Upon first arriving in Nairobi, while sitting in the taxi from the airport, I experienced my first culture shock. A popular radio show was on, the topic: “How to treat your woman in the modern world”. The format was the typical one, listeners called in sharing their thoughts and the two hosts would joke around. Most seemed to argue, that a meal on the table and washed clothes, would do the trick. One caller’s point of view has stuck with me though. The man was furious, couldn’t understand why this was even up for discussion. Naturally the woman had to buy groceries, prepare the food, cook, wash everyone’s clothes, clean the house and so forth. So far nothing too revolutionary, it’s his grand finale that has lingered in my mind:
“… and when I want, she must perform her duties in bed.”
Don’t misunderstand this as a generalization from my part. I hardly believe this is representative, the radio hosts reacted strongly and ensuing callers declared his comment unacceptable and him a relic holding onto an outdated view. But armed with this quote in fresh memory, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index made for an interesting read.
Kenya is ranked 72th in the world. Far from a stellar position, but still ahead of the Czech Republic (73rd), Uruguay (76th), Italy (80th), Japan (101st), Turkey (124th). Yemen has the least favourable position of all countries measured, last in 135th.
On the opposite side of the scales, placed 1-4 are four Nordic countries (only Denmark missing; placed 7th). So you might imagine the culture shock. Sweden has relinquished the throne, dropping from 1st place in 2006 to 4th place in 2012, perhaps a consequence of the shift in government, pure speculation on my part, but the drop sure is coinciding with the change of ruling parties. Joining the Nordic countries is, as per usual in these types of measurements, New Zealand (6th). Ireland has done well squeezing in just before New Zealand in 5th.
The UK, the US and Australia with their different welfare model are to be found in 18th, 22nd and 25th place respectively.
When I heard that comment on the radio, about performing duties, I laughed. I know it was the wrong reaction, obviously, but honestly it was so foreign to me, it seemed like a joke. Whilst still in New York I watched a great documentary about surfers in Papua New Guinea trying to win a sponsorship deal in Australia. While following the surfers it also portrayed their villages. In one sequence a man had beaten up his girlfriend, and everyone was furious with him. So far so good. But see, here’s the twist, they were angry because the beating was premature; he had yet to purchase her. If he would reject her now, she would be damaged goods.
I’ll let the late George Carlin sum this up:
“He – and if there is a God, I am convinced he is a he, because no woman could or would ever f*** things up this badly.”