Taking offence

This morning the bus driver, to put it politely, pissed me off. As many of my friends may realise it's reasonably easy to offend me because I am obsessed with the motives behind peoples’ acts – the reasons why people do the things they do can be as hurtful as the act itself.

I've written about this before, about assumptions and reactions to me based on me being a black woman; when someone acts in a way that is generally unacceptable but because I am what I am ( a particularly small specimen of one as well) the restrictions are forgotten and the aggressor assumes a power differential in our relationship. Basically, the guy believes I’m an easy target. The end result is I am accosted by shouts of “hey come over here sexy African queen” from a group of men of Somali origin, along a shopping street in the city centre.

Today’s incident perhaps wasn’t as lewd, but still it can be reduced to the lack of respect and desire to dominate that a large number of men of African origin have for women – yes sadly any such encounters I’ve had in Finland have involved Black men. The conversation took place en route to my Finnish class, it began with “Sister, do you have an exam?” to which I responded politely and ended when I refused to be baited by “So, have you slept well?”

I won’t go into any more detail because I find it very difficult to convey these encounters to people who have not experienced them, but any Zambian woman will tell you is the next question is “where do you stay?” which eventually descends into lewd offers to satisfy you as you have never been satisfied before. 

As I said, this experience is hard to describe, it is more than a degrading experience to be singled out from a crowd based on your physical appearance. It is, in fact, both racist and sexist to assume that a woman, because she is black, will appreciate such imposition or respond favourably to such baseness.

But, in my opinion, saddest of all it is a reflection of the relationship between men and women of African origin in the Diaspora – when men attempt to assert their masculinity by preying on the only segment of society they feel they can dominate i.e. black women. 

Photograph: imcool in flickr


Hiatus' end

Last week I spent one morning in a seminar entitled "Because I am a girl," held in a romantically baroque building that once served as Finland’s first girls' school. The event reminded me of why I began blogging in the first place. I contemplated starting a design or literary blog but could not muster the necessary enthusiasm. I recognised that I am surrounded by events and injustice, which I can neither ameliorate nor influence but still I have opinions and ideas as do many others. During the seminar my mentor and Plan Finland’s director Riitta Weiste said "I urge each one us to find ways to make the world more just."

As I write my home country is in the immersed in the excitement and promise that a new government may deliver, yet many are wary of the danger. Throughout the election process and the days following it, Facebook and blogs by Zambians have been invaluable in keeping me connected with my home country. Social media have stoked my fears, allayed my worries and discovered their purpose in peaceful revolution.

Now we return to some form of normality, despite the change in government, Zambia will remain an essentially unequal and unjust society. Poverty, disease and corruption will still be a reality for the majority of the population, despite what the World Bank says. It is perhaps ambitious to believe that blogging can contribute to significant change but it is undeniably one of many possible tools – and also the feeling of distance between I and home might lessen. 

To end my beginning, I’d like to thank all who have taken a few minutes to read what I have to say, and a few moments more to comment in return.

As the Magnificent Showman so brilliantly said “Break a leg - let’s get to it!

Photograph: The trial (Flickr)