe and travel to Nambia to buy a grown man’s food to prove my devotion, that’s not a ‘lucky’ circumstance to be in.)
  20. Give him a hug for no reason. (Touch is a love language. This is sound advise.)
  21. Appreciate God for the Adam of your life. (Yeah. He sounds like Adam. That same dude who abdicated his responsibilities and blamed God for giving him a woman to mislead him. Yes! Thank you Lord for this wotless man!)
  22. Always remember to pray for him. (The bible says we must pray for one another. No quarrels here!)
  23. Pray together and also pray together before going to bed in the evening… (Oh. You just repeated what… Never mind.)

May God bless your marriages. (May the Lord help you with your life.)

Keep your husband under the control of your love…

I told you language is important to me, and if I were a man, I would be offended to know that my wife was using manipulating tactics to ‘control’ me, based on the supposition that a man is a kid! One ought to show their spouse genuine affection. There’s nothing wrong with that. But to advance the idea that a woman’s husband is a flighty, barely functioning being who can be led astray by another woman with a plate is insulting to his intelligence, his ability, his whole being. And here’s the kicker: Women who do all this and MORE still lose their husbands to the stripper. Why? Because you never allowed him space to cultivate his manhood. You insisted on taking on the role of sexual partner AND mother, coddling him into the co-dependent man-baby that he is now. What’s more, this is the picture of marriage you present to your children. To them, this is normal and so find themselves in conflict with a segment of the world that says that men and women share equal responsibility for the sustaining of their marriage. It takes two to say ‘I do.’

But if that WORKS for the pair of you, that’s fine. If as a woman, you feel compelled and fulfilled only when you run yourself into the ground with overexertion, have at it! If you feel it is God’s calling in your life finish raising your husband because his mother failed to complete her work, who are we to interfere with God’s will for your life?! And if you have to scheme, flatter and manipulate your man into fidelity, girl… I have no words. You are free to give free advice, however do us all a favor and refrain from presenting this as any form of ultimate truth. God has given us all free will. This list is 23 points of witchcraft.

Substance.

We all have to feed off of something. We are human, but we are still a diverse race of beings. Entomologically speaking, a fly and a butterfly both have wings, but only one is attracted to excrement. To the fly, shit tastes like sugar. There is nothing wrong with the symbiotic relationship between the fly and the cast offs of another animal. Coprophilous organisms are a part of our ecosystem, no matter how abhorrent. In fact, they are vital to its sustainment. The truth is, there are hoards of men who are the products of a failed upbringing and require such manipulating tactics from their wives/girlfriends in order to exist in a sense of normalcy. As a butterfly, I cannot abide with such a man. The substance of the narrative that is being presented here is therefore toxic and detrimental to me. But to the excrement-ingesting insect, this substance is life and more importantly, life more abundantly.

There have always been women against the advancement of other women. Some of the strongest anti-suffrage campaigns were lead by women. There are women today who believe that education is wasted on girls. There are women who believe that men (or at least laws created by men) should control their reproductive organs and that they can’t be trusted to know what’s best for their own bodies. They would never come out and say this blatantly, of course. They’ll couch their damaging views in saccharine tones and serve their poison with tea and soup, and many will lap it up because it feels good to sleep deeply before you die so slowly.

But we see you. Though many will be deceived, you will eventually be unmasked. And that’s why the Stepford Wives reloaded don’t bother me.

 

 

I Support Africa’s Supreme Court Judges’ Right to Wear Those Ridiculous Robes

There was an article making the rounds on social media last week querying why African judges still wear wigs 50 years after the end of colonization. The question remains a post-colonial conundrum: What is so appealing about the trappings of a judicial system that robbed an entire continent of its freedoms and imposed foreign laws and mores? Surely, it can’t be the horsehair wigs and the Santa-esque cloaks…so what could it be?

The answer is: We may never know. All we know is that yesterday’s colonial subjects and today’s adjudicators are vehemently opposed to anyone snatching their wigs, end of discussion!

In the same article, a prominent Ghanaian lawyer, Augustine Niber, was cited as saying that removing wigs would reduce the “intimidation and fear that often characterize our courtrooms.” Kenya’s new chief justice, David Maraga indicated that he wants to revert to the colonial traditions. He wants to take the country back to the “old days”.

These are the sentiments of people who romanticize the period of brutal colonization, when men enslaved on rubber plantations were forced to watch as their children’s limbs were hacked off for failing to haul in the day’s quota; when retired African soldiers in the Queen’s service could be fired upon for demanding their pensions; when empires were carved up and families were forever separated by borders and boundaries created for the benefit of the invader. There is absolutely no good reason that an African judge in pursuit of truth, justice and fairness would willingly adorn themselves in the garb of a parasite that represented the very opposite of those ideals during its presence on the Continent. But it is Lawyer Niber who gives us the best insight into why those ridiculous red robes and horrendous wigs are embraced by her colleagues: African courtrooms must be places of intimidation, not impartiality. They ought to be nondiscriminatory, instead from the clerk all the way up to the presiding judge often serve as an extension of the oppressive behavior that operates against the poor, disenfranchised and (relatively) powerless. It should shame any practitioner of the law to boast in their contribution to creating an intimidating and terrifying environment for any person(s) seeking a fair adjudication of their case!

Sorry. You ain’t intimidating nobody dressed up like the extras on the set of the Griswalds.

This is exactly how British courts operated on the Continent: to create a perception that each colonized subject of the Crown was inferior and not an equal citizen before the law. This modus operandi replicated itself all over the British colonies, from India to the Americas, right down to the southern tip of Africa. The brilliance wasn’t so much in the formula, but in the British government’s steadfast ability to repudiate any alterations to that formula. That resoluteness paid off again and again with stunning –and more importantly – predictable results. That result was absolute power in the form of control of the people’s minds. Often, people with an unquenchable thirst for power will emulate the behaviors of those that they recognize as having attained that power, even if it was used at one point to dominate them. In common parlance, “it is my to chop.”

So yes: As a group that has yet to break free from the mental shackles colonialism, I think that it is absolutely fine –if not fitting – that African judges continue to wear their Christmas carol robes and Scrooge McDuck wigs. It’s a reflection of the stagnation of the culture, and we have no business misrepresenting ourselves as more advanced that we truly are.

The webpage for the UK Courts and Tribunals Judiciary provides a brief but interesting history on the fashion evolution of England’s courts. Prior to the seventeenth century, lawyers were expected to appear in court with clean, short hair and beards. The wig was not adopted until the reign of Charles II, when all of polite society was expected to embrace and wear them. In short, African judges and their surrogates have a conjugal relationship with the sartorial choices of a long dead balding English monarch who attended to his royal duties dressed as Liberace. But like culottes and fanny packs, there are some things you will never (ever) be able to convince some people to let go of, no matter how much it dates them or how ridiculous it makes them look.

The overseers of Britain’s judiciary system saw to it that their attire changed to reflect the times and/or changes in court structure:

When county courts were created in 1846 the black gown was also worn. However, in 1915 Judge Woodfall suggested that a new robe – similar to those worn by High Court judges – be introduced.

A violet robe was chosen, faced – to distinguish it from the violet High Court robe – in lilac or mauve taffeta. A lilac tippet and black girdle also formed part of the costume, which due to wartime conditions did not become compulsory until 1919.

When the conditions of war precluded the use of taffeta and violet dye, the court managed to pivot and make allowances for it until it became more feasible. I would think in countries where the GDP is nothing to crow about, an expenditure of $6,500 per wig ought to make their use untenable. It is a misuse of resources, and the funds for purchase are not reinvested into local economies. To their credit, some African lawyers have boldly suggested that the attire be altered to reflect a new mindset, use material more conducive to life in hot, tropical climates and just…contemporary. However, it is no easy feat trying to convince people in power to attempt anything new…or anything that is going to make their lives easier. My local police station in South Africa still has a drawer labeled “printed emails to file.”

I don’t like the robes that our African judges wear. I think the wigs are silly and far from “intimidating”. These men and women look like toddlers dressing up in great-grandpa’s clothes. But that’s why I support their use. It reminds me that at the end of the day, even our most formidable citizens can be very much like our favorite cartoon characters.

#PepperDemMinistries: An Official Statement

Are you listening to the Super Morning Show of Joy FM? Perhaps you would like to know more about PDM. Here is their official statement!

This is our official statement on who we are, what we are about, and where we would like to go with the Ministry.

Who are we?

These past two weeks the Ghanaian Facebook sphere was captured by a group of charismatic young women with their male allies who drove/put gender on everybody’s agenda. The #PepperDemMinistries (PDM) is a group of like-minded women on Facebook who were already in the business of probing into the structures operating in the Ghanaian society that somehow leave both genders imbalanced and incompatible to work in unison to advance society. We are called “Pepper Dem Ministries” because we engage with the issues which are mostly uncomfortable and unpopular in our socio-cultural space. Pepper can burn and we raise issues which can make people shift in their seats. Our advocacy focuses mainly on gender.

 

What has happened in the past two weeks:

PDM took “advantage” of two incidents in the past couple of weeks to reverse narratives and create scenarios which pointed to our gendered biases in order to highlight unfair judgments, mostly, placed on women in society. By this, we also showed how restricting women, ultimately, disadvantaged men and the overall progress of society. The first incident was the fracas between Mr. Paul Adom Otchere and Mr. Manasseh Azure. The second was the leaked video of Madam Afia Schwarzenegger by her “husband” for supposedly “cheating” on him and threatening to pour acid on her.

These two scenarios offered us an opportunity to successfully flip the script and replace “man/men” with “woman/women” and vice versa in our socio-cultural narratives engineered by gender stereotypes. We have skilfully maintained the same tone and logic used in these same instances to either (1) brand women as their own enemies and (2) let sexually unfaithful men off the hook easily and therefore burdening another fallible human (the female) unnecessarily with higher purity standards and as custodians of morality. We set out to be deliberate and raw (say it as it is) in order to give everyone a mirror in their hand to reflect their gendered thinking and a gauge to measure their gendered angles. We recognize that being a good person is not necessarily a cure to sexism and misogyny and both women and men can fall prey to this.

Our purpose:

The purpose of our probing, interrogating, and theorising is to facilitate learning, unlearning and re-learning of the narratives both male and females have been operating by, in order to establish a better approach to our socialization. The issues we technically address are certain ingrained gender norms and how partial it can be against women . Although we highlight the fact that these narratives are more dangerous for women, we do not lose sight of the many subtle ways these narratives affect men too.

The Way Forward:

We have used and will continue to use the affordances of social media, in its very essence to shape and re-shape the mindsets of our generation and the next and we would like to invite you to join hands with us, engage us and freely critique us.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be flipping, theorising and projecting the lived experiences of women  and girls in our society to generate conversations around gender bias in our society (ShareHerStory). We will also be inviting men to share with us how patriarchy has hurt them and how gender stereotypes also affect them (HearHisVoice).

Our Successes:

  1. This is only the beginning of our third week and already our official Facebook page is at a 1000 likes in just three days of operation. Thank you for making this happen!
  2. For the past two weeks, #PepperDemMinistries has been trending on and off social media. We’ve got the entire Ghanaian social media scene talking, probing and interrogating gender norms in the society. This, has been ongoing for the past 2 weeks and we are utterly elated!
  3. We see our male allies and we recognise that there are many that are for us than against us.
  4. The backlash around our “approach” and “tone” is ultimate proof that the damage of the narratives are deeper than we had imagined. These truths we speak are uncomfortable and society is having a hard time confronting them.

As we celebrate our successes and continue discussions around these narratives, let’s be reminded that the #Pepper in our name refers to the uncomfortable narratives we are dealing with.

Now that we have your attention, note that we will remain primarily on social media and continue speaking up against these narratives. Catch up on our posts and events at:

Facebook: Pepper Dem Ministries

Twitter: @PDMAfrica

 

Reblogged with permission from Sankofa Reviews