One of the boys …

The older I get, the more I question friendship. I understand the basics of it. Guys mostly make friends around activities – a team they like, a hobby they share, proximity through work, school, or neighbourliness. Female friendships seem more … personal? They may start out situational but are maintained by character alignment.

That’s not strictly true though. Us feminists like to say the patriarchy invented that whole ‘women don’t get along’ trope. But we all know a few women we can’t stand. And while we may sometimes be openly mean and judgey to these women, we just as easily call them our ‘friends’ and smile at them while stabbing their backs in any way we can. It’s a strange thing.

Cat Try Me GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

To be fair, guys do it too. I moved houses a year ago, and I get way more gossip from my new male neighbours than my female ones. So I know that fact isn’t gendered, at least not in my hood. So why is it that we still think women have harsher tongues than guys? And that doesn’t even get into non-binary and trans-folk who completely warp the system. They may be raised as one gender but identify as another so their socialisation is a whole new space.

Where is all this coming from? Well, I’m one of those girls that has more male friends than female ones. The Adult turned out the same way, except being a zoomer, she has some enbies in the mix as well. I learn a lot from watching how they live their lives – it’s warm and open and fascinating and beautiful and I can’t wait to see how this generation turns out. But that’s not my focus here. My battleground is male vs female relationships, particularly platonics.

I saw a TikTok by this girl explaining why she has a hard time making friends with girls. And I saw a tweet that responded, “You can’t be friends with someone that sees you as an object.” I’ve seen similar sentiments from fellow feminists. They say having more guy friends or exclusively male friends is a form of internalised misogyny, the epitome of, “I’m not like other girls.”

I always wonder about that one, because it’s something I say a lot. That and fatphobia, because my weight yoyos and I prefer my body when it’s thin(ner). I can see how saying that would make my fat friends feel shamed and rejected. Because what I’m saying is, “I don’t like my body when it’s big,” but what you’re hearing is, “She doesn’t like big bodies. And my body is big. So she’s obviously hating on me.” It can be hard to get past that point in a conversation.

Fat Cat GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Digression: I also wonder, does it make a difference to say these things out loud? Would the world prefer you think those thoughts in silence? Or does the world feel they can change a person’s thinking? How would you know what they were thinking or whether they changed their minds unless they shared their opinion? Case in point, cat calling degrades a woman, yes. But the real fear is a woman can’t tell if her cat caller is just showing off for the boys or whether he has an active intention of following through and hurting her.

That’s an extreme example – sexual violence. But what about seemingly ‘subtle’ forms of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia? Maybe that’s why a lot of people on the LGBTQIAP spectrum assume the hets hate them. It’s safer to blanket everyone than to trust some and risk safety. Hence #AllMenAre…

Me Gusta Trash Can GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Enewei, we’re talking about girls who are mostly friends with boys. Other women are understandably suspicious of us. Best case scenario, the women are uneasy about their boyfriends and husbands spending all this time with a ‘platonic female’ and refuse to believe hakuna shenanigans. Median level, a girl that’s one of the guys is seen me as a pick-me. And at worst, feminists point out that a guys-girl perpetuates misogyny because they treat her well but treat other women badly and she’s  a foil or token for his bad behaviour.

“He treats me well, I can’t believe he would hurt any woman.”

“I have close female friends, I’m a good guy.”

“He treats you well as an excuse to harm other women.”

Baby Mother GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why am I more comfortable with male friends than female ones? Personally, I’m physically afraid of men but psychologically afraid of women. Because I have sexual trauma, daddy issues, and mummy issues. So I make friends with men because if they like me and aren’t banging me (yet?), they’re less likely to be physically or sexually violent towards me. It’s a subconscious safety factor.

And I fear making friends with women because the ones that raised me were emotionally remote, disruptively manipulative, and psychologically abusive. It’s made me terrified of women and I have a hard time trusting or being friends with women. It even affects the way I see myself as a woman, and how I express and perform my own femininity. It’s a trip, and I’m working on it.

Cat Makeup GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I was watching a Red Table Talk episode on why women are mean to each other – that’s what chokonoa-d all this mess. But I also saw a tweet about how transphobia and homophobia are gendered. In the sense we all treat men and women differently, which is why we insist on knowing which one you are. According to that narrative, the thinking goes something like this:

“I need to know if you’re male or female so I know whether I should respect you or dismiss you, flirt with you or crush you. I need to know if you’re gay or straight so I can decide if I should be nice to you. It gauges your humanity.”

I guess my take is different. For me, men are a physical and sexual threat while women are an emotional and psychological one. And I’m a feeler and an overthinker, so mental wounds are just as bad as bodily ones for me. Worse even. So I guess I get … curious … about a person’s gender and sexuality as a form of self-preservation. I can use that basic data to protect myself.

Cat GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Something in that thread made sense though – that being non-binary and transgender forces the world to see you as a human being, not as a man or a woman, a girl or a boy. And people don’t want to do that. I don’t see myself as transphobic or homophobic (though it’s not my place to say, just like I can’t declare myself an ally – such validation can only come from someone who feels I support them in a meaningful way), but I do like labels and neat boxes that help me fit new facts into my world view. For me, labels are useful as I navigate humanity, but for a lot of people, labels are restrictive and flattening.

I think about random things a lot. Like, I recently read an article about how men in the US are giving up on college and there are now more women pursuing higher education. The guys interviewed had different reasons. Some said they felt more ‘manly’ earning money at a minimum wage job than they did gaining student debt in a classroom. Others said scholarships don’t cover books and board. They drop out within weeks because they can’t afford it.

Cats Begs GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I saw a documentary years ago about bride kidnapping in China. The one-child policy meant many families aborted or abandonded female foetuses and baby girls in favour of boys. Decades later, there are more men than women and nobody for men to marry. The families that did keep their daughters gave them the best in life, so many of these women have careers and an education and are in no rush to be wifed. The result? People paying traffickers to kidnap women and force them into ‘marriage’. These women end up being chattel.

I see a potentially similar result with this whole ‘men quitting college’ thing. 50 years from now, they may have a population where most of the men are doing menial tasks while the college-educated women hold the corporate and executive jobs. That could cause a dramatic shift in capitalism, now that there’ll be more women in charge. Or it might not, because a lot of women get to the top of male-dominated industries by out-manning the guys.

Cat Swagger GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Just think of any female makanga, cop, or kanjo worker you ever met – they’re often rougher and scarier than the men. They feel they have to be in order to survive and thrive at work, and they end up being misogynistic.)

So a world of all-female CEOs may not be the valhalla we expect. Plus, if these female hotshots want to marry, they may end up marrying men with blue-collar jobs since there’ll be a shortage of executive-level men in their workspaces. That could be a big shift in the class wars, because it means the husband would have to be secure enough to marry a boss lady, or maybe become a stay-at-home-dad. This could go both ways – some men will be praised for their daddy-day-care as their wives get attacked for working.

Or the dads may resent their wives, get ribbed by their pals, then domestic violence could rise, like a LOT. Or maybe the classed executive women will hire unclassed women to look after their kids … which brings a whole different dynamic with the low-wage-dads. But then again, many of our zoomers are queer and anti-nuptials so maybe that’s how the marriage industry collapses.

Cat Wedding GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For me, all this is tied into my nosiness about a person’s gender, sexuality, and presentation. But I understand that while knowing these things makes life easier for me, it doesn’t give me the right to impose on another person’s … person. Yes, my life would be easier if I knew which way you swing or what gonads you possess, but that is still your life, your body, your privacy, and I have no right to it. The LGBTQIPA doesn’t owe cis-hets anything.

I feel a twinge typing that, because yes, it’s a fact, and yes, it exposes my bias and rubs against my privilege. But here’s the thing about entitlement – it’s a false dichotomy. Just because I want to information about you or attention from you does NOT mean you owe it to me or that I have a right to it.

Cat Wiggle GIF by sheepfilms - Find & Share on GIPHY

So when it comes to sidelining spectrum members, I recognise that as a cis-het female, it’s my job to sit with this discomfort. Their lives do not exist to sate my curiosity or ensure my comfort. Trans folk, enbies, and other spectra have as much right to life, love, freedom, safety, self-expression and privacy.

♫ Help Me ♫ Nick Carter ♫

Feeling …

 

Find Missing Missy Here (So! Worth! It!)

They say life begins at 40. Maybe it’s because so many things get clearer. Or murkier? For me it’s been the former – lots of weird revelations this year. But then again, here I am, 8 weeks from the Big Four-Oh and resuming therapy…

A lot of my peers turn 40 this year (#ElderMillennialsRus) so I guess the zeitgeist is floating around and stuff. It almost feels contagious, in a way. Or maybe corona sent the entire planet into a quarter-life crisis, arronno.

The thing that’s taking me back to my shrink is I’ve lost interest in life. Again. And I’ve sabotaged my career. Again. And I’ve been watching narcississm videos and going HAM on bibliotherapy. Again. And I’ve started getting stress cramps and migraines. Again. And I’ve stopped sleeping despite ol’ reliable. Again. And I’ve resumed eating so I’m afraid I’ll get all the weight back. Again.

(It wasn’t anorexia, it was just four years of zero appetite and female-pattern hair loss that left me 20 kilos lighter. Also, I have no issue with other people being fat. Or curvy. Or plus-size. Or slim-thicc. I just don’t want it for me.)

I’ve stopped a lot of things. I’ve stopped needing to be right. Or smart. Or nice. (I still do those things compulsively, but I’ve stopped feeling like I need to, and that’s something I guess.) I’ve stopped wanting to be known because it always ends in tears. I’ve stopped defending myself or wanting to be the ‘good guy’ in the story. Because people will think what they want to think, so I’ll stand in as the villain they want to see – why waste energy I don’t even have?

I stopped logging into Twitter because it kept making me sad and mad, but I still check some accounts off the browser to keep up with things. Sometimes. I find I do a lot less doom-scrolling that way. In theory at least. And I stopped expecting people to care. Because life is hard, and a lot of us don’t.

 

Cat Colors GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

I never leave my house, and when I do, I wear neon-coloured onesies and matching marvins to the kiosk. (Most days, the brighter I look outside, the darker I feel inside.) I know the things that are bugging me. And I know I need to just get over them. But god knows how. Or maybe my shrink does. And judging by her wait list, I’m guessing a lot of us are asking for extra sessions.

I don’t always feel like this. But it seems I keep coming back to this dark space. My shrink told me as much – that first session in 2015. She said the depression and anxiety I express is more about my world view and wiring, so it’s a matter of managing this shit, not curing it. I guess it’s time for routine servicing then.

TL;DR: Be safe. Pet a cat. See a shrink if you have the money. And tell a boy he’s pretty. Also, I need to learn PhP and clean this place up because chei!

Cats Train GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

♫ Strip Me ♫ Natasha Beddingfield ♫

I have a theory …

A lot of people mistake me for a butch. Or at least a girly bi. I do recognise and appreciate sexy women. Especially curvy ones with hourglass figures and ample asses. I don’t want to have sex with them though. Or form romantic entanglements. Also, for a long time, I couldn’t wrap my head around same-sex attraction. I’m less puzzled now.

In my mind, love is love, and gender doesn’t come into it. We love who we love and we have a right to love. I don’t know if that makes me an ally – I’m told ally-ship is defined by the supported, not the supporter. But all this pre-amble shapes my perspective on life and relationships. Let me explain …

I have this theory about men and women. It mostly applies in hetero-normative interactions. I don’t know if it’s the same in the gay world, and I don’t have the lived experience to dig into that. And I’m not even straying into trans politics right now. I’ll restrict my musings to the typical cis guys ‘n gals.

And this isn’t just in dating. It cuts across to work, friendship, parenting, supermarket trips, any space where men and women mingle. So here’s the theory. Basically, a man’s superpower is compartmentalising his shit…

Mark Gungor explains it really well. Heads up: he’s a pastor, so you’ll find some bible verses in the full version, but you can mute those sections if you need to. The rest of what he says is dope, accurate, and funny as hell.

The clip below is just a teaser, but if you want to watch the whole two hours, you can find it here.  (There are 6 more hours of him online if you want to complete the series. It has a corny name but there are good nugs in there.)

It makes sense that men have boxes which never touch and women’s brains intermingle everything. That’s why when a man treats you badly (particularly sexual assault or rape), we say, ‘What if it was your mother? Or daughter? Or sister?’ Feminists believe this is reductive. After all, in our intermingled female minds, every woman is someone’s daughter, sister, mother. DUH!

So I don’t have to be your mother / daughter / sister to earn safety and respect and – you know – NOT BE RAPED. But to him, he has a mama box, a baby girl box, a kid sister box, an ‘other women’ box … and the boxes never touch.

In fact, he does everything in his power to keep them far apart. It may also explain why he dates and/or socialises with one type of woman – the ‘smart, modern, enlightened’ one then marries a more domestic kind of woman who will cook, clean, maintain demurity, and be nice to his mum.

Women he beds vs women he weds. #WifeMaterial vs #EntertainementValue. #NurturingVsMentalStimulation. #Patriarchy. Mind you, I’m the kind if feminist that believes all women’s choices are valid, and it’s her right to be whomever and whatever she chooses. But your choices dictate your box …

This is kind of a survival mechanism for him. Because – if he’s a good guy – and he saw his sister / mama / daughter in every woman, he’d never get erect. Then you (as the woman that’s trying to fuck him) would have a whole other problem on your hands, not to mention your thirsty lady bits.

Disclaimer: I’m talking about good men, because yes, I believe they exist. I’m not talking about the ‘kuma ni kuma’ creatures. Those ones deserve nothing but castration with rusty slashers. This theory only applies to the good guys.

Anyway, because a man’s boxes don’t touch, and he has all his women in different boxes, he doesn’t find it weird to keep them separate. That’s why he can tell you loves you and still cheat. You and his mistress are in different boxes, and the boxes never touch. You shouldn’t even know that box exists.

Now us, women, everything is connected. My car can make a blinking noise (yes, I know blinking has no sound) and I’ll suddenly be yelling at my kid because the blinking light reminded of how she bats her eyelashes when she’s being sarcastic. So now I’m screaming about five hours of labour while he sits quietly and wonders if he should call the mechanic or drive to Mathare …

This plays out in relationships – whether they’re romantic or casual. A man has his boxes. He has one for each of his women – and for each of his men too. He’ll never call Toma for beer because Toma is his computer guy. And he won’t invite Dwayne on a road trip coz Dwayne gets drunk and refuses to share driving hours. Kila mtu anapewa lane na anafaa kubaki kwa lane yake.

Now, for women, everything is connected. So yes, we have a hair-friend, but we can still talk to her about cows and shoes. And we have a mummy-friend, but we’ll still chew out or child-free pals with baby pictures. And we have a biashara buddy but we’ll still whine to her about boy drama. It’s all intricately connected, and we have a birds’ eye view of everything, pun intended.

So when we come into a man’s life, whether as a kinyozi, a platonic pal, or a daddy’s girl, we want to be his everything. And we’ll often to do this by spotting the other women in his life and hunting them down. Then we vanquish them in uniquely female ways that – if the genders were reversed – would be counted as abuse … but we’ll talk about that later.

For now, I might get so cosy with his mum that she starts to take my side in fights. I might charm his sister and make her my best friend. I might mark my territory with dramatic PDA. Or I might befriend his pals behind his back and subtly warn them off. Either way, the plan is to be the last woman standing.

This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, its just a thing. Or rather, a theory. And yes, many of these ‘uniquely female tactics’ and thinly veiled emotional abuse. But because this type of psychological manipulation is subtle and insidious, you don’t see it for what it is. Plus, it doesn’t leave visible scars, so it’s harder to spot, address, resolve, or recover from. Also, many women do it, so in a way, it seems … normal. It’s just how women are, right? Men can be trash and women can be evil. Boys can boys and girls can fuck you up before you even know it …

So while ‘rival men’ will strut and pose and throw punches, competing women will perform spy-level surveillance and cold war psychological techniques. Half the time, the dude won’t even know what’s happening til’ he dials that gal pal he hasn’t talked to in ages and she refuses to pick his call. Or he bumps into his (female) barber on the street and she’s hostile, standoffish, and bitchy. He’s thinking wtf kumbe Dada Manywele kaambiwa ‘back off sis, he’s mine!’

And because men’s boxes don’t touch, even if you – as a woman – explain what’s going on, he still doesn’t get it. For him, it simply doesn’t compute. Of course there are exceptions. There are men who have power. Or money. Or charm. Or magic sticks. These men have entire harems at their disposal.

And they get women, pun intended. They wield us and manage us like a pro. And they still keep us in our designated boxes. You may think you’re his whole world until you jump out of your box and spot all the other pretty boxes. And if you try to peek into them, he will stubbornly shove you back into your box.

I don’t know how to bridge the boxes and the wires. I don’t know what the middle ground is between male segregation and female interminglement. And I thought I’d avoid the mess because I’m a platonic. I thought I could dodge all the relationship drama because I’m not in his bed. I thought I could dip into all his boxes because I’m his best friend. I thought I could ignore his women’s attempts to push me out of his life. I thought I was safe in #BFFB.

But guess what – I’m a still woman. I may not want his dick and he may not want my kitty, but in the same way his girlfriends want to be his everything, I want to be in all his boxes. Except – of course – the box where he keeps his boxers. Hiyo hata sikaribii. Naachia the ones who deal with his dick.

But yes, I want the keys to all his other boxes. Not so I can keep his women out, but so I can find my way in. And yes, I do want access to his #NothingBox, even though I know it never ends well. I want him to talk to me, especially when he doesn’t want to. Mostly when he just wants me to go away.

So that’s my theory. Do with it what you will.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

♫ Good lives ♫ Eve 6 ♫