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Out of Africa
April 17, 2008 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Blogs of women from Africa. That is all.
posted by hadjiboy (25 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
Why must all of your posts be awesome, hadjiboy?

People better not shit up this thread like they did the other one recently.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:34 AM on April 17, 2008


Yeah, this is seriuos.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on April 17, 2008


Kikuyu walk like THIS but Luo walk like THIS
posted by DU at 6:46 AM on April 17, 2008


Bravo.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:47 AM on April 17, 2008


That first piece is especially excellent.
posted by The Straightener at 6:50 AM on April 17, 2008


Fascinating and eye-opening, thank you.
posted by owhydididoit at 6:51 AM on April 17, 2008


Amazing post. Thank you, hadjiboy.
posted by sveskemus at 7:03 AM on April 17, 2008


This is the best of the web. It brings things to me that I had no idea existed. Thank you.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:09 AM on April 17, 2008


It brings things to me that I had no idea existed.
That's not necessarily a good thing. In this case, however...
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 7:18 AM on April 17, 2008


I just picked one blog at random (Kui/Wangui's Mama Junk Yard) and started jumping around posts and every single one of them is great - especially where she discusses local dialects. I just wish she posted more. Thanks hadjiboy for turning me onto something I never would have found (or even thought I needed to find) on my own.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:44 AM on April 17, 2008


Thanks for the post, hadjiboy.

The first blog is simply enraging. Here's another post from that same blog:

But you cannot be abused without participating in it yourself, mainly by finding reasons to acquiesce.

This is important. In the first post, her father asks if there is any reason he shouldn't beat her. But she doesn't think to answer "Because it will hurt" or "Because I don't like it". The abused is conditioned from the outset to be the victim, so the victim's frame of reference is always the abuser's, not their own. This isn't her fault, or a criticism of her, just an explanation of what is going on in the mind of a child who is old enough to not submit willingly but does so anyway.

What people who have never been in this situation don't understand is that when you are older, you resent your younger self for not doing anything to stop it, for not taking the hyperbolic action that resets their posture relative to their abuser. The only way to explain it is that your brain is programmed from very early on not to generate thoughts outside of the abusive paradigm. In the moment, you simply can't think of anything to say or do.

In the case of the blog, bringing up her period bought her reprieve from the physical abuse, but the psychological abuse got much worse. And the physical abuse was going to stop anyway in favor of psychological abuse. When abusive parents want to control their kids into adulthood, they realize the need to stop the beatings at some point or else they scare the kids off. And you can't abuse them if they're gone.

There are AskMe questions on this site about people who hit their kids and feel some ambivalence, or from people who know relatives are abusing their kids, etc. But the question is always, without exception, framed with from the viewpoint of the abuser, and with a concern for their reaction. The abused is an afterthought.

The question "Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't beat you?" is fundamentally sadistic. I'm going to beat you and it's your obligation to submit to it, I kind of enjoy it and it's my right, but I'm not unreasonable. But the victim has to submit to the frame. The victim has to be a masochist. You get to ask the question, and I have to answer, because being abused is familiar and safe. Doing something else is uncertain. And when you grow up having the people you love beat the shit out of you, the only thing left to cling to is familiarity and certainty. Predictability offers an illusion of control to the powerless.

But there is really only one answer to the question "Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't beat you?"

"Because I'll beat you back."
posted by Pastabagel at 7:46 AM on April 17, 2008 [24 favorites]


And the physical abuse was going to stop anyway in favor of psychological abuse. When abusive parents want to control their kids into adulthood, they realize the need to stop the beatings at some point or else they scare the kids off. And you can't abuse them if they're gone.

My mom got really really icky nice once she realized she couldn't beat us anymore. And when that didn't work...she would call with a disaster....and when that didn't work anymore....
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:59 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mama Wangari's writing excavates some of the most complex mires of both women and a particular culture so deeply I feel that the air she is exposing them to might actually heal. All of these blogs arrest with their voice--they give me hope for blogs and the way this medium might evolve (so many seem to be sharing a writing voice I find really irritating lately). I'm truly inspired, and look forward to sharing these with friends and colleagues.


This is one of those FPPs that compel me to pay my 5 bucks all over again. Thank you so much, hadjiboy.
posted by rumposinc at 8:07 AM on April 17, 2008


Thank you hadjiboy. A wonderful post.
posted by gaspode at 8:09 AM on April 17, 2008


You done good, boy. I'm going to bookmark this for a later read.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:16 AM on April 17, 2008


My god, these are amazing. Thank you, hadjiboy, for another phenomenal post.
posted by rtha at 8:17 AM on April 17, 2008


This is awesome, hadjiboy. I have my entire afternoon planned out now, thank you.
posted by headspace at 8:36 AM on April 17, 2008


wow, yes, best of the web

gracias!
posted by jammy at 10:02 AM on April 17, 2008


But there is really only one answer to the question "Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't beat you?"

"Because I'll beat you back."


Setting aside, for a second, questions as to whether retaliation actually stops violence: In the context and the culture where Mama Wangari was a child, do you think that responding with "Because I'll beat you back" would have been effective? Personally, I think it would have been fatal.
posted by dubold at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Setting aside, for a second, questions as to whether retaliation actually stops violence:

Retaliation does not stop violence, but this isn't violence, it's abuse. Retaliation ends the abuse because it robs the abuser of the power to inflict violence without violent consequence. Abuse is not a fight. Retaliation turns abuse into a fight which is never what an abuser wants (if that's what they wanted, they'd pick fights and arguments, not cap a one-side lecture with a belt-whipping). The purpose is to signal that abuse is no longer the abuser's choice. The choice is to start a fight the result of which will be the abuser is left injured even if he wins the fight. Finally, parents abuse kids because they want to be violent in an environment that's safe for them.

Personally, I think it would have been fatal.
posted by dubold at 1:24 PM on April 17


Maybe for the abuser, maybe for the abused. Let's see if the abuser likes those odds.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


But there is really only one answer to the question "Can you think of any reason why I shouldn't beat you?"

"Because I'll beat you back."


"Because it isn't right" is a much more powerful (and realistic) answer. Hard to say the first seriously as a young girl; the second (if supported by family, a legal system, community norms, etc) is very powerful.

Violence is complicated and tricky; it's embedded in structural inequalities and is enabled by a whole host of things. Yes, her father was swinging the belt -- but he could do so because no one else in the compound would meet her eyes when she walked to get the belt, because there were no legal repercussions, because there were no social repercussions. Almost certainly the father had been beaten just as badly when he was a child, too. Kicking his ass doesn't solve the bigger problems, including the mother's complicity, the society's failings, and so on.

Great FPP, by the way.
posted by Forktine at 11:06 AM on April 17, 2008


Retaliation does not stop violence, but this isn't violence, it's abuse.

That's an interesting clarification; thanks. I hadn't thought of it in that way. You're correct in implying that what's going on here is specifically not between equals.(Retaliation turns abuse into a fight which is never what an abuser wants ) However, I think a physical response to her father's authority would most likely have escalated the physical abuse. By responding verbally, the abuse became verbal.

To my way of thinking, Forktine's mentioning of the lack of legal and social repercussion for the abusive father is essential; to suggest an approach that might work in a western context would get little traction in a setting that is at best tolerant of this behavior.

A violent response would most likely get no support from other adults; they might even feel the need to step in and help her father beat her as a way of upholding community norms. The clearest sign of this pervasive mindset: her own mother couldn't figure out why Mama Wangari would lie to avoid a beating.
posted by dubold at 11:28 AM on April 17, 2008


I want to go visit all of these women and be near them and share strength with them.

Thank you, hadjiboy.
posted by batmonkey at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2008


Retaliation is frequently not an option, due to the disparity in strength and power between the abuser and the abused. Abuse can lead to broken bones, scarring, and other physical conditions that weaken the abused or limit mobility, and even in the best condition possible, the abused may not be physically strong enough to overpower the abuser and/or may have (or feel as though s/he has) no options beyond the present situation. Stepping out of line, in some cultures, communities, or families may mean ostracism or death. Abuse is rarely visited upon those who are equal or superior in strength and power.
posted by notashroom at 1:42 PM on April 17, 2008


Wow, that first link is pretty heartwrenching. It's kind of amazing to have read that and then read other posts where she's talking about her daily life. It makes me think, I've probably met someone like this. You meet all these people in daily life who have been through amazing or terrible things, and you just have no idea.
posted by salvia at 5:12 PM on April 17, 2008


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