Can this selfie get me a date?

angry nird

It’s 2am, I just spent the evening at a club drinking tea (it’s complicated) while pretending I can’t see guys ogling my dress. I am showered but the cigar smoke is still in my hair, so here I am on my balcony trying to air it out. I am also whatsapping a friend in New York, she wants to see what “airing” one’s hair looks like, so I send a selfie.

“Ooh sexy,” she types back.
“Think it will get me a date?” I quip with a laughing emoji. There is context to this but that’s another post. So begins an idea.

I have a vested interest in online communities, mostly because I am trying to figure out a way to get a PhD out some of them. On a deeper level most of my closest friends live in different cities/countries/continents (I also don’t get out much), so the internet is our best way to connect and keep up with each others lives. I wrote a piece just over a year ago about Tinder and the confusions it is causing in the dating scene and how we need to redefine what we are looking for online. I still stand by that piece, but last night I had to ask myself a deeper question: can a simple photograph (selfie) get me a date?

I have a point, I promise.

Think about it, how many of us communicate with each other by way of photographs? To share where we are, what we are doing and wearing? Even to share who we are with. It is part of our culture, a very important part of it.

I was added to an online group a few weeks ago about dating, ordinarily I would remove myself from groups like this but something about this community got my attention. Yes, it is a community of people who support each other and there is no negativity just fun and hopefully a match or two. But what was most fascinating was the redefinition of the selfie culture that exists there. It is used to ask questions, respond to questions and explain the current mood. The conversation is the selfie and it communicates bundles. It is so much easier for people to post a selfie than to engage in comments or otherwise. No one set the rule, at least I don’t think so, it’s just the way it is and it is acceptable. The norm, even.

We would all be lying if physical attributes are not the biggest contributors to attraction. It is what gets you interested, a person’s mind and other attributes may keep you interested but it is their physicality that gets you thinking of them without prior contact. More and more we live in a beautified world and we can’t blame it all on the media anymore. There is a strange sense of voyeurism that currently exists on social media that allows us to celebrate beauty in a new and fascinating way. A place where we know is cruel to women and ugly to people that don’t fit the unrealistic/predefined standards of beauty. Yet, there is a strange confidence that selfies bring. There is a quasi-Jungian persona that we have gained in the post-self conscious era. The selfie generation have taken what the ancients used to call “fatum”, to us destiny into their own hands. Selfies create a tapestry of words that culminate in an exquisite, sublime conversation. To outsiders it might look like the tactics of vanity, to the players it is simply the only way they know how to move on the chessboard and the best steps to the dance they own.

If anything you need to respect the courage of the quasi-Jungian persona, to pitch oneself out for date, with the danger that no one will respond. The fragility of ego for some could easily send them into a panic attack. No matter what your judgement is, the pseudo-intellectuals will have reason to disagree, it is ballsy. Selfies become the currency of conversation for the soft spoken, the brazen and the fierce, there is no way to lose if you were never prepared to win.

But back to my question: can this selfie get me a date? It turns out it can, several in fact, my dad should be happy; pity they don’t live in the same country. Selfies as part of the dating currency and it makes perfect sense, just look at Tinder. Even when you are set up by friends, they use photographs to convince you to say yes or no. Blind dates aren’t so “blind” anymore because we stalk them on social media, because we need to be prepared. It is simply who we are.

Being an engineer for young girls is as normal as breathing

women IWD

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’

Red

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.

faceCOLLAGE

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.

Courtship and intimacy: the scar tissue of the Tinder generation

Tinder-Logo

“You are a walking contradiction,” Demi says to me as he peered into my eyes trying to unlock its secrets. He had interrogated me for the last 70 minutes. We were on a first date and somehow it felt more like an inquisition than a date. I met him on Tinder the previous week and we chatted for a couple of days before I summoned the courage to ask him out. It wasn’t a big deal, but call me old-fashioned I still wonder if people I meet online are serial killers.

For reasons I will not explain to you now I spent two weeks on Tinder, it was an experiment, of which I am not sure what my conclusions are. I found myself sitting across the table from my Russian interrogator, his probing gaze daring me to deny him the answers he desperately wanted.

“Where do young successful people (women especially) meet people?” I was asked two days before my Tinder explorations began. I get this question a lot, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think these so-called young successful people know either.

“Somewhere on the path of life?” I offered.

Somewhere between theorizing where these young people found to mingle: for love, friendship and dare I say it for sex, I found myself signing up for Tinder. There is some irony to that but I digress.

“You have to tell me more about your travels. Have you been to Saratov, I am from there.” Demi’s thick accent was giddy with excitement as he whispered the word ’Saratov’ like a love song, a longing for his home town no doubt.

I have never been to Saratov, much to his disappointment but his questions were not done. He had one critical one left.

“Why did you swipe right?” he asked.

Do people actually ask this question? Shouldn’t you just assume that people swiped right because something about you piqued their interest. Are we a generation of such insecurities that we are surprised that our carefully chosen images and perfectly crafted bios get us attention?

The truth: my friend that convinced me on this ludicrous exercise actually did. But I don’t tell him that, I know where all this is going. Instead, I get cheeky and ask, why did you?

“Because you look like you would be good in bed.” All sense of civility was gone, and the false curiosity about me peeled away. A part of me admired the moxy a statement like that must take but another part of me rang in the ‘told you so’ with a disappointing sigh.

The evening ended and Demi went home alone. I had a series of dates some playing out like the one above and others bored me to the point of narcolepsy. It really could just be me, I could just be a disinterested snob. Though from the people I have spoken to about their Tinder experiences, it seems there is a sense of understanding. One person called it a ‘sex app’.

In the last three weeks I have read a lot about Tinder experiences and what is happening to the generation of Tinderers. Young people all over the United States see Tinder and apps like it for what it is, is a means to gratification. One that mostly leaves women hollow and some men counting.

Tinder is a platform sorely dedicated to satisfying the sexual appetite of a generation too busy to figure out how to make connections away from screens. It gives this generation carte blanche on openness and sometimes bad behavior. It is the play ground of instant gratification, there is little to no real human connection there.

It has been touted as the hookup culture, 20 years ago this culture still allowed for some human niceties and maybe polite conversation. Now it doesn’t seem you have to play at being nice anymore but available. The creators of Tinder built a place for people to meet, what they met for was up to the people.

Human beings have a propensity for creating technology that will make their lives easier. Food on demand, cars on demand, homes on demand, why not sex on demand as well. This is not necessarily a bad thing if everyone is clear on the rules of engagement.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. People who have met and made genuine human connections and since left the world of Tinder to go enjoy those connections. However, the majority of the Tinder experience are the rule, just read many of the think pieces that explore the average experience. Friends convince you to keep at it because they know guy who knows a guy who met his wife on Tinder.

What people do with Tinder is actually quite irrelevant, it is here to stay and with busy lives it is likely the easier way to try to connect. What I am interested is how Africans are playing on Tinder. Is the app’s use, results and experiences universal? Have young Africans too resided themselves to the hookup culture as well and is it a case of wham bam thank you ma’am? Is there even a thank you? Or do people just go back to swiping? Are we also playing the game of who gets to care less? Or Perhaps when it comes to sex and love, more is more?

There isn’t a fine line between love and sex. I am not sure people are looking for love on Tinder. How would that look if they were? However, there is a fine line between sex and intimacy, hookups and courtship. On Tinder, we don’t bother to fake intimacy anymore, the nature of the platform requires images to be doctored to attract a suitable coitus partner. There are no courtship just hookups.

If young successful people are looking for a place to meet like-minded people for the purpose of courtship, then we are all in trouble. We keep asking the question, where do you meet people in current times? It seems the real question should be why and what. Why are we looking for places to meet people? What is the outcome we hope for?

If Tinder is our last hope for connection, then we may have some thinking to do. Perhaps we need to begin with a redefinition of connection before we can find the place we connect. To exist in the world of this appify dating, you have to be open to the reality that no one will give you their heart, just their body. Frightening more, no one will want your heart, just your body. A generation that solely thrives on that is bound to leave some damage.

As we make our way through the evolution and revolution of our sexes we forget that most revolutions end in blood shed and the broken pieces of a world long gone. The hookup culture only works if everyone checks their hearts and feelings at the door. The societal and emotional damage that will follow is bound to shake up the fabric of how we date and maybe even love.

The scar tissue of what the Tinder generation are doing to courtship and intimacy will be indelible and not in a good way. No one has given this much thought, the consequences of who we are becoming, of who we have no choice but to become.

Cages of construct: the African reality and dream

An African city

Africa loves to adore its women as long as they fit perfectly in their cages of construct. African men love their women, as long as that woman is African enough. African women love their men as long as he can provide and take care of them. These women expect certain things from their men within certain constructs. We dream up these perfect gender roles that make no sense in reality.

I started watching a show called an African City on YouTube, it is about five African women, re-pats, trying to navigate their way through life in a bustling West African metropolis. The stories are interesting and characters have a certain charm about them. Kudos to the creator of the show for giving us five engaging women with enigmatic lexicon that often incite a giggle.

I told a friend about it and he hated the first 10mins, he didn’t like that all the women had done so far was rag on Africa. He kept watching though, and as I write this he is still watching. He is hooked he says, he loves the way the women talk. The show got us talking about being single in 21st century Africa. The rules of engagement on a continent that is supposedly rising. Issues that should command great presence in the national conversation but still finds its way to the bottom of the agenda in most African cities. Things like safe sex and finding a job based on merit.

You hear the crazy made up stats that it is easier to be killed by a terrorist than to get married or date after a certain age as a woman. I love those stats mostly because they get crazier everyday. This show tries to navigate this world of single and ready to mingle in Africa. A world where causal sex is great and abstinence is encouraged as well, a place that people talk about great loves and great lovers. A friend of mine once told me that when you are single in Africa, you get used to being invisible — these women beg to differ.

What got me interested in this show, wasn’t just the lexicon, or the delightful characters. It actually troubled me because it made me painfully aware the constructs around genders in Africa. In Europe it is alright to go dutch (these women say) on a date but in Africa men as expected to pay for everything. We joke about it all the time about these women who expect things from the men they date. His intellect is optional, thinking is optional so long as his wallet is available and the cards are platinum. Really?

Then there are the men. Who expect the women to be erotically beautiful and dutifully domesticated. The men who are happy to treat women both as goddesses to be adored, as well as sexual playthings. These women are mutually exclusive it seems. They will marry the goddess but not the playthings. The construct is quite laughable really. On my last trip to Nigeria an older gentleman told me: “in Africa we love our women, all kinds of ways. From the front to the back and sometimes on her knees.” It was disgusting and I pitied him, he is married and has three daughters. I worry for his daughters.

Modern African men don’t wear wedding bands apparently. When navigating dating in Africa, a friend gave me some sound advice, “assume everyone he is married until they prove you otherwise”. According to her, if you begin this way then it is a pleasant surprise when they are not — mostly they are she says. Men lie is the lesson apparently, something the women of An African City drive home.

These African gender constructs are so schizophrenic and complex that trying to meander your way through leads to questions and frustrations. What does it mean to be a man in Africa today? What does it mean to be a woman in Africa today?

Is there some maniacal genius to these constructs? If we imagine that they have one solitary architect. The creator watches as African men and women struggle with the confines of their constructs while fastening the locks on the cages with smiles and inconsequential remarks. Must be nice – not.