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

‘De Ting Go Skrrrr Ka’ Guy is a Ghanaian. Here Are Some of the Clues I Purposely Ignored.

De ting go skkrrrrr ka has made its way into and took over the zeitgeist of September 2017. Very few pop culture moments have staying power beyond 3 weeks, and as the interest in this one begins to wane, we give thanks to the BBC, Charley with the blue eyes, MC Quakez and Shakez and Roadman Shaq (aka Michael Dapaah) for bringing so much joy to our timelines, newsfeeds and WhatsApp groups. Ayekoo!

Unless you’ve been on a total tech sabbatical, there’s very little chance that you haven’t heard de ting go skrrrr ka in some part or capacity. The verse (hook?) is so powerful that it made its way to the pulpit of the church I was visiting this Sunday. Hand on my heart, the visiting pastor – who happened to be a Nigerian – broke away from his message to pray in tongues and instead of the accepted “robo shatata” actually cried out “ka ka ka ka kaaaaa!!!”…repetitively. You’ve been going to church 30 years and I guarantee you’ve never heard ANYONE – not on the intercessory team, not the ushers, not the kid who just got saved – speak in tongues and say kakakaka…. Poom –poom. That wasn’t a touch from the Holy Ghost. That was a nudge from Roadman Shaq.

And my eldest daughter was there with an impish look on her face, looking at mine for a reaction. Humph. You think I’m new to this? You think this is my first rodeo? I hollered my laughter through “heys” and “hallelujahs”.

After an initial viewing of the Roadman Shaq video and all its subsequent memes, it is only natural to ask oneself where this guy comes from. What are his origins? Yeah, he’s English, but something in his accenting betrays origins from elsewhere. Deep in my heart I could sense his true ancestry, but the foolery of the Fiya in the Booth video was too much for me to bear responsibility for. Alas, there is no way to deny it any longer. Roadman Shaq IS a Ghanaian. Here is a short list of the many clues he left.

5. The fake Jamaican accent. There’s only one thing Ghanaian rappers love more than sunglasses, and that’s an opportunity to put on a Jamaican accent. Even if it’s one executed poorly. It always baffles me that more Ghanaians don’t travel to Jamaica, especially since a visa is not required…but why travel to a country to immerse yourself in a culture you hold most dear when you can just spare the expense, sit in the comfort of your compound listen to old Shabba Ranks CDs for an equal effect. Plantain in Kingston is just as sweet in Accra, abi?

4. The winter coat in summer. Nothing excites the Ghanaian mind like the prospect of winter. We fantasize about it. At Christmas, we sing In the bleak meek winter and memorize poems about the blowing of winter winds and the crunch of snow beneath our feet. Yet the average Ghanaian has never experienced a chill below 55.4*F. That’s why finding oneself in a state of inescapable hypothermic conditions is the ultimate marker of success. Cold = travel abroad. You ever been to Kotoka in November/December and seen the throngs of African passengers who alight swathed with alpaca and grizzly bear coats? A winter coat is not just an accessory to keep you warm. It’s a token, an emblem that says you’ve made it. So yeah, when Roadman Shaq was in the studio sweating his balls off, it was only natural to declare, “man’s not hot!” We are in Lenden, righ’? And in Lenden, we wear a COAT, no matter what the thermostat says!

3. References to gardening equipment and fauna. “Look at your nose. Nose long like garden hose.” Only the child of a West African can understand the subtle impact of this simile volleyed at your person. And yes, it’s generally our parents doing the volleying. It’s only by Heaven’s grace that we don’t all require therapy. Our upbringing otherwise would have us out here going quack quack quack. 

2. The Fuse ODG intonation of certain words. What is “asnee”? What is “skunoo”? What is an “ukuss”???? And where have I heard this speech pattern before? Lord. Is it not Fuse: that same man who raps like he has marbles in his mouth and is struggling to maintain control over the saliva? (Love you Fuse!)

1a. De ting go skrrr ka. This was the dead giveaway. I have written before about the Ghanaians love of onomatopoeia – the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named. ‘Dumsor’ (the sound of a power outage and its reinstatement), ‘Kpakpakpa’ (the apparent sound a hustler makes) and the like are all nouns and verbs that are permanent, accepted fixtures in our vocabulary. So when Roadman Shaq finished his fiya in the booth session by imitating and reenacting a Chuck Norris war film in his mouth, it solidified it for me: the man was a Ghanaian and there was no more denying it.

Yesu. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal and this man was on radio trying to slay every named and unnamed demon in the universe. How many assault rifles did he execute in those few seconds?

AK 47.

9 MM

Bazooka

Beretta.

Whatever weapon goes poom poom upon implosion.

1b (for extra credit) is the sheepish way he was looking into the camera, fully aware that he was disgracing his family, but confident in the knowledge that his papers status means NO ONE has the authority to deport him anywhere! We rep Croydon, not Cantonments, and Michael Dapaah is far beyond the age of anyone threatening him with boarding school if he doesn’t sit up and pull up his socks. I love ungovernable boys!

As it turns out, Mr. Dapaah (and I only just discovered his real name last night) is a comedian who is well-known and loved in London. The whole Roadman Shaq thing is a gag, which means Nigerians have no cause to come and laugh at us for executing wanton bush behavior on the Internet. Nigerian mockery is the only thing I feared, which is why I purposely ignored all the clues about Roadman’s potential Ghanaian ancestry.  *Safe!*

Also: Can you believe this song is being played in clubs now? People spend months pouring over lyrics to songs, and this gibberish is about to chart the Billboards. We are living in marvelous times.

 

What’s your favorite evolution of De Ting? This is mine. Link yours in the comments!

 

#PepperDemMinistries is the Movement We Need For This Hour

In the movie Selma, there is a scene during which the members of the SCLC couldn’t agree on which obstacle to voting rights (and all civil rights, by extension) to tackle first. They deliberated hotly among themselves.

“It has to be the poll tax,” said one.

“No. It’s education,” said another, citing the literacy tests the precluded many black, brown and poor whites from exercising their franchise.

They listed the various techniques employed by a society governed and created to protect white supremacy and capitalism, to the exclusion of everyone else, giving reasons for why each man felt his agenda ought to take priority. In the end, it was Dr. King who decided how they ought to proceed.

This is the way it is with all movements with the aim of disrupting the status quo. There is disagreement and then there is consensus. Booker T. Washington, WEB DuBois and Marcus Garvey each felt they had the ‘right’ solution to lifting Black people out of poverty and despair. Use the technical/practical skills you acquired during slavery to feed and house yourselves adequately. Demand full integration into white/mainstream society and the benefits therein. Screw it all and move back to Africa. Though these men (and their supporters) could not agree on a definitive solution, they each strove for the same thing: the uplifting of their people and a flinging away of the boot that had kept them down for centuries. Whether you ascribe to socialist/self-help beliefs of Washington or the more bourgeois leanings of DuBois, you are right. There is no ONE way to achieve an aim.

And so it is with the African woman’s liberation.

The women of Pepper Dem Ministries

Over the previous two weeks, you may have noticed an uptick in the conversation around feminism and the struggles that Ghanaian women face. You will probably noted that that conversation has been punctuated with the hashtag #PepperDemMinistries. In the coming days, you will see comments seasoned with emojis of red jalapenos. Depending on your politics, this will annoy or delight you. It’s all good, but you have an obligation to interrogate within yourself why.

There are many, many indignities and ills that plague the African woman. But for the purposes of this blog and this movement, we’ll narrow our focus on Ghana. It is true that Ghanaian women do not suffer the same type of top down restrictions that mark women’s experience in certain Arab countries, but that is not to say that we are free from the same consequences. That the methods of subjugation differ from one society to the next does not eliminate the existence of that subjugation. Portia Asantewaa Duah was a paying customer at Kona Café in Accra.The establishment’s bouncer demanded that she and her friends vacate their table, and naturally, she refused. For her “impudence”, he slapped her so viciously that her eye was left reddened.

Rita Nketiah ventured out alone to Badu Lounge (ironically named in honor of Erykah Badu) in order to meet her date for the evening. After scanning her clothing, the bouncers at the club decided that she was there to “sell pussy” and told her she could not enter the establishment.

It really wouldn’t have mattered what she was wearing, because Ghanaian women live always under suspicion of peddling vagina. (Or the assumption from men that they are owed unfettered access to it.) In 2015, 5 female doctors sued Movenpick hotel for violating their rights. Movenpick has a documented (and well enforced) policy of refusing access to any women who come to their bars and restaurants unescorted by men. The only reason we are privy to these stories is due to the privileged positions that these women hold. They have access to blogs, media outlets and powerful friends that allows their stories to be told and received with some level of seriousness. This is not a privilege that is extended to the poor, unconnected Ghanaian woman who has no recourse but to give her problems to God or hope that someone will one day take interest in her plight. Barred entry to entertainment establishments ranks very low on the problems Ghanaian women face, but it is a valid one nevertheless. At some point – if unchecked – this mindset of barring women from any public space that is deemed ‘unsuitable’ without a male escort will take root in other areas. Again, ask the women of Afghanistan if that’s an impossible possibility.

This is why the work of #PepperDemMinistries is so important. What these women do is take toxic, ridiculous narratives that been applied to women and turned them on their heads. Imagine in Rita’s incident, if the club owners and bouncers refused unescorted men entry to their establishment because ‘a man out at that hour of the night with his shirt unbuttoned MUST be there to sell his penis’. You’d laugh. But replace ‘man’ with ‘woman’ and somehow the idea gains credence. It makes no sense. The work and aim of this group is to change mindsets by changing the narrative and flipping the script. They haven’t gone out with placards, rushed into parliament, bombed their opponents or employed any of the violent measures men have used to stage coups or gain power, and yet they are met with derision. All they have said is “think about what you are saying this way”, and people are shook. They’ve been called bourgeois and had their campaign reduced to a cry for attention.

Well…DUH. Of course you want attention drawn to your cause. When has a closed mouth ever gotten fed? When you need paper for the copy machine at your office, don’t you seek attention? Or you sit there and hope the paper dwarfs show up and fill the machine for you? So be it, if you believe tarrying for dwarf’s is the most effective approach to getting the job done.

The Pepper Women may be ‘middle class’, but that doesn’t make their contribution to equality and liberty any less valid or important. Feminism, like all social movements, requires a multi-pronged, multi-layered approach. Ghanaian women (even the patriarchal princesses) need #PepperDemMinistries in the same way we need Gifty Anti, Lydia Forson, Sionne Neely, Esther Ocloo and the many women and men who worked for equality across various sectors in our society. No movement was ever sustained by keeping all its efforts concerted at the grassroots or at one level. For those whose work is to abolish witch camps, let them do their work. For those whose work is to abolish the mind set that led to the creation, sanctioning and acceptance of witch camps, let them do their work too.

A simple diagram representing the squishing of patriarchy.

Eventually, the two will meet in the middle and the patriarchy WILL be crushed.

 

You can learn more about Pepper Dem Ministries wherever there is Internet. 

There Are No ‘Bro Code’ Discounts in Entrepreneurial Families

My husband and I are entrepreneurs. He writes code for a living and I sell any and everything. I’m not saying that to be funny. From essential oils to smutty books (and I think I just came up with an idea for a combo pack!), I am a basically an e-market queen. It is just remaining tomatoes and my portfolio will be complete!

Any entrepreneur will tell you that though this life is rewarding, this life is not for everyone. We live project to project, from one sale to the next. Entrepreneurship requires much mental dexterity (and a sprinkling of magic) in order to be successful. You have to be an actor, a counselor, an expert (or at least be able to BS the façade of expertise), a quick decision-maker, a pensive decision-maker, a soothsayer and a prophet in order to turn a profit. Oh, and a product – tangible or otherwise. This bizarre matrix of skills is why women – and a subset called ‘mompreneurs’ – make such good entrepreneurs. In common parlance, the endeavor is called a hustle.

There are no guarantees in the world of employment. 28 years at a “stable” company can suddenly cumulate in an unexpected lay off and a decimated 401K. Your job could be outsourced to China or Vietnam. Inflation could necessitate a cut in your salary and/or benefits. These are all very real possible perils when working in a structured (read: comfortable) corporate environment. Working for yourself is no less perilous, which is why entrepreneurs, more than anyone else live by this ONE code: Leave no money on the table.

You would think that other sole proprietors and small business owners would honor this code, this one rule that binds us all. But in a little country called Ghana, at the confluence of business and gender, protocol flies out of the window. Read the experience of Naa Oyoo Kumodzi in a recent interaction with a would be client.

Sounds crazy, right?

Like, could you ever see yourself negotiating salary – for instance – and having the HR rep or interviewer pause the interview and ask if they could get your husband on the phone.

“What? What for?”, you would certainly ask.

“To see if I could get him to talk to you about taking a smaller… more “reasonable” salary, of course!”, the rep says with a benevolent laugh.

Your next actions, up to and not excluding throwing his/her Stellar Award against the wall would be completely justified. Table flips are acceptable in this scenario.

There’s not a way that this interaction concludes peaceably; without someone’s feelings getting hurt. Oh, you’re gonna make a call alright, but it’s not to your husband. It’s gonna be to the EEOC and then there’ll be real hell to pay. Essentially, this is Naa’s potential client was asking her to do: voluntarily take a cut in salary after she’d determined her worth and set her prices.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with negotiating and bargaining for a better price. That’s the other paramount rule of entrepreneurship: Get as much as you can get for free and turn it into income/a profitable asset. But we aren’t talking about knocking off a couple of bucks on a service. We’re talking about erasing the service provider from the negotiating process merely because she is in possession of a vagina and therefore, limited capacity and wit and an excess of “difficulty” as a woman. A man would be better suited to negotiate with.

I relayed Naa’s story to my husband for a reaction. His reaction was, of course, to burst into hollow laughter.

“There are no bro code discounts in entrepreneurship,” he said flatly. “If that had happened in our house, I would’ve increased the asking price. You always sell yourself too short anyway.”

(I ignored the rebuke in his short tirade because it is true. I can’t resist giving something away, which violates another cardinal rule of entrepreneurship: Heaux! You ain’t arrived yet. You making Orpah money yet? Then you can’t be giving all your products away!)

As bizarre as all of this sounds, it should alarm you, yet certainly not surprise you, to know that men – and only men – are going out of their way to defend this wayward prospective client online. The circular reasoning ranges from “it’s just a part of our culture” to “he wasn’t being sexist, you are reading too much into what was said”. It is true that is a repugnant part of our corporate culture for men to dismiss women in powerful positions and bypass them in favor of interaction with another male, particularly in male dominated industries like tech, waste management and publishing, but I dispute that this is an acceptable part of Ghanaian culture…to sidestep a colleague in order to parlay with their husband/wife/father in matters of business as has been asserted.

I welcome anecdotal evidence to the contrary. A number of people have tried to spin this incident as consequence of traditional customs, and you know how disappointing it is whenever an African woman abandons her traditions.

Sir. Please. Sit down. We are talking about making money, not whether to salt your plantain with pink sea salt before or after frying.

In conclusion: Asking to speak to the husband of a female entrepreneur can only backfire on you. You know why? Because they share bills, that’s why. And if she can make more money it takes more pressure off of him and helps the entire household to prosper. Don’t do it. Whatever devil inspires you to make such a misstep much be exorcised immediately!

Out, simple sexist! Out in the name of common sense!

 

Have you had or known anyone to have a similar experience to Naa Oyoo Kumodzi’s? How did you handle it? And since it’s cuffing season and I mentioned that combo pack early on, you should really feel unashamed about picking up some lavender and lasciviousness. Check out these online bargains on both!

How Pilferage On An African Airline Inspired A New Accessory

I have the worst luck flying into OR Tambo Airport. Since I began flying to South Africa in 2011, I have had my bags broken into 100% of the time. There is no margin of error with regard to that statistic. No matter what flight/airline I’ve traveled on – be it Delta Airlines, or Virgin Atlantic, or South African Airways, or FlySafair – I am guaranteed to have some item lifted from my bags.

I have locked them.

I have zip-tied them.

I have tried stowing ratty looking luggage to make it appear as though a poor woman was flying and therefore had nothing worthy of lifting.

Nothing has worked.

In the past, the theft has amounted to little more than a few trinkets or personal items: shoes for needy kids I’d befriended in Bossiegif, a pair of head phones. One time, baggage handlers even stole my pack of sanitary napkins. Regardless, I at least always got my bag at the end of the conveyor belt. However during our transition from Atlanta in 2016, I became one of the thousands of people who have had their luggage either delayed or lost for perpetuity during air travel. I wrote extensively about this last year. Long time readers of MOM will well remember my angst. You don’t want me to rehash it and I don’t want to relive all the angry tweets (especially with Virgin’s twitter account!) so we’ll move on.

I am an unabashed shoe whore, a condition I developed as a result of growing up shod in the secondhand shoes of other people’s secondhand shoes. Getting new shoes was a rare and wonderful occasion for me as a child, so when I finally began to earn an income of my own, I set aside a monthly shoe budget. I love the variety and creativity of footwear. But more importantly, I love how shoes make me feel. Shoes are the one logarithmic constant in my wardrobe. No matter how thick my waist or hips may get, my shoes will always fit. I spent years investing in shoes, working my way from Pay Less brands to Cole Haan, commensurate with my salary. (And then the kids came…so you know how that goes.) By the time we relocated to South Africa, I’d stocked up an impressive arsenal of unique footwear . Footwear that was taken from me by devious agents operating in the aviation industry. Footwear that I could not find in my new home on the Garden Route, and sadly, not even online. It was a stormy time in my life.

No, literally. We moved here in winter when there were constant rainstorms and now I had no boots.

But as with all storms, there is a silver lining and an eventually burst of light that breaks up the dense nimbus. After many nights spent fretting and silently cursing, an idea occurred to me. If could not buy cute boots, maybe I could create something to make these basic Garden Route boots cute! That’s when I began toying with the idea of an interchangeable boot accessory that I now call FlashStraps.

FlashStraps are made with 100% cotton shweshwe (pronounced shway-shway), South Africa’s iconic fabric. Favored by the late anti-apartheid fighter and eventual president Nelson Mandela. shweshwe is fast gaining global recognition and popularity.

Shweshwe forms the basis of traditional Xhosa attire, and has a long and complex history stretching back 2,000 years to trading activities with Arabs and Indians who are rumored to have bartered indigo cloth with the Xhosas in exchange for local goods. The fabric was re-introduced to the region in the 1800s by German settlers who imported it from India as a trade stable. It has been a part of ready to wear and couture fashion ever since.

I coined the motto ‘Informed by the past, inspired by the future’ as a nod to the trials that often inspire creativity – like the birth of ragtime and jazz – and our very human penchant for trusting in destiny.

The inaugural line includes four colors, each representing and named for the character traits of my children:

Nadjah: Green and gold, representing wealth and success.

Aya: Blue and silver, representing tranquility and tenacity.

Stone: Earth brown and slate, representing stability.

Asantewaa: Red, named after the warrior Queen Mother of Ejisu, Yaa Asantewaa, representing an indomitable and fierce spirit.

 

Newton’s third law says that For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every interaction in our life elicits some response parallel in power and energy. Out of my intense pain of loss (and if you’ve ever shopped in the limited size 10/wide calf section of the shoe store and watched some trollop skip away to the counter with the LAST PAIR of suitable shoes, you know the pain of which I speak) came something as intensely beautiful. At least, I think so!

This is the moment where I pause in my reflections and thank the thieves over at OR Tambo Airport for their greed and dishonesty. Though they were instruments used of Satan, their nefarious deeds presented an opportunity for me to stretch myself. And beyond that, I would like to thank my initial investor for believing in FlashStraps, both as a sartorial accessory and for their historical significance. (She wouldn’t want to be named publically, so let’s allow her an air of mystery.) Her response was not only benevolent, but also necessary. It brought balance to a adverse situation, and I am grateful.

Aren’t they pretty? You can see yourself sporting these at the next Zuvaa Pop Up, can’t you? Of course you can.  You can leave your review of FlashStraps in the comments section and check them out here on Etsy as well. And while you’re at it, talk to me about something that was a severe negative that you turned into a positive!