Voices from Maasai Women: thoughts on Mindy Bugdor’s ‘Warrior Princess’

September 13, 2013 · 23 comments

I have been toying with the idea of writing a full blog post in response Mindy Budgor’s ill-advised Warrior Princess book that I linked to yesterday. Partly because I got so incensed by and felt I really needed to dig deeper to understand her reasoning for thinking this was a good idea. Then I thought, how many amateur NGO’s or ‘guilt of privilege’ projects have I heard of that started after a volunteer came back from a two-week trip to Africa or read about some injustice on the continent? Nearly all of them turn out to be spectacular disasters. So why should I waste any more energy on this one?

Thankfully, I don’t have to write that post because a far better reason emerged in our Facebook discussion group I posted about earlier today. Rarin Ole Sein, has been a long-time social media buddy of mine. Seeing how she’s a strong Maasai woman, there’s not much I can add to this debate that is more authentic than her voice – after all, Mindy Budgor’s whole purpose was an attempt to “rescue” Maasai women from their culturally embedded inequality. So who am I to step in, in defense of Maasai women when they can do it themselves. So in the spirit of not speaking for others when they can, I’ll simply point to her post from this afternoon:

I have expressed how I feel about this piece elsewhere but I have to add my 2 cts to this discussion as a Kenyan Maasai Woman. What I find disturbing about it;

  1. Of course the obvious ‘white savior’ aspect – she came, she did and now we all should be able to follow suit. Like we needed her to come show us the way. Who told her we want to be ‘warriors’? Who told her we need to be ‘warriors’ to make a ‘difference’?
  2. The culture insensitiveness of it all – that she can just trot into the wilderness and claim to be a ‘warrior’ after a month WTF it takes about 15 years to be a Moran and even then some don’t make it – so what is she saying – the Maasai morans are slackers?
  3. Insulting to the many Maasai women and Maasai Culture in general. Especially all the brilliant women working towards equality for themselves and girls. As far as I know Maasai women don’t become warriors and don’t want to be warriors But if they want to and choose to…they don’t need an ‘outsider’ to come fight their fight for them. We can fight our own battles ourselves thank you! and ps: we are and continue to in ways that are respectful to our culture and our traditions. How would Native Americans feel if someone showed up did a few sun dances, slept in a tee pee and then claims to be a navajo warrior or something! idiocy!
  4. That she is making money off of this! That hurts! No difference between her and the colonialist or the slave traders….in my view she just came to take period! I would like to know if any of her book proceeds go back to the any of the people she used.
  5. Lastly we have to look on our side as well. Why is it so easy for us to sell ourselves like this? I mean i understand the money aspect but how do we prevent/educate our own folks from disgracefully selling themselves like this? If this woman was not a ‘mzungu’ she would never have had this experience let alone write about it. Are we still enslaved in our minds or what?

These are just my views and i don’t speak for my entire community, am sure there are some that will differ.

Additionally, if you are interested in digging deeper and approaching this from an academic perspective, I’ll point you to this 2011 paper [PDF] by Kakenya Emily Ntaiya, WARRIOR’S SPIRIT: THE STORIES OF FOUR WOMEN FROM KENYA’S ENDURING TRIBE, also herself a Maasai.

via African Diaspora.

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