02nd Oct2017

Claim Your Place

by admin

Hi everyone,

This week’s edition of the blog focuses on how we must all claim our place in the world- no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Molebogeng Mokoka starts off by encouraging all of us to remain true to ourselves and to resist the urge to compare our life paths with other. Sandiswa Sondzaba discusses Redi Tlhabi’s latest book: Khwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo which reclaims the late Fezekile’s dignity and name.

We hope that you are encouraged to claim your place in the world.

Have a wonderful week.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Claim Your Place

02nd Oct2017

Call Her By Her Name

by admin

Khwezi

Redi Tlhabi begins her new book with the poignant statement, “I wanted her to know that I was writing, unapologetically, as a feminist who believed her”. The “her” in question is the late Fezekile Kuzwayo who is the subject of Tlhabi latest offering Khwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo.

Who is Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo? Up until her recent passing, Fezekile was publically known by the moniker Khwezi. This was the name that she had to adopt during one of the most shameful incidences in recent memory: the Jacob Zuma rape trial. Vilified, she had to adopt an alias and veil her face as she entered and exited the Johannesburg High Court. We did not know all that much about who she was other than the fact that  1) she was HIV-positive, 2) she was a self-identified queer womxn, and 3)  Jacob Zuma thought that she wanted to have sex with him on the basis of her wearing only a kanga in his presence. Fezekile’s treatment as Khwezi led one to sometimes wonder as to whether her detractors forgot that she was a human being who was being subjected to people’s sneers, victim-shaming and threats. Following the trial, she left South Africa for her own safety. Her mother’s house was burnt down shortly after the trial concluded. Jacob Zuma was acquitted of rape and yet his daughter, Duduzile Zuma, felt compelled to do interviews that vindicated her father by vilifying Khwezi. Soon enough, the trial became a distant memory for most South Africans. Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa and increasingly came to regard the state coffers as his personal bank account. In the midst of all of the calls for #ZumaMustFall and #PayBacktheMoney, we conveniently forgot that our President is a man who was convicted (although acquitted) of rape. Our President is a man who admitted, on Court stands, to taking a shower to decrease his chances of contracting HIV after having unprotected sex with the daughter of his late comrade. By all intents and purposes, if the judgement had been different, we would be reckoning with the strong possibility of our President being a corrective rapist.

Fezekile Kuzwayo did intend on using Redi’s book as a means for re-entering public life. She was going to attend all of the book launches and show her face to the world. After 12 years of being branded as “Khwezi, Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser”, she was finally going to get the opportunity to reclaim her name and her dignity. There is no doubt that the rape trial did derail her for a few years following the 8 May 2006- show me anyone who would not have been derailed by that experience. However, the fact that she wanted to use literature as a means of re-branding displays strength of character that very few people can attest to having. Tlhabi writes that, for the rest of her life, Kuzwayo feared being followed or watched. She worried about her name becoming public knowledge- the fact that she took the steps to overcome that fear speaks volumes about her constant willingness to speak truth to power. In Tlhabi’s book, Kuzwayo gets a fitting public re-emergence that restores her dignity, her voice, and her name. Lala ngoxolo sis’ Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo.

21st Aug2017

Who’s The Man?

by admin

Masculinity is a fragile concept. There seems to be an unshakeable expectation to be ‘a man’, which cannot in essence be explained; however it is mandatory that you stick to the rules. What rules exactly? In order to be a man, you need to have some of the following traits: disrespect, alcoholism, disregard for women, anger and temperament issues, emotional detachment and so on. This basically translates to #Trash however that is a conversation for another day.

Patriarchy

Have you ever considered as a ‘man’ why you wouldn’t let your children, mother, girlfriend (platonic or otherwise) walk alone at night or meet up with strangers at night or feel uncomfortable at the thought of a stranger sliding in her DMs? Is it because, it has been taught to you that a man takes what he wants and if he cannot, he is a failure? Therefore, other human beings including those you love very dearly become public property and thus can be obtained by anyone who deems it fit to be their possessions.

Why can’t men cry? See, we have also been taught not to cry at any stupid or insignificant thing and as women it seems like if we do not shatter immediately at your disappointment then we have somehow challenged your whole being. Now she has become a man and you, not so much. If it is in your nature why not be emotional. This is what causes unnecessary aggression or as I like to call in “emotional constipation” which leads to many things such as alcoholism, disrespectful behaviour etc. Wait, I think I get it. Is all of this because of emotional constipation?

‘Manhood’ is so easy to challenge which is why you ‘educated brothers’ think every female in your class is a feminist. Which might be true depending on your module however, asking the simple question; why can’t I be given the opportunity to try, seems to cause way too much fear and last time we checked that was unmanly. Allow human beings to try. Gender is the result of the luck of the draw and the XX chromosome is all up in your DNA, but I digress.

Men's Fragrances

Men’s Fragrances

Patriarchy has given you everything and nothing at all. To advance outside the social sphere is a breeze that needs to be corrected but still enjoyable for anyone who is considered to be ‘a man’ which by virtue of other standards (known and unknown) doesn’t seem to rely on the XY chromosome. However, in the social sphere, you are #trash. You teach women to navigate around the trashy behaviour that other males might exhibit however you do not have these attributes. Are you still a man? A question posed to any male who does not drink in excess, disrespect women, take whatever he wants, treat all people as equal, has the audacity to exhibit emotion… Are you a man? How about the question of “are you human”?

 

21st Aug2017

Crisis of Masculinity?

by admin

images

I strongly believe that we as women are in no position to be telling men to stop abusing us. They should know this, in fact I do not think there is anything men do not know about how they should be treating women. It is those who are dealing with a crisis of masculinity who are finding it hard to refrain from abusing others; they feel the strong need to prove to others and perhaps even themselves that they are, as the social construct goes, “manly men”. It is those who are so comfortable in their patriarchal positions who feel that women who dare to challenge their authority should be reprimanded and the only way they know how to reprimand these women is by abusing them. In my thinking, societies need to deconstruct the current dominant ideologies of masculinity in order to prevent men from resorting to violence.  Although that is not the only solution, these abusive men should look within themselves and find their own solutions to stop being violent towards women.

14th Aug2017

Sexist Culture and the Sexualization of Breastfeeding

by admin

Breasts. When the topic is addressed, the most prevalent images are commonly Victoria’s Secret’s pneumatic blondes and Kate Upton gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, scantily clad in a string bikini. These are but a few examples of the same beauty standard which enters one’s mind as the topic of female breasts is discussed. However, the most natural of these images is one of the most unacknowledged- motherhood. This is largely, due to a large focus on male-centered porn-warped culture and it’s the cause of major debate about whether it is appropriate for mothers to breastfeed their children in public, which is largely incorrect.

In late 2015, Alyssa Milano, an actress on the TV series Mistresses, sparked much debate when she posted a picture on her Instagram account, in which she was breastfeeding her daughter. Within hours, the comment section on the picture was filled with vilification of her sharing of the image. Many complained that the picture was not appropriate to be shared on a public platform such as Instagram and as the issue gained widespread social media attention, all conversation stemmed from and boiled down to one key idea. This is the idea that women’s breasts are inappropriate and this is largely related to the fact that they are associated with sex and attractiveness to males.

The main proponent of this idea is male-centric, porn-warped culture. It is this same culture which makes it easier for international media to uphold consumerism as a system which is in partnership with patriarchy. This is apparent in the sexualized portrayals of women such as Charlotte McKinney in advertisements for foods and other non-sexual products.

Furthermore, this culture plays a significant role in the gross misunderstanding of the feminized body as it only sees it as an object and product with which to sell things. Case in point being the incorrect, or rather, the misconstrued interpretation of breasts’ function on a woman’s body in modern mass media. It’s completely informed by an androcentric sexual fetish. According to Freud’s definition, a fetish is feelings of sexual arousal towards objects of body parts which are not inherently sexual. The male focus of the fetishization of female breasts is apparent in the fact that sculpted abdomens and Adam’s apples and other male features that females find attractive are not treated as things to be covered or hidden such as breasts are.

Nevertheless, breasts, as defined in traditional anatomy, have one sole purpose for which they exist and that is food production. Still, there is a misunderstanding of this product that is created by the body. Milk is often regarded as and compared to a bodily fluid, such as semen, a confusion which aids the argument that breasts are as sexual as genitalia. However, breastmilk has hundreds of active ingredients like hormones which support growth and regulate behaviour as well as the exact ratio of iron to calcium to lipids that a human being needs, to which cow’s milk does not even come close.

Furthermore, what is deeply worrying is that with an increasingly westernized/ universalized society, these views are beginning to encroach on the ideals of African cultures. These are cultures which had previously been undermined for viewing breasts according to their purpose. Perhaps the result is that, now, in countries such as South Africa, I have personally begun to realize that you would be hard pressed to find women in public spaces such as malls and restaurants breastfeeding their children unashamedly.

Ultimately, this is a matter of understanding and empathy because even without an analysis from a feminist or anthropological perspective it is about respecting each woman’s decision as whether she wants to breastfeed or not. Lastly, if Iris M Young writes “Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality,” and this sentiment encompasses the relationship society has with breasts, is it not perhaps time to challenge the fact that the former is one of the last things we associate with breasts.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18: Nyja Richardson poses for portraits in New York on Thursday, Aug 18, 2016. (Photo by Damon Dahlen, Huffington Post) *** Local Caption ***

Photo credit: The Huffington Post

14th Aug2017

Invisible Tears of the Woman

by admin

Eyes swollen from crying countless tears

The nameless pain from within tears the chambers

Of bruised and pierced heart

She cried bitterly till the wells and streams

Within her ran dry

Until what she can excrete was only mud

The mud of blood that stains your hands

Her face painted with blood

That her vision is blurred

And what she could see is the shade of death

A heartfelt solemn prayer is what she breathed

At her last breath

Your cruelty mongers her soul

When she tries hardly to grasp

Her life with her fingertips

But it slips through her fingers

Like the cloud passing through the yellow fingers of the sun

And disappears at the glimpse of an eye

Now that she is no more

She was not merely flesh and bones

But she was made for something more

That you terminated before it even began

And what is left is just bunch of flesh and bones

You show no remorse by dissecting her into pieces

Taking what you consider to be valuable organs

Purchasing them to evil companies

Like stolen goods without conscience

Just to create wealth

You burn the rest

Like a dragon that breathes fire

Her remnants is just ashes

But her mom never bore firewood

Never carried a stick during gestation

She conceived a child, a woman,

But you want her to burry ashes

What happened to your heart?

That it corroded like steal exposed to moist

I know for a fact that regret hits where it hurts the most

Repent and sin no more

Because you cannot undo the done

Women's Tears

14th Aug2017

Sipping the Tea of Femininity with a bit of Milk and Honey

by admin

Milk and Honey

Consider this book the K47 of what it is to be a woman. Granted, the journey of womanhood cannot and will not be the same for all women. This book applies to all the different aspects of what it is to be women, good, bad, ugly and funny. Poem after poem the poet allows you into her thoughts, accompanied by simple sketches which relate in your mind, and later on life.

The poems are not long and overly romanticised, for those of us who don’t enjoy reading. Much like life they are fun, sexy and sometimes heart breaking. As clichéd as it may seem there is something in there for everyone whether it be a one liner to help you get your groove back or a short story to remind you to stay and fight for love, this book has it all and if you need it, a short poem for your women’s day selfie.

This book is a testament of the fact that a lot can be said in a few short pages. The poems are put there as a representation of life as a women and its stages. It is in these stages that we find ourselves. It is the K47 of femininity because it does not shy away from emotion, an aspect of womanhood that seems to be looked down upon; however it embraces it. It is through these feelings one finds strength as one rises above one’s demons.

It is in the beauty of life that one learns about oneself and then later teaches others about one. Scars, however big or small are indentations that remind us that we were hurt but we still survived. They are not ugly reminders of pain but light indications that wounds heal and we survive. Pain is hard to feel but only because we don’t want happiness to end. This book is for all people and serves as a how to manual on the fact that life is not always fun but it is indeed beautiful, especially as a women. Who else can brave the pains of this world, only to cure it with a little milk and honey?

Women of Colour

This a perfect read for women’s month because it is the tea about all fifty shades of womanhood. It is sweet, hot and good for the soul. It teaches one to learn, appreciate, respect, and be sure in womanhood. I encourage all to sit back and sip slowly as it is a quick read. On those cold and depressing days, boil water and make a spot of tea and sure to add some Milk and Honey.

30th Apr2017

#TriggerWarning

by admin

As a South African woman,
I know my place
Last in opinion,
But first appetizer,
on the course that feeds men’s sordid desires
You were not designed to be my ally,
none of us were,
for we all know that the wheels that move our
‘great country’
drive the patriarchy
Fragile creatures,
we are taught early to restrain the parasites,
Clamorous men
We are taught early to restrain ourselves,
For our small, candid bodies grow into
playgrounds
for preying eyes and eager fingertips
The history of our country is one filled with
struggle
where our fathers and theirs
fought for the right to be within one’s skin
Today we fight a different war.
A war for the right to be within our bodies as
women.
A war to be something other than passive
receivers of aggressive sexual attention.
The war against rape –
A gutless coward,
hiding itself in the makeup of our country’s
shame
We allow young men to continuously make
punching bags of women;
watching the weight of their insides fall
greedily from inside of them
feeding the soils that grow your ignorance
This is no war fought using ammunition,
but fought using power
And half our soldiers will have to fight
for the right to keep their power in a single
lifetime
some before they even know they have
anything to fight for
The nail in the coffin is that us
the non-militants contribute to this endless
plague.
We sit in our comfortable glass houses
Throwing stones of judgement and blame

The words slut, whore, tramp, spewing in the
air like hand grenades in combat
We hide in our fortresses until judgement day
But what redemption do we seek to receive
When our general – the president of our
country is an acquitted rapist
The plague covers our land in its venomous
grip,
taking our soldiers in its many forms
Staining virginal rights, claiming to cleanse our
AIDS ridden men.
Gripping onto the innocence of our infants –
men, who are meant to protect them,
using them for sexual gratification
This country is a ticking time bomb,
Ticking to the day I feel safe walking on the
street
Ticking to the day I don’t feel the need to be as
inconspicuous as possible in front of a group
of men
Ticking to the day I am proud to be a woman,
comfortable in my skin
So as we turn down the lights,
And bolt up the doors
We know that we are waiting for this war
A war that no one can prepare us for…

16th Apr2017

“This Here is Mine”

by admin

Black Women's Hair

For centuries, African women have practiced rituals of beautification and used protective styles to prevent breakage, dryness, and damage. These rituals become highly socialised in the present day and now black women all over the world use innovative technologies to protect and style their hair. Such methods include wigs, weaves and braiding, and chemical straightening to name a few. Many of these styles, such as relaxing (chemically straightening) hair and weaves, resulted from a necessity to assimilate into spaces in which ideals of beauty prioritized Euro-centricity.

However, as black women have begun to exercise autonomy in the styling of their hair, opting to either grow it out naturally or to use such protective styles, there has been an increase in criticism towards them for making them those decisions, sometimes from within black communities themselves.

A black woman may often find herself questioned about whether she is ashamed of ‘her blackness’, if she has a weave, or if her hair is relaxed (the same not being asked of white people who style their hair in styles historically and culturally pertinent to black communities). These women often have to deal with other black people assuming that they wear these specific styles because they would like to ‘be white’, or that they equate blackness with unattractiveness. Before debunking this incorrect and quite frankly, ludicrous, idea, it is important to understand that even women who have natural hair that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals or styled in a manner similar to pervasively Western ideals experience condemnation. They experience workplace discrimination from society at large, often having their natural hair deemed inappropriate for professional environments or intrinsically clumsy in appearance, as was the case with the events which led to the silent protests at Pretoria Girls’ High last year. Also, these criticisms have quite a bit of personal bearing on myself, as in the 8th grade, I recall being told that my natural hair resembled pubic hair, although the embarrassment I felt in that moment was one experience that I never internalised, much to that young man’s disappointment.

With these criticisms being the result of different actions on black women’s parts, it would seem that the problem lies in society’s preoccupation with regulating the actions of black women. It is ultimately for this reason that all matters regarding black women’s hair are inherently political – because if a woman’s appearance can be the cause of suspension at school, or the US military and it’s the cause of unsolicited assumptions about the maintenance and hygiene of our hair and even how competent we are at specific tasks, then it is an inescapable part of our identities as black women and it is a part worth reclaiming for ourselves.

We now find ourselves having to redefine what our choices in styling our hair mean. For black women with natural hair, it means rejecting century old definitions of black femininity which ultimately sought to demonize our natural beauty. For those who style their hair with weave, wigs, or have chosen to relax their hair it means being able to experiment with and take part in popular beauty trends that we often create all the while protecting their hair against damage while looking good. And for many, how we choose to style our hair is a matter of convenience and self-expression, as many do wear both natural hair as well as extensions and artificial hair and these choices may not be influenced by any particular political perspective. That is, until we are forced to answer questions and address assumptions which ultimately come down to people seeing no problem with dissecting black women’s decisions and appearances because our privacy and agency are ultimately not regarded as our own or valid, as a result.

In closing, our decisions regarding our hair and our bodies are ultimately summed up by the following statements: You are not entitled to touch our hair – so don’t. Avoid offering unsolicited opinions about our hair. Our hair is none of your business. Stop telling us that we hate ourselves because of how we choose to style our hair. And understand that “My body is not a democracy. It is an empire and I am its dictator. You do not get a vote.”

 

 

 

 

 

16th Apr2017

Black Conservative Christianity and Body Modification

by admin

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I recently had a conversation with my mother on why, growing up, she told me I was not allowed to get any tattoos and piercings. I expected her to respond with a sermon regarding why I could not participate in any kind of body modification. Instead she wrote down a list of Bible verses to answer my question and that was the end of our conversation. This was probably because she wanted me to read the Bible myself as well as her being aware of how her role as a parent had changed. She was no longer in a position to dictate my actions, but rather help me make my own. Bakang Akoonyatse’s work on black females and body autonomy made me curious about the experience of other black females regarding their decisions to get tattoos or piercings and their Christian parent’s perception of body modification . I conducted face-to face interviews with Nthabiseng and Mpho who already have tattoos, as well as Pusetso who is interested in getting piercings on different parts of her body.

Corinthians 6: 19-20: The Lord’s Temple

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a price, therefore honour God with your bodies”. When my mother wrote down this verse for me to read, she probably did it with the expectation that I would view my body as pure and in no need of altering. She was wrong. Body autonomy has become extremely important for me and the idea that my body was not my own did not sit well with me. It also insinuated that a tattoo or piercing would make my body dirty. One of my interviewees Nthabiseng had a similar experience. After seeing the ink on her forearm, her mother told her that tattoos were for loose women. She also faced stigma from her peer group at her Roman Catholic Church. “When the youth leader found out about my tattoo he told me I could no longer serve on the altar because I was dirty” she says.

Leviticus 19; 28

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you.” This verse is straighter forward than the last – simply do not get a tattoo because God says so. Pusetso and Mpho’s parents took on a very different approach to my mine. For Pusetso’s mom, getting a tattoo or piercing is an indicator of demonic possession. “My mother’s beliefs on body piercings always narrow down to religious views. She says that they are satanic and are markings of the devil. I am also Christian but I don’t think it’s that deep”. Mpho’s grandmother brings in the question of race. “When I first showed my grandmother my tattoo she told me that I am adopting things done by white people” Her grandmother’s concerns are not exactly accurate. Body modification has always been, and is still, prevalent in many African cultures.

From the interviews I conducted I saw that my interviewees and I had one thing in common – we prioritised body autonomy over our parent’s feelings. We were all raised by Christian parents who instilled in us that respectable women were the ones without tattoos and piercings and we went ahead and got them anyway. We knew that by getting our bodies pierced and tattooed would come with being labelled as dirty and promiscuous but we didn’t care. We freely gave up our rights to be called good Christian women without any remorse. My biggest celebration here is not that I went against my mother’s teachings and God’s will without dying, but that I got a chance to practice body autonomy and really make my body my own.

 

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