by Tandile Kupe
“Us, Black women
Like samples at a grocery store
Set out to be picked over
And never fully paid for” by Natasha T Miller
i live in a country where violence against women ranks one of the worst in the world. 50% of women in the country have suffered intimate partner violence, 1 in 2 of us are victims. South Afrika’s gender statistics reveal that South Afrikan Black women are seriously disadvantaged compared to men in finding jobs, acquiring tertiary education and are more likely to be unable to read. This is a country where gender equality has been strongly silenced by patriarchy, traditions and the white supremacy system.
Black women are usually described as “angry” or “sassy”. A stereotype about Black women stemming from the fact that we expressive by nature. This silences studies about the socioeconomic status that leaves us far behind. Black women are hemmed in, from all directions. On the media we are sexualised, posing naked for the male spectator, while every four minutes in our country a girl is being raped. On the other hand the white supremacy system is setting beauty standards for us. Patriarchy teaches us to submit as obedient zombies that never pose any problems, entrenching in society’s ideas of how a woman must behave.
Black Women Exploitation by the Media
After 500 years of brutal slavery, rape and gratuitous violence, our bodies have been dehumanized to samples at a grocery store. Thus we have traded our beauty standards to reflect whites. The image camouflaged by weaves, airbrushes and filters using white lenses. A deep discourse is needed among ourselves about what it says about us and what it mirrors. Let us dare to probe within ourselves the desires of being “yellow bones“ before we see a great obliteration. Women today are more than the limitations of being housewives, beauty pageant queens, models or just breeders.
Majority of women’s magazines are all about physical appearance, gossip, “how to get and keep a man” and fashion. There are too few Destiny magazines that are informative about the state of our economy. Magazines that represent our participation beyond the confines of being households’ goods. Women need to be educated about the political and economic situation of our country. Enhanced with tools to understand business and market terminology that dictates our survival. Common magazines on the shelf should develop women with understanding of politics, history, philosophy, (the philosophy of law in political context, the legal system, the rule of law and justice) science and technology. We are used to advances these causes while being marginalized from participation, growth and profit of their successes.
Women are all over the media. Cellphone adverts, music videos because if it is not sexy it does not sell. Our sexual symbolism has become currency. We pay for our own destruction as the paint, painting a negative Black image. In a world where black is an aberration from what is normal. Black women have turned to cosmetics companies to help cure their illness – their illness being their Black skin.
i am reminded of the famous story of Saartjie Baartman, (formerly known as Sarah) who was taken to Paris in 1814, and continued to be exhibited as a freak. She found herself displayed as a sexual curiosity and her image swept through British popular culture. We as a whole have not gotten any better. Sarah’s body was exploited, much more like women in music videos today. It is hard to watch at times. It is hard seeing my sisters looked upon as a pieces of meat. i don’t even want to mention what they do to black women in the porn industry; to call it degrading would be an understatement.
We must refuse vehemently to conform and continue being defined by these western standards. We should not be sexualized by the shallowness of pop culture. Our success must not be defined by how less we wear whether it’s for likes, adverts, music industry, acting and so on. We need to boycott negative images about ourselves and apply self-love on the inside that will limit the attention degrading us.
Dissecting the situation facing Black women in this country, we need to confront the root cause of the problem.
- The high levels of school drop-outs, leading to the lower levels of Education
- The high levels of rate of unemployment
- The poor state of our Economy
- Patriarchy within our midst which benefit males
- The white supremacy system
- Misogyny disguised as culture
In honest truth South Afrikans are not ready for a female president and having women in boardrooms. This challenges the idea that women are inferior to men and the liberation of our intellectual capacity. Women have not been given a chance to hold their own. This has led to continued violence on our bodies. The South Afrikan Domestic Violence Act of 1998 defines domestic violence as: “Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse; economic abuse, intimidation, harassment; stalking; damage of property; entry into the complaints residence without consent, where parties do not share the same residence; or any other controlling or abusive behavior towards a complaint, where such conduct harms or may cause immediate harm to, the safety health or well-being of the complainant.”
A study conducted by the World Health Organization WHO in 2013 found that 50% of the South Afrikan women surveyed reported that they had suffered emotional and verbal abuse. 1 in 2 women have been victims of abuse. Why have we buried such scars that deep in our society? Why have we not engaged with the root causes? Why have we buried our cries so deep that they invisible?
When we address this as a society we often focus on women for their reactions for staying in abusive relationship, but never asking and vilifying men for their abuse. If 50% of women in South Africa have been victims of abuse then it is safe to say 50% of South African men abuse women. A Medical Research Council study in 2012 found that one in two women murdered in South Africa are killed by their partners. Kanti what have we been missing for our men in South Africa to be this brutal towards women? It is quarta past time we have that dialogue that has been burning under our soul from slavery. As a woman i refuse to live dodging bullets from the hands of men, be it family, friend, lover or stranger.
“We are women of a different status. We eat, we live, we breath and we even sweat love. Always ready to hear from women with silver hair, seed that had been sown. You will find us always promoting unity, serving in our communities, constantly being refined to be the exact of our design. Yes we are beautiful, bare foot in the kitchen of grace, pregnant with purpose and revolution is what we crave. i know we can change things we don’t like, all for a simple cost, but we can’t bleach and buttocks away our depressions. Yes we are beautiful; we are women of a different status. It’s time to change our status.” (Extracted from Janette… iks)
Afrika has always had royalty; in fact thrived for royalty. The current system of governance should be in memorial. Women were never stripped off their pride and femininity but now rules have changed. Women need to stand their ground and fight for a better life for Afrikan Queens to come to nourish this land of ours. It is long overdue that we have an open dialogue without fear or favour. This is the only way in moving our nation forward. This society has shaped us the way we are; therefore there should be no disconnection. Let us use the tools of unity to implement change. Black women’s liberation should be a state of consciousness in our current struggle for liberation.
Tandile Kupa: Student at University of Johannesburg and Pan Afrikanist
The “i” small cap is a conscious imagery of not being bigger than the group.. The Cartesian principle is “I think therefore I am.” In Afrika we say, ”i am because we are and since we are, therefore i am.”