Clothing the revolution

By Susan Majimbo


My heart breaks for Sarah, she was attacked by three men, beaten blue, and stabbed. Her sight is blurry because unfortunately there is bleeding in one of her eyes (According to a report by Usikimye, a Kenyan based revolutionary organization that works towards ending Gender Based Violence). Why you may I ask? She was dressed like a man. The story of Sarah is not new. The masculine rubric in our country is threatened by women like Sarah, who confidently choose to express themselves differently from what defies the expectations that have been kept on women.


As Oyerunke Oyewumi writes in The Invention of Women, “If gender is socially constructed then gender cannot behave in the same way across time and space.” She argues that it is only logical to assume that gender construction need not have existed at all in some societies, as we must acknowledge the diverse factors such as culture that must have been part of the construction. This is to say that gender transcends societal expectations that are forcefully placed on women particularly.


Gender is not a rigid concept.


It is disheartening to acknowledge that modes of dressing among women are reasons that could endanger the lives of women. How women dress does not justify any forms of violence and harm inflicted on them. This has been a notion that has been challenged through slogans such as “my dress my choice” which are reminders that women have the liberty to control their bodies and preferences. Of course, this has been met by counter-narratives such as “how you dress is how you’ll be addressed”, which in my opinion promotes rape culture and violence against women.


The bottom line is, that there is no justification for any form of violence by choice of dress!

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