I grew up in an extremely protective family. The Kadzitus did things others never did. All 8 of us would clean up in the same bathroom. Some getting bathed as others brushed their teeth..all oblivious of our obvious nakedness and gender differences thereof.
The Kadzitu girls were most protected of all. There was no playing outside with friends..what friends? Your sisters are sufficient. Play indoors. Our dress code reflected the staunch Christianity and conservative Giriama-ness of our folks. Dresses. Skirts. Shop bought with frilly lace and floor sweeping hemlines. We were African-Amish. I exaggerate of course. The one rule that we sought with all might to fight was the “Pant Ban”. Kadzitu girls never wore pants. Not trousers,culottes,shorts..not pants of any kind. For sports: skirts.
Now having grown up that way and finally given the chance to dress as one would wish (albeit modestly), I cherish the ability to express myself in how I dress. I cherish the choice I have in dress now. It means more to me than you would know. My upbringing keeps me in check of limits. To this day, I have been unable to wear hot pants inasmuch as I have admittedly wanted to once or twice. Not even in my rebellious campus days,where no one from home would see me, would I dare.
I hope I am not losing you here. I need you to understand what growing up as a girl in a conservative African family then living as a grown woman in Nairobi (2014) is. My dressing isn’t a trivial matter. It’s a deeply seated part of me. It has become my identity. Jeans,short dresses and skirts (a couple of longs ones because a certain someone likes me in them) make up the bulk of my wardrobe.
Recently, I have trouble deciding what to wear. I am growing more and more afraid of the street bullies just laying in wait.
I am aware of their baiting mechanism: Catcalls, a greeting, a snarky comment about how I am dressed, veiled compliments like “Mrembo”. As if beautiful is the only attribute that can be assigned to me.
I am aware of the variant reactions that will set them off: silence, a look away, a look of utter disgust and anger -a true reflection of exactly what’s felt.
I am aware of the possible outcome: insults, jeers, shaming, stripping, assault,rape.
I am aware and and I am saddened by my present reality.
All because I am being me. More because I am expressing myself freely. Even more because I refuse to acknowledge leering and unwarranted attention and aggression.
What is it about my 5ft frame that threatens you? Is it my soft,demure curves? What is it about my femininity that irks you so?
Why do you forget that just like you, I am human? Why do you forsake the fact that being human means I deserve life, in it’s abundance of rights & freedoms?
Afford me one thing: Let me live.