Misogynoir

Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.”  Half a century after his death, the arc may bend towards justice for some, but it curves all the way around to injustice for black women. The arc of our moral universe bends towards misogynoir.

 

Moya Bailey coined the phrase to describe prejudice towards black women. You see it in the way we are treated, especially by black men. That if the totem pole of acceptability must elevate their standing, we must remain at its bottom. Black men, who should understand how difficult it is to navigate a world that is not as welcoming to anyone who isn’t born white, male and straight, engage in the most bitter of misogyny towards their “sisters.” It goes beyond Kanye West’s line on Golddigger about a man  leaving you for a white girl once he gets his come up; it extends to our value in the workplace and society as a whole always being diminished.

Black men perpetuate misogynoir because it was never about equality for them: it was about assimilating into white patriarchy. Upholding rape culture and the various other violent methods of misogynoir – be it the hypersexualisation of black women, or the perpetuating of ugly stereotypes – is a means to an end: to keep black women underneath your boots.

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Amber Rose created the “slut walk” to reclaim a word that’s been used to shame women for anything from using an Instagram filter, to being victims of sexual assault. Every year, countless women march with her to stand up to the misogynistic and abusive idea that any woman deserves to be sexually assaulted.

 

To promote the walk, she posted picture online, and as expected the swamp dwellers crawled out to shame her for daring to have autonomy over the body. I always find it ironic when ppl use the Bible to advocate shaming women.

 

In Matthew 18:9, Instead of telling women to “dress appropriately,” Jesus told men to avoid lust by plucking their eyes out.

 

To be Christian is to aspire to be like Christ. So instead of shaming women, why not address the men who abuse us?

Woman is the nigger of the world

For black women, we exist as black and as female in tandem. Racism is sexualized, while sexism is racialized.

 

We are victims of misogyny and misogynoir, too often by the black men we would bend over to protect. Malcolm X oncesaid the most disrespected person is the black woman. Decades have passed, and it is still true. But disrespect doesn’t fully encompass it; there’s scorn and hatred and enmity towards us that no demographic knows.

 

Anti-blackness, particularly among other people of colour, is reserved for black women. We don’t have a safe space even among black men, who spew vitriol towards us like they weren’t born of us. Hoteps claim to be about black emancipation, but what they really want is to subjugate black women and attain the privileges of white men.

 

Woman is the nigger of the world. Release us.

Your theory is my reality

When men talk about how scary prison would be, because they fear getting raped, while you as a woman live every single day in constant vigilance. The threat of sexual predation and assault aren’t abstract. You can’t even seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because the onslaught never lets up. It is perpetually being unsafe in your own body,  and the debilitating knowledge that just because you can’t see a better, doesnt necessarily mean this is the worst of it.

 

When men talk about rape, it’s often not as an assault on the body and a violation of the senses, but as a joke because getting raped is so foreign to them. Rape is discussed in the abstract, as if 1 in 3 women have not had to live despite having their entire being violated. 1 in 3: a statistic that doesn’t take into account how many more survivors chose silence versus standing accused of being to blame.

 

 

Don’t

Don’t take a cab, you might get abducted and raped.
Don’t take a taxi, you might get abducted and raped.
Don’t drive, you might get hijacked and raped.
Don’t walk, someone might pull you into their car and rape you.
Don’t stay in the house, someone may break in and rape you.

I am just so tired of feeling unworthy of safety because I had the audacity to be born a woman.

Freedom of the Diaspora

This post was first published on connectedafrica.com

“Freedom is an endless horizon, and there are many roads that lead to it.” Shirley Chisholm understood that freedom was not a destination, but an infinite journey. The 1960’s came with the end of colonialism for most African countries, but decades later, are we really free? We are still beholden to Eurocentric standards of acceptability; the hegemonic idea of First World versus Third World Countries still persists; the International Criminal Court is used as a cudgel against African leaders while the war crimes of the West go ignored.
I would be remiss to not acknowledge that totalitarian and oppressive regimes cannot be ignored. However, there is a double standard. The ICC were prepared to arrest a sitting Head of State, Sudan president Omar al-Bashir when he was in the Republic of South Africa, yet the amorphously fought Iraqi War’s progenitors have never been indicted.

The Prosecutor of the ICC reported as early as February 2006 that he had received 240 communications in connection with the 2003 Iraqi invasion, which alleged that a plethora of war crimes had been committed. The overwhelming majority of these communications came from individuals and groups within the United States and the United Kingdom. Many of these complaints concerned the British participation in the invasion, as well as the alleged responsibility for “torture” or enhanced interrogation deaths while in detention in British-controlled areas. Granted, the United States is not a member of the ICC but the United Kingdom is.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair could very well be indicted given the invasion was against the United Nations. Surely this would give the ICC legitimacy and credence in the eyes of the rest of the world. As per Article 127 of the Rome Statute, South Africa and Burundi left the ICC this October. 90% of the states that the ICC has investigated are African countries. In 2009, there was en masse departure from the ICC by Senegal, Djibouti and Comoros; Kenya followed suit in 2013. Gambia has expressed intent to withdraw from the court.

Freedom cannot be attained in this commodity-driven world without financial emancipation. We need to abrogate the prevalent poverty on our beautiful continent.

Men are trash

 

This post was first published on connectedafrica.com

 

Men are trash. Before people come at me with pitchforks I would like to preempt any of your arguments to that truism. Primarily, before you say “not all men” please recognize that that is blatant gas-lighting – a means to derail conversation about the systematic abuse of women at the hands of men by trying to preclude yourself from it. It may not be all men who are abusers, but it is too many men. Way too many men. Too many men that enable the cycle of abuse to continue unfettered. Too few men who repudiate their peers.

Men are trash. Women are labeled as having “daddy issues” without the absent fathers being addressed. Family is society’s building block of the world in microcosm. Patriarchal systems indoctrinated us into viewing the men of our society as the paragons of leadership. No wonder the world is in such turmoil. Men are trash. I have an excellent relationship with my father, but that doesn’t negate the fact that men are trash. Before I was even pubescent, my dad taught me to always watch my drink, never accept an opened beverage, never drink directly from the can… all these lessons because he knew how trash men were. The reality is that upstanding fathers need to teach their daughters to avoid being raped because men are trash who cannot respect bodily autonomy.

Also read: Freedom is an endless horizon

Men are trash. Kenyan women, who have had to live life on a rape clock, have decided to take back their lives by learning martial arts to thwart would-be assailants. The lengths women must go to avoid being raped are flabbergasting. In 2016, we are lauding women for taking extraordinary measures to avoid being raped. The tragedy is that these women protect themselves, but it doesn’t solve the greater issue. It may deter the rapist from them, but what happens when he tries to rape the next women? Men are such trash that an initiative to curb rapes will just lead to rapists finding more innovative means to disregard a woman’s no.

Men are trash. A video has gone viral recently of a man on a bus beating another after he inappropriately touched a girl. While many may laud this turn of events, it is just a soupçon in combatting the sexual assault that women experience in public spaces. For no reason other than having the audacity to be born female, women are subjected to sexually inappropriate comments, unauthorized physical contact, sexual assault, rape and even murder, because men are trash. Men in suits, men in overalls; our parents’ friends, our friends’ parents; too many men who cling to being libertines because patriarchy protects them.

Quiet Should Not Be Confused For Peace

This post was first published on connectedafrica.com

 

“Le roi est mort, vive le roi!” As the birthplace of humanity, the African continent has seen many a King and Queen pass over the millennia, yet one truth has remained impervious to change: the power of the youth. We as the youth of Africa need to disavow the moniker of “leaders of tomorrow,” and instead embrace being the “change agents of today.” The youth are a paragon of vitality, and through having young people at the forefront of amassing every opportunity from augured economic growth, Africa can be the quintessence of longevity.

I believe in the promise of Africa’s tomorrow which I am committed to being a part of building today. I refuse to be a child of Africa who writes off my continent having not done anything to be a proponent of progress. I foresee an Africa who today’s economic difficulty will be the nadir; the dichotomy between sustainability and sustenance will be a thing of the past when Africa utilises her most precious asset, her people.

When the African continent was invaded by Europeans, they found a land whose caves had been filled with stories. Those halcyon days before Africa being colonised may have passed, but the storytelling has remained with us. Disseminating information is an art form that Africans perfected eons ago. I believe my most powerful tool is my words, which is why I have been writing about the experiences of African women since I was 18. We need to dismantle patriarchy to create an equitable Africa for all her people, something we cannot do if we pretend it doesn’t exist.

As a young person in 2016, I am a member of a generation that can mobilise itself and share information at a remarkable pace. A generation that whose imagination is not fettered by man-made boundaries on a map. A generation who longs to see Africans fixing African problems the African way – through communication and sharing of ideas.

As young people, we are at an advantageous position where we can question and query, as the channels for communication between us and appointed leaders become easier to navigate. The things we take for granted like the right to vote were fought for by these leaders, and I hope that when the next generation of youth hear that there was a time in my country where women couldn’t open bank accounts without spousal approval, it leaves them disbelieving because by then we would have built a utopia for everyone in Africa.

Young people have been pivotal in the independence of their countries. Although independence has been achieved, Pan-Africanism lives on in the mission against neo-imperialism. Africa needs to be emancipated from the residual effects of colonialism, and her resources need to remain with hers. The onus is on us to make sure that the image of Africa that goes out into the world dispels the template of ubiquitous poverty. It would be disingenuous to pretend that poverty is not a reality in Africa. Nonetheless with young people who are less risk averse than their elders, we can channel that ingenuity towards ideas geared to sustainable development. This Africa Youth Day, I intend to launch a blitzkrieg across all social networks sharing the reality of an Africa with an expanding urban community and bright future. In 50 years when I am asked what we won by changing the world’s view of Africa, I hope to respond that our victory began when we lost the mental shackles that made us view our home as a dark dystopia.

In a world where the apology is the punctuation to the woman’s sentence, it’s so endearing to watch young women realise their potential and their abilities. Intersectionality is not just about destroying white supremacy, but about destroying black patriarchy. Women have been expected to be supportive of emancipation movements, but remain in the background. Nevertheless, this has never deterred us, and now more and more women are embracing their magic and embodying the revolution. Harnessing the potential of economic growth to create a more solvent tomorrow for our continent requires all our people to have a voice, irrespective of gender. I am an advocate for the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Africa cannot progress if a key demographic remains disenfranchised. Culture is not oppressive by nature, but it has become a mechanism for misogyny. Dismantling patriarchy is of pivotal importance in creating a peaceful Africa; peace is inextricably linked to the empowerment of women. Equality is not equality if it is not equality for all. I believe this is an age for the uncomfortable conversation. As the youth, we need to confront the many demographic privileges we have, be they gender based, classist or even geographical. In the choice between what is right and what is easy, remembering that we are building an Africa for tomorrow. Quiet should not be confused for peace; despotic rule is not Africa’s portion.

Africa is alive with possibility, if adequate investment is made in the leaders of tomorrow today.

 

The Pernicious Burden of Strength

 

This post was first published on connectedafrica.com

 

 

The expectation of strength when you’re a black woman is really self preservation. It’s not strength – it’s survival.
I hate the “strong, black woman” narrative. In a society where mental health goes largely unrecognized and untreated. The stigma around it makes seeking healthcare, even for those who can afford it, an uphill battle.

Depression may seem small in the grand scheme of a world ravaged by war and human trafficking, and so many other issues that systematically target brown people, but it is real death-threatening pain to anyone who suffers from depression. People die from depression, the only difference is the death certificate lists suicide as the cause of death. Belittling sufferers of depression just perpetuates the stigma.

The vituperative nature in the way mental health is discussed in our society is even worse. “Crazy” is more often than not used as a gendered slur, without recourse to people who actually suffering from schizophrenia, which is a long term disorder that may lead to faulty perceptions and a sense of mental fragmentation.

Ableist epithets are flung far and wide. Ableism is not just about a list of bad words that morally upright human beings should remove from their lexicons. Language is one of the many tools of an oppressive system. Being cognizant of one’s language can help us understand how pervasive ableism is. Ableism is violent by nature: it is the systematic, institutionalised devaluing of minds deemed deviant, abnormal, or defective. It is structural disregard of a plight that affects many people, who have to suffer in silence.

I am a huge proponent of the self-love movement, but I too must admit it is nowhere near enough addressing the issues affecting black women. Self-love will not cure depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, just like self-love wouldn’t cure diabetes, heart disease or tuberculosis. Prozac and Xanax are prescribed by psychiatrists not hugs.

It is hard to describe depression to someone who’s never suffered from it, especially when pop culture defines depression as sadness. Meanwhile, it can manifest in despondency, anxiety, irritability and a host of other feelings, or none at all. Depression is not a feeling, it is a state. Imagine the human capacity to manage thoughts and feelings as a 6×6 box. In a person who does not suffer from clinical depression, they have the entire space to sort their thoughts and cope with everything that is in their life, and their box is never full because they can empty it at any time. Meanwhile when one has clinical depression, they can only house their feelings in a 4×4 area of the box and it is always over brimming. The rest of the area is an ominous, dark cloud acting as a constant harbinger of doom on the life of a depressed person. That is how I view depression, but there are many analogies. Others view it as drowning with a brick tied to your ankle, while other people walk by because the pool looks shallow to them.11

Black women face a higher risk of mental illness because of the cultural and social issues that are unique to us. Under the burden of being strong, we are inundated with misogynoir, which is prejudice against black women. Prejudice because we are black, and prejudice because we are women; sexualized racism and racialised sexism. Lethargy is ubiquitous among black women, and when we normalize “walking it off,” we are ignoring the fact that chronic tiredness is a symptom of depression. Self-harm extends beyond cutting or idealized version of depression is all over tumblr; self-harm can be extreme activity in lieu of self-care. The zeitgeist for the 21st century successful black women is to wear pain as a crown and not rest. That crown is one we must all reject.

Let us be a society which rejects any narrative that can burden and often entrap black women. Let us instead be a society that challenges our leaders to make mental health a priority.

My Existence Is NOT Up For Parody

This post was first published on connectedafrica.com

 

 

“People are so uptight now. You can’t tell a joke without offending someone.”

Yes, we are woke now. We have learned and unlearned, in so doing have grown and shifted our thinking, and have since become aware of how egregious the things we thought innocuous really are. The acolytes of people who say and do offensive things under the banner of art say they long for the halcyon days when being politically correct wasn’t status quo, but I have come to realize that political correctness is a metaphor for treating people with respect and dignity.

A good example is Leon Schuster. His use of blackface went unchallenged until we realised how offensive it was. His use of blackfaced characters isn’t just historically offensive, though that in itself is more than enough reason to permanently gag him. The characters he portrays in blackface are the worst caricatures of black culture. Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used by non-Black performers to represent a black person. Blackface goes beyond the caricatures; instead of hiring black actors and fleshing out their characters, white actors are dressed as the shallowest perceptions of what blackness is. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes. A decade ago he was the most popular comedian in Southern Africa, but the wokeness has led to the realisation that the laughs were at the expense of black people. The beauty of living in the golden age of the internet is that one can educate themselves with the mere click of a button, as well as choose to not support problematic causes such as the aforestated films. The biggest source of power as a consumer is your wallet; the loudest statement you can make is to withhold your coins.

 

We realised that we had internalised prejudices and are working hard to overcome them. Also, those jokes that perpetuate stereotypes? Yeah, we realise how problematic they are.

 

It’s important to be cognisant of the things we say; it goes beyond semantics. An episode on the past season of Scandal, or the Fixer as it is known in some African countries looked at the topic of “dog whistle politics” which are words or catch phrases that don’t seem offensive to anyone outside the demographic they are meant to offend. For example “thug” is the new age k*ffir, “competitive” is a euphemism for conniving, and the minute someone says “she is well spoken” the implication is there is a silent racial qualifier.

The idea that an offensive statement loses its offensive nature when clouded under the veil of comedy loses sight of the fact that comedy is commentary on real life. A few weeks ago, a petition was created in South Africa after a comedian named Skhumba decided to body shame protestors at the #FeesMustFall strike in South Africa. These women had literally laid their lives on the line to fight for the livelihoods of millions of people who want to study, yet they were relegated to being talking points in a skit because they were not perceived as being attractive. Women’s bodies do not exist for voyeurism. Cognisance of people’s right to dignity and freedom of speech are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are two sides of the same coin.