Re apara se re se batang

Senepe ka Thalefang Charles, Mmegi

 

Ngwaga oo fetiling, go ne ga nna le tiragalo ya kgokgontsho ko mapalamelong a dibese mo Gaborone. Mosadi mongwe o ne a rogwa, godimo ga moo, a apolwa fa gare ga batho, ke banna bangwe ka ntata ya gore ba ne ba akanya gore gaa apara ‘sentle’. Mogwanto wa I Wear What I Want (Re apara se re se batang) o ne wa simollwa ke bomme bangwe, go lwantsha ditiragalo tsa kgogontsho ya basadi mo sechabeng sa rona.

Mo mogwantong wa I wear what I want, ko Gaborone, basadi ba ne ba tla ka dipalo, ba apere jaaka ba batla, go tsamaelana le molaetsa wa mogwanto o. Fa dinepe tsa mogwanto o di pegwa mo Facebook, di ne tsa tlogela bangwe ba sa itumela tota. Mo pegong e, ke tla tlhalosa mabaka a batho ba, a go sa itumela, le go tlhalosa mabaka a me, le a balwela dishwanelo tsa basadi ka nna, a go tswelela go apara se re se batang.

A ruri boleng jwa mosadi bo bonwa ka kapari?

Kgang ya ntlha e ne go buisangwa ka yone mo Facebook ke gore mosadi o tshwanetse go apara sentle gore a tlotliwe. Mo dipuisanong tse, go ne go na le bangwe ba ba dumelang gore mosadi (wa nnete) ke mongwe yoo ikapesang ka mokgwa oo rileng; gore fa o apere bokhutswane bo bo riling, ga o sa thole o le mosadi sentle.  Go ne gotwe ba ba neng ba apere bokhutshwane jo be feteletseng ko mogwantong o, ga se basadi ba itlhaloganyang, godimo ga moo go twe go supa dikarolo tse di riling tsa mmele (dirope, marago), go diga boleng jwa gago.

Tumelo e ya gore boleng le bontle jwa motho mosadi bo bonwa mo diaparong tsa gagwe e supa tsholofelo mo basading, gore re tshele matshelo a rona otlhe re akantse gore ba batho ba tla re akanyetsa jang.  Jaaka mme mongwe ko mogwantong a buile, kgang e ya gore ga re apara e bo re akantse gore batho baa gore akanyetsa jang, ga se kgang ee siameng. Fa e le gore sechaba sa rona se a go tlotla ditshwanelo tsa basadi, go tlhokega gore basadi re letelelwe go apara se re se batang, le fa go sa ratwe kapari e re itlhophetseng.

A diaparo tsa basadi di baka dipetelelo?

Ditiragalo tsa petelelo le kgokgontsho ya basadi mo mafatsheng ka bophara di tswelela go oketsega ka palo ee sa letelesegeng . Mo Facebook, bangwe be rile go apara bokhutshwane (ga basadi) go diphatsa ka go ka gogomosa banna kana go ba rokotsa mathe.  Go na le ba ba dumelang gore fa re batla go emisa kgokgontsho, re tshwanetse go dira melao ee laolang kapari ya bo mme, ka go akangwa gore go laolela basadi kapari go ka thusa go emisa dipetelelo .

Mathata a leng teng fa, ke tumelo ee reng kapari ya basadi e baka kgokgontsho.  Se ga se boammaruri. Le fa e ka bo e le nnete, go rokotswa mathe ga go lete motho monna go kgokgontsha kana go betelela mosadi. Go thoka fela gore banna ba itshware sentle, ka gore kapari ya motho ga e ka ke ya beelwa molato wa ditiro tsa batho banna. Go dumela gore kapari ee riling e ka emisa dipetelelo, ke go baa molato wa ditiragalo tsa petelelo mo basading. Go bothokwa gore mo dipuisanong tsa rona ka kgokgontsho le dipetelelo mo basading, re gakologelwe gore ka nako tsothle, mo ditiragalong tse, molato ga se wa basadi.

Mosadi sidirisiwa

Dipuisano tse di supa fa mosadi a sa tlotliwe, e le sidirisiwa. Mongwe o ne a tshwantshanya kgang e ya kapari ya basadi, le kgang ya burukuthi, a botsa gore ke eng batho ba na le mabotana go kata matlo a bone. Molaetsa yoo fithilweng fa, ke gore basadi ba tshwaneletswe ke go apara ba fithile mmele, e seng jalo, ba laletsa kotsi kana kgokgontsho. Se se supa tumelo e e reng basadi ba ba sa apareng sentle ke bone fela ba ba kgokgontshiwang.

Mathata aa leng teng fa, ke gore batho basadi (le bana, le banna bangwe) ba kgokgontshiwa ba apere ka go farologana. Ga gona diaparo tse re ka reng di ka laletsa kgokgontsho. Se se bakang kgokgontsho ya basadi, ke batho ba ba palelwang ke go itaola le go itshwara sentle, ba ba ipaang godimo ga basadi, ba ba sa tlotleng basadi.  Batho ba ba kgokgontshang le ba ba thubetsang ba dira jalo ka gore ba bona basadi e le didirisiwa, e seng batho.

Fa e le gore, ruri, re dumela gore kgokgontso le petelelo ke ditiragalo tse di maswe, re tshwanetse go tshwara tumelo eo ka nako tsothle, e seng gore re e latllhe ka di nako tse dingwe. Fa re batla go emisa ditiragalo tsa kgokgontsho le dipetelelo, re tshwanetse gore re emise mekgwa ya go tshwaya phoso mo basading. Go lwantsha ditiragalo tsa kgokgontsho mo Botswana, re tshwanetse go lwantsha kgokgontsho ya basadi botlhe, re sa ba farologanye ka kapari ya bone kana ka boitshwaro jwa bone. Re tshwanetse go tlotla mosadi mongwe le mongwe go tshwana, aa ke mma moruti kana ke mogwebi ka mmele. Re tshwanetse go tlotla basadi ka gore ke batho, re emise go ba tsaa jaaka didirisiwa.

A ruri sechaba se wela tlase ga re apara se re se batang?

Mo dipuisanong tse ke di boneng mo Facebook, go ne go na le ba ba akanyang gore molaetsa wa mogwanto wa #iwearwhatiwant, o tla isa lefatshe tlase. Bangwe ba ne ba supa gore fa basadi ba ka tswelela go apera jaaka ba ne ba direle ko mogwantong, go supa gore “lefatshe le a hela”. Ba bangwe ba ne ba re molaetsa oo, o diphatsa, ka gore fa o ka utliwa ke banana mo dikolong, “tlhakanelo dikobo ya bana” e ka ya magoletsa. (Mmua lebe, le fa a boditswe, o paletswe go tlhalosa gore kapari ya basadi e amana jang le tlhakanelo dikobo ya bana).

Tota ga kea dumalana le molaetsa o, oo reng kapari ya basadi e ka wetsa sechaba tlase. Tiragalo e diragetseng ko mapalamelong a dibese, jaaka go setse go builwe, ke sekai sa gore basadi ga ba tlotliwe mo sechabeng sa rona.  Se ke sengwe se se tshwenyang. Mo go nna, fa go na le sesupi sa gore re mo diphatseng re le sechaba, ke kgang ya gore mosetsana o ne a apolwa ke banna fa gare ga batho: banna ba teng ba sa tshabe sepe, ba sa tlhabiwe ke ditlhong, ba kgokgontsha ngwana wa batho hela ba sa mo itse.  Mo go nna, se se ka re emisang go tlhabologa – go nna sechaba se se nang le boikarabelo ke ga re ka palelwa ke go reetsa le go amogela melaetsa wa #IwearwhatIwant: mo go tla bo go raya gore re paletswe go tlhaloganya gore tsotlhe ditiragalo tsa kgokgontso ya bomme di busetsa sechaba sa rona ko morago.

 

 

*I’d like to thank Pontsho Pilane and Lorato Palesa Modongo for writing the setswana-feminist dictionary which inspired me to write this piece and to write, for the first time in many years, ka setswana.

** I am well aware that golo fa, ke kwadile ka setswana se se robegileng. I really tried, like, ke lekile ka bojotlhe jwa me, ne? but like I said, I haven’t written in setswana in years (and even then, I struggled because my school really didn’t prioritize my setswana education (a story for another day)). Anyway, I’m not as practiced as I’d like to be and my sense of sentence/word construction is in the struggle. I therefore invite anyone who wants to to suggest edits and corrections to this piece to do so. I would really appreciate it.

 

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Lisolethu Dlova

Liso wrote me a love letter. I’m writing one back.

Dear Lisolethu,
Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for your openness with me. Thank you for your sharp mind, which amazes me on the regular. My favourite thing about you is that you’re courageous in so many different ways. You have an incredible strength and it’s a beautiful thing to witness: how you love yourself so deliberately, while hitting back against a world which is insistent on defining and limiting you. It’s beautiful how you make things shake. I’m really grateful for your friendship and your work.
Love you too,
G

Gorata’s Feminist Theory Curriculum

I had to design a 6 week Feminist Theory curriculum as part of an exam recently. Here it is. (At some point, I’d like to create more links to the material that isn’t accessible for people outside the academy, so this is a working document for now) 

Southern Feminist Theory Curriculum

Gender

Gqola, P., 2015. Violent Masculinities and War Talk. In: Gqola,P, ed. Rape: A South African Nightmare. 1 ed. Johannesburg: MF Books.

Magadla, S., 2017. Matrofocality and shared motherhood. 

Available at: mg.co.za/article/2017-08-25-00-matrifocality-and-shared-motherhood

Oyewumi, O., 1997. Visualizing the body. In: O. Oyewumi, ed. The invention of women: making an African Sense of western gender discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 1-30.

Vaid-Menon, A., 2015. The Pain & Empowerment of Choosing Your Own Gender: Alok Vaid-Menon.

Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Gh2n9kPuA

Intersectionality

Crenshaw, K. W., 2008. Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of colour. In: A. Bailey & C. Cuomo, eds. The Feminist Philosophy Reader. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 279-309.

Collison, C., 2016. #FeesMustFall ‘burns’ queer students. 

Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2016-10-13-00-feesmustfall-burns-queer-students

Dlakavu, S., 2017. On the EFF and gender.                                                        

Available at: https://www.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/on-the-eff-and-gender-20170804

Sanchez, G., 2015. Queering Disability – on the power of celebrating intersectionality. [Online]

Available at: http://ewn.co.za/2015/12/15/OPINION-Gaby-Sanchez-Queering-disability-On-the-power-of-celebrating-intersectionality

Theory/Action

Ahmed, S., 2000. Whose counting?. Feminist Theory, 1(1), pp. 97-103.

Berlant, L., 1999. The Subject of True Feeling: Pain, privacy and politics. In: A. Sarat & T. Kearns, eds. Cultural Pluralism, Identity Politics and the Law. Michigan: University of Michigan, pp. 48-84.

Kelley, R., 2016. Black Study, Black Struggle. 

Available at: http://bostonreview.net/forum/robin-d-g-kelley-black-study-black-struggle

Puar, J., 2007. Queer Times, Queer Assemblages . In: J. Puar, ed. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 203-222.

Belonging

Bongela, M., 2016. Where is the white feminism movement in SA?. 

Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2016-12-02-00-where-is-the-white-feminist-movement-in-sa

Eng, D. & Lan, S., 2000. A Dialogue on Radical Melancholia. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 10(4), pp. 667-700.

Modongo, L. P., 2015. Don’t you want to be white?. 

Available at: http://thoughtleader.co.za/mandelarhodesscholars/2015/11/04/dont-you-want-to-be-white/

Putuma, K., 2016. Water (Poem in Collective Amnesia). 

Available at: http://pensouthafrica.co.za/water-by-koleka-putuma/

Fick, A., 2017. Am I an African? On xenophobia and violence in South Africa 2017. 

Available at: https://www.enca.com/opinion/am-i-an-african-on-xenophobia-and-violence-in-south-africa-2017

Class, Land, Labour

Amandla!, 2017. Amandla! interviews campaign Reclaim The City. 

Available at: http://aidc.org.za/amandla-interviews-campaign-reclaim-city/

Asijiki: Coalition to decriminalize sex work in South Africa, 2015. Sex work and Feminism. [Online]

Available at: http://www.sweat.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sex-work-and-Feminism_Asijiki-Fact-Sheet_Web.pdf

Benya, A., 2015. The invisible hands: women in Marikana. Review of African Political Economy, 42(146), pp. 545-560.

Available at: http://aidc.org.za/invisible-hands-women-marikana/

Keeanga-Yamahtta, T., 2016. Chapter 7. In: T. Keeanga-Yamahtta & M. Ellis, eds. From #BlackLiveMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, pp. 191-219.

Tsikata, D., 2009. Gender, Land and Labour Relations and livelihood in Sub-Saharan Africa in the era of Economic Liberalisation. Feminist Africa, 12(1), pp. 11-30.

Agency

Dosekun, S., 2015. For Western Girls Only? Post-feminism as transnational culture. Feminist Media Studies , 15(6), pp. 960-975.

Motsemme, N., 2007. Loving in a time of hopelessness: on township women’s subjectivities in a time of HIV/Aird. African Idenities, 5(1), pp. 61-87.

Mahmood, S., 2011. The Subject of Freedom. In: S. Mahmood, ed. Politics of Piety. Princeton: Princeton, pp. 1-39.

Nyanzi, S., 2013. Unpacking the Governmentality of African Sexualities. In: S. Tamale, ed. African Sexualities: A reader. Cape Town: Pambazuka Press, pp. 477-501.

Zakaria, R., 2015. Sex and the Muslim Feminist. [Online]

Available at: https://newrepublic.com/article/123590/sex-and-the-muslim-feminist

Words like these: reflections on writing & thinking about sexual violence

TW: sexual violence

I write about sexual violence a lot. This is a post about the experience of dedicating so many words to rape and other forms of violation. This is a home for the unfinished/unfinishable thoughts I have between writing.

A dark cloud of words
The first and heaviest difficulty of writing about sexual violence is that it hurts people. My words can be reminders of things people don’t want to remember. I understand why. I’m sorry.
Writing/Willfulness
For some, my words are an inconvenience. Press release upon press release. Lawyers and PR machines. They use all the words they have to cling to their power. I use mine as memorials for the resistances I’ve known.
My silence has never protected me. My words are vulnerable too. I’m reminded of this whenever I use the word ‘allegedly’ to describe something I know to be true.
Wordless feelings
I’ve been interviewing women about sex and consent for my Master’s research. A lot of this has been hard because, while rape and sex are not the same thing, many of our introductions to sexuality involve violation. It’s a really confusing space to work in, conceptually, because there’s a myriad of ways to be violated and so many of those do not immediately lead us to the words: #MeToo. Sometimes, all we have is confusion or shame or feeling like everything is out of control. Some things are difficult to name. Some feelings have no words. Labels like ‘rape’, ‘abuse’ and ‘sexual assault’ get stuck at the back of our throats.
Or words that don’t feel quite right
Another challenge I’ve faced when writing about sexual violence is figuring how to write about people who’ve been violated in a way which doesn’t reproduce the ‘spectacle’ narrative. Part of the stigma of sexual violence is the idea that something about your identity is changed and that you’re damaged forever. The labels ‘survivor’ and ‘victim’ reproduce this. The word ‘survivor’ has so much pressure of being resilient attached to it – it’s like saying you were supposed to be destroyed by this thing but you overcame it. ‘Victim’ on the other hand, has connotation of weakness – you are allowing this thing to destroy you or this thing destroyed you and now you’re not as valuable. I respect everyone’s choice to identify as one or the other, but what happens when you don’t want to identify as either? There should be a space for that somewhere. Why should we have to define ourselves based on someone else’s actions anyway? Writing about victims, survivors, victim-survivors and victims/survivors feels like reducing a person to that experience. I’m still looking for words that don’t have this effect.
Words coming up short
Sometimes it feels like one’s value for speaking out about experiencing sexual violence is based on the strength projected onto them. When people speak about horrible things they’ve experienced, and others respond commending their strength, it feels shallow: like a non-engagement with the reality of the person’s experience. It feels like people can just post “Wow, you’re so strong” and go – but speaking up about a violation doesn’t mean the pain is over, or that you no longer need support.
A lot of times, to get to the admirable strength stage, there have been many weeks/months of terror, anxiety, shame, self-blame where you weren’t strong and there was no support. It would be so radical if we could create cultures where people who are violated struggle to blame themselves, rather than being so ashamed they are terrified to speak honestly about the pain. People shouldn’t only be recognized when they post a status, especially when the grieving stage of violation is so everyday. A commitment to supporting each other offline is super important. We need to be prepared to be the first person someone opens up to. We need to be a culture that is a safe landing space for people with unfathomable pain.
On Rage
“I have tried to learn my anger’s usefulness to me as well as its limitations” – Audre Lorde
In my writing, I have learned to negotiate with my anger, especially so that the people whose stories I am trying to amplify aren’t drowned out by my feelings. This is usually hard, because there’s a lot of rage, because there’s a lot of injustice. Ultimately, the responsibility of the writing weighs more than the rage.
Sometimes, seeing people angry about sexual violence has been affirming. Other times, it’s felt disempowering – especially when it seems like the violation become a spectacle. It is sometimes tiring to hear the chorus: “How could this happen?”. When do we stop asking how, and answering the question? What do we do with all of this rage?

Learn/unlearn: transgender identity & experiences

*Learn/unlearn is a work-in-progress educational resource project highlighting all my favourite articles, covering various social issues. This post focuses on transgender African people’s experiences. 

Blogs, vlogs and interviews

Sandi Ndelu is a black trans woman & activist in South Africa. You can read her interviews here:

To be young, black and transgender in South Africa

On accessing healthcare as a transgender person in South Africa

Phumelele Nkomozake is a Black Xhosa trans woman (and SRC Transformation rep 2018 at Rhodes). Her lit blog covers topics such as her experience as a trans woman, xhosa culture, gender, race, colourism and sexuality.

She has also been published by Huffington Post.

Glow Mamiii is the first South African trans woman to document her transition on Youtube. Catch her on Youtube.

She has also been interviewed for Afropunk: The GLO’WUP: the intricacies of being a transgender woman in South Africa

Laverne Cox, star of the Orange Is the New Black, produced this documentary about young trans men and women and their experiences in the USA:

The T word

A profile interview focusing on Motswana activist and Gender DynamiX executive director Tshepo Ricki Kgositau.

ARTivist Kat Kai Kol-Kes speaks about trans women’s art and activism

M(x)Blouse on being gender non-binary, their relationship with hip-hip and their debut EP

The story of Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a Malawian trans woman who was forced into exile.

Zanna Chetty speaks about why she started Trans Rights Awareness Movement.

Genderqueer: Existing outside the boundary by Dylan Bush

News Articles

Trans people seek bias-free healthcare

Torment for trans women ‘sent to the mountain’ to learn to be men 

‘My body is a battleground’: How rural trans people struggle to live out their rights (Mail & Guardian)

Trans men: The ‘invisible’ group in SA’s HIV health plan

When being you could cost you a quarter of a million rand

This is what it’s like being a sex worker: ‘Police dragged me out in public naked’

Poetry

What it feels like to be transgender by Lee Mokobe

 

How ‘Khwezi’s activism shaped a generation

In 2005, Fezekile Kuzwayo accused Jacob Zuma, then Deputy President of the ruling party, of rape.  During Zuma’s rape trial in 2006, the One in Nine campaign organized a national day of solidarity with “Khwezi” (the pseudonym adopted to protect Kuzwayo’s identity). At Rhodes University in Grahamstown, a group of activists marched to the High Court in solidarity with the One in Nine campaign (the group of feminists who first believed Kuzwayo and kept believing her). A year later, members of the organization hosted the first annual Silent Protest against sexual violence at Rhodes. When I took part in the protest for the first time in 2012, the protest had grown to be the biggest of its kind in the country, boasting over 1000 participants.

In the years I attended, the Silent Protest was somber yet significant occasion. Like clockwork, the clouds would gather together above as we marched to the Main Admin building. During the day, most participants wore black tape across their mouths to symbolize the silencing effect of rape. In the evening, reverberations of Kuzwayo’s courage were felt in the Cathedral vigil, as one by one, those who wore “Rape Survivor” t-shirts entrusted the crowd with their stories. What moved me about the protest was that it provided a space to de-stigmatize the experience of rape: a platform for those who had experienced sexual violence to speak out openly.

In April 2016, four years after I first participated in the Silent Protest, Rhodes University exploded in an anti-rape protest of a different kind. Following the publication of the #RUReferenceList – a list of alleged perpetrators of sexual violence  – on social media, students shut down the campus, demanding the suspension of the listed students.

As the hashtag #RUReferenceList went viral on social media, feminist rage spread ferociously. Soon, our cry for justice was echoed by students from other campuses, who expressed their solidarity by mobilizing under the hashtags #Iam1in3, #UCTSpeaksBack and #EndRapeCulture.

Perhaps for outsiders who were familiar with Rhodes University’s legacy of hosting the Silent Protest, that rape culture still persisted at Rhodes may have come as a surprise. However, for those of us who had over the years learned of the violations of our peers, which occurred often at the hands of other students, the image of our university as a safe space had long faded.

The #RUReferenceList protests highlighted that symbolizing silence was no longer an adequate strategy for ending rape. As activist/author Pumla Gqola had said, rather than symbolic solidarity, there needed to be a social cost for raping. At a time where our faith in our institution’s preparedness to combat sexual violence had dwindled, the Reference List was the megaphone we needed to break the silence.

Months later, shortly before commemorations of Women’s day had begun, four women staged a silent protest as Jacob Zuma delivered a post-election speech in Pretoria. Amanda Mavuso, Naledi Chirwa, Simamkele Dlakavu and Lebogang Shikwambane stood in front of the president, holding up posters which read “#I am 1 in 3”, “Khanga”, “10 years later” and “#RememberKhwezi”. Although they were quickly removed from the venue, their reminder echoed across airwaves and online spaces thereafter. As the name “Khwezi” regained prominence, the nation had to meditate on the sore fact that the victim-blaming beliefs that drove Kuzwayo into exile a decade ago still plague us today.

*

On the October Sunday that we learned of Fezekile Kuzwayo’s death, we experienced a deep heartbreak; a spiritual laceration. Waves of grief and disbelief washed over us, leaving us worn. At Rhodes University, later that week, when we held a vigil to celebrate Fezekile’s life, even the most outspoken amongst us had no words to articulate the weight of the loss. After all, in mourning Fezekile, we were mourning one of our greatest feminist teachers. In remembering her, we would inherit the responsibility of fighting to create the society she deserved.

*

In paying tribute to Kuzwayo’s legacy – her courage and her intellect – we must pledge to remain cognizant of the violences that queer people, women, non-binary trans people, and HIV-positive people face every day. Our life’s work is to reclaim justice as our birthright, even when we tremble with fear. It is our task to institute a real freedom and put to shame the farcical institutions that fail us time and again. The enormity of patriarchal violence, fused with our own traumas, may discourage us, but we must remember that Fezekile also treaded this path. We must prepare to carry this baton as far as we can run. As our race heats up, may Fezekile Kuzwayo rest in peace and in power.