OPINION: Trolling Kanze Dena shows how disturbed we are as a society

By Patience Nyange

On Sunday morning, I read a compelling tweet from Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General.

It reads: “This year must be a year of healing. Healing from the pandemic and healing from broken societies in which hatred has all too easily taken root. We must tackle the fragilities and gaps exposed by the #COVID19 pandemic and strengthen our mutual bonds, based on our common humanity.”

With the grueling impact of the pandemic on humanity, the UN Secretary General’s prayer for healing is a prayer that needs to be headed by all, including ourselves here in Kenya.

Last Friday, an incident happened that saw many people calling out the hatred in us, as a Kenyan society.

Presidential Spokesperson Kanze Dena, who was speaking to journalists at the Sagana State Lodge, had her photos posted on social media.

In a few minutes, she became the subject of conversation and eventually one of the most trending names that day as Kenyans engaged in unsolicited opinions and unnecessary debate questioning her recent weight gain.

There were comments mocking her and even photos comparing her before and after looks.

Anyone reading or taking part in the conversation would easily be concerned about how a disturbed and troubled society we are.

A section of Kenyans came to her defense, demanding for an end to the stream of vitriol.

“Here is the thing people. Trolling people because of their weight or looks or structure is not cool, and it reflects on the kind of person you are! Kumzungumzia Kanze Dena vile mnavyofanya ni umbea na usabasi. Hali wala halali kwenu, shame on you!” Ngele Ali said on Twitter.

“My take, whether its a pre-post baby body, why should anyone be bothered by it? This life is a personal choice. It’s time that Kenyan’s learnt how to mind their own business or at least mind the substantial business that makes sense,” Realistic Guy said.

Dr. Bosire Warimu said: “Maybe I need to host a tweet class on the nexus of Health and Body sizes. Perhaps y’all will be more tolerable and stop trolling people.”

“No sooner than 9 months of pregnancy are over, bouncing baby delivered; instead of customary ululations moms now are met with body shaming. Sad that our men are on the forefront of this narrative. Kanze Dena,” Fridah Gacheri added.

— Jerono Tall (@JeronoTall) January 29, 2021

Sennah Akoi said: “My dearest sister Kanze Dena on this your career and life sojourn, between you and God, there’s been a story and now a glow and glory. Wachana na waja, viatu tu …Mola sio athumani.”

“Society should NEVER make us believe bodies pre-baby are more beautiful than post-baby. You are BEAUTIFUL period. Also, same society loves babies yet thinks that we should erase the evidence of how they came to be ASAP? Such a shame!” said Bina Maseno.

My hearts bleeds when I think of how many of us have or might have to suffer at the hands of set expectations for women. We hear remarks such as she’s too fat, she too tall, she’s too short, she’s too lightweight, she’s too dark, she’s too proud, she’s too loud! Jeez!

It begs the question: Who set these ghoulish standards for how women should look or how women should be or how they should talk and dress? Why is it our problem that a woman has added or lost some weight or even bleached themselves?

Well, for Kanze Dena, she is a new mother, but, truth be said, she owes no one an explanation! Which woman, your mother, aunt, wife, girlfriend, sister, gave birth and did not add a kilo? Do we understand what postpartum is?

It’s truly unique how we just take to the keyboard oblivious we have sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters and mothers. Some of us commenting, and body shaming were women.

One would imagine that women will be kinder to their own. No, we are happy to shame and bash people behind the keyboards because it makes us feel a little better about ourselves, albeit temporarily. The trend we have found ourselves as a society is sickening and worrying.

Well, here is my humble submission and request to each one of us before the temptation of posting yet another online abuse or trolls at another person.

A famous quote goes: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” For a moment, pause and ask yourself, how does it feel to be in their shoes? Where does it pinch the most? This is the essence of humanity and empathy.

We are all carrying different weights, and sometimes, they are heavy burdens. Just because they have not been put on the limelight, it does not mean, you are spared from the grief and torture that comes from people speaking negative vibes into your life.

While your burden might not be weight issues, it could be grief, loneliness, depression, brokenness, heartbreak, unemployment, whatever your load is. It does not get lighter by projecting our anger at other people. It only exposes how unkind we are as human beings.

I understand it is human nature for people to love gossip and meddling into each other’s affairs. But why do we do it? Why do we invest our time and precious energies into questioning or sitting at the table where we are not invited? Why do we feel the urge to add our opinions and voices poking ourselves into people’s lives?

The danger of a single story robs us of our rights and dignity as humans. It distances us and makes us feel immortal. We feel the pain is always far fetched when it is not about us.

But for a moment, if only we would pause, to ask ourselves, if I found myself in the same situation, how will I want to be treated? That sparks a renewed sense of humanity in us. We are one, and this world is a better place if we all cared for and loved each other as our own.

The Kenyan society is guilty of placing expectations and beliefs on what and how women should be. Well, these expectations hurt us as women. They limit us and deny us the freedom to be the best version of ourselves.

Life sucks and is quite dull when we have to remind ourselves that this is what is expected of us as women. Is it possible to drop all these standards you have set for us as women? Will you allow us to say Enough is Enough?! Please grant us the freedom to live our lives as we wish.

Please give us room to be our best without constant criticisms and reminders that we are falling off the purview of what these false expectations are and have always been.

Shall we teach ourselves and the generations behind us the skill of self-love and self-acceptance? As we grow, the truth is that day after another; we change our mind, we change our perspectives about life.

Change is happening all the time. Our bodies are continually evolving. The way I look today isn’t the same way I looked one, two or three years ago. If we do not accept ourselves, then we will never be happy with ourselves.

That woman rocking her postpartum body with pride deserves a cheer. She is standing and representing all womenfolk, nursing mothers and mothers-to-be. May we make a deliberate decision to spread some cheer, to be intentional about that next tweet about another human being.

Shall we make it our duty to be guided by the wisdom as prescribed by Robin Sharma (2014) in Who will cry when you die? An excellent way to control your anger is through the ‘three test gate’. The sages would only speak if the words they were about to utter passed three gates.

At the first gate, they asked themselves, Are these words truthful? If so, the words could pass on to the second gate. At the second gate, the sages asked, Are these words necessary? If so, they would then pass to the third gate, where they would ask, Are these words kind? If so, then only would they leave their lips and be sent out into the world.

2021 a year of healing, let’s make it so by our actions.

Patience Nyange is a Chevening Scholar with a Masters Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management from Cardiff University. Prior to joining Cardiff University, Patience served as an Assistant Director at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).