Mirror, Mirror

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Someone recently made an unexpected and rather awkward observation of yours truly. In fact this particular observation and subsequent comment got me confused as whether to gulp down the rest of the wine in my glass and ask for fifteen more rounds or to shrug off the comment.’ Maybe just fall off the damn chair once and for all?! Instead, I just sat there with what I reckon was a stupefied look on my face.

Perhaps someone else would be flattered at being told that child-birth certainly was beneficial in increasing, ehm (cough)…breast size. I wasn’t. I could hardly conceal my embarrassment as I presume that should be the last place anyone dares to direct their stares. My modesty notwithstanding, I immediately shrugged it off with, “nah, not really”. That, my friends, is the truth and nothing but the truth.

The truth is, this girl simply grew up and learnt to shop for a good, padded and flattering bra. Yep, no amount of suckling from SuperGirl could have even vaguely taken me to a decent size 34A. Oh well! :-/

The one thing that motherhood surprisingly gave me was renewed body image. Until that tipsy comment about my slight bosom, I had distanced myself from obsessing about its nonexistence. Same thing about those fantasies about lying on Dr. Rey’s operating table waiting for him to drill silicone into my body that I’d happily parade around in a scant bikini afterwards. Yet I relapsed, if only for a short time.

Don’t we all have a certain part of our body that we would rather trade-in for something better? Yes, I also know those of you who stuff their bras with tissue and those Viagra poppers when nobody’s watching only to dish up political correctness to the less enlightened. It’s okay. We understand. We know you are perfect the way you are, and you wouldn’t want to change a thing! Mhmm… of course you are, we all are!

Either way, it is true that if one’s esteem is linked to the external- that is, what people think of you- then trouble isn’t too far off. That’s why it’s important to build that self-esteem so it’s not blown over by idle winds.

I grew up with “boob issues” half of my life. I have vague memories of my childhood when once or twice during play a certain insect was said to be able to make breasts grow, provided you let it suckle on your nipples for a bit.

The impressionable me bought into this childish hogwash until it was forgotten, thereafter it was back to ogling my friends’ abundant bosoms. I mean, some of these girls had huge boobs even before leaving primary school and there was me with a flat chest! Then I could probably blame my grandmothers for not sweeping my chest with a broom just before puberty, as it is apparently supposed to be done.

During the moments that my ego took a hard knock, future plastic surgery seemed a possible option but good Lord I’d never ever, ever be able to face the embarrassment if I had to kick the bucket on the operating table while doing a boob job!!! Noooooo!

The observer was certainly right; motherhood was a blessing in disguise.

Instead of seeking affirmation from all the wrong places, I learnt that I’m the first place where my daughter needs to get affirmation from and this is the most important place she will get it from. It has taught me that no matter how she looks, hearing the words “You are beautiful” from me (and her dad) will be important blocks to building her character and esteem.

Being an adult has taught me that I don’t need to over-compensate for anything that is lacking. Boob issues? So frivolous! J

 

 

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Seyantlo: For Better or Worse?

In between the entire hullabaloo that surrounded the so-called “Braai Day” and its shameless upstaging of National Heritage Day, I’d like to humbly give my two cents’ worth…then maybe we can call it a truce? Perhaps if we could all step back for a minute, find our inner selves; regroup and finally take one helluva deep breath we can sort out this whole sordid and completely fruitless exercise, yeah?

Let’s just be grateful that some of you have come out of Heritage Day particularly unscathed by the braai meat you had. On the other hand, perhaps we should congratulate those who boycotted the darn charcoal and pieces of meat- South Africans are quickly tipping the obesity scale. It ain’t pretty, people!

A recent conversation about the age old cross-cousin marriage tradition of the Batswana got me thinking hard about another, more controversial tradition. One cannot help but breathe a sigh of relief that some of us are fortunate enough not to have lived in periods and places that were (are) strict in the observation of such cultural practices.

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In Tabane, E. M.’s research report titled “Influences of Cultural Practices of the Batswana on the Transmission of HIV/AIDS in Botswana” he describes Seyantlo as a “common” practice where a widow is traditionally obliged to marry her brother-in-law and “therefore can only have sex with [him].” It is also stated that this can also occur with a widower. (2004: 189)

The rationale behind this is the same one that underpins many of our traditions. Any African will tell you how important maintaining lineage (tshika) is. This encompasses, primarily, considerations around the welfare of the children as well as the protection of the assets of the deceased. It is also about “keeping it in the family” as lobola doesn’t have to be paid twice for the same person. After doing some digging, I also discovered that in Seyantlo’s purest form, neither the widow nor her brother-in-law will be consulted on the matter. Instead, the families of the two will meet and have an agreement of their own and, in a show of respect for culture, the two people will oblige. My foot!

The first thing that comes to mind is what about love? Somehow the rationale that some people in arranged marriages provide about the possibility of learning to love someone in the course of the union somehow doesn’t make any logical sense to me. Secondly, how narcissistic is our culture sometimes? I say Seyantlo is a cruel joke. In some instances, the very thing that it seeks to promote –family bonds- is the very same thing that it disintegrates; could there be anything worse than being stuck in a loveless and awkward marriage?

The unintended consequences of this evident marriage of convenience include tension and obvious resentment. Extra-marital affairs are culturally sanctioned in any case, and in the event of this happening the (traditional) wife knows better than to ask questions.

I mean, if Thabo were seeing Ntombi and they had long-term plans that included marriage, would he be particularly chuffed that he has to warm his widowed sister-in-law’s bed and play happy family? How does that affect the very children this practice is intended to protect?

In this age, society views Seyantlo with equal scorn and appreciation. While some people say they would take comfort in their sibling stepping in to hold the fort, others view it as completely immoral-something they reckon would be entered into by someone who had already had their sights set on their sibling’s partner.

I do not know much, ke monnye mo dikganyeng, however I do know that it is a burden that I would never carry nor one I would expect my sister to either. I simply want to marry someone I love and that’s that.

With all its seemingly noble intentions, Seyantlo is nevertheless a narrow-minded practice. It ignores the basic tenet that mutual love and respect (neė compliance) are a crucial foundation of any relationship.

Children aren’t only raised on pap and vleis but on witnessing the love and respect being shared between their parents. It’s the only way they can learn self-respect and respect for others. Growing up within a house with someone with the same last name simply is no guarantee for the welfare of children.Shouldn’t we be thinking differently in an era where sexual, physical and emotional abuse emanates from familiar places as it does from strange ones?

 

Protected by Law, Hunted on the Ground

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Earlier this year, 26 year old Duduzile Zozo from Thokoza on Gauteng’s East Rand was found murdered. Her corpse was found not too far from her home, a toilet brush inserted into her vagina. –SAPA– A “cleansing” ritual?

On the morning of June 9 2012, openly gay Thapelo Makhutle was found dead. He was, “beheaded, his genitals hacked off, his tongue cut out, and his testicles stuffed into his mouth”. Makhutle was 23 years old. –Mail &Guardian , 28 June 2012- Another “cleansing” ritual?

Take a moment to ponder the two cases. They are just two of many cases of “Corrective”(Rape)measures intended to cleanse homosexuals of their orientation. To some, the world is better off without the Zozo’s and Makhutle’s and yet, to some of us the senseless killings of the LGBT communities ring alarm bells. Moral “justice” carried out in the name of culture or religion, unfortunately, raises questions about the people doing it than the victims themselves.

Last month, the Ministry of Police released annual Crime Statistics for the financial year 2012/13. Criticized for being the “worst ever”, the Ministry made assurances that SAPS would beef up their crime-fighting efforts so the rest of us can witness downward trends in future statistics. Yet again, it would appear that this lot hasn’t woken up to smell the coffee. Perhaps they’ve been drinking far too many Irish coffees?

In a country dubbed the world’s “rape capital” where “144 women report rape to police everyday”-www.iol.co.za -, seemingly very little has changed if the 0.4% decrease in the number of reported sexual offences is anything to go by. More alarming, as the Minister said himself, are cases that go unreported. So what the heck do we have to be jovial about?!

Ours is a nation of many paradoxes. Our constitution is a world first in the prohibiting of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and South Africa was the first country in Africa(fifth in the world) to legalize same-sex marriages. However, this has done very little to change conservative perceptions on the ground and civil society organizations have their hands full.

It’s been years since 3rd Degree broadcast an episode on the sexual violence specifically targeted at homosexuals but I can still recall the faces of some of the offenders who spoke boastfully about their deeds- about “teaching” lesbians how it feels to be with ‘real’ men. Their words smacked of arrogance and, more specifically, ignorance when stating what the status quo “should” be. Who better than they to mete out lessons in domination and submission?

The Minister and Police Commissioner can mull over statistics all they want but it won’t change anything at grassroots level regarding the apathy and indifference that victims of sexual offences (especially gays and lesbians) receive from law enforcement agencies. It will not change that part of the reason that our country keeps taking two steps forward and five backwards is because our corrupt police service.

Homosexuality isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Neither is heterosexuality. The fluidity of our current existence renders almost anything under the sun to be possible. Isn’t that why one is likely to find some of the vehement opponents of homosexuality sneaking out of their closets when they assume nobody is watching?

I guess the lingering question in my mind remains whether those who deem themselves to be morally ‘superior’ –when carrying out horrific hate crimes against homosexuals in the name of culture and religion- will remain so even after the fact?