‘Why men great till they gotta be great?’

Gatundu North MP Moses Kuria sitting down on the ground at Kitui stadium during the BBI rally he was later allowed on the dias and given a seat. [File, Standard]

No, it was not Maya Angelou who said that. It wasn’t even Oprah Winfrey, Ory Okolloh, Wandia Njoya or Schaeffer Okore.

It was Lizzo, a plus-sized, body-positive (body positivity is body-acceptance no matter what size, age, or colour you are), pop-star who routinely dresses in sparkly leotards. Some of you are probably thinking that such words of wisdom should have come from a more ‘traditional feminist’ but hey, when wisdom comes, it comes.

It’s no secret that we live in a world that is tailored to fit men’s sizes. Big-boned, body-positive women should have more room in this world, but instead they are sent to the corner and advised to think about their weight issues, and the looming threat of diabetes, heart disease and God knows what else.

So, by calling men out for aspiring to greatness, but never quite getting there, Lizzo is making a political statement. She’s taking herself out of the corner and owning her space right in the middle of the room.

Over the weekend, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu created a buzz when she attempted to eject Moses Kuria from a Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Kitui, and that got me thinking about space and greatness.

Ngilu, whatever you may think of her, left the corner that is typically reserved for bold, outspoken women, and took up her place right in the centre of that controversy. She didn’t do it as a woman, or even as one of just two female governors – she did it as a politician. In Kenya, and no doubt around the world, politicians are genderless.

Powerful humans

Yes, it’s true that women in politics have to jump through more hoops than men to get a good grasp on the instruments of power, but when they get there, and once they embody all the characteristics of powerful humans, they are virtually indistinguishable from their brothers-in-crime.

They do not subscribe to gender-normative ‘man’ or ‘woman’ classifications, rather they become ‘leaders’, as dubious as that tag is in the Kenyan context.

On the other hand, some male politicians, in my opinion – are acting like poorly cast actors in the ongoing BBI drama.

They’ve taken up roles that are more aligned to the conjured femininity that men love to deride, than the greatness men often profess but are often unable to attain: Behaving like the ‘women’ that only exist in the male psyche, y’know, that dramatic, loud, petty, fake and conniving stereotype that they reference every time they want to exclude women from the one-size-fits-men club. Talk about the perfect exhibition of ‘umama’. Real women have no time – or space – for ‘umama’ because they carry the weight of a nation in their wombs and on their shoulders.

Trussed up

All told, these BBI shenanigans are clownish. For a movement that was fronted on the principles of inclusivity and shared prosperity, it has very quickly degenerated into an obvious show of political ambition. And as we know, when politicos are scrambling for a piece of the pie (or the national cake if you will), there is no room for sharing, caring, service, or empathy.

The only thing that should surprise all of us ‘non-leadership types’ is how quickly these rallies exposed the true intentions of the BBI engineers. They have dropped the ‘better-Kenya-for-all’ façade with such amazing speed, and this only goes to show what little regard they have for the actual well-being of Kenyans as a people with needs, wants, and desires. Then again, if you think about it, it’s not surprising at all. What’s really shocking is that we fell for it.

If I’m honest, at this point I really don’t know how to organise or mobilise, other than to continue to call out the nonsense that passes as political leadership in this country.

We’ve been trussed up like a goat on a barbecue ahead of Christmas dinner come December 2022, and right now it feels like the only thing we can do is bleat in defiance. But I’ve always been a believer in doing what you can with what you have; so if your mouth - or your pen - is the only political vehicle you have right now, use it.

Your voice can occupy spaces that your body cannot reach. If we continue to record our living history, it can only be a matter of time before our quiet and considered dissensions reach a crescendo, and only a matter of time before that crescendo triggers a tipping point.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security editor, The Conversation