BOOKS

Launch Dates for Feminism Is 2018

 

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Cover designed by Thandiwe Tshabalala

March 13, 2018: The Book Lounge, Cape Town, Western Cape

March 22, 2018: Exclusive Books, Ballito, KZN

March 27, 2018: Exclusive Books, Rosebank, Gauteng

March 27, 2018: Exclusive Books, Menlyn, Gauteng

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BOOKS

New collection of South African feminist essays to launch in February 2018

By Jen Thorpe

Exciting news!

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Next month will see the release of a collection of feminist essays and poems by 31 South African feminists. The collection, published by Kwela and edited by Jen Thorpe, includes writing from some of South Africa’s most exciting feminists.

The collection, Feminism Is, explores what feminism is to the contributors and touches on issues as wide-ranging as motherhood, anger, sex, race, inclusions and exclusions, the noisy protests and the quiet struggles.

Contributors include:

  • Pumla Dineo Gqola
  • Danielle Alyssa Bowler
  • Colleen Higgs
  • Ferial Haffajee
  • Haji Mohamed Dawjee
  • Gugu Mhlungu
  • Joy Watson
  • Thembe Mahlaba
  • Aaisha Dadi Patel
  • Anja Venter
  • Bongeka Masango
  • Rebecca Davis
  • Nwabisa Mda
  • B Camminga
  • Nomalanga Mkhize
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Helen Moffett
  • Owethu Makhatini
  • Dela Gwala
  • Larissa Klazinga
  • Vuyiseka Dubula
  • Genna Gardini
  • Tlaleng Mofokeng
  • Kathleen Dey
  • Kagure Mugo
  • Jen Thorpe
  • Neoka Naidoo
  • Louise Ferreira
  • Nancy Richards
  • Michelle Hattingh
  • Sarah Koopman

This collection will challenge your thinking and inspire you to action, reaffirming the urgent necessity of feminism in South Africa today. A portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the amazing Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

The collection will launch on 13 March 2018 at the Book Lounge in Cape Town, with launches to follow in KZN and Gauteng. The book will be available at all good bookstores from 26 February. Contact your favourite store to pre-order!

Get excited!!!

For all publicity and media queries please contact Helené Prinsloo via helene.prinsloo@nb.co.za

 

GENDER POLITICS, Uncategorized

Women’s worth is not in their reproduction – a response to Jay Naidoo

By Jen Thorpe

Jay Naidoo’s recent article I thought I was a feminist – until I heard their stories’ requires a response.

Whilst Naidoo’s article starts out with considered space being given to the stories of the women who shared accounts of their abuse, and is positive in its reflections on what men can do to support women, there is one paragraph in particular that gets under my feminist skin. I’ll unpack it.

August – Month of No Violence Against Women, a government-inspired programme, is a shocking indictment when those in power continue to abuse the trust of women with impunity. I am tired of platitudes. We need every day to be a day of respecting women.”

I am tired of platitudes too. We do need every day to be a day of respecting women.

August, aka ‘women’s month’ makes most South African feminists want to puke. It’s characterised by random events hosted by the Department of Women – a Department that has, since inception, rarely been able to meet its own targets to improve women’s lives, regularly spends irregularly, and is, in my humble opinion, a significant obstacle to gender equality within government programmes and departments.

Departments spend women’s month lauding their own excellence and launching reports, when what they should be doing is sitting down with treasury and allocating some money to implementing services for women. Those in government, we have seen time and time again, continue to abuse women, never mind their trust, with impunity. 

Whilst it’s clear from the general gist of his article that Naidoo is trying to give women the respect that he mentions in the previous sentence, I would like to challenge him on his explanation for the need for this respect.

Women are sacred.

I like the language of ‘women have human rights’ better, but that’s probably just personal preference. It’s the next bit that is problematic.

They give us life.

 Could this be the modern usage of the term, like I’ve seen the young feminists say ‘Zadie Smith gives me life?’ Perhaps. In which case, I agree. Women give me life too. Every damn day. But, the next sentence makes me think this statement is a bit more literal than this.

Where would we be as a human species if women disappeared? Extinct! It is our mothers who carry our children, who give birth to new life, who breastfeed our children and who nurture and raise our children.

 This might be biologically accurate (until scientists grow us in labs), but it is so politically problematic.

Women do perform these tasks, and they are hard and worthy of acknowledgement. But what if, perhaps, we thought about challenging the narrative that this is the only reason that women have value?

Women are not the sum of their reproductive abilities, and they are not just there to raise the kids while the men do all the ‘real work’. This passage also ignores the men who nurture and raise children, and who were part of the reproductive process too.

In addition, it’s clear that we as a society don’t really value these reproductive traits anyway. Whilst we do have maternity leave, it’s not compulsory for the employer to pay a woman during this time. Many mothers are at home on maternity leave stressing about raising human life and about whether they can afford to eat or pay the bills or have the health checks they need post pregnancy to ensure they are healthy.

We don’t have legislated paternity leave, which tells women that not only don’t we value their labour equally to men, but we want them to raise the children all on their own because it is their sacred job and men have real work to do.

This narrative is not helpful. It is harmful and it reinforces an unequal burden of care, and the undervaluing of women’s work and of the many roles that women play in society outside of motherhood. It’s not feminist. Not even a little.

Unfortunately, the rest of the paragraph also lets us down in many ways.

Women are the heart, the love, compassion, generosity and peace that we want in the world.

There are many women I know that are as nice as this makes us sound. But, there is also a problem with socialising and endorsing women as ‘nice’.

First, it means women are afraid to speak up during abusive situations, like those Naidoo describes, because they don’t want to be seen as ‘not nice’. This narrative of women’s niceness is especially harmful for young women, who are told to say yes and be polite and never to say no. Not to unwelcome hugs and kisses from family members. Not to their sexual partner’s advances. Not to sex. Not to harassment. Not to their teacher dismissing them.

Second, too often we teach girls to be peaceful, and kind, and nice and compassionate and those are such valuable characteristics to have in life. But we don’t teach boys the same thing. We teach them to be brave, and fierce, and determined, and never to take no for an answer. We don’t support kind boys and we don’t support fierce girls.

We teach girls to accept and boys to keep trying until they make it. Can you see how this links to a culture of violence against women?

By violating women, we as men violate ourselves.

I agree that violence involves dehumanisation both of the victim and the perpetrator. Gender inequality is bad for both men and women. If I’m reading this right, Naidoo is trying to speak to men here, and tell them that respecting women allows a healthier and more equal reality. But any essence of this potential reading is diminished by the next sentence.

And we crush our real role – of being protectors of what is sacred.

 What this sentence does to the previous one is important. It says that men violating women are doing the wrong thing, not because violating another human is wrong in and of itself, but because they aren’t sticking to their gendered responsibilities of protection.

Women as the protected, men as the protectors. A million theses written in a million gender studies courses worldwide have already dealt with the harm that this narrative causes in rendering women the weaker category of person, requiring men’s help and protection in order to live their lives.

This is patronising and sexist. If you yearn to protect then spend time talking to men about sexism and patriarchy and get them to stop being so violent. Protection doesn’t change the status quo, it maintains it.

Naidoo adds later in his piece,

We men have to learn to listen, with empathy. We have to respect sacred spaces where women can tell their stories. Just listen. Feel. Understand. Not to drown out the voices of our Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters. Just shut up and change

Agree. And as someone who is not a mother, wife, sister, or daughter to Jay Naidoo, I’d like to ask, as the current president might, listen properly.

If women deserve respect, then we deserve that respect for our humanity, our abilities, and our resilience, not simply for our biology or our importance or relationship to men. We are so much more, we always have been.

EDUCATION, GENDER POLITICS

Lean Back, Please

Natasha Skoryk
Natasha Skoryk

by Natasha Skoryk

First off, I’d like to say that I read Lean In last year, and I liked it. I liked it so much that I took photos of certain paragraphs and messaged them to my best friend. I particularly loved the sections on not feeling the need to be ‘unemotional’ in a workplace environment, Sandberg’s telling women to stop expecting more senior females to mentor them purely on account of their shared gender and her trepidation about women setting unattainable standards of perfection for themselves, which then prohibit them from feeling successful. I did not find the book particularly revolutionary in how it dealt with gender issues. I didn’t really get a sense of it being any sort of concrete manifesto. I read Lean In as a memoir of a very successful career woman, whom I admire, and a self-empowerment book. And I felt pretty self-empowered by the end, so I recommended the book to others, because I figured it did what it set out to do pretty well.

But I was wrong. Because Lean In had actually set out to become a practical movement. Lean In, a book about one middle class white woman’s success in the corporate world and her (genuinely good) advice for others like her, is now being framed as seminal doctrine. Which is where my confusion starts. The book is all about self-empowerment, so I struggle to see how it can form the basis of a grassroots movement that seeks to bring about meaningful transformation. I struggle to see how personal advice about things women can do to better themselves in corporate environments can be institutionalised to bring about mass change. But apparently, there is now a Lean In Circle at the University of Cape Town, trying to do just that. I quite like that name, I fancy the idea of women seated around a table, leaning the fuck in and grabbing opportunities. I just don’t really see how this Lean In Circle is doing that.

Lean In at UCT has fringed my life – I have several friends involved. This is unsurprising – most of my friends, both male and female, self-identify as feminists. However, this week the organisation made its way onto my social media radar with ‘The Man Campaign’ that they have now implemented. The idea, I’ve been told, is to ensure men are not sidelined from the feminist movement. The idea, as I understand it, is to get men’s ‘buy in’ to support gender equality. And, well. I fundamentally disagree with the premises that led to those two ideas.

Men have never been sidelined from feminist discourse. Men have never been excluded from the conversation. In fact, men have been, and still are, shaping the conversation. Lawmakers continue to predominantly be men. Most of current female-centric media is being produced by men. This is a problem. This needs to change. While we undoubtedly need support from men, we don’t need the conversation focusing around how men view gender inequality. We need men listening to the conversation, and participating in it to a degree, but the conversation needs to be shaped by women. This is not a radical notion. The idea of allies to the oppressed is present in most equality movements – yet for some reason, the idea of ‘allies’ to feminists continues to appear problematic to a lot of people. For some reason, ‘allies’ to feminists are expected to ‘buy in’. They are allowed to purchase a part of our conversation, a part of our experience, in order to validate it to society at large. They are expected to own a part of the discourse for their ‘mothers, sisters, wives and daughters’.

The reduction of women to their relationships to men has already permeated ‘The Man Campaign’. The first image shown depicted a young man saying that women are the most powerful people in the world (this is a well-meaning lie, women are not the most powerful people, women continue to take up but a small percentage of leadership roles in both the public and civil sectors and there remains a pervasive pay gap between genders – all issues, interestingly, that Sandberg highlights in her book), and that he really loves and respects his mother. I have no problem with the latter claim, except where it ties into feminism.

Please, men. Stop being feminist for the exceptional women in your life. I don’t like the insinuation that because certain women are phenomenal, all women must be. I don’t like women being reduced to one homogenous group based on preconceived ideas of femininity gleaned from the other women in men’s lives – regardless of whether those ideas are positive or negative. This takes away women’s individualism and agency. Some women are horrible. I simply don’t love all women. I also don’t love all men. But I believe they must be treated equally, because I believe in fundamental human rights. And I know that women are currently oppressed, whereas men are not. Which is why I am a feminist and not broadly egalitarian.

Another thing that needs to stop is the idea that men ought to support feminism because they stand to benefit from gender equality. They do. Feminism supports stay-at-home fathers, paternal rights and men being sensitive and creative. Patriarchy is harmful for men and women alike, the gender binary is devastating for us all. If ‘The Man Campaign’ had focused on the ways men are harmed by patriarchy, I would have possibly resented it less. That is a worthwhile conversation. Still, let’s not focus our attention on the benefits to the oppressor. Men should be supporting feminism because they believe in principles of equality. Not for certain special women. Not for themselves. But for us all, as a society.

Honestly, I really don’t need men validating my feminism. ‘The Man Campaign’s’ insinuation that I do, that by having men talk about my issues they somehow gain credibility in broader society, is abhorrent to me. I want men supporting and engaging with feminist discourse. But no, I’d rather they not Lean In with us. Why? Because they’ve already been leaning in for centuries. Let’s have men lean back for once, and let women shape this one conversation.

_______

Natasha is a third year humanities student at the University of Cape Town. She is passionate about societal transformation, and is actively involved in student life, currently serving as Deputy Chair Internal of Ubunye. Ubunye is one of UCT’s development agencies, committed to meaningful change amongst the student population and the communities at large.

SEX AND SEXUALITY

Touch Yourself – Because it’s good for you

Kagure Mugo, Feminism, Masturbation
Kagure Mugo

By Kagure Mugo

‘Get your hands away from there.’

This is the reprimand we have gotten since we were small girls, curious about what was going on between our thighs.

Boobs? Sure. Legs? Cool. Hips? Fine. But this vagina thing…with its ability to change temperature, moisture levels and make you tingle all over, what is it? What is it about?

Unfortunately we were never allowed to know.

There is a need to have conversations around all the taboo around masturbation to break that taboo down. So this is for everyone who touched themselves and felt bad about it. Everyone who was told off for digging for pleasure, everyone who was told only boys spank the monkey. For every woman who heard they would grow hair on the palms of their hands.

Masturbation is vilified. You know it’s bad when even the boys are not allowed to do it, and they are seemingly allowed to do anything. But gender relations aside the idea of masturbation is so powerful it had to be shut down and fast. Because with masturbation women can make sex fantastic.

And then the world might end. And anarchy will ensue.

Or not.

With the idea of pleasure being marketed as a male dominated activity and women seemingly picking up the scraps there is a need to change the phallocentric approach to sex.

The vagina is a powerful cosmic space which people must respect and understand, especially those who have them. You need to be well educated in the way it works but you cannot get an education without taking some classes. And unfortunately some things are better learned on a practical level.

Masturbation is sex with someone you should love, deeply and wildly. It is about taking back your sexual power and your sexy and knowing what makes you tick so you know what time you are coming.

This chat is to tackle that stigma surrounding masturbation, give some tips and open the space to have that conversation. Because late at night, when you just want a little taste of your own awesome and you take it, you are really not the only one.

So you really should go right ahead.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Or do, if that’s what gets you off.

 

Join in the dialogue this evening on masturbation. 7pm South African time. Follow the hashtags #TouchUrself and #SexTalkNaija

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online Pan African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman.

She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay.