Tomorrow’s Daughter’s are Today

Nelson Mandela- Photographs by David Turnley

In celebrating the big global movement and the shift in consciousness where womyn are putting our bodies on the line and frontiers of patriarchy that has pitted gender wars as well as calamity against the black female body, I now declare that the beautyful ones are here. We are here marching with the dance and song of generations of womyn who have had mind-bending and spirit-altering war meted against our bodies and psyches, who have been programmed to hate our wombs and battle against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Womyn who have been shamed through adages such as “slut”, “nymphomaniac”, “ugly duckling”, “whore”, “witch”, and relegated to the margins of society where our image of ‘who we should be’ trapped us in schizophrenic identities that further alienated ourselves from who we are. The deep and internalised alienation wrecked and butchered our wombs, our divinity, our femininity, and left our gentleness foreign to us. We are now here, tomorrow’s daughters, today, using those very denigrated bodies to confront and expose the male whoredom of anti-female ideology in the brothel of history.

I speak in wake of students at Rhodes and Wits Universities; with the voice of Dr Stella Nyanzi at Makerere University whose “unethical” antics against an unethical system was articulated through her black naked body; I speak with the suffocating voice of Sarah Baartman who could not breathe under a colonial gaze informed by perverse white patriarchal fetishes; I speak in the wake of Beyoncé’s Lemonade (the visual masterpiece) where she puts her own body on the line crusading against a violent structure that advocates womyn not being enough; with the voice of Pumla Gqola whose embodied life work preaches the baptism of fire suffered by the black female body scorched by sexual violence over the centuries; in the voice of our mothers who built houses of pain with a fierce love that finds its reverberations today. I sing with Thandiswa Mazwai whose generational voice strives to challenge history’s lopsided narrative that villainized womyn and launched a witch hunt on any of us who strived to be tomorrow’s daughter in the hollowed womb of yesterday’s violations. I recite with Lebogang Mashile in her poem ‘Tomorrow’s Daughters’, that strives to bring the voice of “pretty black girls” from the margins to the centre of discourse:

I want to write a poem                                                   Pumla-GqolaAbout pretty black girls
Who don’t relax and lie their dreams away
Voices that curl
The straight edges of history
Hair thin slices of a movement
Turning the world kinky
I respect the disciplines silent screamers
Who expose the holes

I revere people to my own detriment
Perhaps you did too
But when I enter your hallowed hearth
Please don’t turn me away
I want to show pretty black girls
How to look at their hearts
With eyes blaring full blast
The way you did
Together we can build a bridge
To the promise in their faces
And pull them towards poems
By pretty black girls
Wearing crowns of change

Mashile and our mothers’ daughters of tomorrow are here, retrieving a wholesome past poked with holes and lies about forbidden fruits in the garden, to make it whole again. We are reasserting the enduring unchained spirits of our foremothers; redefining a life of our own making that does not cross-reference patriarchy’s rules; and rewriting a history that repudiates adherence to the straight edges of a singular story by celebrating homogenous histories and dynamic genders through intersectionality. Pretty black girls have suffered more negligence, violence, dehumanization, rape, and marginalization than any other group throughout history; and we are here, refusing to “relax and lie our dreams away”. We are doing anything but relaxing. We are bushy, unkempt, sooty, fierce, animalistic and fighting for visibility. You cannot look away. The lie and the lye of maleness and whiteness corroded the fabrics of our being and aborted our dreams for centuries that break our backs. We are here with sjamboks, and we are loud, emerging from centuries of ravage and ruin, celebrating and wearing crowns of change.

I am reminded of Wanelisa Xaba’s pondering of schizophrenic traps set for womyn, in which she laments, “You shame us when we love sex. You shame us when we’re not interested in sex. You shame us when we want to use contraceptives. You shame us when we don’t use protection. … You shame us when we’re virgins. You shame us when we need access to abortions. You shame us when we choose adoption. You shame us when we’re single mothers. You shame us when we wear too much makeup. You shame us when we don’t wear any makeup. You shame us when we don’t fight back. You shame us for throwing a punch. You shame us when we’re too thin. You shame us when we’re too fat. You shame us when we’re sad. You shame us when we’re happy”. And the list goes on and on: trusted hotep brothers and Fanon-quoting ‘brothers’ peddling a brand of unattainable female goddess which most certainly always relegates any outspoken and sexual black female to whoredom.

That has been the life of a black womyn under the constant and unnerving gaze of the cis het men in the inner circle of ‘safety’, from our fathers, uncles, and male cousins to our boyfriends, and the entitled cat-callers whose derision is always a threat more than a compliment. Even the phrase “cat-calling”, most certainly a discursive practice cloaked in generations of inequality and normalised sexual possession of the black female body, is a perverse allusion to ‘calling the pussy’. Nobody is indignant of that ongoing abuse! We are enmeshed in centuries of oppression as black womyn, that even the language is gendered to perpetuate our subjugation (hence ‘womyn’ instead of ‘woman’ or ‘women’). Our subjectivity over the centuries has been engendered by the male gaze, rendering us commodities to be consumed by any Tom, Dick and Dickie, subject to discipline and punish, just like slaves—misogyny is surely meted out if we do not live up to those unattainable standard mentioned above of what constitutes the ideal female. Who is the quintessential female if even Jesus’ own mother was shamed, violenced and silenced?

The male gaze over the centuries has been one of the most powerful strategies of oppression and domination over the black female body, and we still witness the force of its power today. One who has the power to look, particularly in this power play where the one looked at cannot look back, has the power to objectify, classify, and subject the observed. The observed’s hypervisibility (owing to the fact that we constitute half of the population) renders us powerless because they are firstly subject to identification, and secondly cannot speak back against being labelled “sefebe” (whore), “lefetwa” (womyn who is not married by a certain age, literally translates to ‘not picked’), “letekatse” (prostitute, even though there is no name for men who essentially make us prostitutes through transactions), or “moopa” (barren womyn, where it was always assumed that the couple is childless because the womyn is infertile), because commodities do not speak. This ambivalence of ‘othering’ the black female body whilst simultaneously desiring to consume it is mostly what underpins male sexual violence against the black womyn, which is essentially male violence against itself.

The frailty of that brand of masculinity exposes itself through rampant contradictions: men-made laws against breast-feeding in public are riddling at best and evoke memories of how we were told to close our legs and wear long skirts as not to wreck patriarchy’s ship. This is all to protect male desire that simultaneously presents itself as disgust. It is the same nipple you proudly and haughtily reference when you claim to be a “tits guy”. This is also found in the disgusted reactions against menstruations and the advertising of them with blue blood. It seems patriarchy is frail indeed, and cannot stomach the inherent complexity of humans, where desire and disgust can be carried with grace: the duality of birth/death. Their colonial brothers also desired and were disgusted by the black female body, treating it with contempt while consuming it. This leads me to conclude that maleness cannot stand milk/blood of creation, but are very happy with blood of destruction as they continue to spill blood over the centuries.

Warsan Shire/Beyoncé puts it like so, “I tried to change, closed my mouth more … tried to be softer, prettier, less awake”; and those are the silencing, disabling, disfiguring, and debilitating effects of the male gaze upon the black female body. There is no winning in that hallowed hearth of hate they have created because the rules of their power games elude even them. Black womyn are done downplaying our inherent ‘wokeness’. We will never know the extent of our mothers and their mothers’ power; the textures, colours, breadths, and depths of their strength. But their strength is our strength and it comes back once more in hundred-folds in an unstoppable wrath, seeking to dismantle this unconscious consciousness and resurrect the womb from the tomb of patriarchy’s morgue. We are here, we are not going anywhere, and we speak with a timeless voice of generations.

RUR nude protest

UCT RMF

Audrey Lorde

 

Mantra for the Divine

Lupita black

I am with those whose time has come. Those unafraid to traverse a journey of their making, guided by courage, faith, hope, and passion. Those who listen intently to the whispers of their soul. Those who create.

I am with those whose period has come, in spite of patriarchy, racism and classism. Those who dance on the cracks of difference and laugh in the face of diversity. Those who plaster dividing lines with pure intentions of wholeness.

I am with those whose time is now. Those who wrestle the arms of time. Those who find value in creativity and collaboration. Those whose heartstrings compose songs of peace that ripple their effects to war-torn spirits.

I am with those who say yes. Yes to self and no to responding to the insecurities of others. Yes to tenderness and affection, to propelling the mission of love and light forward, and to their inner divinity.

I am with those who embrace sex. Sex of gender and sex of intercourse. Those who do not seek power or disempower in pre-determined labels of homo/hetero/trans/inter/cross, but embrace strength born out of gentleness.

I am with those who shun institution, dogma, and indoctrination. Those who suspect doctrines and uphold the spirit of thought and debate. Those who recognise the need for revisiting history. Those aware of the dangers of a single story.

I am with those whose time has come. Whose energy is aligned to the redefinition of self, family, marriage, friendship, spirituality, education, leadership—those whose energies are invested in the perpetual pursuit of their truth.

I am with those not defined by age, era, or moments. Those who respond to their duality and transcend life and death. Those whose concept of life is not flesh nor breath. Those whose fabric of being is multi-dimensional and receptive.

I am with the troubled and the content. I am with those who wage war with self, and strive for peace in time of war. I am with the robustly passionate, who drive the fire of resolve in every action.

I am with those who deplete the ego. Those who surrender to the callings of their higher selves. Those who find life in depleted selves. Those who create life from nothing. Those who triumphantly emerge out of fire.

Mantra

Sex and Vagina Monologues

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I have a group of fifteen close female friends. Not one of them is alike to any other. We are all different. We all have our different laughter, smiles, farts, hair textures, skin colour, shoe sizes, height, weight, eyebrows, noses, hips, buttocks, breasts, navels, teeth, tongues, hairlines, toes, knees, and vaginas.  Not one of these mentioned things are the same to any other. We are a group of women, but we are so vastly different, and of course love to appreciate our differences and celebrate them.

When I read articles about “What women want”, or “Women on top”, or “How to please a woman”, I shudder at the manner in which our differences are collapsed and how we are all viewed as some kind of homogenous goo that morphs into each other to create this enigma called woman. Furthermore, the enigma fails to serve us; it only works against us and our bountiful differences. We are increasingly becoming an arithmetic equation where the rest of the world is perpetually solving for x, the “woman issue”.

In the last week I was impressed by an array of “womanist” topics circulating on social networks; they all fight for the same course: women are neither aliens from Venus nor are they peripatetic assemblages to be rooted by men. One campaign read, “What do you call a woman who enjoys sex?”, and the answer was, “you call her by her first name”—sharing the same sentiment with the slogan, “my vagina my rules”. This is in response to another age-old patriarchal inscription of women as typically occupying the “Madonna” or “whore” dichotomy.

ImageThe Madonna-whore dichotomy, or the “Mother Africa trope”, as Florence Stratton (Google and read) has called it, is the reason why the label “nymphomaniac” is a deriding and offensive label applied to women who enjoy sex, whilst a man with the same sexual appetite, or even worse, is somewhat celebrated (think Charlie Sheen) and diagnosed with sex addiction. While on the topic, women who commit infidelity are scorned and made to carry the cross reminiscent of the Victorian era ala Scarlet Letter, whilst men who do are hailed as alpha-males. I am yet to come across the omega-female in popular culture and modern dictionaries, never mind in history.

There is no omega-female in this world; there is only the Madonna or the whore. The Madonna is a construction of patriarchy and is mostly equated with the earth, mother earth, or mother Africa, who bears child-bearing hips, and an equal amount of threshold to bear all the pain of being subservient to the male world. This woman is suffering the sins of her ancestor, Eve, who dared to eat from the fruit tree bequeathed to both her and her husband. She must know her place now. She must let her husband eat before she may do so. She is of the rib of her husband so she must treat him as superior and superlative. She must not question him, nor talk back to him. She must not look him in the eyes. She must serve him. She is the Madonna, and will be celebrated if she behaves in that manner.

This highly problematic stance that has caused so many heinous crimes and continue to sow atrocious social ills that are beyond comprehension (think child brides; war soldiers raping women; domestic violence; corrective rape; incest; the pull her down syndrome amongst women because they have internalised centuries of this discourse; systematic rape that results in marrying the perpetrator; etc) still continues to ravage the fabric of society. In today’s time women still face the patriarchal blade on their throats: men are intimidated by successful women and plot to deface them; whether with acid, or by impregnating them as a form of control, or by targeting their mother instinct as an Achilles heel, or barring them from economic/social/cultural/(non)religious/education/trade participation.

India domestic 1India domestic 2

This brings me to the second campaign I wish to comment on, which is called the “Abused Goddesses” (above), with images of bruised Hindu goddesses – Saraswati, Durga and Lakshmi – executed as an attempt to spread a strong message against domestic violence against women in India. This campaign, as powerful as it is in addressing an age-long social ill through locally-relevant, and immediate symbols and images, functions to perpetuate the exact issue that I’m trying to drive home in this post. Women are different; and even reiterating it like this seems absurd. Women do not neatly fall into categories of madonnas and whores, and are neither strictly goddesses or ungodly—the sooner this is understood the sooner we can realise that no woman deserves a beating, no matter how ‘ungodly’. These “abused goddesses” in India are not goddesses; they are suffering women who are victims of patriarchy and modern day slavery.

These campaigns that I have foregrounded have roused in me a need to celebrate our differences as a group of friends, and as women around the world, in all our bountiful and admirable differences. As I have mentioned earlier on, in a group of fifteen close female friends that I have, we all have different laughter, smiles, farts, hair textures, skin colour, shoe sizes, height, weight, eyebrows, noses, hips, buttocks, breasts, navels, teeth, tongues, hairlines, toes, knees, and vaginas. Yes, true indeed, we have different vaginas. No vagina is the same as another. We realise that when we look at Jamie McCartney’s “The great wall of vagina” (please see below): from the surface itself it is a beautiful marvel. But every vagina has its own unique features: they differ in texture, colour, shape, size, and taste…

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Out of my fifteen close friends we all get our periods. Some had their first periods before they were 10 and others had their first period well into high school. Some use tampons, some use pads, and some go au naturale without any preventative method. Out of those who use tampons, the sizes vary. Not according to vagina size but according to the blood flow. There are some of my friends who have a light flow, and there are those who bleed intensely. There are those who bleed for three days and there are those who bleed for ten days. There are those who have to change their tampon every two hours and there are those who change it once a day. There are also those who have forgotten to remove their last tampon, finding it during a sexual act.

I have friends who do not touch themselves, and I have friends who enjoy playing with themselves. Out of those who touch themselves I have friends whose erogenous zones are on the exterior, on their clitoris, and those whose g-spot are in the vagina. I have friends who use vibrators and I have friends who prefer dildos (know the difference). I have friends who love rough sex, and I have friends who enjoy both rough and gentle. I have friends who don’t enjoy sex at all. I have friends who like it deep or nothing at all. I have friends who give blow jobs like their lives depends on it, and I have friends who don’t enjoy the act. I have friends who curl their toes during culliningus and those who abhor it. I also have friends with what I call a “peeing vagina”: one that does not function on any sexual level, but is only for peeing.

I have friends who don’t like to talk so explicitly about sex, and I have those who feel ashamed after masturbating. I have friends who are uncomfortable or shocked at these truths… In furthering the cause of celebrating our differences as women through these stories I tell, I hope to also expose another factor: most women are uncomfortable with open talk about sex, blow jobs, masturbating, and culliningus precisely because of the Madonna-whore dichotomy. To be sexually liberated is to be mentally liberated from that dichotomy that seeks to classify a “good woman”, or a “goddess”, as one who is essentially a virgin. Yes, in a patriarchal world a Madonna can bear children of man without the sexual act, like our famous Mary. Think about how long your father thought of you as “pure” and a virgin? He probably still thinks that of you. And that’s why you are often prudish and riddled with Catholic guilt when it comes to sexual enjoyment.

The worst thing that can happen to us as women is to internalise this patriarchal inscription of ourselves any further, to a point where we find it hard to enjoy sex with our partners/husbands (over 50% of women have never experienced an orgasm), where we are self-bashing and ashamed after masturbating, and where we defensively target and deride other women for living a life that we wished we lived. We are neither Madonna nor whore; neither godly nor ungodly; and certainly not saintly or desecrated. We are human. Emancipation of any kind can only happen when we take the reigns of this horse called life into our own hands, and ride it into the kind of destinies that serve us in the most powerful and human way possible.

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Please also read and empower yourself on the functioning of the cervix, and how it prepares itself for monthly menstruals every cycle here:

http://www.beautifulcervix.com/cervix-photo-galleries/photos-of-cervix/

I found this site to be overwhelmingly educational. Claim your body and vagina back!!