Woman, Wake Up!

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Save for the obvious public blunders by the likes of advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who made a spectacle of herself at the Constitutional Court hearing in representation of Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete this week; and lest we forget Judge Thokozile Masipa’s blinded bid to save Oscar Pistorius-one would have to admit that women fall short in supporting one another.

Yet again, the defining moment this week has also been the vindication of advocate Thuli Madonsela in the entire Nkandla saga. Sweet. Some of us knew that the day of reckoning would come for a lot of those who sank to the lowest lows by jumping on the bandwagon to shame her, particularly by using her looks as a weapon.

It wasn’t just the men within the you-know-which-governing-party and its alliance partners but, not surprisingly, the women.

Recently, in crowded rush hour traffic, my bus driver was trying to manoeuvre through the nightmarish Jan Smuts Avenue.  An indistinct car happened to stall (or something to that effect) on the road. The driver kept quiet but there was audible chatter in the two seats behind me. The two women said in unison, “O etsang? and ke mosadi!”. Noted.

The second incident happened on the morning of a different day. This time, the bus driver was trying to allow as much people in the bus as possible and requested those in the isle to move further back. He then nonchalantly mentioned to his colleague how “these women”, he said “once they get in the bus- that’s enough, they don’t care about accommodating the next person getting in”. Noted.

So, what’s seems to be the problem here? Nothing new. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie stated in her now famous “Why we should all be feminists” talk how, from childhood, girls are conditioned to compete for the affections of men and to “aspire to marriage” but never for jobs,etc.

This is partly true, but one could go further and suggest that the fight doesn’t end with fighting for men but continues into workplaces, common spaces and any other place we get an opportunity to size each other up. The working relationship of two women is more likely to have different dynamics as compared to that of two men.

This fight is often than not self-defeating and destructive. The truth is, a lot of the time we (and I mean women) support others not because of their need for it…but because it is convenient for us.

In her book  Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg muses that while women’s professional advancement depends on society (men and women) doing things differently, it’s actually women already in leadership who hold the key to pulling those below to the top.

Sandberg cites that our common experiences and challenges place us in a better position to not only empathise with one another but to also effect sustainable, meaningful change. Yet there aren’t nearly enough women at the top or junior professionals striving for leadership- we’re too busy looking out for ourselves; battling with ourselves and others. We could possibly be our own worst enemies.

The mere recollection of one group supporting a man during his rape trial years ago and marching for his dignity a decade on while being aloof on critical gender issues reveals a sad state of affairs.

Ultimately, we can chant as many slogans as we want and declare a fierce “sisterhood” (and that’s probably a step in the right direction) but until we face the fact that we wouldn’t say anything positive either about a woman who is strong, holds her own and unapologetic about her choices or offer a helping hand to one who seems down and out, all of this will just be white noise.

G*

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Ditchin’ that Snitch…

 

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Scrooge: [skrudӡ]. n. a stingy person; a penny-pincher

Anyone who knows me well enough will tell you that I don’t like cartoons. They will also tell you that I don’t take anyone who watches them over the age of 12 very seriously. But- and that’s an epic but that does not mean that I’m oblivious to how simplistically cartoons tell life stories. Perhaps the ease and uncluttered approach of storytelling that can be universally appealing to a five year old and full grown men (yes, you boys in your late twenties know yourselves!) is what makes cartoons so special.

I took a lukewarm interest in cartoons in childhood and one of those that appealed to me was Disney’s Duck tales with Uncle Scrooge McDuck in the lead. Back then I wouldn’t have realized that, well; Scrooge is arguably an attractive guy. He is described as “an adventurous, resourceful, protective, sensible, clever, compassionate, loyal and hard-working”. Who doesn’t want a guy like dear Uncle Scrooge, hmmm? The catch though is that, “having worked so hard to acquire his wealth, Scrooge has become rather stingy and greedy.”

There is an unwritten rule that when two people are in a relationship, one must take on the role of a provider and the other of a nurturer. The former has always been the prerogative and primal instinct of the male species. Some assert that the role of men has been rattled over the ages because of the throttle of feminism and thus, the emancipation of women in all spheres of life.

 In a recent True Love issue, NdumisoNgcobo writes that, “Expecting [men] to be simultaneously gender sensitive and chivalrous is asking for a bit too much…now you want us to feel emasculated and simultaneously open doors for you?

I have heard stories of women who “expect” to be big bosses in the work place and in their homes, much to men’s disapproval. One high-flyer is said to have asked her husband to make tea for her business associates as they came to her house for a meeting. Chuckles.Admittedly, it’s a shame. I for one am one of those who believe that knowing one’s place is not the same as taking crap as it is dished out. It is about being a perfect complement for the other. This is applicable to both men and women.

However, I’m concerned that there is a certain kind of man who hides comfortably behind the 50/50 era to mask the fact that he has deep pockets and short arms. Ladies, this is the type of guy who takes you out to a burger joint on a first date (this is OK if you are teenagers) in his mother’s bakkie. He searches your face to see if there’s discontent (read: gold digging) and if there’s none then you have given him the ticket to continue patronising you with his cheap flattery. He is the type that frowns hysterically at seeing a B.O.B (Bring Own Bottle) request on a party invitation; the same guy who fills up his car with thirty bucks.

The point is, sure, this is confusing to men and feeling out of one’s depth ain’t so kosher either. As a matter of fact, it is also confusing for women to be faced with men who don’t want to pay for anything. To be quite honest, having a stingy man is probably as frustrating as having a woman who just doesn’t want to give it up!

Even independent women want an opportunity to politely turn a man down, and it’s not even about undermining him; it’s about acknowledging his willingness to pay her way (and playing his role). Just like every other sphere of life, relationships need to rise to the occasion, and I sure as hell know a few women who can boldly say, “I’ve got your back, boo” without intimidating a man. There are those, of course, whobelieve in taking men as their economic slaves and ATMs, which is wrong by any standard.

In my books, a snitch or scrooge orngame is a sure passion killer.There is nothing vaguely attractive about a man who always thinks that “O jewantsoma”. In addition to Uncle Scrooge’s other personality traits, a generous man is a definite fire-starter and panty-dropper. A generous man is always a keeper. Take your pick.

Politics of Beauty & Brains

I normally take things with a pinch of salt. Although I’m one of those overly analytical people who go through things over and over in their minds, I’m very forgiving. Sorry, I sense a contradiction of sorts. So I have come across a lot of characters in my life who have either enhanced it or not. The good part is that the latter do not get to stick around for long. There are people who will always try and be honest, with the best of intentions. Then there are those who will wait until there is an exit point nearby to cowardly say their truth.

So I was recently faced with having to pick my jaw up from the floor in shock as one lady made the insinuation that I owe my professional strides to my looks. She reckoned that her brains and intellect catalysed her achievements. How does one respond to such absurdity, really? In theory, these assertions don’t deserve a second thought. However, I was really pissed! Sure, I was!

I reckon if it were true and I had the intellect of a chicken, then I wouldn’t even be bothered. However, personal insults do come veiled in a range of ways. As an individual who closely guards her intellect, I take offense.  I certainly have no appreciation for assertions that I am more beautiful than I am intelligent, what utter rubbish!

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I thought maybe this isn’t an isolated incident; that it could be the common perception out there. Research shows that appearance is right at the top with other forms of workplace discrimination like gender, race, disability and age. These are of course unacceptable in the South African context and legislation exists to curb such discrimination in the workplace.

In an article titled “Workplace discrimination: Beauty Can be a Beast at Work”, Lisa Johnson Mandell muses that, “It’s hard to feel sorry for pretty girls, since numerous workplace discrimination studies have been done that show they have an edge when it comes to getting hired, promoted, elected and evaluated”. I say the only edge I have, is the one I got at Wits!

Other research suggests that all of this is relative. For example, sales companies could possibly opt for more attractive staff while mechanical ones may perceive attractive individuals as “soft”.

My frustration is echoed in John Feldmann’s article titled, “Keeping up Appearances in Interviews”. He writes, “For those who have enjoyed the advantages of having the tables turned in their favour due to their appearance [are] faced with the frustration of being rewarded for something superficial rather than their ability, qualifications and hard work”.

I’m now convinced that any attempt to defend myself in this regard will prove to be futile. I resolve to let my work do the talking.

Sexual Liberation?…We’ve Been Having IT!

I grew up listening to old music. At 14 I was standing in front of the wall unit in our house wailing to Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. As much as the old folks would like us to believe that raunchy and steamy lyrics are a Born-Frees’ (post-1994) phenomenon, they are clearly lying through their teeth.

Anyway, one of the songs that I also used to listen to-and still do- is Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to do With It”. My immature ears obviously gave me the impression that because she was a battered and abused woman in her lifetime, the song was a direct response to that. In the most literal sense it made sense.

Of course the song catapulted the old lady with the VaVa Voom legs into the stratosphere releasing her from the Ike & Tina curse. I recently found myself listening to the song with unusual intent to the lyrics of the song and my adult ears heard something completely different, something that sent little shivers down my spine.

It’s intriguing that in the early ‘90s women already sang about sexual liberation, about the distancing of the emotional from the physical. Well, after a little digging I found that the sexual revolution actually started in the ‘70s where sexual enlightenment saw intercourse going “from being a culminating act of committed love to being a pre-condition, a tryout, for future emotional involvement”. –Danielle Crittenden

Perhaps due to very little documentation then, the phenomenon appeared to not have been as rampant as it is today in the advent of social media. Maybe the difference is that the older generation was a little more subtle and ‘dignified’ in their sexual exploits? There certainly was no way to tweet or update a status somewhere to a hundred people stating, “Ohhh…last night was the BOMB!”

Critics from various spheres point out that because at some point in their existence women want to be identified as someone’s significant other then the desire to have their cake and eat it is simply illusory. No, we are just kidding ourselves they say. Don’t men also want to be married and belong somewhere? I’m just saying that no strings attached sex, like everything else in life is subjective; purely dependent on the individual.

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They say that practice makes perfect, I certainly think that given enough opportunity and platform women can just as well master the no-strings attached relationship. With enough trial and error…how hard can it possibly be? Why do you think men are deemed the rightful owners of the emotionless shag? Of course they are free to roam; they don’t have constant derogatory rhetoric thrown their direction often. I’m not advocating loose transgressions, that is purely a personal choice but I certainly can’t say that all women in this day and age are holding their breaths waiting for prince charming on the horizon.

I completely agree with the opinion that sexual liberation does not equate to sexual equality as put out by Danielle Crittenden in her article titled “The Sex Trap: Why Women Should Never Say Yes Before Marriage” because of the negative perceptions and attitudes towards women who don’t give casual sex second thought. The reality is that a man who gets to have your cake and eat without even lifting a finger is likely not to stay for seconds. If he does, then you will probably remain just that…seconds.

There are certainly more odds stacked against the fairer sex in the game of nookie, some of us have learnt the hard way. Babies, expectations, et cetera.

While society in the 1970s was somewhat cohesive and grounded, that much cannot be said about the nature of society today. Fluidity has permeated every sphere of life. Therefore it is rather naive of critics to expect a back track to the 70s to honour the NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE tenet when waiting no longer guarantees marriage and vice versa.  Therefore I reckon the only remedy is responsibility in large doses.

Perhaps the greatest threat to come out of the sexual revolution is that women would now act like men as feared by the latter. But what the sexual revolution really did was allow women to claim control over their own sexual and reproductive rights. We can’t completely trust men to decipher how, how often and when we want it, you know?

For Richer, For Younger

The private lives of Pippa Lee

Now, you will never see me wag a judgemental finger at most things. If anything I’m one of the most liberal and open-minded people out there. But that, of course, is just my opinion. Perhaps others will attest differently.

On Friday evening, just  hours after I had stumbled upon the self-proclaimed “#1 Sugar Daddy Dating Site”- seekingarrangement.com, Generations decided to flight a rather disturbing scene showing Queen laying cosily on her ageing lover’s chest. Never mind that he coughs a hundred times a day; can’t run past the front gate and forgets her son’s name often. Having witnessed that, I gave a throaty chuckle because frankly, I was embarrassed. LOL!

I’m just saying, it appears inter-generational relationships are quite tricky when people compel themselves to put up with things that they would rather not just so they could enjoy the finer things in life. Then again, that is just my opinion. Perhaps they do it because it’s fulfilling somehow. Who knows?

Seekingarrangement.com doesn’t quite think so. In fact the site boasts being featured in the New York Times, CNN and Dr. Phil- amongst others. On entry, the site makes it clear that escourts need not bother trying to register. They simply aren’t welcome: Poor sods, such irony. Not sure what the difference is though, hey.

While the website operates a dating service for “consenting adults to meet each other”, I really don’t understand if there is an element of maturity in two people being in a relationship calling each other “daddy” and “baby”. It’s just a tad creepy for my liking.

Secondly, the site asks the user to stipulate the amount that she requires from the sugar daddy. Whether this in itself is not tantamount to prostitution is the million rand question. Is it really possible to redeem oneself after literally selling ‘IT’?

Naturally a lot of people will argue that these things are taking place ANYWAY. So, why should some of us get their knickers in a knot worrying about such? I don’t see the problem with dating an older person but I do think there is everything wrong with doing it for financial gain. If anything, what could be a good and solid inter-generational relationship for some can be nothing but grotesque money making-sexually gratifying illusions for others.

Having failed to get through the first round of registration, I failed therefore to get the actual stats of “arrangement seekers” in South Africa. On the ground though, it is a different story. The reality is that South Africa has pathetic HIV/AIDS statistics, one of the contributing factors being the prevalence of inter-generational sex.* (Source: MARIE STOPES INTERNATIONAL)

The fact of the matter is that power relations underpin inter-generational relationships-a bargain of sorts- and we don’t need a rocket scientist to tell us which side the scale tips. Yes, it happens- a lot of the time. Unfortunately, this is one thing I’m going to wag my finger at as Inter-generational (read: transactional) sex is not something we should appear to condone. Not in a country that continues to degenerate and lose its moral core. No. Take it elsewhere, please!

Autocracy:What a bummer!

Disclaimer: The writer is certain that she may get a lot of flak for this piece. Sensitive readers are advised to not take this personally, otherwise the gym is the best possible place to vent…I was actually planning to go there myself.

If there are two sets of seats that I constantly avoid when boarding a taxi, it has to be the front seat-next to the driver- and the backseat. My reasons are simple, I don’t want to be counting change first thing in the morning (or at any other point) nor do I want to be rendered breathless while squeezed between other hapless passengers, looking like packed sardines. Thankfully I can say I am not the only one with those reservations. There is usually that proverbial voice in the back seat wincing, “I will just bear this…just as long as I can get home.”

The best seats in a taxi, you see, are those in the middle-always- unless of course you will be seated next to that oke who forgot to bathe in the morning. But that is perhaps a small price to pay. When you are sitting in one of these seats you don’t even want to glance behind you…nobody in first class ever wants to be bothered with what the people in cattle class are getting up to.

So I was in a taxi on my way from the office one afternoon when this presentable and attractive lady poked her head into the taxi. We had only to thank God that the backseat was fully occupied, so she pulled down the seat in front of us. I reckon if it weren’t full her large derrière would have saved her anyway, you know? Large women and those with backsides of epic proportions are a problem: A friend used to ‘voice’ (read: updating her Facebook status) her disgust at overweight people (ladies in particular) that she witnessed on various occasions at a mall, in the taxi and at fast-food joints digging into greasy food. One could literally imagine her nose stuck up to her forehead in bewilderment, wondering silently, “Are you really planning on eating that?!”

Though her comments seem comical now, back then I thought she was being a nasty prude who might have been conflicted with being on the skinny side, eh? With hindsight, I understand her frustration and figure that she may have had point. Unlike in the aviation industry where economy and business classes are separated by the price tag and overall comfort, the taxi industry has one price tag. Whether you have occupied .9% of your seat because the person next to you is on the large side, it doesn’t really matter. Good for them, they won’t even get to pay double the price!

If you’re looking for democracy, a taxi is the wrong place to look. You should know because the ‘queue marshall’ will brazenly tell you to buy your own car if you don’t dare sit where he instructs you to. He doesn’t even understand that the escalating fuel price has forced some motorists into the public transport sphere. The earliest bird doesn’t catch the fattest worm here. No. Forget it. The fattest worm wins.

As we sat waiting for the taxi to fill up one morning, a woman sitting next to me quipped, “Mara why batho ba ba kima ba rata magwinya so? Nke ba a tlogelle rona bo-slender” (I will not translate) as one passenger got off the taxi to go and buy vetkoek from the Mozambican woman across the street before darting back into the taxi: Yet another person who didn’t understand why she has to be the ‘bigger’ person every time.

Of course there is the common assertion that comfort should be the last thing one seeks in a public transport system. I suppose that is how a lot of folks survive and remain sane. Though some are vocal and aren’t pushovers; a lot more simply take the crappy service and conditions. The whole affair has been turned on its head, making the taxi industry the master and the public its puppet whereas this should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Not wanting to sound like one of Tyler Perry’s mind drilling moral lessons, I hate to say it but the grin-and-bear-it outlook kills us all the time. It has to go!

While there is nothing like tolerance to bridge the gap when people don’t necessarily understand one another; it’s also up to each one of us to be considerate. In all fairness we must be equally strict about the first come first served principle. How can we make things easier for ourselves and others? That is the burning question.So the next time I gain weight of unprecedented proportions I expect a neighbourly nudge that says, “Go easy on the pork chops lest you become a handful for someone else.”

 

 

 

Walking Tall: Impromptu Life Lessons

I have come to realise that most profound things happen while one is waiting. They happen when one has an opportune moment to absorb them in their entirety, when one is…ready. I have to admit that I am very impatient and as a result spent a number of days badgering myself for being unable to find the ‘right’ angle for my next blog post. I concluded that I had another onset of writer’s block. See, it’s far too easy to make rash conclusions and decisions than to let patience reign in when you suffer from an impatient streak.
When my colleague and I took a short stroll to the store across from our building one morning, we had no idea we would have something intriguing on our arrival. I bemoaned my increasing waistline and how I needed to lose some weight since spring has set in. Needless to say, it is going to be an uphill battle because I lack the discipline to combat my sweet tooth. We were about fifteen minutes early and had to wait until the store opened. Nothing major, we did a bit of window shopping at a shoe boutique nearby.

Quite the shoeshinista’s dream, we both marvelled at the sight before us. She is quite tall and slim; and her eyes were particularly set on pairs of pumps. Me? Well, I’m short and thick (in fact, my colleague and I are quite the textbook example of body types!) and I’m a heels kind of girl, it only makes sense. However, I was quite perplexed at how colour blocking has taken over everything and it didn’t help that some shoes are ridiculously high. I really think there is a conspiracy here!

We were joined by an older woman who was also waiting for the store to open. She quipped about how fabulous the shoes were and naturally, we couldn’t have agreed more. I then mentioned that though I was sold on a pair of stilettos, platform heels were really a bad idea for me. Boy, I had another thing coming! She gracefully threw my comments out of the window and prepared to give us what would be, personally, one of the most interesting lessons yet.

Lesson One: The Power of Shoes

My colleague and I both had flat or almost flat shoes on. We were told that shoes maketh a woman. Neo-feminist protests that men didn’t have to put up with ridiculous shoes simply fell on deaf ears as the woman told us that shoes have the power to not only transform posture, but they can give one an air of confidence and sophistication. She said flat shoes are capable of making one sloppy and complacent because they require so little effort. Shoes, are what sets us apart from men: They are one other thing that makes a woman sexy.
Lesson Two: Grooming

Though the woman indicated that she had put on some relaxer on her hair, I felt she could have done a better job. It didn’t matter though because she had confidence second to none; it didn’t matter what I thought because she revelled in her own skin and listening to her speak with such conviction made her all the more awe inspiring. A little make-up, a nice pair of earrings and some accessories are some of the things that can help liven up one’s mood.
Lesson Three: Always be ready
One of the most interesting aspects of that conversation was that women need to look the part –like learning to take ourselves more seriously, for instance. That means paying attention to things we deem to be miniscule or unimportant. More attention should be paid to work attire, etc. She also emphasized that falling into a comfortable space is one of women’s greatest setbacks.

Lesson Four: Letting Yourself Go

A definite no-no! We chuckled as the lady indicated that African women are significantly different from their Caucasian counterparts. African women have a bad habit of letting themselves go, and inviting early onset of old age. Once in their forties, she said, jeans and other sensible pieces of clothing are sent packing in exchange for frumpy frocks. Though it isn’t entirely about men, it isn’t fair on them either. Simply put, women need to keep those visual stimuli on.

A male friend once posted on Facebook that some women should put a “Learner” sign on the back of their stilettos so others won’t particularly mind when they fall over themselves. Let’s face it we see more of those embarrassing incidents than we’d like to recall, and more often than not men are embarrassed for us. There is no doubt that a great deal of skill is required to pull off that SEXY look. Alas, I don’t claim to speak for all women.

The woman I now know as Ma-Nkadimeng gave me ample food for thought. She reminded me that some of the greatest lessons aren’t always formal ones; that familiarity can come from strangers even. Like she said, “Some things will resonate with you, and some won’t…” and with that I confess that I’m still sceptical about those colour block platforms…sorry!
So, what impact did you have on somebody’s life today?