Being an engineer for young girls is as normal as breathing

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The conversation around women in the workplace, in the media and socially keeps getting derailed because somehow in 2017 women are still viewed as second class citizens in parts of the world. Just watch this video to see what I mean. It has never been more important to make your voice count.

The feminism movement is in its 4th wave of affirmation, where every voice counts and must count. I hope that as women and men we will use our voice for the important things and create dialogue on our future. Now more than ever women are under attack. The fight to create balance has left bullseye target on our backs.

Today there is no acceptable way to be a woman. It is a lose-lose situation no matter what you do. When all genders judge women by the way we choose to practice womanhood and take agency of our own lives and our own bodies. What chance do women stand to just be women? As women we have to work around a lot of self conditioning, being interrupted and society’s created invisibility of us, micro-aggressions and a scarcity of role models.

I take personal responsibility and I feel a social obligation to fight for young girls and boys everywhere because equality is not about one gender. Whenever I tell people I am a feminist they become apprehensive, it is an unpopular word, it is uncomfortable. Feminism is defined as the equality of the sexes. I think it is right that I am judged and measured on the quality of my work and my intellect than my gender. It natural and fair for me to earn the same has my male counterparts. I do not want be treated special because I am woman, I want to be treated equal.

Young African women and men need female role models to tell them that is okay to dream big, that just because someone says you can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. They need to see equality at work, really at work. As Africans comes online and its people experience what the world of technology has to offer, women will have to take their place as technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs. So we must challenge ourselves to recognize the women who are moving the needle, the women paving the way for young girls to think of tech, entrepreneurship and the many varieties of womanhood as commonplace.

I have spent the better part of my adulthood learning about women in Africa who every day stand up and be an example that I can follow. Examples that young girls and young women in the workplace need to have strength and courage. Many of those women go unnoticed everyday but they are worthy of the role models titles. They make my voice count, they make it easy for me to speak. We all need to be bold for the change we want.

There is a new dawn for women in Africa. Women who will not be mollified by simply a silent seat at the table. Women who will not be satiated by just being asked. Women who will stand up and have their voices heard but more importantly women who are part of the dialogue, who will tell the truth on what it is like to be the only woman at the table, who will carry on because the young girls and boys are watching and hoping one day they too will be you. A time, that being an engineer for young girls is as normal as breathing.

We need to stop calling grown ass women ‘cute’

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It’s a windy afternoon in the city of Cape Town, for the second time in my four-day trip here I have had to make the grave choice of what was more important, my dignity or may hair. Dresses are not meant for this city. I am standing just outside of one of the many entrances to the Waterfront shopping mall, a guy stops right next to me mobile device out – likely waiting on an Uber. He looks familiar, he is smiling, my current dignity/hair predicament is amusing.

“You were just in the iStore, right?” he asks me, almost daring me to deny it.
“Um, yeah,” I respond apprehensive. But understanding colours my familiarity. I had seen him in there, staring.
“Yeah, I saw you. You’re pretty cute,” he smiles. This is a compliment and I should thank him, maybe flirt a little? But I don’t, I just smile, nod and luckily my car is here so I get in hastily.

Call me whatever you like, but I feel a grown woman shouldn’t be called cute. ‘Pretty cute’ most often for women doesn’t feel like a compliment but a downgrade from pretty, beautiful, gorgeous and stunning. If you don’t feel the person you’re about to compliment is any of the four words or million other words out there then don’t. Cute just makes them feel like that they are not attractive. You sully the word pretty by tacking “cute” to it.

Cute by definition means: “attractive in a pretty or endearing way“. This word is to been likened with adorable and sweet the same words you would use to describe a baby/child, fluffy stuffed toys and puppies. When you Google the word cute the above mentioned things come up. Not quite how a grown woman wants to be seen and I highly doubt grown men want to be cute either – not after they see what Google brings up. On the other hand the word beautiful is likened to attractive, pretty, pleasing to to eyes and alluring. You can see the problem here. Men and Women are creatures of physicality. When someone you think is alluring thinks you are nothing more than an adorable puppy it’s kinda harsh, intended or not.

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In the description of the outward beauty of an adult, their intellect is just as intimidating as their physical beauty. This leads to using lesser words to describe, that’s what one of my guy friends tells me. He doesn’t do it of course but guys do, he says. They will use “cute” so they are not that intimidated, this implies premeditation. A way to level the playing field. I can’t match your intellect but beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I will behold with edit? They will use cute when they are forced to pick what category a female friend or acquaintance falls into. This is to avoid any confusion in the relationship if they are not physically attracted to said female. This is of course mind-boggling but perhaps understandable but more likely a full of shit summation. Compliments do not come with consequences, well they shouldn’t. In today’s world of sexual harassment and political correctness, you can understand the quandary presented. Just because I think a person’s genetic make up is a spectacular work of art does not mean anything. It is simply a compliment and we shouldn’t be afraid to give them. The crucial thing here is that words mean far more than we think they do.

This is the trouble with the English language, the words that get perpetuated are the ones that pop culture finds convenient. Often these words are inadvertently chosen by gender bias. Take the titles Mr, Mrs and Miss. Somewhere in history we lost the title Master, a title used to describe a boy/man too young to be referred to Mr (someone of marriageable age). While the use of classification titles for women continue because we have to know who is Miss and who is Mrs. Someone women have begun adopting the title Ms, which can refer to married or unmarried. Yet society makes it a point that Mrs should be affirmed because history has taught us that married women should wear their title like a badge of honour while single women wear theirs with pity ( by choice or not). It’s pretty disgusting if you think about just how fucked up something as simple as this can affect the greater societal psyche.

Yes I know, the word cute is not some big societal gender conspiracy especially because women also use those words to describe men as well. True, and women also please stop describing grown ass men as cute as well. There is nothing wrong with this word, it just seems a bit less when describe the attractiveness of an adult woman or man. I think the thesis of this argument is that of all the words, the treasure trove of words out there, we choose the least flattering to describe beauty. Words are incandescent as is their beauty and the feeling they bring.

Playing at adulthood: the grown up confessional

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When I was little, I always thought that growing happened like magic. You wake up one morning, all the secrets of adulthood would be downloaded into your brain. Everything would change, you would know how to make the right decision – you would be certified a grown up.

According to some “grown ups” I know, I have wasted my 20s. Apparently I wasn’t meant to spend it building a career and charging my way through a formidable industry. No, it seems I was suppose to spend it looking for a husband. My grown up advisors seem to think my want or lack of want is irrelevant here. The way they see it, the past decade of my life has been spent on the wrong things and as I enter this new one, which is meant to be spent on procreation, I must settle the debts incurred in my 20s. That is what adults do, they tell me.

I have been trying to explore what it means to grow up and truly understand myself for some time. I began with checklists, things adults should have done, do and have. That didn’t quite work out because I just felt like a big kid given access to things I wasn’t quite ready for.

I suppose this time around, I need to figure out the purpose of this decade before I run through it, chasing the impossible and wrong dreams. Entering your 30s in Africa isn’t terribly helpful, with all the big life stuff aching at you while the African cultures and traditions niggle at you like an unwanted lover. You are in most cases bound by propriety and in others torn by love for the people who you know in some warped way actually care about you. In Africa, when women turn 30, they enter a period I call the ticking time bomb leading to the crisis of old age – because it is all over now. The grown ups will have you believe this and schedule your battle plans accordingly — yes this is war and we are all praying about it in Africa fervently.

When you are in your mid 20s and begin to notice the world for what it really is, you suspect that there are no grown ups. You face the dubious reality that this is it, you will continue to fumble through life hoping for the best and learning. You learn that most things are like for like. The way you treat people matters, simple respect and courtesy goes a long way in earning you respect and kindness. These things matter to people. Taking responsibility for who you are and showing up is the biggest lesson you will learn.

So here is what I know to be true as someone playing at adulthood:

Spend your decade doing what makes you happy, but take responsibilities for your actions and choices because they are yours and yours alone.

Stop worrying about who is watching you, governments and companies included. If you keep looking over your shoulder life will pass you by.

Eat the damn cake, you only live once.

If you are trying to find a way to say something in a delicate manner, don’t. Just say it.

It is perfectly okay if you like Taylor Swift and not a tween, some experiences cross age divides.

If your boss tells you that you are too young to get a deserved raise or promotion, quit because that company does not deserve you.

Show righteous indignation when someone belittles Africa, because damnit we are a great continent.

Finally, save up and buy that incredibly expensive thing you really want but don’t need.

I am sure that my well meaning grown ups will tell me that I have life all wrong, my approach just isn’t done. But I have been disappointing them for so long, why stop now.

I am not my hair: discovering my face was good enough

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“No colour?”, “Your natural hair is so long!”, “What happened to the weave?” and “Woah you are gorgeous!”

I have been a loyal member of the weave cult for the better part of the 10 years, as soon as I realized that braids were not doing my hairline any favours. For ten years, I have not seen what my natural hair actually looked liked and neither had the people closet to me. It felt like a state secret one that me and my many hairstylists in the last ten years guarded with our lives.

I had good reasons for not wanting my natural hair exposed the world, or at least they seemed good to me. My hair is quite thin and after years of trying to fix it I gave up. It also frizzes, just introduce it to air and it will grow a life of its own, with the most intense tiny curls known to man. This meant that my natural hair would require straightening every day, it laughs in the face of relaxers and at the risk of looking like ‘Cousin It’ in every photo I take I just to hide it. It was my secret shame. My untamable beast.

So what changed?

The weave I had seemed uncomfortable somehow, I felt like a fraud in it and I needed to take it off. I marched into my stylist salon and said to him please take this off and give me temporary braids till I decide what is next. He wants to get paid so he did as he was paid. I generally never pay attention when he is working as I trust him with my hair implicitly. He was in the process of blow drying my hair, when he asked if he could try something before we braided. I said yes. He blew out hair and styled it with very hot GHD and asked me to look. My natural hair, long and beautiful. Stared at the person in the mirror for a long while because I clumsily asked: “Is that me?”

“I know you want to cover this up as quickly as possible but, I have been doing your hair for a year now and I have never seen you more beautiful, please keep it like this,” he said to me.

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Then it hit me, I wasn’t afraid that I would be unable to manage the crazy hair I had been blessed with, I was afraid that without the weave extras I would not be enough.

It’s almost as though as black women, we don’t trust that we are beautiful enough without the weaves. At least this held true for me. I didn’t trust that my face on its own was beautiful and that as the perfect product of both my very good looking parents that I was enough without the mask of the weave.

I don’t know why we do this. A friend of mine reckons its the media. We have been influenced to think that our own hair is not good enough and enhancements are needed for us to truly be beautiful. I suppose that is what India Arie meant when she said I am not my hair, because underneath all that weave or braids or whatever you have the person remains the same, the face remains the same. We have been sucked into a cultural vortex that we get introduced to as children when parents try to beat our hairs into submission for the purposes of the school conduct. We look at our wild crazy hairs and think if only it can be straight and just do as it is told. We wonder why we don’t look like all the beautiful people and their perfect hair, and we forgot to look at where beauty truly comes from and that our faces are made of the smiles and generosity of spirit we allow it.

I am not my hair, but I am face and my heart that should be more than enough for me and anyone else who takes interest.

Dear single girl: it is okay to be alone and be happy

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Last year, on the occasion of my birthday I began to reflect on my life and the lessons I was learning in my twenties. As part of the transition from my early to mid to late twenties, my life was only as complicated as I made it.

As I settle uncomfortably into the last year of my twenties, the lessons from last year become even more important and my transition into adulthood is that much more critical. The questions that family and friends pose now are different. For the girl in her late twenties it is clear that it is time to forego the criticism that every act in her life is a publicity stunt because it is not the norm. It is time to just get on with it.

Single girls in their late twenties have a clock ticking, and everyone reminds them. Women in their late anything are problematic to the world. To some, it is an embarrassment to womankind, a terrible choice that likely stems from unchecked feminism that the examined hierarchy of life has not approved. Don’t achieve too much because the men might be too intimidated to share their lives with you. The thought is an insult to the men of the world. A society that prides itself on the assumption that men do not have the emotional maturity to handle success in women, an assumption that success is intimidating and not attractive?

We are the problem with the dating world, I have been told. We, these women who value success above all, these caustic women who refuse to be vulnerable and are able to separate their lives, emotionally and professionally. We are problematic because we are steely creatures with unapologetic sexual appetites. We, these women, in our late somethings entertain the thought of coupling forever without marriage — perish the thought.

There is a dynastic threat that single women in their late twenties and beyond pose. It is a generational question that is coming more and more into societal consciousness. How do you keep the ideals of old in a world where things of old are easily discarded or no longer on hand? The more comfortably you settle into your place in this new world of generational angst and raspy well-meaning voices asking questions you rather not answer, the finely honed your skill of civil politeness gets. For the most part all you want to say is ‘mind your own fucking business’ but civility demands you say something nice. No one bothers to ask if these women are single by choice, the assumption is that they are unable to attract a partner because of something they are doing wrong and by default happiness will elude them.

The real threat and problem is far more insidious than generational or hierarchical misunderstandings. It is the doubt that begins to creep into women’s minds that it is not okay to be alone and that being single is an unnatural thing. It is the dangerous problem that links happiness to coupledom and alone to loneliness. You could argue that this is not the case, that women are happy to be single and are not bothered by the comments from friends and family. Your argument will be debunked by the number of Facebook updates and Instagram posts that begin to take on a rose-tinted and happier tone once a significant other is present. Almost every book, movie and tv show always finds a way to couple up before the end. The happy ending seems to only work once heroes and heroines have been coupled up.

This argument is not that coupling up is a bad thing, but how we sell it and its unrealistic correlation to happiness. There shouldn’t be a culture of humiliation around being single, people should be encouraged to get to know themselves, succeed and fail before they find someone to share all of that with. We should teach young girls that their lives will not be judged by the match they make but rather the person they chose to become.

Dear single girl, it is okay to be alone for as long as you see fit.

Who teaches the young boy to be a good man?

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to talk to young girls about the consequences of “naked selfies” and putting too much of themselves online. When I was asked to do this talk, it was explained to me that the internet is a hard place to for women and it was best to prepare young girls for those harsh realities now rather than later. Young girls the world over are having their sexuality used as a weapon against them — this is tragic. 

Though I agree that the internet is not fair to women, what we keep failing to teach young girls is that the world is not fair to women or any minority. Preparing people for the consequences of what some may deem as “not great choices” is one thing, but why don’t we teach people to change their world. 

In recent years revenge porn has become the norm, break up with someone and in a moment of anger and haste said person posts a “naked selfie” once shared in confidence, to the world. I have heard many arguments on this issue. On one side of the fence, people say young girls today are degrading themselves by taking these pictures and sending them to these young boys. On the other hand of the issue people say these young women have the right to do with their bodies what they want. What I haven’t heard is the role of the young boys. 

Young boys seem to be given a free pass in this situation. There is a fence, and on that fence there are women on either side, women who should be ashamed and women who should own it. Women discuss this issue of how young girls are behaving. Women and men talk about how young girls need to stop behaving. Who is talking about how the young boy behaves? While we are all busy worrying about how our young girls behave, what they post on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, has someone asked what the young boys are doing?

When a young boy slut shames a 13 year old girl, who sits him down and discusses the consequences of what he has done? Who talks to him about betrayal and the cost of ‘shame’? Who explains that he has taken advantage and that someone is suffering for it? Better yet, who makes sure this actually never happens?

No matter how far we seem to come, how many campaigns go viral and voices rise up for equality on all fronts, society still puts the young boy above the young girl. I see school teachers making pleas on Facebook for people re-share posts so the young girls in their classes can see the viral nature of the internet. They do this because they hope it will stop them from sharing pictures in their bras or suggestive images on social media. I want to see the teacher that says “share this so the young boys in my class can see how hurtful it is to betray someone to the world”. So they can see how far their act of revenge can easily destroy a person’s life. How a joke can cost someone their future. 

Revenge porn is the norm and many women are having their lives ruined by men who once promised to love and protect them. We see it everyday and as women, we want to change it, we want to correct behave. We accept our sexuality so no one can use it as a weapon against us. 

But, how did these young boys grow up to be men that behave like this? While we so busy teaching young girls to be good girls, who teaches the young boy to be a good man?

What Girls in ICT day actually does is perpetuate inequality

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Today is world Girl in ICT day. We have dedicated an entire day to celebrating and encouraging women to go into the field of technology.

I had a protracted discussion with my neighbour about this day what it actually means. In her view, she doesn’t understand why there needs to be a day to celebrate this because by highlighting a day like this it actually in effect perpetuates inequality. The argument was a day doesn’t change anything, and that goes for all human inequalities not just gender bias.

I take a different view to this. What troubles me about this day is not that it might perpetuate inequalities but that it is so necessary because the gender gap in technology is not diminishing but growing wider. It is not growing wider because there aren’t enough women in tech ( there aren’t) but the way these women are treated and how they feel they must behave. It is growing more because of the perceptions that still exist and are perpetuated on a daily basis.

I have seen women in tech comment on needing to dress the part and step up to the plate by looking serious so they can be taken seriously. Though there really is nothing wrong with that, I wonder if it isn’t sending a dangerous message to young girls. We must ask the question of what society wants to see when young girls in tech step out. Would they rather see an innocuous being in her gamine style accepting a place at the table, but not at its head? Should she be serious and all business? Or can she be herself?

When I think of young girls going out into the world, I want them to be brave enough to fail and whimsical enough to laugh at that failure. Young women should be able to take failure in their stride and rise to whatever challenge the world throws at them regardless how sartorially prepared they are. If young women aren’t courageous enough to play for fear of being deemed silly, then we have done little girls every where a great disservice.

I have begun watching HBO’s Silicon Valley, a comedic take on the world of tech startups, and I find it though witty, disappointing in its gender representation. There are very little women on the show and those that are simply talking heads or proxies for male leads. This could perhaps change, but for a show based on back of the tech successes enjoyed by the likes of Facebook, Google and Yahoo, the lack of or mention of tech savvy women woefully obvious making the absence of these women problematic.

What HBO’s Silicon Valley suggests is that the world isn’t interested in seeing female techies or that the company doesn’t trust in the comedic talents of women to play off their male counterparts. Either way a grave problem is being unintentionally highlighted: as a society we are still relegating women to unseen supporting roles.

I have seen so many young women with qualities that prepare them for the strenuous world of technology: strength, vulnerability, risky-taking, a clear intellect, honesty, courage and the ability to play. Because what is innovation without a little silliness and a sense of play.

To be honest, we do not need another day to celebrate women in technology, what we need is the courage to display modern womanhood, the type that breaks down all stereotypes and archetypes. The type that graciously falls into professional excellence.

I am a woman in tech: do not celebrate me today, recognise me everyday.

Faces of feminism: the age of the selfie

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“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.

Afrofeminism: understanding the modern African feminist

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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

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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.