Think Like A Man? No, Thanks!

I have not read Steve Harvey’s “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”. No, ma’am, I have not. I do, however, have no reservations about reading it in future. It is always a good thing to broaden one’s horizons; to step out of one’s comfort zone for interest’s sake if not for constant learning. And so, please don’t  hold me to ransom when I pick the book up to see for myself  why women have been fussing for centuries when all  we had to do was borrow our male counterparts’ medullas.

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.”  We can thus assume that in thinking like men, we gain equality similar to none. Yes?

The punting of the phrase of acting like a lady, yet holding onto the male psyche has awakened the feminist within though I did not consider myself much of an ‘activist’ before… Me thinks, well, no time like the present to embark on such. Judging by the wide range of epiphanies gotten by those who have read the book, I reckon Mr. Harvey has coined the know-how of borrowing a man’s mind: For the greater good, no doubt.

Whether we can all function in a world of singular mindedness run on auto pilot through the eyes of a man is another story altogether. Heaven forbid, lest the female species finally fade into oblivion. I mean, are we trekking back to the Stone Age here? I do earnestly believe that Harvey was tired of hearing women moan and whimper about how they don’t “get men”, how they don’t “understand” them and not being able to find the “right” one…Hallelujah!

Now all we hear are those orgasmic a-ha! revelations for all those times you called his phone incessantly worried he may have “hurt” himself or some other self-defeating assumption, instead of admitting that he simply wishes not to speak to you.

So, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” was written in good faith. Perhaps now, we’ll see the numbers of imperfect relationships dwindle, huh? See, I’m all for reaching goals, for achievement and striving for excellence in every sphere of life. It has become likewise for a lot of women today who do wonders from within the comfort of their own skin, as full-fledged women.

According to the 2010 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), South African women hold 28 percent of senior management positions. This is reported to be better than global average and it goes without saying that this is great news as far as transformation is concerned.

However, it is cause for worry if in order to succeed in-and fit into- male dominated spheres women need to copy them .The very notion of thinking like a man defeats every stride made towards the emancipation of women in their households, relationships, work and social lives.

It does nothing but suggest that women lose their essence of self in exchange for acceptance into the fray so-called man’s world. Nay, I say. My world does not revolve around that two legged creature, nor am I particularly preoccupied with finding (and keeping) that proverbial “Mr. Right”.

It is these intrinsic differences in how we react to situations, in how we solve problems as men and women, which make life interesting. Would life truly be worth living if we knew the exact content of another’s mind when there is still so much joy in discovering and learning about one another, not as predictable textbook excerpts? I will keep acting, and thinking like the lady I am, thank you!

 

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The Dynamics of Adoption in SA

When I declared on my Facebook page my wish to one day adopt a child, I did not expect the kind of responses I incited. Out of the few comments posted only one person encouraged me to go ahead and to one day fulfill this dream. My own sister seemed surprised that I should think of anything other than to ‘make’ my own. What threw me however, was when my mother quipped that, “you should make sure you can afford (to adopt)”. If it weren’t laced with cynicism I might have felt differently, but I have to admit that I took this rather personally. Of course I would have thought thoroughly about this before proceeding, of course I would ensure that I was fully capable. What I sensed were subtle hints that adopting a child from practically nowhere is not a good idea, people think you are out of your mind for wanting to adopt when you are fertile and not necessarily rich; something only for the desperate.

 

According to Katinka Pieterse of Abba Adoptions “cultural myths and perceptions in South Africa have led to a negative view of adoption from some sectors”. One of the fears that people have is that adopted children may, at a later stage, want to look for their natural families and in turn abandon the families that have nurtured them. Therefore, there is real fear that the emotional, physical and financial investment put into a child may ultimately be in vain…but is it really? It is estimated that 2 out of every 10 couples in South Africa need fertility treatment in order to conceive a child-Spirit of adoption. This number could well be higher considering the number of couples who live in denial. A lot of African men will not admit to being infertile nor are they very open to seeking medical advice thus women end up taking the blame for childless marriages. In a patriarchal society infertility equates to emasculation. Often than not couples desire to have their own children in order to continue the blood line. It is interesting that adoption is seldom an option many are willing to choose even when women find themselves bearing the brunt of the painful stigma of infertility.

 

It is no wonder that of the estimated 1.5 million orphaned children in our country a little over twenty thousand were adopted in 2011. Minister of the Department of Social Development, Zola Skweyiya stated that, “South Africa is facing a challenge of increasing numbers of orphaned children, abandoned babies, worrying levels of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children…” Although the government encourages adoption and the provision of loving homes, red-tape at many levels of the adoption process make it an extremely lengthy process. Perhaps this is the very reason why it remains an undesirable option to some. One woman states that she had to resort to volunteering in NGOs dealing with children awaiting adoption. According to her the government regulates that foreigners live in the country for a period of five years before they can apply for adoption- SaNGOnet. It may be another two to three years before they can finally be able to adopt the child they want. Of course government red-tape is in the best interest of the child and to ensure that they are released into capable hands. Human trafficking is a major problem in this country because of the lack of proper legislation around it. It does not make things easier that South Africa is a fluid port of entry and exit for traffickers. Yet this is the reason why so many children remain in the system for years, many without proper healthcare, nutrition and education.

 

One has to admit that it is disappointing to hear the pessimistic undertones in adoption debates; that one has to be affluent to adopt. It is surprising that we continue to bear children without really thinking about the cost and being amazed at how well we have fared as parents. The number of orphaned children is reflective of socio-economic factors of our country: A large number of these children come from disadvantaged backgrounds constituted by the majority of the populace. If we are to be realistic, the black middle class is not growing fast enough for those who are well-off to make significant changes in terms of adoption. To narrow the gap between children from poor backgrounds and those who are well off, many NGOs dealing with the developmental child continue their efforts to bring individuals and corporates on board to ‘sponsor-a-child’. It is a form of adoption but symbolic in its nature where a continued supportive relationship exists between the child and sponsor.

 

My interest in children’s rights began years ago albeit unwittingly- when a child named Palesa visited a friend’s house for the holidays. I can still remember how besotted I was with the tot that I walked across the road to my home where I took a pair of shoes to give to her. It was a pair I had worn as a child myself and didn’t even know her shoe size. It was purely by instinct and a sense of deep obligation and caring for someone I barely knew. My mother discovered my misdemeanor when my friend’s mother came by to bring the shoes back. I was six years old. A lot of children aren’t born into perfect homes, but families that are dedicated to have their needs met and how that is achieved is all relative. Adoption is much more than fertility and financial muscle. It’s about providing hope where there is none. Children are such precious creatures but we might as well wonder what kind of society we are if we find it so problematic to nurture and love without reservation.

 

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Getting Out of the Groove

My inquisitive mind has sometimes wondered why people suddenly become AIDS activists after becoming infected themselves, and not before. I was of the opinion that since we are all affected somehow one should not necessarily wait to be infected in order to preach the ABC gospel- a mantra we ought to practice when contemplating that proverbial roll in the haystack.

I reckoned that people were being rather self-righteous really but this was of course a view from the outside in. Growing up actually made me realize my prejudice in this regard as it occurred to me that experiencing something at a personal level makes it all the more significant. You can’t run away from it when it’s at your door…in your house. It’s not about HIV activism only but a myriad of issues.

There have been many coincidences more lately than ever in relation to my thoughts and the world around me. One such coincidence was watching the Pursuit of Happyness on a Thursday as I struggled to put together the conclusion of this post. I have to admit to seeing a lot of myself in Chris Gardner. I for one did not think much of unemployment until it ‘happened’ to me. In fact, I thought two months on after completing my qualification I’d make my mark in the corporate world.

Imagine my frustration at having still not done that yet, three years on. Imagine when old friends quip, “Ah, but you were so brilliant in high school…” You were so…It can’t be! Laughs. When I drafted my first widely circulated article (on the unemployed condition) last year, it proved to be such a release from pent-up frustration. Though having it published was an awesome feeling on its own-as well as the ripple effect of experiences that would later come from it-, I wasn’t quite prepared for some negative onslaught: From perceptions that I was ungrateful for walking out of a learnership that wouldn’t have given me financial independence.

I was so ungrateful that I was the only varsity graduate there and all those who are said to be in the same boat as me (black graduates, I assume), looking at any opportunity, were nowhere to be found. Who’s fooling who? One other graduate, seemingly just as frustrated said I wasn’t the only one afflicted by the bug. Believe me, out of the reported 600 000 unemployed graduates-(Adcorp Labour Analyst, Loane Sharp: http://sowetanlive.co.za/news/business/2012/01/10/universities-produce-wrong-kind-of-graduates-analyst)-friends and family who are, as I write, unemployed I certainly did not speak for myself. That certainly rattled my cage, but not nearly enough.

A month ago, I was fortunate to read an article on finding your passion-www.destinyconnect.com- which gave me new perspective on the way my life was progressing- and regressing in some respects. I have to admit that the past three years have been testing. Amongst other things I attempted a relationship which buckled because of my circumstances and because by and large I refuse to compromise myself too much. Then I took to sewing -not my best trait and one my family constantly taunts me about because I never finish what I start-which nevertheless passed time.

In between there were job applications and interviews. In 2010 I put my energies into writing a short novel, proud of it though it did not get published. More job interviews. I never stopped writing. For the greater part of 2011 I concentrated on cultivating a vegetable with my family. Though it was greatly therapeutic and we ate spinach until we could possibly grow it out of our ears, it became a drag to pull out the weeds and tend to the veggies.

The last straw in fact, was witnessing our dog waltzing among the vegetables and giving not a second thought when shitting there hence I do not harbour a soft spot for the butch. On that note, my lengthy relationship with the vegetable patch came to an abrupt halt.

Reading “Find Your Passion” was a turning point for me. It reminded me that throughout the rut I felt stuck in, and the many moments when I felt I could simply burst, writing was what I carried on doing. It was the one thing I had never stopped doing. This is why the morning of March 16th felt particularly different.

There was a vibrant buzz about it that would not let me settle for the usual routine as the rain poured outside. Walking across the other side of town for the internet café just to start a blog gave me the greatest epiphany of all: I hadn’t just found my passion…I had unlocked it. It is very easy to get stuck in a groove, to not know whether you are coming or going and I was personally susceptible to that. In retrospect, the past three years have given me more than enough time to reflect, discover myself and appreciate spontaneity.

One of the greatest lessons offered to me was to not sell myself short, this is often mistaken for arrogance and lack of gratitude in some corners but it does not equate to that. It simply means that you know your potential and settling for just anything is not an option.

 

Maid to Last….

 

The piece of advice given to us by one of my cousins when our last maid was hired was to treat her like she was “one of our own”. It was all in good faith of course, seeing that the maid at his house has stuck it out for little over three years. We have all generally concurred that she has done a stellar job so far and has indeed become a ‘member’ of the family. It is no wonder that there is a certain lift of the eyebrow when people discover that you have a purely business relationship with the maid in your house; where there is no sharing of secrets and you aren’t moping that your hubby is no-good, your mother-in-law an absolute cow, etc. Nothing of the sort just a supply and demand relationship.

 

The central tenet of Ubuntu is for people to treat one another with the dignity and respect with which they would expect from others. Ubuntu or Botho in my native Setswana is responsible for that last piece of meat you reserve for the guest in your house when there is nothing to eat. It is responsible for you sleeping on the floor to make way for a guest to sleep in your bed. It is the basis for all things polite and selfless… there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, I do think sometimes the concept of Ubuntu is also our downfall especially when it comes to things like keeping a maid. Employers are usually expected to fall over backwards to please the maid, if the maid expresses her dissatisfaction by quitting you best be sure someone will be rolling their eyes with robust assumptions about what YOU did wrong. That will certainly make you think twice about mentioning the mass exodus of maids from your house at social gatherings.

 

Let’s face it, our so-called sisters and mothers-and I say this because this is what is generally the orthodox in reference to maids- would rather, dare I say, be working for our pale compatriots. Our last maid said as much albeit not wanting to implicate herself much. Though my mother and sister did the hiring, it was really disheartening that none of the maids hired ever took the latter seriously. The main reason being that she was younger than the women hired. There is nothing like insubordination and utter lack of respect for the mere reason that you happen to be younger than the person you pay. Then there is that other reason…that you are Black. Yes indeed that is the case, as echoed by Siyabonga ‘Slikour’ Metane in his article titled “Why Blackz Are Fools” (City Press,  Apr 8th 2012) where he observed how as a nation of black people we refuse to work hand in hand and side-by-side to progress socially, economically and psychologically.  iMaverick’s Sipho Hlongwane stated in the article “Township life Sucks, And That’s the Truth” (iMag, Mar 18th 2012) that though he does not wish to see the kind of abuse against black women in “White kitchens” perpetuated today, he still does not see what the fuss is about having a maid. But that’s just the problem, a lot of these women still romanticize working in households that aren’t filled with black people, Of course that shouldn’t be an issue because work is work is work!

 

It’s very peculiar to have someone who can barely make ends meet look down on their employer simply because they share skin colour. This is not limited to maids only; its everywhere, where perceptions about the mediocrity of black leadership emanate from our own quarters. Seemingly the so-called “black condition” persists and it is disturbing, to say the least that we don’t consider ourselves fit to hold positions of power or superiority; that we are limited to the inferiority complex we have so comfortably wrapped around our heads.

 

We have had five helpers-and here is to being politically correct-over the space of a year. All of whom resented supervision even though they barely cut the grade and all of whom left after being paid their dues. I have no doubt that our demand for excellence and initiative was their point of departure. Why should we settle for less than excellent service? This brings me to my next point; I also believe that there is a distinct difference between women who worked as maids in the apartheid era and those that do at this point in time. The difference is that the latter are also beneficiaries of the state grant system. While it has ensured that the majority of the populace does not live in absolute poverty, it is also the reason why some lack interest in finding-and keeping- jobs. Isn’t that why it is so easy to abandon a job when unemployment is a problem? Stories of the things some maids get up to when employers are not around can simply put one off. Only recently an HIV positive maid was discovered to have been feeding a child in her care porridge laced with her infected blood. In another case a woman was alerted by a neighbour about her child being used by the maid for begging purposes at a traffic intersection. Other cases include maids assisting criminals to gain access into the households they work in. Scary, huh? With the constant demands of the modern world most working mothers with small children continue to have little choice but to hire help and it is often than not a huge leap of faith.

 

Of course it wouldn’t be fair to paint everyone with the same brush; unfortunately experience has taught us otherwise. A purely business relationship between maid and employer is not devoid of compassion or communication. It’s a job like any other; it’s not fun and games. I think the sooner society accepts that it is not the responsibility of the employer to nurse lazy tendencies, the better. It takes a lot of bravery to let a complete stranger into one’s home especially when small children are around and if being picky is the way to go, so be it!

 

 

 

 


The battle for domination

 

How can I begin to explain the confusion I felt when my horoscope for the week starting on the 9th warned that the mogul with the money “calls the shots”? I desperately tried to avoid that “duh” moment. Its not so much that is was obvious, but in all honesty it left me perplexed. I mean it is very auspicious and perhaps meant for the wrong person here…I’m not Julius Malema. In fact, it’s his star sign that ought to have read thus, not mine. It’s not like I have fights to pick with rich folk or anything, right? Anybody can tell you that’s Julius’ forte. I certainly hope he is not an Aquarius otherwise he would give some of us a bad name. If I had to be honest though, I’d say my star sign was spot on. I spent an entire week trying to find an angle to my post about some tendencies affluent people have. I have never been materialistic, in fact I’m one of those people who don’t obsess about money but nonetheless recognize and appreciate its importance. I owe this to the manner in which I was raised. My parents didn’t entertain the culture of instant gratification and it was one of their most important lessons for us; one I hope I will entrench in my own child in future.

 

So, one of the side-effects I constantly experience from my apparent lack of the chromosome called materialism is distaste towards the relationship between money and power. I have reluctantly come to accept that money has the ability to change people for the better or worst. Mostly it’s the latter…and it’s a problem. Some say our so-called Black Diamonds or New Money are mostly afflicted by this, I don’t know. It is a problem when people become detached from their sense of compassion only to replace that with various levels of arrogance. Personal experiences have enlightened me to the condescending attitudes that some powerful individuals continue to bear towards people they perceive to not be in their league. Admittedly, my distaste at money-power relations may be short-sighted because SA needs the emerging black middle-class to build wealth and fill the skills gap to grow the economy. They usually say, “If you can’t beat them…” which is where Julius Malema comes in. I’m certain he does not even know when he joined the rest of the folks he claims to detest of late.

 

So the ANC decided to put its foot down  when they met two weeks ago in a press conference to “denounce alien behaviour”, as stated by secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. I’d say they put their foot in it judging by their “united front” while the public is well aware of their divisions. Truth be told, it’s hard to ignore Julius Malema. He is not unlike a rogue mosquito that keeps buzzing in a person’s ear. I’m one of the people who thought after his expulsion Julius would quietly submit himself into his farming venture…that IS what he said he would do after all. It would appear that I grossly underestimated the man or rather, gave him too much credit. Needless to say, Malema has come out with guns blazing-and that does not include taking up arms to defend the Zulu ‘boy’-and we have to put up and bear witness to his emotional downward spiral. Though he has given a new meaning to the expression “empty vessels…” he gave me ample food for thought when he ranted the famous quote by John Emerich Edward Dalberg: “Power corrupts  and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Yes, his outburst that the president is a ‘dictator’ was largely uncalled for and miscalculated-because dictator is the last word I’d use to describe the president. And yes, Jacob Zuma has become the number one scapegoat; having been his number one supporter back in 2008 Malema assumed that the favour would be returned just the same. His mistake. Power is constituted by two things; wealth and influence, both of which elevate an individual’s status in society. As it would occur, a lot of ANC members have in fact fallen victim to the charms of power. Contrary to his own dreamt up perceptions, Malema is not different from the rest. Louder than the rest, yes. Individuals who continue to collude with friends/family to acquire government tenders, individuals who use their influence to fill up their own coffers  and to gain leverage in their spheres of influence- all sum up to corruption. In my previous blog I had resigned myself to bidding Malema farewell albeit with pity but like a bad dream, he just won’t go away. The battle for- and shifting of power, in the ANC is the very reason why the party is battling to save face.

 

It is no wonder that Julius is feeling stuck in limbo. His power rug has virtually been pulled from under his feet, leaving him in the wilderness without the support of his party. Perhaps Julius should have just not taken school for granted and I paid closer attention to the Marxism lessons in class. The nature of Capitalism has long been nick picked by Karl Marx. The unfortunate consequence of the mishandling of power is what follows ultimately.

 

Our Blood Is Red…

I have discovered that being a writer, your work goes along wherever you go- carrying a pen and notebook come standard. Other than that one can always keep the story in mind for future reference.

I say ‘work’ because over the past three years or so I have fully immersed myself in the craft. It is not a job title, because as per South African statistics I remain one of the hundreds of thousands unemployed graduates.

Writing is not something I chose-rather, it chose me and it is a part of who I am. One other thing I did not plan to do was make my blog a political one, I actually wanted a balance because life is multi-dimensional. I would like to think that mine is a vibrant kaleidoscope-much more than politics-, otherwise I’m the world’s biggest bore.

After my afternoon nap I switched on the TV and thought I might watch music videos until my eyes bulged. What else could I do when the chilli from Monday’s hot wings still burned in my gut…amongst other areas? I stumbled upon the eNews Channel’s documentary aptly titled “Our Blood Is Red”, a sheer reminder that politics are at play and intrinsically blended into our lives.

Race relations in particular is a sore topic for many South Africans: It continues to divide the country into those who think moving on is the answer, those who are still coming to terms with their scars; those who are angry and those who would gladly continue to exploit this anger. I watched the documentary for two reasons; it was recent and went across the colour spectrum for opinion on this matter. Where do I stand?

Well, I’m not angry about the fact that the minority still pulls the economic strings, I’m rather grateful that the majority has the space to effect positive change for all citizens of this country. I may not be angry but do think it would be naïve to assume that ‘moving on’ is simple after only eighteen years of democracy.

It is not even a fraction of the amount of time that oppressive rule was law.  Anyone who expects an adolescent to act sensibly is out of their mind, and that is exactly what South Africa is- a pubescent rug rat who does not care whether the wind blows East or West but is nevertheless trying to navigate through life’s complexities.

At best, our country is going through the motions. It is continually faced with crippling corruption, abuse of power, slow service delivery and a pathetic (public) education system. In addition, there is a huge misconception that the mentality of entitlement emanates from the majority but if you look closely, the series of racial spats at Virgin Active branches around the country is another case in point.

unityThose verbal (and sometimes non-verbal) expressions like, “we DESERVE our own gyms…” or “you people want to take everything” are not dissimilar to, “we SHOULD have better jobs”. Just like a volcano waiting to erupt, we are simply boiling underneath the surface patiently waiting for the poo to hit the fan.

It was hardly surprising to watch as a man who advertised a room for accommodation over-charged one woman, providing her with one option for accommodation only to give a different woman a different rental price while giving her two options of flat rental space.

You can make your own assumptions about race. Then we turn around in disgust to face cronyism and nepotism of those in power. Of course we have been furnished with freedom of choice, yet our society is gravely lacking when it comes to our responsibility not to discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation-the list is endless.

Our blood is certainly RED. We are all a human race but misguided prejudices and disinterest in learning about others are stopping us from realizing this.