I read a book and started to write about it (kind of) last week and then I got carried away into another topic. It happens. But not today. Today I am going to stay on track and we’re going to talk about women and the ways in which they need to do right by each other.
I wasn’t old enough to pay attention to her radio career when she was on air. But I respect Caroline Mutoko, and so do many of my friends. To us, she is somebody who is living what we hope will be our future lives. She speaks a lot of sense, she is confident, her skin looks amazing, and her outfits are just everything. Say what you will about her, but she is fabulous. And the hate she gets on a daily basis, we haven’t got time for it. I love how she says what she needs to say, even when she rubs a million and three people the wrong way. Of course three quarters of the people (mostly men) who choose to insult her for no reason will always aim their fire at her womanhood or the fact that she isn’t married. And because we are filled with feminism up to our necks, we haven’t got time for that either. Controversial or not, women like her (accomplished, know what they are doing) do women like me (haven’t got a clue what they are doing, what is accomplishment?) a world of good when they speak.
We appreciate Caroline Mutoko, not just because of how good her nails look on her videos or the eloquent way she talks, but also because she tells us the things we wish the women in our lives told us. She speaks clearly and sternly and it’s like having someone holding your hand. She talks about the things that matter and she does it without mincing her words. One day she is talking about the nonsense that surrounds our national politics, the next day she is talking about how women need to get their feet done as well when they go for manicures. It’s the right dose of sense for a young woman trying to figure out how life works. And the things she recommends, sema useful! Just from that her Youtube channel I have gained a lot, I can tell you. I took Centonomy classes because she has a way of talking about financial maturity that just makes you want to grow up quickly as far as money is concerned. And it was worth it. I started paying attention to things I thought I had no time for, like the economy and politics, because the way she spoke made me feel that I was being dumb by choosing to remain ignorant. And it was worth it. I bought Joan Thatiah’s books, both of them, because Miss Mutoko read them and said that they should be on every young woman’s bookshelf. And it was worth it.
So yes. Those two books, Things I Will Tell My Daughter’ and ‘I’m Too Pretty to be Broke and Other Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself’–those are the two Kenyan books I have read recently. And I learnt. That’s what this is all about. See? I told you I would stay on track today.
For the longest time there have been things that women just don’t talk about. We avoid some topics like any mention of them will render us blind. Like money. Imali and I were talking the other day about how broke we both were (Waceke Nduati of Centonomy calls this having a ‘poverty support group’ and says that we really should stop but here we are) and the topic came up. Women don’t like to have conversations about money. We hide it away as though money is something we shouldn’t have or something people shouldn’t know we have. It’s crazy.
There are conversations we didn’t and still don’t have with our mothers, with our teachers, with our anything. And when we do have them, they are often glossed over, rushed over or too old-school to even make sense to us. Like my aunt telling me the other day that when I get married I must do everything in the house while my husband sits with his feet up because he would have bought me, and if I didn’t, that he could throw me out of his house. I mean, what even? Throughout my life the conversations I have had with the older women in my life have been about school. School and ‘good’ behaviour. You know, behaving the way a girl is supposed to behave. Sit like this, always do this, never do that, because that’s how girls behave. Beyond that, there was nothing much so I’ve had to find out a lot of things for myself, when I could have saved myself the work by just having a conversation with a woman who knew better.
Joan Thatiah’s books have a lot of advice that I wish I had been told by the women in my life. I wish someone had told me about the power of femininity, about how to handle my own money, about how life doesn’t give one damn about what you’ve done and who you are. It will move on the way it likes. I wish I had someone with whom I could have had honest conversations with about love and money and self care. Honest conversations, not those things we do where everybody is pretending everything is fine when really, nothing is.
This is what I was talking about in that blog post about girls needing girls. You need to be able to know that there are women in front of you who are watching your steps and you need to know that you are watching the steps of another woman behind you. This is doing right by other women. This is doing right by your own. You can only be taught how to be a woman by another woman. That’s why people like Caroline Mutoko and books like Joan Thatiah’s are so important. They tell us what we need to know, truthfully and reasonably. They give us a better understanding of the world. They let us know when something we are doing isn’t going to work. They inspire us and motivate us to do better; to think, to read, to take care of ourselves, to be confident, to take up space with no apologies. And these things, I cannot tell you how important they are. You know how when you enter a completely dark room and you can’t see a thing, you use the nearest wall to feel your way around? Having such people in your life is kind of like that. It’s still dark but at least you can proceed without any casualties.
Do right by your own. Take a girl by the hand and tell her what you know. Support, guide, empower. Show the women around you all that womanhood can be, that it’s not just one thing. Talk about your losses and your regrets. Talk about your lessons and your triumphs. Talk about your ambitions, your choices, the things that held you back and those that lifted you up. Talk about relationships, money, beauty standards, confidence, self esteem, family, friendships, marriage, children, careers, business. Talk about life, and by God do it honestly, always honestly. I’m saying that women need to hear and know the things that other women know. We need the help, we need the support, we need the lessons. And so do the girls behind us. We need to know and you, you who have been there and done that, you are the only ones we can learn from. Talk to us. We are listening.