A few days ago there was a media scandal in Kenya with Twitter exploding over a policewoman, Linda Okello being reprimanded for her dressing. According to her superiors her skirt was “inappropriate” dressing seeing as it was too tight. Even though Corporal Linda Okello explained that the skirt was part of her official uniform she was summoned by the local county commander James Mugeria and reprimanded over her dress code, which was termed as indecent.
This incident comes months after Deputy Inspector General of the Kenya Police Service, Grace Kaindi reportedly warned female officers against applying lipstick, or wearing fashionable clothes, bangles, and big earrings while on duty.
It seems unfair that the focus on women is as a result of what they wear to work as opposed to how well they do their jobs. Corporal Linda Okello for instance is a Corporal for a reason (most likely hard work and dedication!) – so getting reprimanded over a skirt that she did not issue for herself seems unfair. More and more it seems that women are seen and judged by what they wear – even at work – and this should not be so.
There is a Tedx speech in which Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian author, says that when she was going to give a speech once she had been consumed with fear. Not over what she was going to say but over what she was going to wear. If she had worn a dress, which she really wanted to wear, she may not have been taken seriously. So she went for a pant suit.
It is saddening that this is still the case, especially in Africa. Women are largely perceived by what they wear especially in a world that is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle sexism. Linda Okello’s crime seems to be having a bit more derriere than most – is this something that should be punished with a transfer to another area?
It is also important to look at this situation from the “what if” angle. What if this had happened to a policeman? What if his shirt was too tight and his stomach was protruding? What if his trousers where too tight? What if we did not put too much importance on women and what they wear?
We need to ask ourselves these fundamental questions in order to move forward!