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

31st Jul2017

We’re Back

by admin

We're Back

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to second semester of the academic year. In our first edition back, our talented team has put together a light-hearted and poignant edition for you to enjoy. First, Sandiswa Sondzaba profiles the Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion journalist, Robin Givhan, who has successfully used fashion as the lens through which she may provide social commentary. Sekhumbuzo Obvious Nomaele welcomes us back to the second semester by directing our trends that have dominated on social media in the past few weeks. Finally, we end off on a poignant note with Sandiswa Tshabalala’s poem which was inspired the recent incidences of gender based violence that have dominated the Johannesburg public imagination.

Hope you enjoy this edition.

Until next time,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

31st Jul2017

Don’t Come to Johannesburg

by admin

Johannesburg Skyline

You will hear stories of our lost sisters,
The lecherous captors
Snatched off of narrow pavements

You will be enticed by stories of illusion,
Disappearing acts and elusive names turned to
numbers
The silent spectres sweeping the city streets,
An insidious ghost lurking in the shadows.

It’s the city of silence,
Beneath the bedlam walls are filled with wails
Inconsolable mothers,
Abandoned children
Stolen women…

Here, women aren’t human
Taming demons is our nature.
We learn to hide before our bones grind to dust.
Your body a prison, your clothes, shackles
Your home holds you captive in fear.

You will be coerced into a macabre melody
while they circle to your song,
Join the dance, you will join the dance.
We will sing your song;
Shut your ears, shut your mouth, shut your eyes as well.
Sing to your silence

15th May2017

Goodbye for Now

by admin

Hi everyone,

This week is our last edition for the semester and our talented team have written amazing articles for you to enjoy. Stephanie Schaffrath, inspired by the five lion fugitives in Nelspruit, has written a lighthearted piece discussing misguided stereotypes of Africa. Thabisile Miya has a list of South African YouTube vloggers that we all need to check out- because as they say, local truly is lekker. We have also included Sandiswa Tshabalala’s Response to “The Millenial Question” which won the Wits Mail & Guardian writing competition. The recent murder in Coligny,North West has inspired Jabulile Mbatha to write a piece decrying the presence of anti-black racism in post-apartheid South Africa. Finally, Veli Mnisi reflects on how #MenAreTrash demonstrates the violence of heteronormative, hegemonic masculine norms.

We hope that you enjoy this edition and good luck to everyone writing exams during this exam period.

Until next semester.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Tech Savvy

15th May2017

Response to “The Millenial Question”

by admin

Rhodes Must Fall

Tough to Manage. Entitled. Self-Interested. Lazy.

This is what Simon Sinek answer is, in short, to “The Millennial Question”. It is this broad view that is used to describe people born in 1984 onwards and is one which is commonly believed (evidence of which is how verbalisations of the term ‘millennial’ are often derisive).  It is also one which is, to some extent, true. He tells the audience that the reason millennials are tough to manage and, thus, entitled is because ‘in the real world’, you don’t get what you want merely because of your desire for it, which is contrary to milennials’  parents’ assertions.
However, there are flaws to his argument in that he disregards the nuance which exists in the characteristic qualities of this generation, globally.

Again, these descriptions are mostly correct, only when directing these criticisms towards a specific sub-set of millennials. Sinek seems to generally describe middle-class, white millennials as his view is not only trite, but it is not cognisant of the fact that in many societies around the world, parents are incredibly hard on their children, many being stereotyped as having high academic and career-choice standards as is the case in diasporic/immigrant communities. A study done by Acevedo-Garcia et al. (2014) supports the argument that children in these communities didn’t necessarily grow up being told that they were ‘special’, because their parents may not only have had to work as unskilled workers in these countries, meaning their hours didn’t allow much time with their children to ‘coddle’ them in such a manner, but their parents often emphasised the importance of academic excellence mainly because it was their only guarantee of careers which rival those of their middle-class and upper-class peers.

This also has relevance to post-apartheid South Africa, in which this generation are referred to as born-frees. All of the descriptions mentioned have been used to describe them recently, as they are often criticised for their participation in cross-institutional movements such as Fees Must Fall. One of these descriptions, which Sinek describes as being the most dominant of these, is entitlement, which has been uttered repeatedly in popular spheres such as on social media. These criticisms have been extended to any civic action which calls for economic transformation which will benefit this generation directly, as they are seen as wanting ‘better paying jobs’ because they feel entitled to them or because they want extra cash from ‘side-hustles’, for miscellaneous expenses. This, however, has been debated since many minimum-wage workers who happen to be from this generation, especially in the US, are working mainly to support their basic needs, and the needs of their families, as they are a generation whose first economic  experience was of a system in dire need of repair after 2008’s global recession.

Similarly, in South Africa, the current economic and racial composition of low-wage workers and laborers within this generation is the result of a devaluation of the basic education system, which doesn’t offer many opportunities to poor, black children growing up, other than jobs in service provision and this also dispels the adjectives of self-involved and lazy being deemed as the chief characteristics of millennials’ attitudes.

Lastly, criticism of the millennials’ or the born-frees’ sense of entitlement is one which I personally have had to confront, as although we have no formal system which still promotes subjugation as there was in pre-democratic South Africa, we still see the economic and social effects which are slowly coming to the fore in contemporary South Africa. At present, we find ourselves not only demanding, but pleading for the restorations promised to our parents post-1994, with anger which is justified as these are reparations to which we are very much entitled.

In closing, Sinek’s answer to ‘The Millenial Question”, is not only demographically limited, and reductionist in its criticism of western-located Millenials at large, but it doesn’t consider the effects of historical events on millennials  in non-western countries such as South Africa. Thus, what can be gathered from this attempt at answering The Question is that, even with close study of individuals in this generation, it has no definite answer and any further attempts are inclined to reduction, which is ultimately dependent on individual positioning.

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…

16th Apr2017

Breaking Boundaries

by admin

Hi everyone,

I trust that you have all had a wonderful Easter weekend surrounded by loved ones. This week our talented team of writers have, yet again, written amazing articles for us to enjoy. Naledi Khumalo discusses why she does not believe that Roman Catholic priests can be married. Zinhle Maeko explores black conservative Christian parents’ disapproval of their children’s body modification. Sandiswa Tshabalala provides insight into the politics of black womxn’s hair. Molebogeng Mokoko explains why she does not approve of labels. Tsholonang Rapoo implores us to place greater value on same-sex relationships. Finally, Sandiswa Sondzaba reports on Edward Enninful’s recent appointment as the new editor of British Vogue magazine.

Hope that you have a wonderful week and that you enjoy this week’s edition of exPress imPress.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Breaking Boundaries

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

27th Mar2017

Identity

by admin

Identity

Hi everyone,

In this week’s edition of the blog, our talented writers have explored the issue of identity. Stephanie Schaffrath, after walking past the Israeli Apartheid Week exhibitions, wonders as to whether we can live in a world without any labels. Obvious Nomaele derides Christianity’s judgement of members of the LGBTIAQ+ community and makes a call for greater compassion for members of the community. Sandiswa Sondzaba discusses how Brenda Fassie complicated our understanding of the ideal black womxnhood in post-apartheid South Africa. Sandiswa Tshabalala discusses the toxicity of hegemonic masculinity. Finally, Sandiswa Tshabalala shares a poem which celebrates the strength of black womxn.

I hope that you will have a restful research break.

Until the next edition,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017.

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