Faces of feminism: the age of the selfie

Selfie collage

“The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates. Selfies are like a ‘fuck you’ to all of that, they declare that ‘hey I look awesome today and I want to share that with everyone’ and that’s pretty revolutionary.” — Lindsay Bottos.

The internet is a hard place for women. It is the place where slut-shaming has become second nature, the home of the self righteous and a cesspool of hate. You can pretend it doesn’t exist but you aren’t you tired of running out excuses for this stubborn denial? Yet more proof is Lindsay Battos, a 21-year old who dared to express herself the way she wanted. The internet’s response: vitriol and mocking. Battos didn’t ask those people to read her site she simply existed in the vast space known as the web.

The conversation of what is feminism seems to keep popping up in recent years especially since we have been gifted with so many ways of expressing ourselves. Our latest tool for express is Facebook-owned photo sharing app Instagram, a new societal favourite. The rise of Instagram has give way to an onslaught of self portraits (selfies). Some skeptics will argue that for feminism the act of taking a photo of yourself posing and then sharing it with the world is more an act of vanity than defiance against the status quo. I, like Battos, and many other women disagree. It can be said that “selfies” as a form of activism is simply setting up the gender debate to fail because what does beauty and photographs to do with feminism?

Everything.

One of the biggest failing in female representation is the “Media Woman”. The way women are represented in the media has left a society of impossible aspirations, abused and fragile self confidences. The Media Woman is both offensive and demeaning. So the personal selfie taken by young women to express their self love and appreciation of their bodies and their beauties is the ultimate form of rebellion. It’s not just women either, men too take selfies and express their mainlines and self appreciation so why is it bad thing that finally we have a society rising up to be themselves.

We are as society, not just women, have given up our control to make up our own minds. We have allowed ourselves to be bullied by the media, to be bullied by the state and the greatest disservice of all, to be bullied by each other. We embody complacency and acceptance. Cruelty has become common place and the internet has help amplify our vile. It is terrible state of affairs.

The selfie is liberating. It is friendship. It is caring and gentle reminder that there nothing wrong you with you.

As an often lone traveller, the selfie is a paramount component of my journeys through the globe. As an expat with most of my good and oldest friends all over the world, the selfie serves as a reminder to friends and from friends of where we are and what we are up to. We may jest about the selfie and its frequency but we dare not discredit its power.

When shared, the selfie is a tribute to the ferociousness of your personality, an ode to your mischievousness and a welcomed explosion of the youthfulness of your spirit. The selfie takes nothing from you but gives you freedom. It is an indication that you are who you have chosen to be and an incandescent salut to your soul.

A life unlived: why I keep running away from home

Cape Town

My biggest fear is that I will fail miserably at living my life.

I live in Cape Town. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I don’t think I could live anywhere else, yet in the last year I have barely been home. Whenever I recount my globemich tales of the wonderful and exciting places I have been and plan to go to, I am usually met with a mixture of impressive nods and jealous admiration. I relish in the well-prepared words to chronicle my tales because after all they make up the sum of who I am.

So imagine my surprise when I was asked why I was running away from my beloved city. Perhaps the best thing to do, would be to explain my thoughts on travel before if I am ever to address that.

I travel because I do not want to live a life of regret. One of the most universal regrets people have is that they didn’t travelled enough. Most people sit in their day jobs daydreaming about lives not lived, loves not experienced and missed adventure. We keep our worlds closed in tightly in case it ever falls out of our grasp and we lose control. We have become slaves to routine, calendars and devices tell us what we must do and when we must do it. Routines control our lives and we let it.

I travel because I fear the unknown. When ever I get into a new city the first thing I do is get on Google maps to find my way. Every time, without fail, I lose the direction the minute I step away from the wifi zone. So I walk and hope that I find my way. Generally what I do not know brings on a stressed anxiety that all but cripples me. When I travel, all I have is the unknown and every time I step out without a map or plan on where I am going, I chip away at the fear. I have never suffered an ill fate on any of my trips, I have never been robbed, I have lost many things due to my own negligence but not one of my fears has ever come true while I navigated the unknown. There is a deeper, sadder reality in the fact that we let ourselves be held back the fear of the unknown.

I travel because the world will no doubt forget me when these mortal coils are shed, but that does not mean I shouldn’t experience it. Society is full of people who sit and pontificate about the world without ever experiencing it. People judge entire nations and box societies in based on the carefully crafted words of journalists (yes, the irony is not lost on me) and the concluding thoughts of a few keystrokes. The world is a big and vast wilderness waiting to be explored. How can I truly know and understand anything if I don’t see and become part of it.

I travel because I am looking for something, a story to tell. A few years ago the pain that only loss can bring rendered me paralysed by the thought that the sum of my life could easily be quantified because I had not experienced a enough. If life truly is a journey surely it cannot be had behind a desk wondering what the adventures will entail. I will never experience all that is out there but I want to give it a good go. I am looking for the stories that exists in different parts of the world so I can tell it as honestly as I can.

I travel because other opinions matter more than my own. A few weeks ago a very interesting video about Facebook’s algorithm for regulating its Newsfeed and content seen by users surfaced. The author of the video talked about how Facebook systematically takes away things you don’t like and only keeps you in a world of your own making. Essentially Facebook only exposes you to people just like you, people with the same beliefs and thought processes. I want to be able to see beyond my nose. I relish the energy a good debate and a well-paced argument brings. The learnings that lie when two opponent realise that both have merit and walk away friends. The humbling pleasure of knowing you can, and often will, be wrong. The ostensible inspiration that comes when you learn something new from someone you couldn’t imagine could teach you anything.

I travel to run away. I am running a way from a life unlived, a dream deferred and a tragic complacency that would otherwise live me disappointed in my own existence. I am running away from home because I love coming back and I think I will keep running.

Afrofeminism: understanding the modern African feminist

silhouette of mother kissing her daughter

A few weeks ago on a cool summer’s evening while under the carefully guided hand of a full bodied glass of red wine, a friend turned to me and asked what the modern African feminist looked like, the women he tacked on. This question should have been easy to answer as I thought I understood who she is, but it wasn’t.

Like most things that happens on a summer’s evening where sunset can be dragged on depending on the sun’s sluggishness, the question grew more fierce and terrifying the more I surveyed the dimming skyline. I think I shall address the question as best I can now. It would be easy to say that the modern African woman is all business and dominates the boardroom. It would be easy to say that she has beaten the mythos of the old world and embraced the tigress of the new world. That would be easy.

Truth be told her way is still a murky unknown, barricaded by loopholes in the law and regimes that refuse to step out of the dark ages. She is stifled by religion and bound by the emotional blackmail of her peers and the male figures in her life. When all fails, the default for African women is to go back to the old ways, the way our mothers and their mothers did it — acceptance.

However, there is no denying the onslaught of Afrofeminism, a striking second act in the history of African women and their revolutions. The emergence of the modern African woman is both accidental and purposed, an unorganised movement united by a simple cause — to be all that we can be. This resurgence and affirmation has swept through the continent and everyone is taking notice and making room for the quiet intensities and the exhilarating expression that is the modern African woman.

It’s easy to pin her down to preconceived ideas and the flawless quality of the media headlines and the newsmakers. The truth is that the modern African feminist is deeply flawed, a creature of rash decisions and fiery passion. But can you blame her though? Growing up, African girls are forbidden from dating, yet at the appropriate age they are expected to bring home the perfect husband. An idea that defies logic, leaving young girls to date in secret. The African feminist is built on this defiance, always forging a way when the path is blocked.

For years, women in Africa embodied complacency. They were wives and mothers and growing up young girls bought into this destiny because no one told them they didn’t have to. As the tide now turns and these perceptions in turn unravel to reveal more roles for women in society, the myth of what is woman is growing more complex. Young African girls see this then quickly and easily begin to saunter through their own identities with ease while falling into feminism with glee and careless abandon. Because in the end, for them, it is the norm.

The African woman that we see now is unshackled by the burdens of the women that came before, she understands the sacrifices of those who came before her but refuses to inherent their prisons. She is much darker and unabashed, unapologetic about sexuality and has no time for coyness. For her sex is not a tool to be used in a game of chance or daring, but a factor of life and a source of pleasure.

In the end, what Afrofeminism really is: is an awakening. The African feminist is debunking the mythos that boxes her into one corner of a world that is far to big to only be one thing. She preaches self-love, calculates her career path factoring a husband and children as well as nannies that help out while she is at work. She supports her man and expects him to support her, emotionally and mentally. She actively contributes to household income and sometimes makes more money. She plays a dangerous game of careful and calculated chess, where partnerships and strategic alliances guide her path.

The modern African feminist looks like whoever and whatever she wants to look like, the person who is the most comfortable for her to be. She doesn’t seek self affirmation but endeavours to standout in her own way.

Beaten to submission: feminism vs feminine

daily_life_120211_06

Tucked away in a corner almost unseen, is a Facebook discussion on my newsfeed about “plus-sized” women and what the world thinks women should look like. I never see discussions like this on my feed much, they are probably pushed out by the many tips on weight loss, the abs challenges and the best ways to tone the buttocks.

People share a lot of content about getting thin, I guess I understand the world is facing a health crisis around weight. Yet people don’t talk about getting healthy they talk about getting thin. Women are plagued with is, when did women inherit the monopoly on having to be the thin ones? How come we have accepted and allowed society to tell women that they must look a certain way?

Women are airbrushed within an inch of their lives because it will sell more magazines and somehow these women are okay with it. They are okay with being abused in such a way, they are okay with such blatant disrespect because society has beaten them to submission.

A year ago I was in Seoul, South Korea, and I was lucky enough to meet one of the most remarkable young women I have ever met. She was beautiful, and it could not be denied or avoided. She had made herself so. One evening while we sat in the conference press room I asked why she had so many bags with her. Her response, her makeup and other outfits in case her boss didn’t like what she had on. For her it was key to look just like the women in the magazines, it was important to her that the men saw her as beautiful and delicate. Because only then will she ever be able to get married and be protected by one.

Jax (as we will call her) woke up every day at 4am in other put on her mask of perfection. She went to sleep at 1am because her boss who is a man prefers her to work late. She was okay with because as a woman it is expected. She barely ate for fear of weighing more than a feather.

In my travels in the last few years I have started noticing these patterns, where society has beaten women into submission, a world were rebellion is too much work so we rather get on with the programme designed by an ideology that isn’t based on reality. I was told I was fat when I was 18 years old, I saw a photograph from my 18th birthday a few days ago and the girl in the photographs could stand to eat a sandwich or a piece of cake.

This is our world. A place where fragile egos are put to a test they are doomed to fail. A place where confidence is built with physical approval rather than encouragement. A place where aspirations depend on what you’ve been watching on TV rather the role models your reality provides. We live in a society of child parents and child breadwinners and children masquerading as grown up and grown ups let their inner child loose everyday.

Women look at magazines and buy clothing a size too small only to do the jiggle dance and wrangle their hips into submission. The tighter the jeans the better, once you zip up that dress breathing is a luxury. So day by day meals are skipped and stomachs are held firmly in because society demands it and we are its bitch.

The issue of weight and obesity is an uncomfortable and difficult one for those involved. For the rest of society it seems to be a sport and a way to inflict cruelty. Soon we will find ourselves wallowing in the evil that skulks in adolescence, where we too begin to disregard young boys and girls for their weight because in our perfect ivory towers we can see it is their fault. We don’t ask about the boy whose mother suffers from addiction and he now must take care of three younger siblings. We forget to sympathise with the girl whose father killed himself in her presence. No, everyone with a real weight issue must have chosen without emotional scar because society tells us so.

We judge women for not being feminine enough and then chastised for working the sexy because it is not very feminist of them. Making them mutually exclusively because our society asks us to, so we cave. How can one person handle it all? You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It shouldn’t be okay to make people feel less than they are, yet everyday young girls look at magazines and wonder what they are doing wrong.

I don’t want to be part of a society that gradually manipulates and coaxes me into accepting the construct of what I should be or what I should look like. I refuse to be the product of a false identity and I refuse to raise a daughter who will suffer for loving cake.

When in doubt, try to blow a hole in the universe and see what happens

woods cellophane

Growing up I had a friend that was always willing to get into trouble with me. There was never a question whether we were allowed to do it, if our parents would approve or if it was legal — he was just always willing. I spent many evenings at his house watching television and when I had a party I considered it a personal insult he didn’t RSVP the second he was invited. We were quite the pair.

When I was at university my best friend was also willing to get into all sorts of trouble with me and we did get into trouble, some we sorta looked for but most of them found us. I found it amusing that if something odd and completely insane would happen to anyone on the planet it would find a way to be us. We tried to avoid it but it always happend and we had the best time always.

Last year I was in Jordan and I met a fanstic girl who again was willing to get into all sorts of trouble with me, we had a blast as we observed the world around us the subtlities of the country and its people and breathtaking beauty that it has to offer. It’s a very brutal lesson when you see the world, all your preconcived ideas shatter away without buffer. When you see enough of the world it bare and unapologetic just how real it all is. Reality, she is a real bitch.

LinkedIn told me today that it was three years to the day since I started my current job, yes I have a real job, I am not paid to get on plane (I wish). I think LinkedIn meant it as some congratulations and surely people congratulated me. However one friend said to me it was time to leave my prison. He said: “All you have is work, surely that’s depressing”. Is it?

My Prison.

Myself and a friend that used to work me used to joke about stockholm syndrome, according to him I had it the worse. See it was never case of whether or not I wanted to leave, it was a case of my seeming inability to. It’s funny that we classify work as a prison, my father and one of his closeth friends are convinced I enjoy working so much and it is the reason I still don’t have my PhD. The later is true, but I think there is a fine line between loving a job so much to dedicate every waking moment to it and having no choice.

So back to my prison, I wish to pose a question: how do you tell the difference? Am I held hostage by a notion or do I find fufillment in nothing else. I love my job but it doesn’t seem to want to get into trouble with no matter what.

I don’t think your job is a prison unless you cage yourself in, I thought about it. I think the problem that currently exists here is that while I had my friends that made every day fun by willing to break rules with me and have a blast doing — something key is missing here. All those friends and times where periods where I was trying to blow a hole in the universe and risk everything becasue that was who I was, the risk taker who was never afriad to speak up who dare to think up the impossible. I was the girl who when I didn’t like something I said and when I didn’t want to do something because I disagreed I wouldn’t. No one ever made feel less than I was and I retained my voice.

I didn’t have one thing that consumed all my waking moments, I had serveral things that mattered and I cared about a lot of things. I was the girl for who maturity wasn’t the amount of time I accepted faith but the times I was willing to make a difference. I cared about women issues on more than an academic level, it mattered to me and I did something it about it. For me one well done never nagated the 10 horrid and unnecessary bullying that came before. I am the girl who threaten a much older and bigger boy because he pushed my big sister into a door that resulted in an injury. I am the girl that refuses to be in a prsion.