Cultural shift – Skin exposed

Coming from a background of using hides and skins to cover the bare essentials, it is wrong to argue about garment length based on what is ‘un-African’. This is what a young writer from Kenya says, adding to the debate about proper dress in African society today.

Too much time has been spent debating whether teenagers should be allowed to wear short skirts or not. (Okay, so I am guilty of prolonging the topic, but there). There is the lot that categorically state that short skirts only serve to encourage immorality, and then there is the lot that subscribes to “be and let be”.
Everyone, in this democratic society, is allowed an opinion. What irks me is when these thoughts are based on lies. How does an educated person who should know better argue that African girls should not wear short skirts because it is un-African to expose, that African tradition is to cover up’?
Mini2Hello! Which Africa do these people refer to? Would the Turkanas, who, in 2012 still leave their chests bare, be part of this Africa? What about King Mswati of the reed dance fame? Would this be the same Africa where we had nothing but skin and hides to cover bare essentials ‘?
If we are talking about tradition, breasts were not considered private parts in Africa; the only private part existed below the navel. If you are going to argue on the basis of tradition, it would you serve well to do some research. Just like they did with Christianity, Africans were introduced to covering up and made it their own. This does not necessarily mean that Christianity or modem clothes are wrong; it just means that they are both not traditionally African, they are adopted habits.
The hullabaloo about the length of school skirts exposes our ability to pick and choose what suits us. If it was about tradition, Africans did not wear make-up. African women did not make decisions. Traditionally, Africans did not read.
Should we raise our arms against the above and many others just because they are not African? Wearing short clothes might or not be wrong, depending on where you stand or what you believe in, but it has nothing to do with tradition. The same way clothes have nothing to do with morality – every individual is the custodian of how moral or immoral they are.
Should you Mini3see a young girl walking down the street wearing a little black dress, you will be forgiven for having unholy thoughts about her because you have no control over what route your thoughts take, but you have authority over what your thoughts manifest into. That men are visual creatures is not the same as being animals that are out of control. You are allowed to covet, even though a clause in the Commandments states that you should not, but you hold the power to kill that desire. It would certainly not be right to rape the girl and blame your actions on the short dress. Doing that would classify you as a wild animal, weak on control.
Do I believe that girls should be allowed to wear whatever length of clothes they want? Yes I do, but I also know that the “animal” described above lurks at every comer, so no, for the sake of preserving our girls, short skirts should be a no no. But then again, women who cover themselves from head to toe still attract rapists.
The truth about tradition is that Africans, until very recently, were never ones to cover up – the hot and unforgiving tropical weather probably had a lot to do with this. We do not have statistics on rape cases from back then, but if there were available, they cannot have had anything to do with whether the women covered up or not.
Common sense, however, dictates that we cannot dress the way we want because, as much as we are all responsible for our actions, we are not responsible for the actions of the “man animals” living among us.

Ciku Kimani
[email protected]


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