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Attack on women’s dignity has all the hallmarks of chauvinism

DAISY MARITIM
By Daisy Maritim | April 5th 2020

Yvonne Okwara is right. Brenda Cherotich, the government’s chosen ‘poster-child’ for coronavirus recovery, was cyberbullied in the way that she was, because she is a woman. And because Okwara ‘dared’ to speak this truth, the online chauvinists are now directing their torment at her in the same way. This only serves to prove her point.

The news anchor was also right in saying that Cherotich’s agonisers should be ashamed of themselves. I agree; these attackers are HOBS - Hypocritical Online Bloodhounds.

They are hypocritical in their arguments and in their methods. They accuse Okwara of being ‘gender partial’. That she was quick to come to the defence of Brenda, whose personal intimate photos were leaked online. That she did not demonstrate the same concern for the Governor of West Pokot, John Lonyangapuo, when his private photographs were also made public without his consent. Deep in their hypocritical online hearts, the HOBs know that comparing Cherotich to Lonyangapuo is a flawed and dishonest argument. It is flawed because Okwara is not obligated to comment on Lonyangapuo’s situation (or any other man or woman in similar circumstances) because it was not a matter of national interest.

She, like other journalists, was required to speak to the Brenda story because it is about our government’s credibility in the midst of a global pandemic. And as it turned out, it is Okwara who had the sense, and courage to contextualise the online attack on Brenda and call it out for what it is.

Repercussions

She rightly pointed out that instead of forming arguments against Brenda’s testimony as a Covid-19 survivor, the HOBs sought to dismantle her dignity. Instead of exposing the inconsistencies in her assertions, they sought to demean and belittle her in order to humiliate and silence her.

Secondly, pitting Lonyangapuo’s breach of privacy against Brenda’s is dishonest. The intentions, repercussions and online reception of the two situations are like night and day. And it is specifically because one is a man, and the other is a woman. The man’s is received as an entertaining escapade at the governor’s mild expense. He was spared the punishment and condemnation. He was even declared “romantic,” or as one HOB pointed out: “stronger than ever.” It even resulted in the political bonus of ‘notoriety.’ It is not his ‘immorality’ that was trending online. Lonyangapuo’s validity as a leader was not put to question. In fact, he bounced back and went about his business of governing and ‘fighting Covid-19 at the county level.’

Meanwhile, the hypocritical online bloodhounds turned their guns on Okwara in a manner that reeks of chauvinism and bears all the hallmarks of misogyny. Just like in Brenda’s case, the HOBs sought to use ‘morality’ to discredit her voice. Were it one of Yvonne’s male colleagues who had raised the issue, his arguments would’ve been debunked, not his marriage or his personal life.

Morality, or lack thereof would not have been weaponised to delegitimise him. It is his thoughts that would have been challenged. His validity as a professional journalist would not have been called to question as Yvonne’s has, because of a baseless patriarchal moral argument. The hypocrisy is that this is a misogynistic witch-hunt disguised as a moral crusade, and the dishonest HOBs know this. But this chronic chauvinism is of course not an Internet phenomenon, it is a structural, systemic societal flaw. Misogyny is political, it is about maintenance of power. An attack on a female public figure, whether it be in the market place or online, always takes on a form of ‘sexual vilification,’ which is meant to debase.

All high profile female politicians in the country have suffered, and survived the same onslaught. But when it comes to discrediting their political male counterparts, the public stays focused on the issue at hand. In the court of public opinion, the man’s charges are read as they are, but the woman’s charges are always trumped up to include sexual ‘misdemeanor,’ carnal crimes and erotic transgressions. Not only is sexual expression used to oppress women, the women are also supposedly not entitled to it.

Finally, HOBs are Bloodhounds because their intention is to hunt for the kill. Their mission is to be online policemen who patrol the non-compliant women that do not defer to patriarchy. Their mission is to break them. Fortunately, their mission is impossible.

The writer is a PhD candidate in political economy at SMC University. [email protected]

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