By Claire Martens
On Tuesday the 17th May I attended a workshop hosted by a women’s project and movement called “Crossing the Line”. The project is an Action Research project funded by the Ford Foundation and is currently being implemented on UCT campus in partnership with the Gender Studies Institute. Crossing the line has noted and reacted to the lack of campus-wide women’s movements in South African universities and hopes to “create a space for women to meet and talk about their sexuality”. What I loved about this workshop was that all the women who involved themselves through their performances were unashamedly sexual, brash and brazen, and undoubtedly beautiful and strong too.
Although it wasn’t quite what I expected, especially due to the lack of diversity amongst participants, I was moved to gleefulness, shock and awe by the performances which I saw that day. The poetry, in particular, was simply outstanding. One poet took my breath away with her poem about f&*king. Yes, it was entitled “I want to f@*k hard” and it was shocking and wicked, but also honest and lovely. Another poet told the story about a “manly man” in her life, a man who she believes is a good man. The poem tells how this man put her in bed at night, after she had fallen asleep in front of the television, and she would wake every morning with her virginity intact. The poem was incredibly powerful in its message and acknowledgement of the many daughters who have their virginity stolen from them by their fathers.
A small skit was put on by the facilitators of the project. One section of the skit showed, what one participant called, the “schizophrenia” of being a slut and a virgin. The message was that we often have to tread this imaginary line, being one or the other in different situations. Various definitions of these terms are attached to us by society, but which we can contribute to ourselves. Hence, the project is about the lines we negotiate through our sexuality; how we create them, contribute to them but also cross them.
The final part of the play showed a girl tied up and gagged and then insulted and provoked by the people wearing the labels of state, the media and religion. They shouted things that her, like she couldn’t have an abortion, that she would be raped if she wore those clothes and that she had to wait until marriage before she could have sex; addressing various social norms and standards which we, as women, face every day. One participant asked how we tackle this and where we begin. A poet addressed this question later with her poem about unlimited love. The message was that change starts from within.
At the beginning of the workshop, one of the coordinators of the project spoke of how they would like to understand and respond to how women move within and negotiate their lives and spaces. They want to talk about those difficult questions; such as roles, responsibilities, needs, desires and societal expectations. The message is that there are many shared issues between women of all races, creeds, religions and sexual persuasions, simply by the fact that we are women. The beauty of this project is that you are forced to act, and react, through participation in the project. By doing so, you are provoked to confront issues of sexuality and you are changed by doing so.
Although I cannot capture adequately the power and influence of the music, poetry and theatre which I was lucky to witness, I am sure that many who read this blog will be interested in attending and participating in this project. The project aims to host discussions on sexuality in the near future. Feel free to e-mail them and ask to be added to their mailing list. Their e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.