Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Perspective on #Feminism from the point of view of a male-feminist

So I've been following this #PepperDemMinistries for the last week. 
And boy do I feel old. I used to LOVE these vitriolic arguments and relished jumping into yet another mud fight, eyes blazing and teeth bared, hoping to draw first blood. So it took me a while to organize my thoughts on things. For starters, it's difficult to have 'a take' on anything branded #feminist or #feminism because there would always be something you say that someone will 'call out' as evidence of your misogyny (Which means hate of women, by the way) and thus be branded as #mansplaining. Sort of like being the few guys fighting in the trenches in that sector of the women's side of a trench war a la World War 1. No matter how sincerely you stand for the cause, you will NEVER be above suspicion of espionage or sabotage. Ironically, because y'know... you are a man.

It's also why a lot of men would quietly cheer on one side or have an opinion but remain silent. Lest they be ripped limb from limb in the public domain of Social media.

It seems you are never above suspicion when you a man on the 'women's side' of the argument

It's also why a lot of men would quietly cheer on one side or have an opinion but remain silent. Lest they be ripped limb from limb in the public domain of Social media.
It seems you are never above suspicion when you a man on the 'women's side' of the argument

Now with that proviso out of the way,
I guess we can deconstruct. What's most interesting about this analogy - The trench war with a few men dotted among the women's side is that it is both apt and a misnomer.

Let me explain,
The narrative of entrenched warfare, where no side gives ground except after much blood is spilt is the idea of trench-warfare and 'entrenching'.

And yet,
Is this what feminism is? Not necessarily. Actually No. Feminism is a view that women are equal to men and therefore should be treated as such. It's equality; not just equity. Certainly not superiority either.
*Hence the misnomer. 

And yet,
One cannot lose sight of the context. In more 'liberal' parts of the world, sexism is a lot more subtle, and hence more insidious. It's harder to blame someone for something you cannot prove when all you have to read is a pattern of actions that seem to be informed by clear bias and prejudice - Like racism. The stats are clear - and yet, the perpetrators of this bias are aware enough of the fact that their prejudice cannot stand up in the face of the apparently open and liberal law of the land, so they present their prejudice in a way that cannot be called out.
So i say 'liberal' because it's actually a tougher war to win.
Here in Ghana, like in other more 'conservative' cultures, sexism is more overt. sexual harassment at work may not be often rapey but is certainly more overt, and men openly declare women's 'place' being as secondary. Neatly tied up in a pretty bow passed off as religion. The very same 'sub-culture' that veils everything in the covering of faut-morality. Under these circumstances, any form of resistance by the subjugated would be more violent, more forceful and filled with deeper resentment.

*Hence trench war is apt. 

Fun fact: Did you know that when the Russians fought the Germans in WWII, they had a lot of females conscripted as snipers and statistically, women actually make better stone-cold killers in that capacity than men? There are countless reasons why, from women being better at multi-tasking and hence not getting sloppy in the hunt, women being able to compartmentalize their emotions etc. But you see, until we have a truly level playing field to see what indeed women are psychologically or physically better at, these would remain data points in the face of our unwavering preconceptions of what women can and cannot do.
So back to this new push for feminism by the#PepperDem movement. I suppose like any conflict, one can see the more measured 'officers' who are aware of PR and logical fallacies; and thus present watertight arguments to win clear and clean victories.

Then you have the 'footsoldiers', men and women who perhaps would not have taken up the cause themselves, but now that it is underway, without fully grasping the nuances of it, are louder and more black and white in its defense than the architects themselves, yet aren't restrained by a unified plan. In war, these would be that unit of soldiers contented with reverse-prejudice, looting and shooting POWs.

Another way to see it is with the fight for the emancipation of slaves in the Americas. There were a lot of violent rebellions by the slaves that made the whites fear them; and entrench ever more in their position that these 'other' should - never - ever be free, lest they murder them in their sleep (or enslave them). It also caused them to cook up phoney research proving psychologically why the place of the 'other' was to be subservient to their side. 

See any similarities?

Any informed strategist would immediately realize you cannot conduct a winning battle from the position of weakness. Like marching toe to toe against Redcoats while armed with spears and wooden shields. It's a no-brainer. Woman are often numerically superior to men, but here we are talking about minority in that men control the system. A stronger force can simply weather a frontal attack and no amount of crying, screaming or heroic attempts would remove them. We are not appealing to reason here. Why would the winning side suddenly grow a conscience when it’s... y’know, winning? We are overcoming prejudice. Which is why warfare is always unemotional, about deception, flanking attacks and guerrilla/ asymmetrical warfare - Realist strategies that acknowledges the opponent’s strengths, avoids them rather than egoistically and fruitlessly engage them and thus, by so doing, renders any superiority impotent.

I’m just putting this out there. 

Void of this, you have the battle of attrition. Drawn out, a whole lot messier a conflict, and ensures victory becomes murkier.

However, like with any conflict, you cannot hold back the ones who are just as entitled to their fight for freedom as anyone else, can you? And were it not for those violent, unrestrained skirmishes, the topic of emancipation would never have gotten to the point where it would have been considered an untenable state for both sides...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mid morning, July 21st, the glass is half full.

After dipping into a low hum all of yesterday; with such things as comfort food, inspiring music and a long walk not quite shaking my inexplicable melancholy, I woke up this morning all pumped and ready for a full work day. 

There's an interesting phenomenon I experience when I fall asleep, stewing in my own sweat after the power is cut. Perhaps the silence; perhaps the heat -- Or both. 

My subconscious seems to prioritize in vivid detail my greatest fears and most potent aspirations; spinning them together into yarns so visceral, the memory of those dreams linger well into the next morning. 

So I was motivated by a thought I couldn't even remember; but feelings I could almost taste. 
'Got up and started work bright and early, mug of tea in hand (It should have been coffee but I need to restock my supplies. Because this other brew just wouldn't do).

I started rendering out one thing, begun putting finishing touches to another, my desktop was festooned with virtual post-Its.

All was well with the world until about 7:15am, when the power suddenly cut.  

...Plot twist. 

And there wasn't even a drop of Lipton left in my mug for a forced sense of irony. 

Just the lingering pulse of energy suddenly made impotent, with nothing to do but blink stupidly at my empty screen as the CPU hum slowed and went silent.

After mentally pulling a handful of my hair out, and silently throwing a few choice expletives into the ethos, I sighed, sat back in my swivel chair and consciously avoided my knee jerk reaction to see my situation as indicative of all the nation's problems. 

Instead, I rolled a more Romantic idea over in my head. This was all an adventure.

After being audience to a staccato of political faffing about, endemic issues from service providers, after experiencing professional false starts and disappointment that would make stronger hearts despair and flee for apparent greener pastures, if one decides instead to stay; slug it out here, without compromise of ones character (A  thing that seldom survives the mill of the business world). If one somehow manages to succeed in this endeavor, that would be one for the books. 

It's not like this is the worst place ever. Far from it. But it is sort of like wanting to go to the moon right after having this one rickety jalopy you've driven for the past 10years croak one last time and give up on you. Your perspective makes the notion of inter-planetary travel appear entirely ludicrous. 

But if you don't resign yourself to the cards dealt but instead somehow manage, against all odds, to succeed in building that rocket, I believe there's an education for countless would-be astronauts currently with little more than a driver's license or a Kuffuor bus ticket, 

There's not just a pot of gold at the end of the heavy rain-drawn rainbow; there's posterity in a story well-wrought, and a story well told. 

For today, this thought is good enough for me. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mid morning, Monday 29th, Looking past the gay rights conversation

If you've ever been in a tense situation where a rabble wa working themselves up to mob you or lynch for whatever reason (I have. There was a combination Safe involved and we were at Labadi), the subtle ebb and flow of tempers can be informative of where things are going.

I try not to particularly care too intensely about what happens in another country that has little to do with my reality, but I couldn't help note the evolving conversation that occurred after America's landmark decision on the ‪#‎GayRights‬,‪#‎Gaypride‬ and ‪#‎LoveWins‬ debate, especially since my own Social network in Ghana was all over that this weekend.
If you've ever been in a tense situation where a rabble was working themselves up to mob you or lynch you for whatever reason (I have. There was a combination Safe involved and we were at Labadi), the subtle ebb and flow of tempers can be informative of where things are going.

First, there was the announcement, and people begun reacting as one would expect, depending on which side of the conversation they stood.

Rainbow Profile pictures begun to go up, eliciting the respective cheers and jeers from their friend network,

The opposition's response was at first muted, then came the personal posts, usually reflecting the shock and defensiveness expected, more than a calculated response. The bottom seemed to have fallen out, and this initial reaction could be comparable to further, albeit intimated jeers.

In response, the For-camp begun jeering right back, with long posts that weren't going to change any minds, but were reflective of that camp's own frustration with the Against-camp for simply not playing dead or holding hands with them and singing 'We are the world'

The next phase of this came once everyone had had a moment of pause, and were able to respond more rationally.

See this like the wave breaking, the 'Whoosh' sound and the gentle ripples that come in afterwards.

There were witty posters from both sides, links to measured-blog posts by the less fanatic of either camp,

And finally the rabble began doing something anyone in the eye of the storm might not have believed possible just moments earlier; People begun talking across to each other, rather than at each other.

It makes me realize,
Living in harmony isn't about agreeing to any single thing or even being open-minded to the other side of the argument at all. And thank God for that. The worst of human oppression happens when people stop seeing different sides and start agreeing to just one thing. It doesn't matter how right it seems then, it will become shackles later. It's about being able to move past the rhetoric and back to dealing with one another, no matter how we differently we see the world.

Whether you are for showing marriage diversity, or about taking it back for the Christian God, I find it apt that the symbol for the last few days a Rainbow,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Life in a time of ECG, 2am - April 3rd, 2015

I was awakened early this morning by voices in the next apartment. Two women, a mother and daughter murmuring in some distress that hadn't quite risen to screams. I had no sense of time. My phone had finally run out of battery some hours earlier.
The women were slapping their chale wotes against the wall (Or floor - I couldn't tell which).
I thought they were fighting some cockroach infestation or something, but the beating of their chale wote was all wrong -- less Brownian, more rhythmic.
At first the mumurs made no sense -- Or Perhaps I wasn't quite awake yet. But something about it woke me up -- kept me up.
So I lay there, my skin clammy from perspiration, staring at the ceiling, one arm over my forehead, listening in,
Then the woman said to the girl, "Ka hu" (Hurry up).
It was strained but said without panic.
Bth women are quite large, so regrettably I wasn't going to get an accurate sense of urgency as she lumbered, more than run through her darkened apartment. I could hear everything, courtesy of the thin celement-block walls dividing our apartments. I could tell which room she was in, the thump and thud of her moving awkwardly in pitch blackness from room to room and the sound of mosquito doors opening and closing.
Finally she emerged outside her front door, and shouted, to no one in particular, "Ogya!". First almost in conversation voice, then louder. She was still waking up, still getting into character.
It took me about 10 full seconds to make sense of what was really going on. The slapping of chale wote against walls and floors on a blackened night without power, two women in frenzied activity at what I later gathered was 2:30am. "OGYA!"...
Fire! ... FIRE!
I leapt from my bed, threw on some clothes and run to my bathroom and grabbed the bucket of water I had in the corner. My senses now fully alert.
I could still hear the talking, the girl had returned to the scene, and was saying in Twi, of her neighbors in our horseshoe of apartment buildings, courtesy of the lack of response to her calls, 'It seems they have all gone out'.
She says this in a matter of fact kind of tone, also without panic.
I got outside, and see several of my of neighbors emerging from their rooms. There was smoke everywhere, and the acrid smell of something artificial recently burnt.
The women emerged eventually, saw the crowd and announced the fire had been put out.
It must have been a candle, left on through out the night, or a smoldering edge of a mosquito coil.
From snatches of the conversation between the mother and my land lady, The Bible had caught fire first, and either spread to other things, or burned violently enough to give them real concern.
Having confirmed they would not need it, I carried my bucket of water back to my bathroom, and returned to bed, too awake to simply fall back to sleep, and wondering if the fire was truly out, or if some burning embers might reignite; the remainder of the Book of Revelation perhaps. Could I indeed close my eyes and sleep or could that cause a raging inferno that might trap me behind a wall of flames?

I must have been more tired than I felt, because I never got an answer to my own question.
Instead I woke up to my alarm clock, noted that the power was back, and begun wondering if I had really experienced what had happened or had been delirious from the heat and simply had a really vivid dream...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Early morning, Nov 20th, 2014

I woke up this morning, and was immediately struck by the perfect silence of everything. 

In a sub-urban area like Ashale Botwe, you don't get the low drones of 'I pass my neighbor' generators clueing you in that ECG is at it again. Instead, you are met with the perfect silence. 

This is day 3. And I decided I'm not going to sit in, stewing in my own sweat, blinking at my To-do list, trying to pipeline what can and cannot be done with electricity until 6pm or whenever ECG decides to be magnanimous.

Instead, I decided to head out to one of several spots I haunt under the circumstances, each with their own set of pros and cons. 

The calm that overcomes one when one stops wriggling and writhing; and accepts the nature of things gave me a clear head to really look at the situation.

We like to rant and rave about ECG this, ECG that, and I always muse about how, at the rate at which we rant about it, the topic would sooner become rather boring. I mean, what else is on? 

Then, I tried to put things into perspective.
Fortunately, just walking up the long, dusty stretch that is Ashale-Botwe, or looking out the window of a trotro on my way to wherever always provides more than it's share of appropriate metaphors.

Today, it was the middle aged woman pulling out of the washing bay and cutting in front of three cars on the main road. She turns in slowly, permitted to do so by the taxi that comes to a complete stop; a rarity for taxi drivers. Naturally, he causes those behind him to also come to a complete stop. 

What does our middle aged lady do? She immediately pulls out a mobile phone and starts a phone call. Does she speed up now that she's on the road and at the head of convoy of 4 cars? No. She maintains the 12km/h speed for another kilometer, until the taxi driver begins honking angrily and cuts in front of her. Her response? To swing her one free hand at the annoyed driver, in a 'You too, get away there' sort of gesture.

While I'm considering this, I take my mind to the example of the countless mates and colleagues I've called on phone as part of a continued discussion about work, opportunity or some project we're both engaged in, and how often those calls go unpicked and no reply is ever forthcoming. Do these people consider MY annoyance, or the urgency of my call? Do they bother to explain themselves later, or just hope the situation goes away, and I simply accept the 'facts of life'? 

Do they even bother to change their Social pattern? Stay off Whatsapp or fail to post 'Inspirational quotes' on Facebook that day? No. Because they couldn't be bothered. After all, 'Is he bringing me Money?'

And yet, of all these people; The middle aged driver on her cell phone, my 'Inspired' mates and colleagues playing ostrich; indeed myself and everyone who has ever had something to say about ECG, our greatest annoyance is less the fact that they cut power, but the fact they lack the 'common decency' to inform the public about their incompetence and failure to deliver, in a manner that may at best, help us plan our day, and at worst serve as a catharsis for what we're made to endure.

We can't change a Corporation or a Government any more than we are willing to change ourselves - At least, not by whining. But we can reflect on our contribution to the problem, and perhaps its solution. 

Complaining is easy. Everyone does it. Even those who I believe, have no earthly business doing so.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mid morning, Oct 1st, 2014 - East Legon

The taxi driver is trying to explain to me that the way to American house through Ajiringanor has traffic congestion at the curiously named '69'. We would be going through Ashalebotwe instead. 

It seems like we're driving in the exact opposite direction from where I need to go, but I blame that more on road planning than on driver navigation. 
I catch sight of a quite-prominent discoloration on the lower end of the driver's fore-arm as he explains the route to me. What looks like an extreme case of stretch-marks or the result of some strange accident - not fire. But I'm no expert, and I decide I should probably stop staring. 

He has this peculiar tone of voice; thin, not quite nasal, that comes with a slight lisp, and he speaks in this fashion that gives the impression everything you tell him is an education, and he mulls everything I say over with an enthusiastic nod of his head as though I were dispensing deep wisdom. It all makes him seem, for some strange reason, innocent and welcoming, but today's trip requires a stop at Bawuleshi for about 15 minutes and then, across a 3rd of the cross-section of Accra; to Dzorwulu, to a place I've never been before, and at a time that may put us there at about lunch hour. welcoming or not, I cannot let my guard down when it's time to negotiate my fare. So I keep my earphones in my ear and stare at my iPad screen with a deliberate air of indifference. 

He stops for breakfast. Coco, and there's some food in a black rubber bag, but I can't tell what. He offers me some of it, and I politely decline with the slightest shake of my head, so he puts the car back in gear. He holds the steering-wheel at 5 o'clock with his right hand so he can methodically shake his bag of coco in his left, as per the one eternal Instruction of all local beverages, 'always shake it first'. 

It's a beautiful day; not too much sun, not a hint of rain, an amicable driver, and light traffic. We've had dark clouds and rain all this year in Ghana, but there are these few days in between where clouds part ever slightly to offer the world a gentle filter of sunlight, and for those few hours, if you take the time to savor it, things are pleasant for a little while. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Evening Aug 13, 2014 - Ashale Botwe

I'm sitting under an empty stall, waiting for the Indomie woman to finish my order. After a day criss-crossing town, catching power naps in trotros and avoiding death at the hand of Accra Metro bus drivers, I am finally able to pause to take in the details. My feet ache from walking and I feel badly in need of a good bath.
The Indomie woman has 3, maybe 4 kids from the look of things. I'd put her age at 32 at the very oldest. She's smallish, maybe 5"6, no taller, but with an almost child-like form, she looks shorter. The youngest child, a toddler is tied to her back as she cooks in a large Wok over a tabletop stove 10feet from a busy road, where even at this time, cars and trotros speed past, on their way to Madina.
Her 6 or 7 yr old son comes round to me and raises himself on his toes, supported by the plastic chair on which I sit. He peers wide eyed over my shoulder as I type these words. He calls to his sister. She must be about 13. 
"herh! Look" He cries, half running off, half-darting back behind me, too transfixed to the screen to actually tear his eyes away, let alone himself.
Then he calls to his mother,
"mommy, mommy, look at the big phone!"
She does a half turn, 
"it's not a phone. It's an iPad". She looks from him to me and smiles politely before returning to her cooking, her movement as delicate and disposition as accommodating as a Geisha. The baby, its mouth open at an angle, remains completely undisturbed, enjoying the sleep of the innocent.