Mothers and their daughters

Two weeks ago, I received news that made my stomach turn. One of my closest friend’s mother passed away so suddenly. In my friend’s distraught voice was a lot of pain about “how could this be?” and the natural questioning of the order and God himself. Everything shook her to the core.

Like any mother and daughter, they had their fair share of tumultuous times, but we all know that anyone would rather have bad days with their mom than good ones without her. Losing a parent is a recipe for a lifelong lump in your throat, and the pain has countless layers you will never get through.

Her cry rang such a loud bell for me. Thirteen years ago, when I was 13 years old, I arrived home, eNgcobo, to what was supposed to be a relative’s funeral, and found out that it was actually my mother we were burying. My family was completely traumatized, and never spoke in detail about how devastating it was that my mother was gone. When you experience that amount of pain as a child, it is difficult to process it, especially when there is no adult available to help you through it – and children always latch on to their survival instincts and tactics.

My tool for survival was to block out everything, because every time I spoke about my mother, I would relentlessly cry and would be apologetic about crying. I would tell myself; “By now, I need to be fine, I need to get it together, I can’t be as emotional about it anymore,” although deep down, I was. I was so angry at my mother for leaving me, and I was more angry at the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be angry at her, by virtue of her being dead. There was a lot I wanted to say and the list keeps increasing each year.

So, for years, I was looking for shortcuts and instant coping mechanisms of how to speed up the healing process, until this year. I realized that all the shortcuts I have taken have led me back to my initial position. That, I still want my mom back and that, I still dream of her as if she is not on the other side. I was still angry at myself for not being healed yet, more than a decade later. Other things in my life were happening, which required me to examine family pathologies, and found that how broken I am as a woman resembles how broken my mom was as a 26 year old woman back in her days.

I started looking at my late mother as a woman, not my mother.

What were her struggles as a woman? What had she been through? Who abandoned her? How did she feel about it? What did it make her do? What were the classic mistakes she made that most women make? What was she looking for? What did she do right? What were her hopes and dreams as a woman? What did she need?

The answers (derived from looking closer into her life) juxtaposed with my current predicaments made dealing with her death even harder. As a woman, I needed to ask her these questions and get her answers – but most importantly, I needed my mom to sit with me and narrate her story as a woman to me from her heart. As a daughter she didn’t raise, who always felt empty and always looking for approval, I wanted my mother to acknowledge what that did to me, and I wanted her to get the opportunity to fight for her dignity.

I needed my mom to say “I was abandoned by both my parents, I was looking for love from anyone who could give it, I met a man who was also broken, we made you guys – and you are in this situation right now because I didn’t love myself enough. I didn’t choose myself. I was lacking in self-worth and self-esteem, and so I took everyone down with me. It was never my  intention. I am sorry.”

This would have made me realize that I am performing the same script as her, because she is my mother. It would have also made me more empathetic of her situation because if she felt empty, I know what that feels like because I feel it too.

In my opinion, this conversation is at the core of any daughter’s healing, whether they got the best or the worst of their mother. It is from there that you get to understand your mother was standing on a broken foundation, and all that she gave is all that she could give. I get that now, and I have learned from my mother’s mistakes, some which I have also made as a woman in my own life.

Women who still have their mothers should try initiating this process. Why? Because emotionally, you and your mother are probably the same age, if she’s not younger than you. For example, my mother’s life was shattered by being abandoned by both her parents – she probably came into that realization at age 6. So, my mom was always a 6 year old. If me and her were to have the conversation, I would be 7 years old, because that’s the age when I went to live with my aunt, my first encounter with the reality that my mom and dad didn’t have the means to raise me.

Trust me, this is a good place to start. Ask your mom to go back to that experience which has shaped her, and ask her to speak from that little girl, not in hindsight. You must also do the same – so that the process of healing and forgiveness can begin, and so that you can live in the fullness of who and what you are supposed to be. You need to let go of pain, so that you can make space for love to flow in and out of your heart abundantly. It’s a long process, but you will come out better and lighter.

As my friend continues to pick up the pieces of losing her mother, I yearn more to facilitate and ignite these conversations between mothers and daughters. I wish I emphasized it more to my friend before she lost her mom; I wish I told her what I am missing as a motherless daughter, so that she could fill in vacant spaces in her relationship with her mother. A woman truly becomes her mother, by default. It is only when we put the issues on blast and let them hurt us as deep as they can that we finally interrupt the patterns. Mothers and their daughters are so important to each other.

The People Vs Patriarchy

“…Everybody is a man, you know? And you just choke! You choke. You constantly feel like you are being strangled; it’s so violating.” – Sibu Gcilitshana

I first encountered the word ‘Patriarchy’ in University while I was studying Media, Communication and Culture. In the initial stages, it was mainly about how the media portrayed women, the extent of cinematographic voyeurism centering the storylines with beautiful women. When I started working behind the scenes in Television, I got to see the gross voyeurism that presenters and actresses must endure from crews, which are usually male dominant. In fact, one cameraman I have worked with usually narrated a story he had witnessed in advertising where feminists were asking the director of the Ad Agency, “Where are the women in decision-making positions here?” and, the arrogant director answered, “You wanna know where women are? They are under my desk sucking my fucking dick!” In the same breath, actress, Sibu Gcilitshana has personally shared with me her experience of missing out on roles because she was not willing to sleep with directors – I was working as a production assistant for Quizzical Pictures when she shared this, assuring me that I would be surprised to hear the names.

During my second year working in the media and staying in Cape Town, I was completely appalled by the plague that is patriarchy, as every second friend of mine had a rape story they told me. Although it was different, this violence and sense of entitlement that men had towards women began to mirror the violence we endured at home at the hands of male family members; verbal, emotional and psychological. Worse, the culture of protecting the abuser was also too familiar.

The years that followed these realizations have seen me re-locating myself in the conversation of patriarchy, feminism and violence. Sometimes, I get it right and sometimes, I fail dismally in being part of the problem. I must say, I speak more on an one-on-one basis now because often, I found myself misconstrued when the conversation was a Hashtag or public. I hope this is not a form of patriarchy silencing me, and that it is really what I view to be constructive.

Now, knowing that as a woman, walking in Johannesburg CBD is practically war, knowing that more than 80% of my girlfriends have been raped by men and coming from a heavily violent and patriarchal family, the new film, The People Vs Patriarchy, immediately caught my attention from its trailer. My colleague, knowing where I stand with patriarchy, showed it to me, and further explained that his friend, Lebogang Rasethaba is the director of the film, and I wasn’t that surprised because the colleague in question is also self-introspecting on his own contribution in violent hypermasculinity.

IOL reported that “the latest out of the MTV Africa stable is a jarring documentary about patriarchy and its hold on South Africans. The sequel to The People vs the Rainbow Nation, The People vs Patriarchy is a one hour and 15-minute conversation that is sub-divided to try and get the viewer engaging on this social pandemic.”

Rasethaba is obviously an amazing director and an exceptional storyteller. He shot in Johannesburg and Cape Town, engaging people of different backgrounds in his conversation, something I was very worried about before I saw the film, because these conversations usually happen in certain cliques. His personal opening statement in the film was; “I can’t make this film without acknowledging my own personal history of fuckieness; undermining women, being manipulative emotionally…”

So, in his conversation with himself, South African men and women, and books such as Pumla Gqola’s Rape: A South African Nightmare, Rasethabile sought to divide the film into five parts.

Chapter 1: Gender Norms

“The same way we accept in conversation, you know? You accept your mate when he says something shocking like, ‘Ha, makalala ngiyangena!’”

“Where are the queer men and [insert other marginalized genders besides heterosexual cis men] who were leading the struggle during apartheid?” asks Activist, Wanelisa Xaba, alluding to the fact that celebrated figures have historically been heterosexual men.

Ultimately, if we look at the systematic role of the white man and man of colour, it’s different but the same. The white man’s role is to fuck up the entire society, whether he takes on his father’s mining or farming business which is derived from the exploitation of just about everyone or has merely benefited from the privilege of being white. And, the man of colour must be strong, do hardcore jobs, be away from his family and come home to beat his wife.

Gender norms are what leave trans-gendered people in the margins, because it is not a norm. Where do we place them? How do we refer to them? And, the most violent thing we do is be offended by the choices they make in their own bodies.

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Chapter 2: Toxic Gendering

This political dangerous gender roles normalization is reflective of how private homes are in perpetuating toxic gendering, where the girl child has always had to be assigned the ‘deputy mom’ role, doing most of the domestic chores and sometimes, getting the smallest piece of the meat, which she has cooked. More was said on this, from the expectations for women to take on their husband’s name, projecting a woman’s love for a man to have sacrifice (of herself) at its heart.

Basically, men are performing masculinity and women are performing femininity. Linked to this is the trending of musician, Emtee, who ended up being shamed for his small penis, which is linked to the size of his manhood. And, indeed, men are at a crisis in this regard because every poster in Johannesburg is about “Penis Enlargement.” A man’s masculinity is linked to sex, and rape is part of this because as power-driven as rape is, it’s still a sexual experience, and so, conquering is at the center of manhood. How could Emtee possibly conquer with that little penis; this shaming, by the way, is something I am guilty as charged of. I should really do better.

 

Chapter 3: #MenAreTrash

#MenAreTrash means what Gcilitshana asks in the film – “when is this [violence] not my daily experience [as a woman]?” because all the signs and symbols everywhere are aimed at proving my inferiority and lack of ability to think for myself.

In fact, an abuser who was interviewed in the film said “My message to men is that they should not hesitate to discipline their women. A little spanking won’t kill her.”

So, yes, it’s true – violence has the face of a black woman, from everyone. And, this understanding of violence and black men as trash must not take away from the fact that while black men are the faces of violators, black men have very little power in systematic violence towards everyone, and we should not forget how normal it is for white men to be extremely violent to millions and billions of people. Hell, the entire Africa was violated by white men!

In addressing mothers, a conversation between daughters and mothers revealed that women sometimes enable trash. The mothers of the abusers slam the victims for speaking out, and when one mother (as all our mothers do) argued that these problems can be solved by surrendering to God’s protection, a younger woman asked; “Why yena [uThixo] angangiProtectanga the time umuntu ang’Rap(a)?”

For Youtuber and activist, Sibu Mpanza, men were offended by #MenAreTrash because suddnely, they had to deal with the things that were mentioned, which they did at one point in their lives. Some men were adamant that #NotAllMen, while others argued that men are too quick to defend themselves in not being trash, but are never in solidarity with women.

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Chapter 4: Call-outs

“Even though we know who we are talking about, no one is dropping the names.”

Okmalumkoolkat was a big topic in “calling out” rapists and sexual assaulters. And, without diverting from the film’s commentators and activists, it’s always been interesting to watch how protective even women who are raped are of rapists, when it’s men they know, because no matter how violent rape is, it’s different and personal when your father or brother did it.

In Latent Rapists, Ntozakhe Shange writes;

“Women relinquish all personal rights the presence of a man who apparently could be considered a rapist, especially if he has been considered a friend. He is no less worthy of being beat within an inch of his life. being publicly ridiculed having two fists shoved up his ass. And the stranger he always thought it would be who never showed ups it turns out the nature of rape has changed. We can now meet them in circles we frequent for companionship. We see them at the coffeehouse with someone else we know. We can even have them over for dinner & get raped in our own houses by invitation.”

This realization and in the context of the film is where I think the most critical conversation happened for Rasethaba, who was a friend of Okmalumkoolkat.

The questions raised were; how do we continue supporting his music knowing what we know? And, speaking to my colleague about this, I was clear about the fact that men need to call out men. As women, we are already painted with the “angry feminist” brush that men are always in defense mode when we speak. The men who are our allies must do their work around other men.

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Chapter 5: Change

In conclusion, fifteen years ago, I never imagined that a man would curate this kind of a conversation. I experienced patriarchy, although I didn’t have the appropriate linguistics to name it, and for me, men were men; boys were boys, it was up to me to cover myself up. No man did anything about it. So, men who have come out to challenge themselves and their privilege is a huge step towards the right direction. Yes, it doesn’t end there, because if men can be violent towards women, then surely, they can use this power towards positivity.

I am focusing on men because unfortunately, patriarchy has been left to feminist groups, even though it’s a plague killing both men and women. Rape is not a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue.

Nakhane Toure, who has had his fair share of patriarchy after starring in the film, The Wound, said, “the only way men can change is if they feel forced to change.”

I agree. Legislation needs to be tighter on gender-based violence. Thus, when we deal with violence, let us remember that our beloved president, Jacob Zuma, is also a culprit and that, “rape in South Africa isn’t a moment, it’s a language,” in the words of Pumla Gqola.

 

Vision View Sports Radio, right off the bat!

I joined Vision View Productions in July this year, and instantly fell in-love with its eccentric, opinionated and sometimes controversial bunch. I always said, “we deserve to be in a radio station – our lines will always be busy.”

That said, if I’m honest, the tip of the iceberg for me was getting to work for a black-owned company, that’s doing very well in a market that was untapped when they started; sports broadcasting. I suspect that my deep patriotism is a residual trauma from having been black in Cape Town, if you know what I mean. I yearn for successful black people, and when I get a cup of them, I don’t just sip, I gulp, then ululate, then dance. I celebrate, because I can take a pause from Koleka Putuma’s “another one who looks like me died today” line.

Today, I am chanting about the possibilities that have been ignited by this entity.

I am fortunate enough to be the company’s all-round writer. The written material of the company’s new sports radio endevour was obviously no exception, because Mafadi Mpuru, who is the co-founder and CEO alongside Eddie Seane, called us to the boardroom one day to say; “Uh, ladies, I called you here because we gonna need some written stuff for the radio station. So, yea, just be warned. It’s gonna get busy. We gonna need promos. Yea.” This is really how he speaks; very direct. Before he said this, he did outline the schedule to Content Manager, Sarona Sullaphen and what followed the ten minutes in that boardroom was the execution of the radio station.

I must say, Mafadi and Eddie spearheaded the new business branch in a sense that made it very clear to me (as a newbie in the company) that as entrepreneurs, they are as fearless as they were when they started twelve years ago, if not a little bit more. In the same breath, to start something that has never been done before is risky, nerve-wrecking, but exciting.

My back and forth e-mails with Mandla Maluleke, the Station Manager, were monotonous and sometimes, exciting. The guy was particular about what he wanted; not surprising at all, since he has grandiosely aced radio for ten years, and by default, knows what feels right and what doesn’t. I got his copywriting brief wrong so many times, and soon realized that radio grounds are not for the faint-hearted – the extent of imagination and creativity put in is insurmountable, hence it sounds so effortless on air.

Mandla said “…the reason Vision View Productions is launching a radio station is because we saw a gap in the radio industry, South Africa has no 24 hour sports radio station. Primarily, we feel like when it comes to sports news, our country is more reliant on TV than they are on radio.”

His curation of the sports legends who will be presenters include himself, retired goal keeper, Brian Baloyi, former international professional boxer Dida Dipheko, TV presenter, Christopher Bongo and SuperSport’s presenter Thato Moeng, to mention a few. He went for a combination of exceptional broadcasting geniuses, balanced with former athletes, because a presenting skill is as important as the authenticity of how the sports are represented. And, you cannot have a sports radio without sportsmen and sportswomen.

In my opinion, this is such a necessary project because I remember when Mandla gave samples and references to the audio guys to listen to – most of those were American and British, meaning, in a few years time, Vision View Sports Radio will be the reference for a 24 hour sports radio station. What I can say is that in the few months I have been with the company, I have been so impressed with its innovative vision, and the calibre of art that is produced by the young creatives who work there. The radio station simply continues the trend of this company’s culture of constantly pushing boundaries.

We have to back this dream; call it higher and slam any mediocrity, while demanding more. Ultimately, the bigger picture is that no one can barricade us from achieving any ‘unattainable’ dreams, and if you are hesitant because you fear failure, consider these words by Erin Hanson;

“What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

From 01 December 2017, Listen live.

 

 

Everyone wants to be #Queer until it’s time to be #Queer!

I’m a lot of colorful things. But, because we live in a world so fixated on everyone’s sexuality – I am a heterosexual woman.

Yes! I love men, I am attracted to men and to some extent, I love gender roles in a man/woman relationship. I love the traditional aspect of it, and I also love it when gender roles shift in a relationship. I love sex with men, and I would love to marry a man one day. I don’t know if I will always feel this way, but I have never sexually or otherwise, desired a woman.

When I moved to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth, I was so shocked by what seemed to be a ‘gay capital’ to me. Funny enough, it was normal for me to see gay men because I always had male friends who were gay. But, women! Wow. I was stunned. How do they please each other? What are the families saying? What’s the roles in the affair? As horrible as that sounds, I asked myself those questions because I came from a small city where you only knew one or two gay people at school.

It really seemed like every second woman I met (especially in the art world) was gay. So, inevitably – if I had twenty girlfriends in Cape Town, fifteen of them were lesbians and three of them were homosexual or bisexual or [insert another term her].

Although I identified as a feminist back then, I never caught feelings about the fact that sometimes, gay women seemed like the ‘only’ custodians of feminism – and they don’t have to agree with me on this. That was, often, my experience. The ‘how could you love men if you really are a feminist?’ was undeniable. Not only that, there was also always a ‘you should try women’ vibe going on – as if it was fashion to do so, and if you didn’t, you weren’t really certified as an ‘exploring’ person. This always made me uncomfortable, and in hindsight, left me feeling like appropriating queerness was also encouraged by homosexual women.

There was also the rise of the LGBTQI movement, and it was amazing to see my friends who had been marginalized having a voice, as a collective. Contrary to most, I never felt like the seclusion of this group was problematic, because they had been secluded by society all along anyway. Now, there was this boiling pot of hashtags surrounding all of this, and straight people rode the wave as well, attended Pride events and made themselves part of the narrative. I think it was amazing for us to support our queer pals in what was going on, stand with and by them publicly against the violence they were subjected to. But, I don’t think it is okay for us to go as far as hijacking their lived experience.

Look, I get it – our marriage to the LGBTQI movement was also partly because violence is violence, you know? We didn’t want to separate this plague, which affected all women. But, even so, things like being straight and identifying as gay, or saying you are attracted to women, but you’d never take it that far with them, so that makes you part of the party are a little problematic for me. What fuckery is ‘I am #queer on the inside’?

Yes, sexuality is more complex for some than it is for others, but I feel like the physical experience of it is valid here, because we are talking corrective rapes, murders, weird stares and so on, and those are things you get when you are walking down the street holding hands with the woman you love, maybe displaying some affection towards each other. No one subjects you to sexuality bias if you are ‘gay on the inside.’

My girlfriend who are in relationships with women don’t go to certain places as couples, because they know that men will challenge their union. That’s not something you get if you just internally identify as gay, or if you dabble with women behind closed doors, but really are straight. Of course – injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere, but let’s face it, as heterosexuals, we aren’t actually living the experience of constantly watching our backs because there are men looking to punish us on the basis of who we love. While we can be empathetic and supportive in every possible way, we don’t have the right to appropriate being queer.

Think about it, some white people have 95% black friends, only date black people and may be empathetic of the injustices we face, but they are not black, and thus, don’t have any black experience because when they walk down the street, they look white, regardless if they say ‘I am black on the inside.’ That’s unacceptable appropriation of blackness, because for us, blackness is something which we can never escape at any given time. We are always black even when we don’t want to be; even when it kills us. It’s the same for queers.

In conclusion, spending time with my gay girlfriends gave me a lot of insight into how violent society is towards same-sex couples. As a heterosexual couple, there are little things you don’t experience, mainly because patriarchal men sometimes respect other men – so having a man by your side can often ease the disrespect. But, two women who are in love in a pub are constantly challenged, and some men will even have the audacity to go up to the couple and hit on them both or suggest that D*&k might be able to turn them straight. It’s a nightmare; I won’t lie – when I hear my friend’s stories of constantly fighting men out there, I am kind of glad I am heterosexual yo! Being #Queer is fashionable and cool until your life gets threatened and you cannot love freely.

While we love our friends and empathize with them, this is their experience. Let’s support the telling of their story and help where we can, but, let’s not hijack it.