Three Kenyan men reveal why they are proud feminists.
Ochola K’omuono, 28, High School Teacher
K’omuono is passionate about Education as a tool of change in society, SRHR Advocacy and Governance. He’s in a relationship
“I define feminism as giving women the necessary space, support, and opportunities in a quest to improve their living standards and status in the society. A community that has embraced feminism allows women to explore their potential without making it look like it’s a gender war of women trying to outshine men. Because feminism is beautiful. In author Chimamanda’s words, “We should all be feminists.”
In my second year at the university, I used to interact with many campus leaders who were passionate about women and girls’ rights. That’s how I got assimilated. It’s a journey I have enjoyed, learnt, and unlearnt.
But, it has not always been a smooth road. As a man, I have found myself in situations where I have been teased for identifying with the movement because it is a tag I wear unapologetically. Most of the teasers I figure lack knowledge and information about feminism.
Through my interactions with anti-feminist people, I have observed that the hatred is drawn from a point of believing that feminism is all about making the girl child better than the boy child, an anti-masculinity ideology. Narratives such as girls are being “over empowered” have been passed around.
I don’t see it as such. I think what we are seeing is just women rising to take spaces that they deserve, opportunities that they ought to have enjoyed since time immemorial, and being what they ought to be not what society wants them to be.
There are many women who have been forced to carry the burden of broken marriages because of their feminist tag. I think that a marriage or relationship that breaks because the woman is a feminist is a clear indication that from the start, the man still believed that a woman has no rights, voice and that she belongs to the kitchen.
Riddle me: How do I explain that I am breaking my partner just because my girlfriend is asking to be who she is supposed to be?”
“I have faced ridicule from surprising women”
Elias Mwangi, 28, Entrepreneur, is a father of one
“Feminism, in my view, is the championing for decent living standards for anyone identifying as female, regardless of age, gender, colour, or social status. It is the push for equality and equity in the treatment of women in all aspects of their lives.
I come from a largely matriarchal family. So I grew up watching my mother raise us singlehandedly, further her education, and amass assets, and transition through various seasons of life. Although she passed on a while back, she planted in me a seed of feminism which I became conscious of while in secondary school and later accepted while in college.
As a man, it often comes off as a joke among my peers when I say that I am a feminist. Strangely, the biggest ridicule comes from women. I was recently talked down and lectured on how to support women which came out as misandry.
In most cases, male feminists, don’t come out as activists because they’re treated as punching bags. For instance, in my case, I have more than five incidences where women lashed at me, heaping blame for any and all atrocities engineered by men against women.
It is disheartening that male feminists and allies are low-hanging fruits, piñatas of sorts for anger, hurt and triggered women. This makes them lose a good deal of support.
We were born of and raised by women too. So, we are well aware of their issues. That is why I get concerned seeing “slay queens” glorifying their lifestyles of men taking care of their bills because it dents the much work that has been done and is being done to raise women from objectification.
Nowadays, it is hard to use the tag “feminist” in conservative settings. This is because of the stereotypes that entangle the word. I have heard that feminists don’t support marriage, hate men, are lesbians, and are paid for their ‘male-hate’ by western donors and even a laughable one, that they are atheists.
Another concern is that feminists are taking over and boy child is being forgotten, which I agree with. There is a prioritisation of one gender over the other.
For instance, there have been active campaigns to ensure that as many girls as possible get into college, access financial services and career growth. This has given rise to many female graduates in jobs, businesses, and even to women moguls. A success. However, a re-evaluation of the laws and policies should be carried out to bring the two genders to the table.
From where I stand, an ideal society is one comprising of men and women with freedom of choice in career, education, family size, investment. Also, boys and girls being brought up to pick hobbies and talents based on their preferences and predispositions, irrespective of their genders.”
“I come from a patriarchal society”
Ahmednoor Bashir Haji, 22, journalist
Haji sits in the UN Youth Association of Kenya as the Coordinator and previously served as Sustainable Development Goals Advocate for the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network Global schools program
“My understanding of a feminist is a person who believes that both male and female of all diversities deserve equal opportunities and rights. Picture this, “a community where it’s safe for a girl or boy to speak about their abusers without them being shamed and are served the same rights.”
Feminism is close to my heart as I come from a very patriarchal community. I like saying that I was born a feminist because there was no particular time I can say I became a feminist. The injustices, inequalities I saw happening to girls and women in my community are what made me come out of the closet and identify myself as a feminist.
However, I have been mocked multiple times online and offline for admitting that I am a feminist. One time, I was part of a group of young men and women with whom I happened to share that I am a feminist. They all laughed and said that I am a mad man.
All the time, the young men would justify female genital mutilation, clap for victim shaming and pass sexist messages in the forum. Because of what I stand for, I would challenge them which resulted in some doubting my masculinity. One of them said, “A man who is a feminist is a simp and has been brainwashed.” Others joined in to tease me that I should be checked if I’m truly a man.
This really hurt me and for one year, I had multiple episodes of anxiety and would often wonder why I was different from most men in my circles. So before I accepted who I was, I kept the talk of feminism under wraps.
Misconceptions are rife. First of all, some quarters think that any man who comes out as a feminist is homosexual. The reason being that traditional masculinity has been rooted in oppressing girls and women by treating them as inferior human beings. The other misconception is that feminism is a competition between men and women and that women want to take the place of men. Also, they hate men and marriage.
I think that is why we hear the statements “boy child has been abandoned”. If you ask me, women have been so behind and the advocacy for girls and women is about enlightening them about opportunities that have so long been identified with men.”
Courtesy: Saturday Magazine/Nation