Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why Mindy Budgor is not a "Warrior Princess" and Reactions from Massai Wemon

At first I thought it was satire.

I prayed for it to be satire.

A privileged white girl from California goes to Kenya to discover herself and in the process saves the entire Maasai "tribe" from its sexist tendencies-by becoming the "world's first female Maasai warrior" 

Surely, this is a joke.

 But, apparently, it is not. It is being told as a true story in a new book;  "Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior"  by Mindy Budgor. 

Various news agencies and magazines have been parading the adventures of Mindy Budgor as some sort of testament to the power of a white woman who embarks on a "save Africa"/ self discovery mission to Kenya.

Simply speaking, this story pisses me off because of its old and tired message that all Africa needs is a courageous white person to come rescue us from our tribal ways that have been keeping us back for centuries. 

This story survives on racism and white privileged which have always gone hand in hand.  Imagine if Mindy was an African American woman, would her adventures be news worthy? 

Or, what if I write a book about how I spent last winter in the "bush"  in Togo amongst the natives (AKA my family)  and went through some Vodun purification ceremonies, would I be called brave and courageous? 

 Mindy's story exaggerates perceived differences between the modern western with all its 'sophistication' and the  traditional world of Kenyan natives living deep "in the bush".  It makes these two societies look so incredibly different that it would be easy to mistake them as belonging  to completely different worlds. 

Take for example Glamour Magazines opening introduction to her story:

 "Mindy Budgor is 32, loves shoes, rocks red nail polish...and recently became the world's first female Maasai warrior. Wait—what?!? "

My exact reaction

Here, the reader is supposed to be impressed and simultaneously shocked that a girl who loves shoes and wears red nail polish could possibly become a Maasai warrior. 

She must be so brave! 

The reason why exaggerating differences between people in this way is problematic is because it makes it hard for us recognize our shared humanity, to understand and appreciate the fact that at our core, we are  all human with the same needs and desires as everyone else.


Luckily, a Maasai wemon who have responded to this by highlighting more problematic aspects of this story: 

Rarin Ole Sein wrote this on a facebook discussion page: 


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’?
  1. 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?
  1. 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!
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
*Applause* 

Another Response Came from @Aerofloatbo

"I am a Maasai woman (from Kenya) and we have seen these (white) women come and go. We have Maasai women members of parliament, doctors, lawyers, professors, civil servants, teachers, nurses, business owners etc., but of course, we don’t exist in the eyes of fools like this Mindy woman whose sole purpose always appears to be to fetishize Maasai men (our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands) in one way or another. How many books are going to be written by white women about how they came and fell in love with a Maasai man, gave up everything for him, helped poor ignorant Maasai women, taught Maasai men how to behave etc, etc. We are sooooo fed up! I’m surprised it was an American this time because usually, the British are the WORST culprits. I can’t tell you how many British women troop through our villages every month with the express purpose of ‘teaching’ Maasai men something (or sleeping with them). And the problem with this Mindy fool is that she doesn’t realise that the men (whom without a doubt she spent money on by either buying them meals, clothes etc.) took her for a ride and laughed all the way to the bank while doing it. What a fool." (Source: Africa is a Country)


*Applause* 


"Another Response came from a woman named Leah 

 "As a Maasai woman I feel very offended by Budgor’s attempt to gain fame at the expense of Maasai culture. There is nothing unique she has done that a regular Maasai woman hasn’t done and/or experienced and we don’t call ourselves warriers for a good reason. It’s like me coming to America and claiming I am the first female football player because I spent two weeks at training camp! Her assertion is so ridiculous and really offensive to the Maasai people, the community was not involved, just a few selfish individual who are out to get a buck! (Source: Africa is a Country)"

*Applause* 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this. :) This book seriously makes me angry.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for writing this article. She is deluded and ignorant and isn't even listening to the outrage of Maasai women and men. Privileged westerner concerned with her ego.

    ReplyDelete

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