WTF Friday, 4/11/14

In this week’s news:

  • More of the same from Uganda, where the US-funded Makerere University Walter Reed Project was raided by police who claimed that the health clinic was “training” Ugandan youth to be gay. I am officially out of jokes about Ugandan gay panic, so here’s a space for you to fill in your own: ______;
  • And someone threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton, making this all but inevitable:

WTF Friday, 1/17/2014

OMG you guys, stop the presses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has FIGURED OUT WHAT CAUSES GAYNESS.

M7Yes, that’s right. One of the great mysteries of our time has been solved by the same scientific genius who brought us tear gas as sedative.

Per M7, “random breeding” in degenerate Western societies has produced the “abnormality” of homosexuality. For men, anyway. Lesbianism is obviously explained by “sexual starvation”. (Vitamin D deficiency, amirite?)

Somehow, this breathtaking exercise of logic led him to refuse to sign the draconian anti-gay law. So… yay?

 

*Photo of the man himself, probably hard at work developing cold fusion, from the Wiki.

Today in Misuses of Legislative Authority

Joining Ugandan lawmakers’ most recent effort to ban mini-skirts in the “asinine interference with our freedoms” legislative initiatives file, local authorities in Kisumu, Kenya are considering a bill that would require women on bicycles and motorcycles to ride sidesaddle.

Apparently, riding astride is “uncultural.” And, like the much maligned mini-skirt, it threatens road safety by distracting male drivers. (See Uganda’s former Ethics & Integrity Minister, Nsaba Buturo’s, 2008 justification for a proposed mini-skirt ban here.) One motorcycle taxi driver interviewed by KTN insisted that having female passengers riding astride behind him compromised his ability to drive.  

Clearly, everyone would be better off if the ladies would just keep their legs together. Except, of course, for the women perched precariously on the backs of boda bodas with no way to keep themselves from flying off in the event of an unexpected stop, turn, or collision. But that’s a small price to pay to protect male drivers from having the knowledge that women have legs forced upon them, right?

Time for a Bechdel Test for African Characters? Some Thoughts on the Newsroom’s Very Special Africa Episode

The Newsroom went to Africa. It was not good.

In Sunday’s episode, “Unintended Consequences,” ACN sent a reporter named Maggie and a cameraman named Gary Cooper to Uganda to do a segment on the U.S. army building an orphanage there, because apparently that is news.

When she was done interviewing soldiers, Maggie relaxed with a visit to the orphanage’s classroom, in which children of all ages were having a “geography lesson” that consisted of reciting the names of continents when their teacher pointed to them on a map. Seems like geography to me! Then Gary Cooper came in with the camera and all the children screamed and hid under their desks, because they thought it was a gun. (could this be…FORESHADOWING?) See, cattle raiders were roaming them there hills, and the children were afeared.

A particularly adorable afeared child named Daniel – who, the show takes pains to tell us, has parents but has been sent to the orphanage temporarily to avoid cattle raider attacks, and so wasn’t even supposed to be there that day (IRONY) – bonded with Maggie by demanding that she read him him Lyle, Lyle Crocodile over and over again, and petting her hair. The teacher says that Daniel is fascinated by Maggie’s hair because he’s never seen a blonde person before, and that “blondes are trouble.” (OMG MORE FORESHADOWING.)

Through a series of mishaps that include Maggie not knowing where Djibouti is and not understanding that it is not light during nighttime, the ACN team was forced to spend the night at the orphanage. (Thanks again for those strong female characters, Aaron Sorkin.)

That night, obviously, cattle raiders attacked. At first everyone was like “hey, weird, this is an orphanage so we do not have any cattle.” But then it turned out that they were actually CAMERA raiders who wanted the ACN camera. Maggie didn’t know that because the raiders were yelling in a language that her fixer did not understand, and apparently none of the other people at the orphanage thought to bring it up. (Perhaps they were embarrassed to, because camera raiders are not a thing.)

So then everyone hustled to load the children onto what I assume was an AK-47-proof bus, but Daniel was missing! No one saw that coming at all. Daniel was hiding under a bed, with the Lyle book. OMG. Who will save him? The orphanage staff apparently hadn’t even noticed that they were short a Daniel, but never fear, American people are here! Maggie and Gary heroically tore the bed off the floor and dragged Daniel out from under it, then ran for the bus. Except that the raiders shot Daniel while Maggie was carrying him to the bus on her back, so he died from the bullet that was meant for her. MORE OF WHAT I ASSUME WAS INTENDED TO BE IRONY.

All of this is told through the framing device of a deposition, because, you see, the truly important thing about Daniel’s death was how it affected Maggie, and apparently in Sorkin world a deposition is a thing you use to evaluate someone’s emotional state after a traumatic event. We can tell that Maggie is totes messed up about what happened because she came home and gave herself a terrible haircut and tomato-red dye job. (Remember, blondes are trouble.) But she bravely soldiers on through the deposition with barely a wring of her hands because she is BRAVE (if rather bad at her job).

Africa has changed Maggie – changed her forever. You can tell by her hair.

Over at Slate, Willa Paskin suggests that we introduce the term “Lyle-ing” as an equivalent to “fridging” for storylines in which a black child’s death, instead of a woman’s, is used to instigate anguish and personal growth in a white main character. I think that’s a fine idea, but would suggest another addition: a Bechdel test for African characters.

The Bechdel test is a feminist movie evaluation tool introduced by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. To pass the test, a movie must (1) have two or more female characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than a man. If a movie doesn’t pass the test, that’s a sign that it’s lacking in female characters, and/or just using them as emotional MacGuffins for the males around them. (Many, many movies do not pass this test.)

I think it’s about time for us to introduce an equivalent test for African characters: if a movie or TV show is set in Africa, then it should (1) have at least two African characters, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about a topic other than poverty, disease, or violent conflict.

“But, Amanda!” you say, “how would that even work? Everyone knows that on TV, Africa exists so that white people can go there thinking they will change things, but end up having Africa change them more than they ever imagined it could. What would Africans even talk about with each other? And where will the white characters get their life-changing epiphanies if they’re no longer allowed to save helpless innocents from some sort of horror or tragedy?”

I agree that it’s a tough challenge. Western audiences, trained on years of Carter-goes-to-Congo storylines, may be surprised to discover that people in “Africa” have problems other than those that ride in with one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. And screenwriters, long trained to think of Africa as a continent-sized arena for the battle of White Person vs. White Person’s Inner Demons, may initially have difficulty finding other uses for it. So, to get everyone started, here are some storylines that are guaranteed entertainment gold:

  1. Any Wedding Reality Show Ever: Nigeria Edition. After seeing Glenna Gordon’s amazing photo essay on Nigerian weddings, I feel legitimately betrayed by the reality TV industry’s failure to bring me any wedding shows involving mommy lace, little brides, or cash “spray.” Seriously, someone has to get on this.
  2. Arrested Development in Addis Ababa. According to NPR, Ethiopia is currently undergoing a construction boom so powerful that women are leaving traditional work as maids and nannies to join construction crews. Perhaps it’s time for the Bluth family to partner with a development firm run by a family of quirky Ethiopians to blow the McMansion market there wide open.
  3. Scandal: The Kigali Initiative. Olivia Pope & Associates get new client: a Rwandan diplomat who has been in secret talks about joining the opposition, and is afraid that the Kagame regime is about to have him killed. The gladiators in suits get to work, but it turns out that the plot runs deeper than anyone could have imagined, so they have to join with a team of Rwandan fixers to get to the bottom of it before it’s too late.
  4. Untitled Liberian Surfing Project. A ragtag group of Liberian surfing entrepreneurs decide that it’s time for Robertsport to host a major international surfing competition. Hijinks ensue.

Come on, entertainment industry: make it happen!

Gulu’s Girls Gone Wild

According to this op-ed in The Observer, a new scourge has replaced LRA raiding parties in northern Uganda: horny teenage girls.

Sam Agona, “ICT and social behavioural expert,” reports that once the young women around Gulu no longer had to worry about being forcibly recruited by rebels, they decided to celebrate by getting busy. And they’ve kept it up ever since:

Young girls have continued to come to town in the night, not only to look for money through sexual acts but also to seek plain sexual satisfaction through actively involving themselves in the practice.

Agona gets impressively hand-wringy about the fact that “in Gulu, females have desire for intensive sex just for enjoyment” which he describes as “a situation I accept is human but very bizarre.” (Apparently, no female has ever desired “intensive sex” with Agona.) He also swallows whole a rumor that “at a place called Olego, near the Uganda-South Sudan border, women there detain men who do not heed to their sexual demands.”

Then, like any good op-ed writer, he turns to his cab driver for answers.

Per the driver, “it is very hard to control girls,” particularly in light of their annoying habit of conducting their sexual relations in private, where concerned (ahem) men can’t observe them. And, of course, “the existence of the concept of ‘human rights’ made it more difficult to apprehend the girls.” Human rights, man, always getting in the way of right-thinking men’s ability to control the women around them.

I look forward to the inevitable follow-up in which Agona unveils an ingenious plan to settle these ladies down by removing their clitorises. Ugh.

H/T Ledio Cakaj

WTF Friday, 6/21/2013

File this one under “studies we hope the abstinence education folks never find out about”: A trial of a text messaging program providing sexual health information to rural Ugandans had the unexpected result of increasing infidelity among the study population.

The study’s authors interpret these results to mean that “easing access to this information is not sufficient to induce safer behavior, and may directly or indirectly lead to riskier choices.” Bummer.

Fingers crossed they figure something out, though, because otherwise, Ugandans are stuck with this:

Kony 2012: It’s Baaaack!

Amanda and I will be participating in the Congo in Harlem panel “Kony 2012: Lessons for the Congo” this Friday. Come check it out if you’re in New York.

Meanwhile, the new Kony 2012 video, “Move,” dropped yesterday, and it’s… well, not really even interesting enough for me to finish this sentence. See for yourself:

There’s a neat screenshot of Amanda and my first Atlantic piece at 15:23, but otherwise it’s mostly just crying. (See Katie J.M. Baker’s Jezebel post for the full run-down, plus coverage of Jason Russell’s Oprah interview.)

At minute 28:53, they finally get down to business and announce a march – or an invasion, it’s hard to tell – on the White House next month. Apparently, I’m not the only one who had difficulty establishing what, exactly, the plan is. The Guardian reported it as follows:

Oops.

11:18am update: I’m still not clear on what the new campaign is, but apparently it involves a Global Dance Night. For reals.

(H/T: @AfricasaCountry for the screenshot)

WTF Friday, 4/29/11

Uh, not exactly great timing, dude.

Invitations to the royal wedding appear arbitrary, but the feelings hurt are not!
Say it ain’t so, Egypt. Just when I thought I knew you guys…
This dudelaughs” at immunity deal for Saleh. This is such lazy journalism. Was it a belly-laugh, a snigger, a guffaw? The people have a right to know.

WTF Friday (Err, Saturday), 2/19/11

Voting going pretty well in Uganda. Oh, except for this little incident. Gotta admit that is a pretty good prank, though.

Oxymoron of the week: “CNN interviews Bahrain’s special envoy to the U.S., Abdul Latif bin Rashid al Zayani, who says ‘we need to have dialogue … we need to calm down.’ He also said Bahrain’s king is ‘committed to democracy.'”

Somebody’s got a bday coming up! The folks from Reporters without Borders are definitely not getting invited: “The time when Zimbabwe was southern Africa’s breadbasket is long gone. No matter. Monday is his birthday. Like a boy, that’s all he can think about right now.” 87 and young at heart. What a guy.