Monday, August 28, 2017

The Infruriating Culture of Catcalling

Source:Huff Post

I started thinking about writing this post after I’d had to endure street harassment at the hands of some guys that were in a van (the typical men that are prone to perpetuating catcalling). I got home that night to Ericka Hart’s discussion on catcalling and street harassment on Instagram (I screamed YAAAS!). I related to almost everything they said.

Source:The Odyssey Online
In an effort to find the origins of catcalling they discussed why black men only catcall black women. Ebony (Ericka’s boyfriend) blamed slavery (sort of). He argued that in the aftermath of slavery, black women were the only people that black men felt that they had any power over and they catcalled black women in an effort to make themselves feel more “empowered”. He also argued that it was an iteration of patriarchy and white supremacy. The conclusion was that black men don’t catcall black women only. The perform the same kind of street harassment on any other race, it just LOOKS different when it is across races. Furthermore, black men aren’t the only agents of this vile act (the focus on black men can be explained by way of the black liberation lens and black love ethic).

At some point during their discussion (I’m guessing it was out of frustration) Ericka said: “where do [cis black men] find the time to sit around and harass people all day!?” And I was like (hand on chin, frown in place, contemplative look): this is a valid question, where do they find the time? This happens at home (Richmond) as well. Ericka stays in New York and I stay in the rurals of KZN, yet we find that (although on different continents) black men exhibit the same kind of behavior, why?

Even though I don’t yet know why black men SEEM to behave the same across the globe, I do know that catcalling is harassment and that it is violent. It is a form of abuse that instigates a climate that oppresses women further. Catcalling is rooted in patriarchy and sexism and must be dealt with accordingly. I was a bit at odds with myself for being mad a catcalling and catcallers. The reason for this conflict is because I thought there was a link between catcalling and wooing in Zulu. Since I’m an advocate for Pan-Africanism and Afrocentricity, I had to have a conversation with myself about why catcalling offends me, if my anger is justified, and the role my culture potentially had in birthing catcalling.

The Zulu culture, I’ve since concluded, can be very violent towards women. And this is a bitter pill for me to swallow because I love isiZulu (the language as well the culture). The language is awfully poetic and culture a series of intricately woven practices and beliefs (read here). But some of these practices are oppressive and are rooted in patriarchy. In my analysis I’ve concluded that elements of the wooing process in the Zulu culture are very much violent. For example, ukutwala. Ukuthwala is (to put it very bluntly) a process that involves abducting young women (generally) and forcing them into marriage (often with the consent of their parents). These women are locked in a room (a house if they are lucky) with no access to the outside world. Unless they are with someone that is “guarding” them, they cannot leave the room/house. In the long run, the women generally give in and end up staying with their “husband” willingly.

Source: The Zulu Kingdom
Another example of such “violent” behavior would be ukushela in general. Traditionally, a man pursues a woman until she agrees to be with him. This can take months, if you are lucky, and if your ancestors are unhappy with you it can take years. While pursuing a girl, a guy will harass a girl until she agrees be with him. This harassment could be anything like knocking over her bucket of water on her way back from the river, running away with whatever goods that she is carrying (she will either have to run after the guy or tell her parents about the guy neither option is attractive). I remeber one time my mother had to go after a guy with a whip (no jokes) because some guy insisted on shela-ring (asking out) my sister all the way to our house and inside the gate (in isiZulu this is the epitome of disrespect). 

But cat calling’s origins aren’t Zulu, in fact they aren’t even African (I’d love to say catcalling has western origins but I’m really not sure where it comes from). Catcalling is a skill that is not unique to construction workers. Regular guys who, at first, seem decent are/can be perpetrators of catcalling. As a black woman it is easy to assume that catcalling is uniquely practiced by cis black men on black women (as history would have it, black women are the scum of the earth and ought to bare the worst of what patriarchy has to offer). But it’s not unique to cis black men, nor is it experienced solely by black women (much to patriarchy’s disappointment).

Ariel Chates’ states that although catcalling dates as far back as 200 BC, it wasn’t always called catcalling (read here). In its earlier forms, catcalling was known as the “wolf whistle”. Ariel argues that the name wolf whistle has predatory connotations and alludes to male lust, whose symbol is a wolf.  “The term “catcaller” didn’t come around until the 1700s when theatergoers would whistle and jeer at the actors to express disapproval for the actions onstage. The term didn’t take on a sexual meaning until the 20th century. It’s a shame I even have to do this,” she states, “but let me remind the men on the street: You aren’t watching a Broadway production of that girl’s walk to work. This isn’t American Idol. She’s not trying out for whatever perverted fantasy is playing in your head.”
“Like most women I know, I treat street harassment like unpleasant weather – a common occurrence I silently endure by drawing my coat tighter around my body and walking briskly ahead with a stiff neck.”~ unknown

There have been calls to criminalize catcalling. To acquaint catcallers to the same treatment and laws that stalkers have to bare; I think jail time is tad too drastic, and black men would surely suffer the most from this, it would also be difficult to contain (how would we distinguish between a regular compliment and a catcall?) There are seemingly multiple solutions to the problem of catcalling. Proposed solutions range from ‘‘engaging with the catcaller in conversation in order to better understand the problem’’ (I wouldn’t. Men can be violent when called out on their bullshit, and this hasn’t worked thus far), to “handing the perpetrators a business card with a hotline that will direct them to someone that can educate them on why catcalling is bad for society” (who would pay for this venture? And men would probably use this line to hit on the women anyway). I feel like all I can, and am willing to do, is write about catcalling. I will share educational posts on Facebook and on my page.  But it really feels like a hopeless situation.

Source: Yahoo News
I could go on to explain how catcalling plays a role in reinforcing rape culture. I could also explain how other women can play into the hands of patriarchy and rape culture by implying that women should take corrective action (by wearing modest clothes etc.) But then this post would be long and nobody that would ever get to the end (or find the subscribe button at the end of this post, which you should do if you haven’t).

The oversexualization (is this a word?) of women is universally acknowledged and, to an extent, accepted. There are scores of articles, seminars and studies on what the perfect female (and male) body should look like. But the reality is there is no singular standard of beauty, different people are attracted to different things. In acknowledging the different standards of beauty, we must also stay keenly aware of the fact that women aren’t on this planet (by divine intervention or by chance) for men to gawk upon! Whatever a woman chooses to wear, it is not an invite or reason for men to harass her by way of unsolicited and often vulgar “compliments”.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Women and Sexuality in 2017

First and foremost, this blog reeks neglect! How did I let this happen? I should have celebrated a year of blogging, but nada. This time will be different though, I’m back with the pizzazz. I’m all about wellness and balance so I will be doing a better job at both writing and posting, frankly I don’t think I could do any worse than this last bout of absence. I’ve got a new laptop (yay) but it’s so slow, it gives me this intense desire to knock myself out, this is a bit dark, but hey… Besides that, I have been talking and talking about writing this post for months on end and I have finally gotten around to it.

The global society is currently at a much more sexually permissive place for women than it was 50 years ago but, as always, there is still so much more room for growth. Women and girls across the world have a better understanding of their entitlement to engage in sex and sexual activities. However, there seems to be a growth gap between understanding women’s entitlement to engage in sexual activity and understanding their entitlement to sexual pleasure. New York Time’s bestselling author and Journalist, Peggy Orenstein, argues that although a lot of young women feel entitled to engage in sex and sexual activities most don’t feel entitled to sexual pleasure. She further argues that scale by which women judge their satisfaction is so vastly different to men’s and simultaneously not reliable.

Peggy goes on to quote a study conducted in the US that revealed that women’s sexual satisfaction lags that of men by 35%. She contends that these numbers are further obscured by the fact that women will often base their claims of sexual satisfaction on that of their partners. When asked about their experiences women made statements such as “If he’s satisfied, then I’m satisfied.” As much as statements like these are not wrong in themselves they imply an injustice. Imagine having to get a glass of water for someone every time you are together with them but they never do the same for you, nor do you get a sip of the water. In such a situation, it would be false if one claimed that their thirst was quenched merely from watching their partner drink. In this age of feminism, women wouldn’t stand for such but the principle manifests itself in the privacy of their homes. Not surprisingly though, women that engaged in homosexual activities had the same ranking in sexual satisfaction as men.

The differences in the ranking of sexual satisfaction for women engaging in heterosexual activities and that of women engaging in homosexual activities can be attributed to differences in the core traits of men and women. While men tend to be strong, powerful, impassive and their sexuality simple, women are generally soft, nurturing, emotional and their sexuality a function of vast and varied variables (both known and unknown). It is therefore a natural conclusion that women are better equipped than men to understand and interpret the sexual needs and desires of another woman. Be that as it may, it does not explain why men have higher sexual satisfaction ranking than women.

This difference can be attributed to history and the historical roles of women is society. It is without a shadow of doubt that women have been systematically oppressed throughout history. Until recently, women have been encouraged to shut up and be quiet, docile creatures. Considering the historical roles of women, it follows that women are reluctant, if at all willing to express their wishes and desires when it comes to sexual intercourse. It also doesn’t help that female orgasms are considered an enigma and that the male ego can be oh-so fragile. As much as women may know what they want from a man when it comes to sex, they may opt to not communicate their desires out of fear of hurting their partner’s feelings. Men on the other hand, have no qualms about stating what they want because history has allowed them to be bold, daring and vocal.

This gap in sexual satisfaction can be further attributed to sex education. At the core of sex education is responsibility; sex education encourages young men and women to practice safe sex. But secondary to this message of safe sex, and I assume unintentionally, is the inevitability of male pleasure. Besides informing young people about STIs and STDs, sex education teaches young people that guys get erections (guys seem to think these are tons of fun) and women get periods as well as fall pregnant (women kind of despise periods and although children are a blessing, this is not something you want to get into too quickly). Although subtle, there is an implicit negativity regarding women’s sexuality.

So, what is it that can and must be done to ensure that women get the most out of sexual activities? The first thing is to replace sex education with sensuality studies, whose core message is a healthy balance of responsibility and pleasure.Sensuality studies would shift the focus from responsibility and the outcomes of unprotected sex and include important, but currently ignored, sexual challenges. Secondary to pleasure and responsibility is teach both guys and girls about the female anatomy outside of its reproductive purposes.

Secondly, we should normalize serious and sustained conversations about sex and sensuality. As an adult, finding oneself in a sexually charged situation is almost inevitable and most us of will deal with these situations as we have seen in romance movies and read in shitty romance novels (don’t look at me) because these are our only sources of “conversation”. Among ourselves, women should share their experiences. It’s not the intimate details that make a difference, but the approach to the situation as well as finding your voice in intimate set-ups. Normalizing dialogue on sexuality also removes the shame associated with women who have a sexual appetite.
"The political and sexual are intimate bedfellows"~Shereen El Feki
Considering the historical marginalization of women, it is of essential importance to address issues and challenges that women face in their sexual lives. It is crucial that we achieve intimate justice. As Shereen El Feki states “sexuality is an incredible lens with which to study any society. What happens in our intimate lives is reflected on a bigger stage.” the political and sexual are, after all, intimate bedfellows; if we can achieve freedom, justice, dignity and equality in our private lives, it sure as sh!t won’t be so difficult to achieve in our public lives.


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Friday, April 28, 2017

Mad At Mandela

I was supposed to write this post sometime last year but because of who I am as a person I ended up with three pages of nothing, it ended up being a long winded post that really had no end in sight and no actual content, so I gave up on it. But I recently read a post on one of the many pages on Facebook that I follow (very few of them are constructive, most of them are just for the giggles) my ‘la passion’ was revived.

The post was initially inspired by Sisonke Simanga’s Ted Talk with the same title. Sisonke expressed her frustrations with our democracy, the pace at which we are making progress as a country as well as the benefits (or lack thereof) that black people are enjoying from this so called freedom. What she said resonated with me, the fact that black people still have to put up with people like Penny Sparrow and Steve Hofmeyr. The fact that we are still fighting to be included in public spaces, platforms and the workplace makes you wonder (even though it may be blasphemous) if Mr. Mandela failed us and our fight for freedom. It makes you wonder if he was wrong in encouraging a peaceful transition from the apartheid government to a democratic government and if our frustration with the current economic and political standing should be in fact be directed at him (rest his soul).

There are scores of articles, videos and debates on whether or not Mandela was a sellout. Malema is repeatedly quoted saying “The Mandela we celebrate now is a stage-managed Mandela who compromised the principles of the revolution…” I assume these principles include radicalness (I dont think this is an actual word). Winnie Madikizela-Mandela expressed similar sentiments in 2010. “Mandela let us down... He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks, economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”

Some of my sisters agree with Malema and others that are of the opinion that Mandela was a traitor. One of my sisters argues that he could have done better with the redistribution policies, she argues that the willing buyer willing seller land redistribution clause was not justified, especially considering the means by which white people acquired the land in the first place. I tried arguing this point with her but she shut me down and I didn’t even get to ask what I wanted to ask (cons of being a last born). She further argued that Mandela traded peace for justice, the perpetrators and facilitators of the apartheid regime were not held accountable for the crimes they had committed. The fact that some of the apartheid leaders did not appear before the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Committee) and of those that did appear before the committee there were those that were not given amnesty yet were not persecuted. What then was the point of appearing before the TRC?  She further questions the fact that de Klerk is still celebrated today, for what?! Mandela did little to correct the 1913 Land and Employment acts that reduced black wages and stations…

Although I find the above statements to be true (we are still minority stake holders in the economy despite the fact that we make up majority of population, the economic struggles that we face today are a direct result of apartheid laws and colonial laws before that) I don’t think it’s fair to be mad at Mandela nor do I think he was a sellout. Sure, progress is slow and the freedom we hoped to achieve in 1994 remains elusive and incomplete, but we cannot blame one man for the progress of a whole country.

Mandela was a smart man, people choose to remember Mandela in his old age when he was frail and what not all. I’ve watched some of the most powerful interviews he participated in where he held his ground on South Africa’s foreign polices (i.e. relations with Cuba) and was not swayed, the man gave 27 years of his life for the freedom that we enjoy today. Sure the latter of those years he spent in better conditions, but still… Considering that he was a smart man, I think he understood that the same system that had oppressed black people for a good four decades (officially) but had been practiced for centuries wouldn’t be so eager to give up on the years of oppressive mentality that they had.

Freedom, both political and economic was a cause he was not only willing to die for but also willing to kill for (I think). With this in mind, I think he calculated that a civil war was not worth twenty-seven years he spent in prison (we can argue that it wasn’t just about him, but he was a man and by virtue of that fact alone, he was flawed) and also that it would delay the freedom of black people in general. I know it’s not right to compare South Africa to other African countries but we are doing better than most, even though our country’s democracy and economy is not in perfect health.

Furthermore, we have to understand that the ANC was working towards the right for the black body to vote in a democratic structure which would give black people political power. Political power has the potential to open many doors, one of those being the door to economic freedom. With political power you are able to implement land expropriation laws, and many social grants that are meant to empower the previously (or currently) disadvantaged.

Freeing the black man was not (and still isn’t) one man’s task. We’ve got political freedom, what are we and our current political leaders doing with it? It’s easy to blame Mandela for our economic oppression and forget that current political leaders are also responsible for continued fight for black man’s freedom. It’s not just Mandela, current political leaders have also failed us in introducing effective redistribution and justice policies. But at the same time we have to realize that the one reason that the apartheid system worked so well for so long was the fact that it crept up on us, if they had done anything drastic in facilitating the oppressive and discriminatory laws black people would have revolted (I’d like to think).

Great things take time, it’s not right and it’s not fair that we have to be so nice and lovey dovie to the same system and people that oppressed us for centuries. But I think this peaceful transition that they enjoy is not just for them but also for ourselves. We have given too much of our lives, time, blood and our energy to dedicate any more of it to the same system. The fight for freedom should not be an emotional one but one that needs to be fought strategically and hopefully with little emotion in order to remain objective and focused.

I may be wrong in my analysis of the situation. I may be “captured” by the other side, I don’t know. But I really think we’ve made progress since 1994, the cost at which this progress has come is yet to be determined. Twenty years from now I might be writing a post or an article about how wrong I was, or I could be writing about even greater strides South Africa has made since I wrote this post. But I don’t think the anger directed at Mandela is justified.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Junk Governance

I think I have spent enough of recess being (basically) useless so I might as well start writing before I have wasted all of it doing nothing. And considering the fact that over the past weekend there have been multiple protests (all of a sudden protests are not so criminal) against Zuma and the ANC, I feel that it’s about time I add my two cents to the conversation. In the aftermath of the overnight cabinet reshuffle I have read a lot of articles that fall into one of two categories:
1). Articles that explain the reasons for the black population’s rejection of the anti-Zuma protests. Or
2). Articles that give reason why the black population should, in fact, join the call for President Jacob Zuma to step down.

Me, I don’t know. I think I have more reason to be biased towards the first category and not the second. The arguments for the second, although they make sense, are weak because they ignore the history of this country and ignore all the hurts that this country has experienced. Besides that, I really have nothing to add when it comes to the question of who should and who shouldn’t protest because this ignores what is fundamentally wrong with not only South Africa and South African politics and governance but also what’s wrong with politics and governance all over the world.

Jacob Zuma is not the only being who frequently abuses his position of power. Donald Trump is another perfect example of a president who has a general disregard for the good of the country and the economy. South Korea’s first female president was recently arrested on charges of bribery and abuse of power. The fact that power abuse occurs so frequently across the world in “democratic” countries that are worlds apart in terms of cultural practices should be an indication that the problem is not necessarily with the individuals (who are, in my opinion, naturally power hungry) but the problem is the democratic system/structure that enables leaders to make reckless decision and have the ultimate power in decision making.

The problem is that the social contract that exist in most (if not all) democratic (and non-democratic) counties is between one man and the society that said man governs. The problem is that millions of people give their consent (directly or indirectly) to one man, to do with their fates as he sees fit.
I take Philosophy and Ethics as a module, and one of the topics that we discussed was Technology and Culture. This included defining technology (it’s not as simple as it might seem), the link between technology and culture, as well as technological optimism and pessimism (bear with me, you will get my point soon enough). Now, one of the characteristics of technological optimism is that it assumes that technology will not fall into the wrong hands, that everyone will use it for the good of society. The same can be said about democratic structures that exist currently. Democratic structures assume that the individual who is sworn in to manage the country (such a wild idea) is not only selfless but has societies interests in mind at all times during decision making. But time and again we see the opposite happen.

Personally, although it bothers me that the president (for whatever reason) re-shuffled the cabinet overnight I don’t think it’s a train smash that we will never recover form (but then again, I’m a layman).  What bothers me most is the system that allows him to make such big decisions by himself with no one else’s input, no fore warning whatsoever (unless I missed it) to the people. It’s the very same system that allows Donald Trump to prohibit people from Muslim countries from entering America. Unless there is something I’m missing about the processes that are involved in decision making in a democracy, the system/structure needs radical reform.

In my opinion, the president should be the face of the county instead of the main ultimate decision maker. The decisions should be made by a board (of men and women, 51 maybe, it has to be an odd number so that there are no ties) that is voted for by the people. The party that has the most member representation on the board will be referred to as the ruling party. You can argue that that is the same structure that we use currently, that would be untrue, if it were true we wouldn’t be going by junk status Ministers have very limited power in terms of what they can and can’t do. They are also at risk of being moved at any given time leaving their post vacant or occupied by someone who is ill qualified. This system might mean that decision making would take longer than it does now, but at last it will be deliberated. There is always the risk of corruption, but with a group of 51 you are more likely to have a whistle blower.

I don’t even agree with the current economic system (capitalism with a dash of communism) but that’s a post for a different day…

It’s not white people that are the enemy, it’s not black people, it’s not even Zuma or the ANC; rather it is the system that enables reckless governance that is a problem. Since South Africa is all about radical reform these days, we might as well take the same approach to governance, and government structures.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why do black people suffer so much?

Now I’m a cheesy-romance movies kinda gal, this is because most movies that have some level of intelligence have that emotional element that I cannot handle. I’m a weeper, emotionally loaded movies have me… you guessed it: WEEPING. And it’s not the pretty kind of weeping, it’s the ugly kind. The sobbing loudly kind with tears soaking my t-shirt, blocked nose, puffy eyes, gasping for air and shit. I am an ugly weeper. I just finished watching Selma and I have successfully soaked my pillow and now turn to writing to get this out of my system. If you haven’t watched Selma, you really should and you’ll understand my weeping.

 As I was watching Selma, a question a friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago came back to me. We had just walked past a group of happy-go-lucky-looking friends (they happened to be white), and she turned to me and asked “Why do black people suffer so much?” I cannot for the life of me remember what my response was but it was probably something preachy, but watching this movie had me asking myself the same question! Because it really does seem like black people have been suffering since the beginning of time.

 From Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Coretta King to Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma black people have had to fight for and defend the livelihood of the black body. I kind of get it if you protest my adding Jacob Zuma to this list but once upon a time he played an essential role in achieving the freedom we enjoy today.

Most of the suffering endured by black people happens at the hands of the white man. Julius Malema writes that the oppression of black people and the white man’s assumed right to abuse the black man at will is built on the deeply rooted white supremacy. In order to change the perception of inferiority that is closely associated with black people we need to change the foundation on which white supremacy is built. Malema argues that since white supremacy is built on the structural organization of black lives, the dilapidated material conditions that have been made exclusive to black people, white supremacy can only be dismantled by changing the structure of black lives. From this reasoning we can also conclude that black people will continue to suffer unless the collective black race progresses beyond the animalistic conditions we are assumed to we live in.

 The black man’s current suffering is based on the foundation laid by the colonial project dating back to the 1600s. What about before that? Did we always suffer so, if it started at some point what did we do to deserve it? What did our ancestors do so wrong against God that His wrath is still upon us almost a millennium later? What was the catalyst to all this suffering?

This though is immediately followed by a question; whether or not I and others like myself contribute to us staying in this state of “despair” by constantly writing about and debating how the black man is a victim instead of writing about solutions to the black man’s state of “despair”. I’m not victim blaming, nor am I saying that black people are to blame for all the suffering they have had to endure. I do, however, wonder if we have been victims for so long we cannot stop thinking like victims and thus remain victims (does this make sense?). One of my sisters always says you cannot change any of your habits if you haven’t changed your mindset about and towards those habits, similarly in order to change this seemingly never ending state of despair we need to stop thinking like victims.

"I’ll tell you what I know to be true...that we are descendants of a mighty people, who gave civilization to the world. People who survived the hulls of slave ships across vast oceans. People who innovate and create and love despite pressures and tortures unimaginable. They are in our bloodstream. Pumping our hearts every second. They’ve prepared you. You are already prepared."-Amelia Boynton, Selma

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Let’s Talk Culture Appropriation

“What would the world be like if the world loved black people as much as it loves black culture?”
Besides the fact that I have neglected this blog for long enough (and therefore, should write) I also find myself feeling a bit irritated and thus, inclined to write. As much as I would love to commit to doing a better job of writing more consistently this would be a lie because (believe it or not) sometimes I have nothing I feel strongly enough about to write about. On top of that my semester is a mess! I have seven modules and I’m trying to get them done (by the Lord’s unfailing grace), so time to find out what is going on in this country is limited (I use this time to nap, don’t judge me).

That being said I think it’s time we talk culture appropriation. This is not only because of the outrage that the ‘Kasi Mlungu’ has spurred but also because if some of my (black) friends don’t understand what the problem with culture appropriation is, how much more my white friends that can’t possibly understand black struggles?

I read an article by Tafi Mhaka titled “Kasi Mlungu the South African Dream”, and I felt so personally offended by it (it’s irrational, I know). He justified Anita Ronge's action by stating how some black women choose to look and behave more European than black (I screamed “It’s because of oppression!” in my head). He also went on to use Eminem an example of how much good culture appropriation (he called it multiculturalism ) has done for the entertainment industry, stating that Eminem is “the highest selling rapper of all time and arguably the best lyricist of his generation” (An average white man making money in an industry created by the black man for the black man while better black men still don’t get enough credit, ok so maybe he's not average but Im trying to make a point here). I don’t agree with him, but hey, we are all entitled to an opinion…

Before I delve into the niceties of culture appropriation, I feel like it’s important to clarify that ‘black’ or ‘blackness’ is not just a skin colour (and the prejudices that come with the skin colour) it’s also a way of life that transcends national and continental boundaries. There are rituals, icons, and aesthetic standards that belong(ed) to our great grandparents and to us by lineage. Even though we do not practice these rituals and what-not-all they still belong to us.

So what is culture appropriation? As always, I turn to those google pop-up definitions, and said pop-up definitions define cultural appropriation as:
“the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior form one culture or subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic or military status to the appropriating culture.”

I think this post should be accompanied by a gallery of its own with instances of culture appropriation but we will make do with what we have.  Below are pictures of models (their names attached) and the campaign, magazine or label they were shooting for.
Lara Stone
Vouge Paris
Source: Fashionising
Ondria Hardin
"Afrrican Queen"
Source: Fashion Bomb Daily
Claudia Schiffer
Dom Perignon
Source: Daily Mail
Rachel Dolezal
She's not a model
She just lied about being black
For a good 14 years- I think
Source: Daily Mail
Yes, I used the most extreme cases of culture appropriation but that’s because I think it drives home the point I’m trying to make. Besides the fact that most of the models are black-facing (I think this is the correct expression) but the underlying message is that black people (or Asian or Indian people etc) are not good enough to represent their respective cultures or races. The photo shoot by Ondria Hardin was titled ‘African Queen’. In what universe? In what universe can she possibly be an African queen? My question when I saw this was: “the world over, with its then 6 billion and some change people, there wasn’t a single black person that could have been better suited for the shoot? “

This is what is fundamentally wrong with society when it comes to race and race relations. It’s this idea that black features, rituals, aesthetic standards, and overarching culture are not good enough until they are embraced or practiced by white people. And I don’t think anyone is justified in arguing that black people appropriate white culture (whatever that means) because we wear weaves, Italian shoes, straighten our hair and what not all. Western culture was not only exported to Africa and other continents and countries, but we were also forced to adopt it in order to survive, be accepted, and considered beautiful. It once again goes back to the perception that western/white things are better than those of other cultures and races.

Just like men have no right to tell women how to dress, act, and feel, no one has the right to say there is no such thing as culture appropriation because this is how we feel about other cultural groups using elements of our culture. If I was a woman wearing whatever I was wearing and I voiced my dislike of how a man was looking or touching me the world would be up in arms supporting me and my rights. I don’t understand why the same principle and sympathy cannot be applied to instances of culture appropriation. If I say something is culture appropriation what I am say, essentially, is “I don’t like the way you are using elements of my culture” for one or other reason. In some cases, I am saying “I hate the fact that people of western descent use elements of my culture and get recognition, fame, and money from it while my people not only “own” these elements but also use the exact same elements and get no recognition for it”. What it boils down is I don’t like what you are doing. I don’t know if I’m articulating myself well enough but I hope you get the point. Maybe I have messed up this whole post with this paragraph and should have left it out. But hey…

The Kardashian-Jenner’s (I, unfortunately, know all their names and faces now, I never wanted this) are a perfect example of white people getting social credit for things they have no business getting credit for. Nail piercings, corn rows, big behinds, big lips, wearing Niqab’s, oh the list is endless... all of these are accompanied by articles on how they have come up with a 'New Trend' and how they are so beautiful, curvy and voluptuous, meanwhile it's things that the black community has beeen practicing and black women have been ridiculed for have been ridiculed for having big behinds and lips.
Source: Akns Images
Source: Akns Image
"It’s not that we don’t trust white people, it’s that you really think my black looks better on you."- Crystal Valentine and Aaliyah Jihad
No one can deny the existence of culture appropriation when tags like #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter exist and have close to 30 000 public posts on IG!

Not all instances of culture appropriation are as obvious and extreeme as the ones in the photos of the models, and it's not only black culture that is appropriated but I'm black so...

The line between culture appropriation and cultural exchange is a very thin one and we should all walk it with care and sensitivity. It's one thing to appreciate elements of a culture or religion, its a totally different ball game when you use those very same elements foolishly, ignore their significance, history and the history of the people to whom the culture belongs.


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Friday, February 3, 2017

Education Itches

Source: Calibre
“If you measure the statistics you miss the human aspect” -Timo Heikkinen

I truly think I’m a horrible friend, I forgot the love of my life’s birthday. We’ve been friends for almost a decade but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. To make matters worse my financial standing over the past two months has been in the dustbin so I couldn’t do much to even attempt to fix my fails. Because I’ve felt horrid I haven’t been able to write much. I thought of writing a 2016 reflections post but…. I also thought of writing a new year’s resolutions post, sat in front of the computer for a good hour and nothing came. And now here we are, the academic year for high school and primary school has commenced, and matric results of 2016 are (have beeeeen) out. With all these academic/school/education things in mind I feel that it’s time we talked about the state of education in South Africa (and perhaps Africa in general).

I have two real goals in life. The first is to want to be and consciously work towards being the person that Christ wants me to be. And the second one is success. Success for me is not simply being able to afford lavish cars and an even more lavish house and lifestyle (even though these are great), but it also means success for my community, country and ultimately the continent; with economic growth and development, and wealth distribution being the main indicators of said success. That being said I also believe that quality education is the key to the abovementioned “success indicators”. I’m also of the opinion that access to information is fundamental in achieving, facilitating, and providing quality education. The state of the South African education system is a long standing itch for me, and I’ll explain why.

The art of learning isn’t just about knowledge retention and recollection, it’s more about skills acquisition and application; confusing the two can and does have disastrous consequences (see South African education system for evidence). In my opinion, the problem with the education system in South Africa is the fact that it is knowledge focused instead of skills focused. In high school you have to choose a set of subjects that you want to study, the decision you make in Grade 9 (as a 15-year-old) determine (and possibly limit) the number of career options you have going into university.

Personally I don’t agree with the emphasis and pressure that is put on students to take mathematics and science in school, but these are currently the main (if not the only) subjects that equip students with skills and not just knowledge. Mathematics isn’t just about math operations and solving for x, most of it meant to develop problem solving skills. And so to have the government lower the pass rate for math to 20% is just them making a bad situation worse. The motivation behind the reduction in the math pass rate is that so that students who pass their other subjects don’t get held back by math (this a bucket of you know what, but what do I know).

The Finnish education system (one of the best ranking in the world), has no mandatory standardized testing until the end of a child’s high school career. There is no ranking, comparison or competition between students, schools or regions (all the things that South Africa does). There is so much pressure to perform (for both the government and the students) it distracts form the actual goal, providing and attaining quality education. But the problem is we are always looking at the wrong stats, like how many people passed matric instead of how the majority passed. Perhaps if we moved away from all the standardized testing we would do better.

The Finnish and Danish education systems (among others) are popular for being unconventional, yet they are successful. I believe this is what South Africa needs, to design an unconventional education system that better suits the need and lifestyles (is this correct English?) instead of adopting teaching and learning methods that are not suited for our people.

Source: ALU
Seeing institutions like ALU (African Leadership University) brings me immeasurable joy because it means the change that I’m talking about is coming even if it’s taking a while. ALU is a university founded by Fred Swaniker and deviates from traditional teaching and learning methods. Instead of the traditional lecturer relationship that plagues campuses all over the world, ALU has peer-learning at its heart. From my understanding, the assessment is not limited to the traditional assessment methods but tests the skills that students have developed over time; these are skills like critical thinking, entrepreneurial thinking, quantitative reasoning, and communication. I don’t know about you but these learning outcomes are more practical than being able to remember when the Boston Tea Party was… just saying.

Source: Square Space
I can only hope that in the near future someone with Fred Swaniker’s innovative and creative thinking will be the next minister of education (or president; but you can only dream so much). I don’t know how long the education system can go on like this before it crumbles, but maybe that’s what we need, for it to crumble so we can start afresh on a clean(ish) slate.

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