16th Apr2017

To Be or Not to Be: A Focus on Labels

by admin

Labels are not only a form of categorization; they also, in some cases, form part of one’s identity. But what if people don’t conform to the labels given to them, what if they adopt new ways of identification, or even, imagine a situation where individuals do not want to be labelled at all?

I was recently eavesdropping on a conversation between three of my colleagues in class recently. The interesting part about it was that it focused on sexual orientation. In one instance, one of the girls exclaimed, “I don’t want to be labelled, I am just a girl attracted to other girls”. This argument, reminded me of the one made by Raven Symone in her interview with Oprah two years ago, when she did not want to be labelled either as gay, or African American. In response, her friend argued that she was also attracted to other girls, and that there was a name for it. She then further explained that people who choose not to conform to labels were in denial, and as expected, this led to a debate amongst the trio.

My question is why does everything need a label? Personally, I never really understood the concept of gender non-conforming, because as much as it is a refusal of being classified as either male or female, it is still a label. Another problem is the concept of “coming out of the closet”, which to me is very similar to that of “skeletons in the closet”. That alone, carries connotations that being homosexual needs confirmation from the heterosexual community to be legitimate. I am not trying to dismiss the fact that for some individuals, especially in the African community, homosexuality is still misunderstood. However, I do ask that aren’t we, as society, through constantly asking others to explain themselves, preventing each other from living our fullest lives?

The point is no one has a choice in how others label them. The sad part is that all these derogatory names are given to the vulnerable members of society namely women, the disabled, the queer, the impoverished and people of color. This further perpetuates the stereotype that anything other than white, male, middle class, able bodied and heterosexual, is not considered normal. Let us imagine how financially successful we would all be, if we were not so invested in how other people live their lives.

Don't Label Me

10th Apr2017

The Presence of Gender Neutral Bathrooms

by admin

Gender Neutral

I was at a conference in a building I wasn’t familiar with. I was desperate for the bathroom, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to endure going down six floors to find a ladies’ bathroom; this was when I decided to use a gender neutral bathroom. I found myself being highly uncomfortable during the experience; I kept worrying about whether a man would walk in on my using the bathroom. Additionally, the fact that there is no sense of privacy didn’t put me at ease during this was one bathroom visit I wished lasted for a second literally a second.  I still don’t understand the source of my fears; could it be from the number of times women are molested in restrooms or was it just my own insecurities manifesting?  At home, we have one bathroom and isn’t that gender neutral since everyone uses it? So the structural enforcement of how the different genders ought to interact has pretty much been dictated to us in spaces such as schools, universities, the workplace etc. Which brings me to question the reasons for the presence of gender neutral bathrooms; are they there simply because a company wants to appear more inclusive to the broader public or do they genuinely respect the growing needs of groups like transgender people, non-binary and gender fluid people?  I’d like to pose the question of how comfortable people are with using gender neutral bathrooms?

20th Mar2017

Wanderlust

by admin

Hi everyone,

We have another great edition this week with many stories from our talented team. Thabisile Miya discusses the nationwide students’ accommodation which has culminated in the rise of movements such as #Shackville and #SouthPointFeesSoRidiculous. Lindokuhle Kolanisi questions whether the post-apartheid political order could be more inclusive of gender and sexuality. Tsholanang Rapoo explains why she believes the recent feud between Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj is not anti-feminist. Molebogeng Mokoka explores the continuous devaluation of the BA degree; is it really worth nothing? Veli Mnisi gives us an in-depth look into how thrift shopping has, culturally and economically, transformed itself. He also gives us an insider’s perspective of Braamfontein’s newest thrift shop- haunt, The Thrift Vintage Shop (T V Shop). We’re also featuring Sandiswa Tshabalala’s poem, titled Black Girl Magic. Finally, Charissa Govender gives us the ultimate traveller’s guide for exploring New York City.

Hope you enjoy what we have to offer. Have a wonderful Human Rights’ Day tomorrow.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Wanderlust

20th Mar2017

Gender and Sexuality Issues Under the Political Lens

by admin

Gender inequality and discrimination based on sexuality have always been issues that have brought with them pertinent discussions and debates. A lot of “important people” debate and deliver speeches about issues on social media platforms; however, the truth is we have never really seen any of these problems being practically addressed. We live in a country where equality and fairness are always encouraged; the representation of all people is something that is highly emphasised. However, this does not reflect the reality for most people. Please note that this article is based on my own personal views and opinions and I do stand to be corrected.

For years we have been about feminism this and feminism that. And I say “we” because I, myself have been a part of those who have considered themselves a feminist without really taking into account the conditions under which feminism exists in this country. After attending the Feminism Indibano organised by SASCO Wits (credit ought to be given to the speakers) I have come to believe that feminism is not only about our social stance; it is also about how our political institutions have a bigger role in reinforcing what the social institutions preach. The social hierarchy pyramid places us black women at the very bottom, with black men right above us. This means that black women have three privileged groups “oppressing” them. For years, non-feminist have not understood the fuss around being “equal” has been about; and have went on complaining about how black women want to be “equal” to men. The truth is that WE DON’T AND HAVE NEVER WANTED TO BE THE SAME AS, AND EQUAL TO, these other groups. Why be equal to a black man who is oppressed on the basis of his race? Why be equal to a white woman, when her gender disadvantages her? And why be equal to a white man who has the ultimate power over our lives and could oppress us at any given time? However, this is a story for another day.

The main issue at hand is, how are our political institutions addressing sexuality inequality and discrimination? As much as we have a women’s league in South Africa, what has its role been in ensuring that women are well represented in state government? Of all the premiers in the current cabinet only one is female. This brings forth the question about what the state is saying about its faith in women leadership and its stance on the patriarchs who constantly take feminist movements two steps back. The political field as a whole is held by men and is also driven by them. And as long as such issues are not reinforced in the one “field” that practically runs everything issues of such importance will never be adequately addressed.

Coming to the representation of sexuality in our country, well, this has been a dismal fail. This is despite there being a youth league that is supposed to be representing the young people as well as ensuring the problems the youth are encountering are addressed by the national government. We are facing a difficult time of being discriminated against on the grounds of our sexuality. We are facing high rates of unemployment. And as students, we are faced with the challenge of high university fees whilst we are making the call for free decolonised education. How is our youth league attempting to address such? We ought to have a division in the youth league which will be mainly run by people who know the struggles which come with being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (part of the LGBT community). We may all be young people; however, we do not all face the same daily challenges. It is for this reason that I believe that political institutions should be inclusive and regularly address issues related to those of genders/sexuality regardless of economic status. And as much as we would like to mostly focus on women, we cannot ignore the fact that there are “men” who identify as women and “women” who identify as men. Thus, we have to consider the discrimination that comes with that identification. Politics practically run this world, and if issues of such importance cannot be addressed using politics, then clearly equality will never exist.

Please do excuse the lack of academic language in this article, but I do hope it provokes thoughts and questions about what role the political arena is, and should, be playing in creating a gender/sexuality inclusive environment in the country.

Gender

24th Aug2015

The Politics of Everywhere

by admin

Jeffrey Motlhamme shares his views on Politics and how he believes it infiltrates almost every aspect of our everyday lives.

Have you ever looked at the different aspects of society and realised that each one of them shares a link with politics? It is through the ‘Politics of Everywhere’ that we can attempt to answer this politics 1question. Today, almost everything in the world is politicised; from the colour of your skin, gender, culture and religion, to your choice of work. Therefore, almost everywhere you go and everything you do is confronted by politics.

Despite the ubiquitous nature of politics, one still hears remarks like: “Oh no, I don’t involve myself in politics,” or, “Politics is useless”. But these viewpoints are ignorant because politics clearly affects our everyday lives as well as our group identity. This means that we are more likely to identify with people whose politics are similar to that of our own. This is essentially what Pericles meant when he stated that: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, does not mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.”

In other words, just because you don’t care about politics doesn’t mean that politics will not care about you. Just because you don’t take politics seriouslypolitics 2 doesn’t mean that politics will not take you seriously. This is just a moment of enlightenment to those individuals who disregard the role and influence of politics in everything. It is in the existence of politics in everything that I call the ‘Politics of Everywhere.’

18th May2015

Silence is Killing Our Women!

by admin

Bevashni Naicker takes a stand against the abuse of women and what should be done to combat this shocking issue.

The shocking news of the recent kidnapping and killing of young primary school teacher, Jayde Panayiotou, whose husband was allegedly involved in organising the crime has caused a wave of emotions amongst South Africans. However, this isn’t the first case of the murdering of one’s intimate partner, as this time last year the Oscar Pistorius case made major local and international headlines when he was found guilty of culpable homicide with the ‘accidental’ shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. There are many more cases like this that have surfaced in the past few years and it seems to be causing a buzz in conversations amongst social media, family dinner discussions and small talk amongst individuals.

How do you find the courage to kill the person you love? What would drive a person to so much anger to want to kill their loved one? These are just a few of the questions that I have been trying to figure out that have got me thinking about how we, as citizens, have forgotten about the fight against women abuse. These women are dead and, yes, they don’t have a voice to tell their story; but we should be acknowledging this growing trend of random acts of violence against women. As a pro-feminist, I do see the rise in a female empire and the many amazing women who are making a difference in the world; but as a faceless person amongst a crowd of people who are living an ordinary life, I also find it difficult to stand up and talk about women abuse to a point where it will a make a concrete difference.

It’s easy to say: “Let’s fight against women abuse,” but how do we put words into action. A simple campaign on social media or an organised walk is not going to make a difference, despite the fact that it may raise awareness about such issues. We need to start empowering women and teaching them how to look for signs of a bad and abusive relationship. Women need to start taking a stand as individuals and help themselves; relationships aren’t all about rainbows and sunshine and women need to stop being naïve. If a man has status, money or good looks it is not a reason to excuse bad treatment from them and, as a woman, you need to assert your power in a relationship and take a stand for your right to be treated like a queen. Your self-esteem should not lead you to believe that you are worthless and that you deserve to be treated in a bad way; yes, people make mistakes, but there’s a fine line between innocence and the abuse of power.

However, not all the blame should be put on women; men need to start learning respect and integrity too. The South African law system needs to start changing their ways and how they deal with abuse cases, so that men get threatened by the consequences of abusing women. More pressure needs to be put on men so that they learn to change their attitudes towards women.

We are all human and we all deserve to be treated equally no matter our race, gender or age. So let’s take care of our women because everyone needs a woman’s love to experience the feeling of ultimate happiness.

women abuse

20th Oct2014

Women CAN do it all! Why not?

by admin

Ntombifuthi Si-zanne Mpila looks at recent developments by Tech companies who plan to pay for their female employees to freeze their eggs.

NM

Personally, one of my worst fears is falling pregnant before I get my career off the ground. An unplanned baby can be very stressful to say the least! Family planning is thus extremely important. A possible consequence of an unplanned child could be Post-Natal/Post-Partum Depression (PND/PPD), where a mother is irritated by her baby and cannot bond with him/her. Don’t get me wrong, I love children and would be honoured to have children one day, but truth be told, they can be an obstacle in one’s career and life, if unprepared for. This issue recently came to the fore when it emerged that some companies are offering their version of a solution.

Tech companies Apple and Facebook have apparently offered to fund the freezing of eggs of female staff and I personally think that it’s great because it delays pregnancy until career-driven and ambitious women are ready to start a family. According to The Telegraph, offers of up to $20 000 (R221 600) have been made to female Facebook employees while Apple will begin their offers in January 2015.

Egg freezing (also known as oocyte cryopreservation) is basically a procedure that allows for the extraction and storage of a woman’s eggs. After this procedure, her eggs can be planted into her womb whenever she decides to have a child. As a result, she could fall pregnant in her late 30s and her 40s, when conceiving is usually more difficult for most women. Furthermore, to increase the chances of a successful later pregnancy, doctors usually advise a woman to extract approximately 20 eggs, which costs $20 000 (R221 600) in total.

As a whole, the egg-freezing procedure’s price ranges from $10 000 (R110 800) to $15 000 (R166 200) and it costs an annual fee of $1 000 (R11 800) to keep the harvested eggs frozen.

Apple says that it will pay up to $20 000 (R221 600) for the egg freezing and cover the storage costs of a woman’s eggs for both full and part-time employees.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a woman who undergoes egg freezing will conceive. In the United Kingdom, oocyte cryopreservation has only led to the birth of 20 babies. This is according to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

Now, you may be asking yourself: “Why are these US tech giants doing this? What if some female employees do want children?” The fact is, nobody is being forced to freeze their eggs. The two companies have clarified that this procedure is an option for women who presently want to focus on their careers. Yes, their main goal is to ensure that they secure their most valuable female employees. At the end of the day, they are businesses and they have to make a profit.

However, this does not mean that Facebook and Apple are inconsiderate of employees who are ready to have children. Recently, Apple introduced extended parent leave for employees. Facebook also stated that it offered four months of paid maternity leave for new mothers, as well as paternity leave for new fathers.

So it appears the corporate world is not all bad. Some businesses value the wellbeing of their employees. Say whatever you want… I still think that Apple and Facebook have made a wise business move!

22nd Sep2014

Skimpy outfits are fine, as long as they’re ‘traditional’?

by admin

JNJane Nyalenda looks at issues around sexism and clothing.

A student at the University of Zululand attracted negative attention from fellow students when she wore short pants to lectures. Both female and male students reportedly humiliated the 21-year-old third year law student, Onkarabetse Thabeng, by taking pictures of her and spreading them across social media with scathing comments. However, Thabeng was not threatened by the humiliating experience. Instead, in a video interview by eNCA the 21-year-old bravely stated that she would continue wearing whatever she wants to wear whenever she feels like it. She also commented on how it is normal for Zulu girls to parade naked during Reed ceremonies after traditional virginity tests but it is frowned upon when a girl walks around in shorts. The Gender Commission is reportedly investigating the incident and they are not tolerating it.

There have been numerous other incidents in which young women were harassed for wearing miniskirts in South Africa. The first incident was back in 2008 when 25-year-old Nwabisa Ngcukana was attacked at the infamous Noord street taxi rank when taxi drivers and hawkers tore off her clothes and molested her because she was wearing a miniskirt. Onlookers reportedly cheered as they apparently thought she was being taught a lesson for wearing a skimpy outfit that provokes men sexually. Another incident was in 2012 when two young ladies were humiliated and groped at the same Noord taxi rank as Ngcukana by a group of men because one of the ladies was wearing a black miniskirt. The men were reportedly also trying to teach the young ladies for dressing up provocatively.

It looks like, according to these chauvinistic men, the only time it is appropriate for girls to wear miniskirts or short pants is when it is ‘traditional.’ It is not seen as sexual when young Zulu virgins parade in miniskirts with their breasts exposed during Reed ceremonies because tradition, apparently, makes exposed breasts and thighs less sexually provocative. This proves to be truer in Swaziland where in 2012 “rape provoking miniskirts and crop tops” were banned after women asked for assistance in reducing the rate of rape in the country. A new law that stated that any woman seen wearing a ‘rape provoking’ miniskirt or crop top would be arrested and face up to 6 months jail time was implemented. The disturbing bit about this law is that it does not apply for the skimpy traditional outfits worn by virgins who are auctioned for the country’s ruling King Mswati III during what is called the annual ‘Reed Dance’.

It can thus be argued that the connotations here are that it is okay for men to rape women as long as the women are wearing skimpy outfits and it is also perfectly normal for virgins to be auctioned in skimpy ‘traditional’ outfits as long as it is for a king who already has 13 other wives. What is also implied is that thighs (and the female torso in Swaziland) are more sexually provocative than exposed nipples. What all these men who are ‘teaching’ women in skimpy outfits a ‘lesson’ are doing is promoting the “she asked for it” justification to rape and other forms of sexual abuse. What these men forget, however, is that when a woman says no she really means no. Whether she is wearing a skimpy outfit or not, no still simply means NO!

 

 

01st Sep2014

Special edition: Gender and South Africa

by admin

eiToday marks the start of September as well as the start of spring in South Africa. However, today also marks the end of South African Woman’s month that took place all through August. Woman’s month came about as a result of the historic march by South African women of all races that took place on the 9th of August 1956. The march was in protest of the pass laws of the time that required Black South Africans to carry a pass with them at all times. Led by Lillian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph, the march of an estimated 20000 women left petitions protesting the pass laws at the South African Union building in Pretoria.

In honor of this historic event as well as Woman’s month we have decided to put out a special edition on gender and South Africa. Much like our previous special edition on the South African elections, in this edition our writers all write about gender and South Africa in whatever way they interpret the topic. This then allows them to discuss issues they feel strongly about in relation to the topic. As a result our writers touch on a variety of issues within gender and South Africa for your enjoyment.

Looking at the edition, we have Jane discussing her issues with Polygamy, Ntombifuthi discussing the traditional practice of ukuthwala while Sandiswa looks at womanhood and motherhood and how the two don’t have to always go together. We also have Simlindile reflecting on woman’s month as a whole while Tsholofelo looks at being a woman in South Africa. Finally, we have Zanethemba who looks at the issue of Black women and hair in South Africa.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Viraj

 

01st Sep2014

The Patriarchy in Polygamy

by admin

JN1Jane Nyalenda discusses her issues with Polygamy.

When I heard the words ‘women’ and ‘gender’ in our blog meeting, what immediately came to mind was inequality. I’ve always asked myself why there are certain things that men could do (and get away with) yet when women did the same thing it was considered taboo. In this case I am referring to polygamous marriages. Never, in my 18 years of existence have I ever encountered a polygamous marriage where a woman has multiple husbands. Perhaps women are just too classy to be devoted romantically and sexually to more than one man ‘till death do them apart.’ Or maybe they have just never been given the same opportunity that men have been given. Nonetheless my problem is the fact that if a woman cheats on a man who has other wives she would be called names and the man would leave her but it is normal for him to pursue more than one woman. Polygamy.

Legend has it that polygamy in South Africa dates back to when the country borders on the African continent were a lot more invisible and when traditional clan royalties were of the utmost importance. Traditionally, it can be argued that women have never been regarded as equal to men in most African cultures. Men are often seen as the superior beings. For instance as seen in soapie Muvhango, in a royal Venda family if a chief already has a wife and the wife isn’t royalty then it is expected of him to marry another woman who is of royalty, as I understand it. He is also allowed to marry more women if he wishes to. The interesting part of this is that the chief doesn’t even need his first wife’s consent to marry another wife. The first wife can consider herself very lucky if she is informed of the other woman before the second marriage even occurs. Being a chief’s wife means being passive and asking ‘how high?’ whenever male members of the family say ‘jump.’

August is a month when women are celebrated in South Africa. But what exactly is it that is celebrated about women? Is it the fact that they stood up for their rights in 1956 or is it that women will always be seen as well… women when it comes to some indigenous traditions? It does not look like gender issues will ever be addressed in relation to tradition especially when it comes to controversial topics such as polygamy. This can be seen even when looking at legislation. The South African Marriages Act of 1961 renders polygamy illegal. However, the Customary Marriage Act of 1998 recognises polygamy as legal as long as the first wife gives consent of the second marriage. Although this last bit sounds reasonable, what I find problematic about the Customary Marriage Act is that when it comes to polygamy it only addresses a male spouse who has more than one female spouse. Nowhere in the act does it speak about a female spouse having more than one husband. Where is the equality in that? Is it that maybe they forgot to put this detail or maybe a woman with more than one man is too taboo even for a country that preaches gender equality?

Legend also has it that the only reason the Zulu tradition approved of a man having more than one wife was because many of their men died in battle. As result of these deaths, it is alleged that there were more single women than men. This then translated to the single men marrying more than one woman who otherwise would remain single because of the death of other men.

Polygamy is still existent in today’s society and a very obvious example is President Jacob Zuma’s marriage to multiple first ladies. Now, if Zuma were a woman it is likely that his polygamous marriage would be frowned upon and even ridiculed by a highly traditional clan (which is problematic when it comes to gender equality). Or maybe I’m just too influenced by western norms of monogamous marriages and gender equality to an extent that I want them to be applied in places where they are inapplicable. At least there aren’t mistresses hidden in closets in a polygamous marriage. At the end of the day what do I know? I’m just non-traditionalist born free.

 

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