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Kenya: What I Said When Men Asked for My Opinion On Cancel Culture and Male Privilege

The 13th day of September 2020 is the day that completely changed Eunice Wangari’s life. She went to meet her date, Moses Gatama Njoroge, who she had met online, physically for the first time. She met him at his office and they had food and drinks. When they were done, she wanted to go home and that’s where the terror began. He wanted more and he didn’t care about her lack of consent. A physical scuffle ensued and he threw her off the 12th floor of the building. Luckily, because of the design of the building, she landed on the 9th floor but still suffered excruciating injuries. The matter is now in court.

The conversation came to light this past week when it was reported in the media and it became a national conversation. It’s in this space that three radio presenters, Shaffie Weru, Joe Mfalme, and Neville Musya went on air and made light of the whole affair. The trio decided to create a brand manual for victim-blaming by making light of the incident on air. The fury of the online world soon followed and to everyone’s utter shock, a major sponsor made a public statement suspending all advertising with the radio station and the chips came tumbling down.

They were soon swiftly fired, President Moi style, with a midnight press statement to boot and the radio station faced penalties including the suspension of their morning show. This set the social media stage ablaze with polarised and weaponised chats that I haven’t witnessed in a while.

Let’s be honest, morning radio has been a cesspool of sexism and misogyny for decades. Morning radio inspired me to buy headphones because I didn’t see myself listening to the same regurgitated cringe topics every day while in a matatu. A recent article by OdipoDev and Baraza Media Lab titled ‘Big Dick Politics and How the News Fails Women’ explains how radio (and media broadly) sets a male agenda and why it’s unsustainable. People have complained about some of these shows and the content but as long as they tread along the thin line of ethics and morality- right at the middle there’s nothing much we can do about it or is there?

The bigger conversation that I want to bring out today, though, is around what people call cancel culture, which I feel I would rather refer to as accountability culture. Men fought online tooth and nail arguing that the presenters shouldn’t have lost their jobs and that this was a result of feminists trying to get men fired.

Someone asked me whether I was going to write an article in the presenters’ defense and they were shocked by the disbelief on my face and the resounding no with no space for a rejoinder. When you make jokes about gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) and blame victims and you are made to pay the price, it’s not oppression or a witch hunt, it’s consequences.

We are not used to facing repercussions for our actions because society lets us get away with murder literally, Kenyan Governor style. Suddenly, for the first time, there was a price to pay and men took it as a personal assault. When you’re accustomed to privilege equality feels like oppression, and this past week has been a shining example of it.

A man attempted to murder a woman by tossing her out of the 12th floor, radio presenters saw it fit to make jokes out of it and men’s greatest worries were about their careers.

Rape starts way before the actual action. It’s supported by a culture that trivialises women’s autonomy, that uses women’s experiences as humour, and a culture that feeds into men’s feelings of entitlement over women’s bodies. The entitlement is masked behind conversations around money, her dressing, what time it was, and any amount of other random imagined causes but we all know that all five fingers always face away from us, as men.

Today I’m here to say that if you feel that you can’t control your urge to be sexist then feel free to enjoy your freedom of expression but don’t whine when you face the consequences. Being asked to be a decent human being isn’t an affront to masculinity (unless that’s what your masculinity is based on) and men are not under siege. I challenge men, myself included, to be better each day and one of the elements of being better is knowing that you’re responsible for your actions.

mwthoithi@gmail.com

Feedback to the editor: satmag@ke.nationmedia.com

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