All women have been given rules to go through life. A set of commands handed to them as soon as they arrive into the earth with their shrill cries and blind eyes. It is a good thing to live your life this way, always blind with a cry here and there, to live with dignity. But the notable women in the society, those that history remembers, are never docile creatures. They realize sooner than later that rules are meant to stifle them, to make them live ordinary lives. If they are living ordinary lives they are easy to control; easy to trample on, easy to forget. We cannot afford women to be forgotten. Because if we forget women, if we have no woman to look up to, we will all die.
Stella Nyanzi has been called many things. Among which she has been labelled undignified and mad. How can a sane woman go around town undressing and showing people her saggy breasts? How dare her.
“She is a psychopath who deserves to be whipped”, John was heard saying.
“She is a disgrace to womanhood”, Mary added.
It is easy to label her such, but then I go back to history books and I find that most notable women were either ‘mad’ or ‘undignified’. Her madness is what history always remembers.
What she did is completely African
Yes, we have been white washed. White washed enough to forget that in most African cultures a woman’s nakedness was used as a weapon against her oppressors. If a woman stripped in front of you in protest, then you were cursed. It is usually the last resort a woman would go to when all else has failed. Wangari Mathai in 1992 together with other women stripped in downtown Nairobi as a way of protest.
“As we moved further and deeper into it (activism) we kept finding doors closed, so we had to force those doors open.” she said in an Interview
One way of forcing those doors open was of course stripping. And her madness did not stop there. She once insisted on signing a police report with the blood from the wound on her head. Labelled a mad woman by the then president she went on to become a Nobel laureate. The mad woman was now in the company of greats like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. The most interesting thing is that as soon as she won the Nobel Prize, those same men who had called her undignified and mad joined the world in calling her a hero.
She stood for something.
If you are going to be ‘undignified’, you need to stand for something. For Nyanzi, it was her office and alleged mistreatment. People who stand for something understand that there may come a time you will have to strip for what you believe in. “Harriet Tubman- who is now going to be on the 20 dollar bill- in 1858 was the first woman in America to command and armed military raid”. I can only imagine what the women of her time thought of her. But the thing is, we are not talking about the dignified women of her time are we? We are talking about the one woman who did the dirty work. The one woman mad enough to believe in saving her race.
She went overboard
It has been argued that Stella went overboard. That she should have found amicable ways of settling her issues. That is true. She should have. But who is to say she didn’t. What if she had used the right way and it did not work? What if she had been dismissed so many times that she had to strip naked for the world to see her frustration for her to get her way?
Wangari Mathai once said, “You have to be mad to break from the mainstream”. Right now we don’t have many people who are willing to do that. That is why corruption is killing us as a country. Why our children are being raped and we sweep it under the rug. Because we have become a society who will much rather judge a woman for wanting her office back than act.
In conclusion,most people are tied down with this dignity thing. We might not agree fully with what Nyanzi did but let us not tie it down to lack of dignity and madness. Dignity is subjective, what is dignity today, maybe cowardice tomorrow. Madness is universal.
This world is full of people who will never stand for anything. These are the judgemental people who will always talk about what is wrong with your actions.
If you want history to remember you, you had better start standing for something.