Back in high school, probably as a prelude to a coexistence of women and men, students projected their teenage anxieties about university as a highly sexualized space in which women were “willing” or “easy”. This was also aided by the fact that inter-school, unisexual encounters by way of “funkies” was being increasingly diminished and within same-sex school compounds, the realization that sexual encounters with persons of the same sex meant that you were “gay” (identity creation that may not be compatible with an individual) made these spaces overly policed – especially by bullies. The only alternative within such a scenario, thus, was to create a culture of constantly finding ways to cultivate a sense of masculinity. Bullying, high academic performance, truancy, drug abuse, the number of letters one got from (preferably multiple) girls, and discourse around dominance and patriarchy and aesthetics such as body physique became markers with which masculinity was highly evaluated.
I haven’t been to university to see whether the highly-sexualised-easy-women narrative is true but I have a feeling it isn’t since most young women I know are involved heavily with their academics trying to secure a future in which, financial stability and social mobility will be equivalent to more personal freedoms. Outside school, a male student finds that all his anxieties and projections are not necessarily true and may or may not decide to “produce” scenarios in which they are. Moreover, he realizes that HIV/AIDS, socio-economic disparities and increasing awareness on the rights and freedoms of women and a sense of feminism in universities seriously questions his way of thinking. Does frustration come after this, I don’t know but what I do know is that whether or not women are “easy” or “slutty” or not does not matter in the generalization that they actually fall in such categories.
The Twitter trend #usiuchicks probably started as a joke, an appropriation of the US cultural anomaly that placates attractive women (blondes) as intellectually deficient but since it started a few days ago, it has become the embodiment of misogyny against not only female students who attend the United States International University but all women in general. Still on the blonde appropriation, young women have been insulted as being stupid, “fucktards”, bitches, whores, sluts/slutty and have been advised to “regulate their pussies and lay low”. This has been infused with sexist and misogynist jokes that would have been low brow anywhere but the internet and when a rumour started that USIU would take action against the starters of the trend, the news were met with the assurance that a judge couldn’t rule in favour of the institution. Then came the ICC parody of the #twague6 who started the trend and the usual flow of jokes regarding the Ocampo 6.
As the trend made its way to facebook, which is more mainstream than twitter, the need to justify such a despicable appropriation of women and simultaneously up the ante in insulting “USIU chicks” lead to the “anti-elitism” line of thought to be wrongly co-opted into this saga. The insults in the USIU chicks facebook page are more nastier and any dissenting voice is snuffed out by anti-elitist indignation. The graphic detailing of sexual acts and calling these women retarded bitches was coupled by some form of erasure that didn’t mention whether women from preferably “less elitist” universities were more or less promiscuous. I have to point out, though, that the few dissenting opinions by men and women were really good and pointing out the sexist, misogynist, generalising and disrespectful aspects of women. On the other hand, some of these comments maintained that the cause of all this was because people were “jealous” of USIU students’ wealth and upward mobility.
The past few days have exposed the levels in which the internet is being used negatively as a platform on which censorship is circumvented. On twitter, the parodying of influential figures in public such as President Mwai Kibaki coupled with the hash tags such as #rutoplaylist and #twague6 point to the use of humour as a method of critique (good, especially by use of satire and parody) and humour as something beyond critique (bad, there’s nothing funny about calling a woman a stupid slut). On facebook, there wasn’t any humour just plain hateful stuff about women which aren’t even true and if they were, it isn’t up to anyone to regulate how another person has sex or with whom. Calling women stupid and slutty conveniently effaces the role men play in such undertakings.
To all those people who participated in this act of definition and wrongly appropriation of women, #checkyourself and think about the things you say before saying them. To those who stood up not for USIU female students but all women in general, good for you, you did the right thing.