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Inclusion, Diversity and Equality in Africa

We would like to think that “security culture” in activist circles mainly focuses around how to deal with misogyny, patriarchy and heterosexism both outside of and within the activist scenes.

34 min read

Women are being abused in spaces where they ought to thrive and its not funny at all. There is this story going on facebook and twitter that involves two young people and a sexual abuse accusation. These two people are millennials, both of them woke individuals identifying themselves as feminists, human rights defenders, liberals, free thinkers, yada yada yada.

So what happened is this. This lady took to twitter to name and shame her abuser who in this case is the guy in question. She is accusing the guy of taking advantage of her “trust” and later on sexually abusing her. Now this thread has generated a lot of heat and “drama” especially among the guy’s circle of friends both on facebook and on twitter with some calling for his arrest, some coming out to defend him and the majority, who are people in my age bracket deciding to sit back and enjoy the show, tagging as many people as they can. Now, when I saw this guy made an update on facebook about his past and how he was unlearning the toxic bullshit patriarchy made him subscribe to and all that stuff, I marvelled at his courage and I was like, “Men. This is the way to go.” Little did I know that there was a bigger story to this.

Through the same guy’s status update, I came to learn of the accusations against him and my first reaction was “Whoa! No. Not him.” Later on, when I was following the girl’s story on twitter, a deep sense of shame engulfed me. Here I was, always talking about how society doesn’t believe woke women who come out as sexual abuse victims yet when I saw her story, my first question was, “Is this real?” Well, both of them gave their side of the story and this is where your are torn between what to believe and what to dismiss as trash although when a woman says she is abused, that’s it. It’s not in my power to decide whether it’s true or not. So, why was I reluctant to believe that this guy is being accused of sexually molesting this female and ‘many’ other women she did not mention? Here is why.

This person is woke. His posts on facebook are always informed and very realistic. He supports women one hundred percent. He identifies as a male feminist. He is a liberal. He is among some of the most open minded individual on my friends’ list and… he is queer.  Does that excuse him from being an abuser? No. Okay. So what happens when your abuser is a woke radical feminist cum human rights activist in an activist space both of you share? As a person who has heard stories of abuse of all ages, myself included, I find it difficult to learn from other activist women that they are being abused by activist men who are “woke” or “male feminists”.

These interrelated issues of sexism, misogyny and homophobia in the “woke” circles so rampant that it’s so unsurprising that women are abused physically and emotionally by activists, men and women with whom they work with on various projects. Men and women who take to social media to passionately defend their rights. I know of various relationships between activist men and women in which the latter is being abused if not physically, than emotionally. I know of people who are with me in Kisumu Feminists’ Forum and are so passionate about the cause yet they still beat up their partners or verbally abuse other people in their circles and no one calls them out.

When women try to speak about the abuses they go through at the hands of woke individuals, they will be shunned by in their circles. Some people will tell them to get over it, or to focus on “real” misogynistic assholes like prominent political figures who blatantly disrespect women or other people who don’t identify as activists. Others will tell them to not let their “personal problems” get in the way of “doing the work” and some will make them the topic of gossip groups for a few days.

Now, this abused woman will certainly struggle emotionally, which is somewhat expected given that she is experienced abuse, either physical, verbal or emotional yet no one will care about her or her problems. The shame that comes with telling people that you have been abused is made even worse by the responses you get from people in your circle. Rather than be empathetic, many people are always disappointed in you. Many times, you will be told by people that they are “surprised” to find out that you had “put up with that shit” because unlike “weak women,” you are a “strong” and “opinionated” woman who knows what she wants. This response is misogynist as fuck because it denies how dominant patriarchy and hatred of women and the “feminine kind” is, and instead tries to place the blame on women. That is, we are to quick ignore that women are being abused by men and  instead emphasize the character of women as the definitive reason for why some are abused and others don’t “put up with that shit.”

Regardless of one’s beliefs, women are being abused. Anyone who refuses to believe this either doesn’t listen to women or isn’t thinking about what women go through on the regular. And this is because they are just biased towards recognizing how pervasive and normalized patriarchy and misogyny are; both outside of and within woke circles.

A Lot of us want to believe that activist men really are different from our fathers, brothers, boyfriends, and male strangers we confront in our daily lives. We want to have some faith that the guy who takes to facebook to write a blog on sexism and posts it on his website is not writing it just to make himself look good, to get laid or to cover up some of his extremely dangerous practices towards women but that he truly believes in women being respected for their skills, energy and commitment.

We want to believe that if a feminist male makes an unwarranted advance towards a lady or physically/sexually assaults an activist woman, it would promptly and thoughtfully be dealt with by organizations and communities they belong in. We want to think that woke groups are not so easily enticed by the skills that an activist male brings to a project that they are willing to let a woman be abused or have her recovery go unaddressed in exchange for their ideas.

We would like to think that “security culture” in activist circles mainly focuses around how to deal with misogyny, patriarchy and heterosexism both outside of and within the activist scenes. How about activist men who troll political spaces like predators looking for women that they can manipulate or fuck without accountability? Like abusive priests, these men literally move from group to group, looking to recreate themselves and find fresh meat among those who don’t know them. How about activist women who give their labor and skills to activist men (who don’t have any problem with taking the credit) in hopes that the abusive activist man will finally get his act right or appreciate her as the human being she is? You know what’s sad? The amount of support abusive activist men find from other activists, male and female but usually from other men. Not only do women have to confront and negotiate their abuser in activist circles, they must usually do so in a community that rants too much but in the end could give a shit about the victims’ emotional and physical safety.  How many times do you have to listen to women’s stories of abuse being retold by activist men in a hostile and sexist manner, where they often do in a voice that is snide, accusatory and mocking? A voice which makes the victim seem like she is lying? Their tone always reveal an attitude that assumes that if activist women take issue with activist men, they are “crying abuse” to cover up hidden sexual desires and anger over being rejected by men who “won’t fuck them.” It’s sad that women’s physical and emotional safety is of little concern to activist men in general.

While activist men will keep on ranting like overfed rams about how they need to keep their mouths shut when women are talking or how women only spaces are important, people do not want to face the fact that women are being abused by male activists in our circles. When the issue is “addressed,” more often than not attention will be given to “struggling with” the man or probably having “beef” with the man instead of her being hurt. The woman will always be labelled “unstable,” “crazy” or “too emotional”.

People would prefer to help a cold, calculating bastard who can “keep it together” while he abuses women rather than deal with the reality that abuse can contribute to emotional and social difficulties among victims as they work to become survivors. All in all, these so called woke spaces aka activist groups are no safe space for women because misogynists and abusive men exist and thrive within them. These abusers use the language, tools of activism and support by other activists/woke millennials as means to abuse women and conceal their behavior. Fuck being woke. Fuck being able to keep a conversation about women’s rights going on. Fuck abusers playing the victim. Women are being abused in spaces where they ought to thrive and its not funny at all.

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