Every woman is a Delilah

What a couple of weeks it has been. From Dr Kanyari’s spiritual examination of the female anatomy, to Nderitu Njoka (distinguished founder of the esteemed Maendeleo ya Wanaume) calling for a temporary ban on lovemaking. As a nation, we’ve had sex on the brain. It’s no wonder that several unsuspecting women were stripped by mobs of randy men, who seemed to have broken free of the leash to which their raging sexual frustrations were tethered.

Let’s indulge ourselves for a minute and imagine that the ‘dressing down’ was about what the women were wearing. That the dignity of a woman is directly proportional to her hemline. Hold on, wait. One woman who was stripped in Mombasa was wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. Another one in downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (yes, this madness crosses borders) was stripped because she was accused of stealing. Yes, I understand it’s most indecent to take things that don’t belong to you. More indecent still to wear men’s clothing. Both these indecencies demand punishment, surely.

Because punishment is what this recent spate of strippings has been all about. The female form is the repository into which disgruntled males have historically spilled the seed of their discontent. Some men choose to punish women for their own shortcomings. That doesn’t make it right, only factual.

Women are an easy target for men who have no other way to express their inadequacies. Men who allow themselves to be provoked to sexual violence because they lack the strength of mind to resist what they believe to be temptation. For men like these, every woman is a Delilah, whether she’s dressed in a burka or a bikini. Every woman presents the opportunity for them to partake of something forbidden and by that act, delude themselves that they are somehow one step closer to everything else they want, but can’t have.

It doesn’t help that we live in a hyper-sexualised world. A world where our minds function more as sex organs than instruments of rational thought. When you don’t use your mind to think, you are more likely to submit to the psychology of a criminal mob, which is so high on lust that you can see the fumes.

On the other hand, when a woman is making fashion choices, there are factors outside of herself that she may find it prudent to consider. Those factors have less to do with decency and more to do with appropriateness. You wouldn’t wear a swimming costume to a black tie engagement, any more than you would a ball gown to the beach. And yet, what you choose to wear and whatever other people perceive your intentions to be, are by no means an invitation to violence, sexual or otherwise. If you do want to wear a ball gown to the beach, or a mini skirt to the market, that is your prerogative and yours alone.

No man has the moral standing to dictate what a woman wears, or to scare her into a male-centric definition of decency on the threat of violence. The very notion of ‘decency’ is subjective.

When I was 14, maybe 15 years old, I wanted to wear a mini skirt to my sister’s evening party. It was one of the few times that my parent’s allowed me out at night. My Dad was okay with the skirt. He told my Mum to “let the child wear what she wants”. My Mum thought it was indecent. “People will get the wrong idea,” she said. In other words, men would think I was asking for it. How sad that 20-odd years later, some men are still unwilling to take responsibility for their own desires. Women (and girls) are not the passion police. It’s not our job to regulate our choices so that some men can feel unrestricted by our presence.

As I was writing this, hundreds of brave women had taken to the streets in protest under the #MyDressMyChoice banner. Some of them suffered sexual harassment during the march. Immediately, after it, another woman was stripped, brutalised and hospitalised in Kayole. The very next day, the world marked International Men’s Day. The theme this year is ‘Working Together for Men and Boys’. Apt. Many of them need help.