23rd Oct2017

#IBelieveYou and #MeToo Hashtags

by admin

#IBelieveYou

This month was met with the emergence of allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, concerning sexual misconduct and incidents of sexual assault. This spawned a worldwide call for solidarity amongst women on social media who had never before admitted to experiencing sexual harassment and assault. Before long, I was confronted with this reality on my own Facebook feed.

These posts, although they detailed harrowing events, were no surprise to me, for as womxn, we do understand just how rampant sexual violence against women is in our society, particularly as South Africans. However, what I found to be most interesting is just how desensitised I had become before these hashtags, #MeToo and #IBelieveYou, to every day instances of gendered harassment.

This is, in part, the reason why I refrained from sharing anything as there was a part of my brain that would not conflate every day instances of harassment which I have experienced with traumatic events like rape and other forms of sexual assault. I realise now that my hesitance is the result of a subliminal conditioning which works to normalise everyday harassment. I have found that it is often a woman’s burden to ensure that she does not inconvenience others with her own discomfort and I find myself challenged with having to unlearn this way of thinking . Being harassed in public spaces, through jeers from leering men and relentless propositioning despite overt and visible discomfort, has started to feel invalid and this is a product of a rape culture which seeks to further embed fear in women’s minds. This is not a fear of the harassment itself (which is why the act is invalidated), but rather, it is a fear of what it could lead to. Thus, if we are spared any physical violence, sexual assault, or death, we sigh in relief and invalidate the fear that is associated with the initial act of harassment. So, it becomes hard to say #MeToo, although we understand that for all its worth, our #MeToo matters just as much as anyone else’s because catcalling, jeering and intimidation should not be a daily part of women’s interactions with men.

Consequently, I have not posted anything on social media, despite liking and reacting to countless posts by my friends and womxn around the world. This piece is my longwinded #MeToo, and my #IBelieveYou to all the womxn who have shared their experiences of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. It is also an affirmation for myself, and a request for us all – even those of us who have chosen to not share, or those who feel that their experiences are not valid – to say #IBelieveMe.

23rd Oct2017

Lupita Nyong’o, Harvey Weinstein and the Perils of Toxic Masculinity

by admin

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 13:  Actress and presenter Lupita Nyong'o, wearing Max Mara, speaks onstage at Women In Film 2017 Crystal + Lucy Awards presented By Max Mara and BMW at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 13, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images )

A few days ago, Lupita Nyong’o joined the chorus of womxn sharing their experiences of being sexually harassed/violated by the once-invincible Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein. Her recollections have deeply affected me as you get a since of how her interactions with Weinstein troubled her but how she tried to negotiate her experience of being sexually harassed whilst also making sure not to destroy her once-fledgeling career. The fact that Nyong’o kept quiet about her experience for so long because she believed that she was the only one who was being sexually harassed by Weinstein, speaks to the power of rape culture as it silences its victims whilst emboldening its perpetrators.

Weinstein has denied Nyong’o’s claims, saying that he has a different recollection of his interactions with her. Considering that approximately 40 other white womxn have come forward about their experiences of being sexually harassed/assaulted by Weinstein, the fact that he is disputing the claims of the only black womxn who has accused him of sexual violence/assault has a pungent stench of racism to it. Although I will not get into it in full detail, reminds us of how black womxn have and continue to suffer at the hands of white men- particularly white men in positions of power. Weinstein’s response to Nyongo’s claims remind us that black womxn continue to be fetishized and brutalized. Black womxn’s features are desired whilst black womxn themselves are continuously disrespected. But I digress here.

Following the initial press coverage of Weinstein’s continuous pattern of sexually predatory behavior towards actresses, Weinstein released a statement claiming that his predatory behavior is the result of his growing up during 60s and 70s. Furthermore, his publicist claimed that he is an old dinosaur learning new ways. Obviously, these attempts at justifying his actions are highly problematic as he seems to not recognize that being a sexual predator is wrong irrespective of when an individual perpetrates acts of sexual harassment/violence. His (and his team’s) attempts at justifying his behavior brings to mind Tyler Ford’s critique of how men’s predatory behavior is often blamed on male hormones. Ford, who is a transgender agender activist, discusses his experiences of being both the subject and the object of the male gaze. The expression “boys will be boys” exempts men from taking responsibility for their actions. We often excuse men’s misdeeds by blaming their misdeeds on nature or the wily actions of their (often female) victims. We need to understand that Weinstein is an extreme example of the toxicity of male privilege. In order to truly address this problem, we need to problematize the patriarchal systems that create men such as Weinstein and the other men who casually sexually harass womxn as womxn occupy the spaces that “were not made for them”. As womxn, we need to understand that our experiences of being sexually harassed/assaulted are not our responsibility. Our society needs to do more to address this permanent plague of toxic masculinity for all of our sakes.

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

Fight the Power

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Defend Equality Love Unites

Hi everyone,

I hope that you have had a great week. Our talented team has put together an amazing edition filled with plenty of reads for you to enjoy. Monde Nqeza has written an album review of Sudanese-American rapper Oddisee’s latest feat, The Iceberg. I’ve given the album a listen and I happily echo Monde’s praises for this album. Veli Mnisi implores all of us to give The Hamilton Mixtape a listen. With all of the star power that is featured on it, it sure looks like it is an album worth many listens. Sekhumbuzo Obvious Nomaele discusses the causes of internalised homophobia and the negative consequences it has for members of the LGBTIAQ++ community. In a short piece, Jabulile Mbatha implores men to reflect on how toxic masculinities result in men committing acts of gender-based violence against feminised bodies who do not adhere to patriarchal behavioural norms. Finally, Tsholanang Rapoo discusses the inherent contradictions of patriarchy; she challenges men to consider what, then makes them men?

Hope you enjoy these insightful reads.

Have a wonderful week,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

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

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

Speaking Truth to Power

by admin

Hi everyone,

In this edition, a few of our writers have written pieces for you to enjoy. In Happiness is a Four Letter Word, Naledi Khumalo writes a beautiful tribute to her best friend, fellow writer Obvious Nomaele. Zinhle Khumalo addresses colourism in South Africa’s black community. Finally, Sandiswa Tshabalala shares her poem #TriggerWarning which critically addresses South Africa’s normative violent rape culture. Although few in number, these articles are thought-provoking and truly speak truth to power.

Until the next edition,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Speak Truth to Power

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…

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