Speak out against corruption but let us not be sexist when speaking out

By: GODWIN MURUNGA

What is the significance of gendered consciousness in media practice?

Does reporting look different, for better or worse, if approached with an awareness of gendered diversities in society?

These questions have become important to me for two reasons. First, it is because of the nature of the public discourse around corruption generally and the recent allegations of misuse of public resources unearthed in the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, in particular.

Second, these public discourses have raised the urgent need for gendered awareness within the media sector.

This is why we convened a workshop at the African Leadership Centre this week that focused attention on Reporting Regional Security from a Gendered Perspective.

The workshop was jointly organised with the African Peacebuilding Network of the Social Science Research Council of New York.

The allegations against the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning fall within the framework discussed in the workshop.

The workshop noted the different standards society uses to judge female leaders compared to their male counterparts.

DOUBLE-STANDARDS

Such double-standards normally freeze a person’s intellectual capacities in their biology, thereby judging female leaders mainly on the basis of sexuality.

The same applies to female media practitioners whose value is often reduced to fashion and beauty, not their intellect.

We must decolonise ourselves from these misogynistic tendencies.

The corruption allegations against the CS have elicited two predictable reactions among Kenyans.

The first is understandable outrage about the excessive avarice and plunder of public resources within state institutions.

It seems this greed knows no limits in the current Jubilee regime.

Matters were not helped by the response of the CS herself.

Instead of taking leadership, she ducked, preferring to blame her accounting officers. In essence, she was happy to hand her team over to the guillotine.

Two quick observations emerge from this.

First, it is instructive that the CS did not deny the alleged misuse of public funds to purchase items at extremely exorbitant prices.

It is ironically refreshing that she did not deny it.

A PERFECT TARGET

Second, in ducking responsibility, she forgot that she took full charge of the recent NYS saga, including commandeering forces to investigate and personally effecting the suspension of those she perceived guilty.

One wonders why she did not let her accounting officers take charge on the NYS saga!

The second reaction from most Kenyans, especially those on social media, has been sexist, reflecting depressing misogynistic public tendencies.

Social media, in particular, has turned the CS into an object of mindless obscenity and ogling.

The nature of this objectification reveals a decadent society, the fact that when a female official is accused of particular excesses, we remove her from the larger rot that is common around us and target her femaleness.

Yet, it is possible to speak out vehemently against corruption without necessarily being sexist.

My colleague Wandia Njoya reminded me of Marie Antoinette, the fine queen of France who is said to have told angry and hungry mobs to eat cake if there was no bread.

We now know that this attribution is factually incorrect, that Marie Antoinette was not as naïve a person to utter those senseless statements in that context.

Marie Antoinette became the perfect excuse for a thoroughly patriarchal system that blamed her for what were, in fact, Louis XVI major weaknesses and governance failures.

No one can defend Anne Waiguru; after all she has not done a good job defending herself.

But the wild and sexist attempt to divert attention from what is, in fact, a central flaw of the Jubilee administration tells me that a sexist society is engaging its usual diversionary antics and fighting back.

This time, we have found a convenient person in the name of Anne Waiguru to target while the hordes of greedy accomplices feign ignorance.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION