Growing up in South Africa within social constructs such as institutionalised racism has had a detrimental effect on how black people view themselves. Beyond the ambit of race, there comes another classification that puts you right at the bottom of the “food chain” which is being a black female. Not only are you subjected to social constructs around profiling in terms of race and ethnicity, you are subjected to patriarchy. If you are familiar with the recent menaretrash movement, you may have noted the level of rage expressed by women who have been exposed to such a construct, which has played a role in perpetuating gender based violence against women and lack of accountability amongst those around men responsible for this. As it stands, according to Statistics SA, On average, one in five South African women older than 18 has experienced physical violence, but the picture of gender-based attacks varies according to marital status and wealth. Four in 10 divorced or separated women reported physical violence, as has one in three women in the poorest households. It’s a complex picture that emerges in Statistics SA’s 2016 Demographic and Health Survey released on Monday. And it is one that not only challenges societal attitudes of patriarchy and chauvinism, but also the effectiveness of government programmes and interventions.
Every black woman can relate to these statistics on both a personal encounter level, and having had it manifested in subliminal ways such as cat calling whilst walking down the street, request for sexual favours in exchange for a job promotion, or any sense of entitlement to a woman’s body. As if that is not enough, there is an unspoken level of competition amongst women, competing for a seat at the table. There is enough of us, but as the saying goes “there can only be one black woman”
Accommodate the notion of personal choice
To classify a woman who opts to shamelessly bare her body as either liberated or a “shameless hussy” and under the same breath, classify conservatives as oppressed is part of the reason women feel there can never be middle ground for how they can exercise choice in terms of how they choose to portray and own their bodies. The moral compass people choose to use to grade rightful and wrongful behaviour can be inconsistent and at times rule out that, women have a choice in how they portray themselves. Furthermore, they have the ability to comprehend what personal choice entails. In essence let’s cultivate a culture that values personal choice.
Empower each other through “a seat at the table”
There is no denying that the odds are against us. Social constructs that have classified us internally have made it difficult to keep us as a unified front in breaking barriers. We end up being our own worst enemy through the “pull her down syndrome”. We tend to forget that we are cultivators of a system for our future young women and for generations to come. The buck can stop or continue with us. If you, as a young black woman, a cultivator of civilisation, opportunity, and how generations of women will view black woman, have access to an opportunity to give a seat at the table for a fellow black woman. Do just that!
Own our nurture instinct
It is erroneous to assume that because we are “liberal” beings, we are somewhat weak and unassuming if we own what naturally comes to most of us, which is our nurture instinct. Being incubators, women are prone to nurturing something be it children, gifts, talents, homes. If we are entrusted with such a gift, it’s perfectly fine to own it and bring light through it. Raise your kids well, be your sisters keeper, encourage those that trust you, be feminine. Own that gift unashamedly.
Create mentorship channels
As Mensa Otabil once said, “mentorship is accelerated growth”. As a young black woman, there isn’t much representation one can pick from and relate with on a personal level, to be able to shape life giving ideals about what it means to be a black woman. Our bodies are owned by media outlets who choose to pick how we should portray ourselves. Even in the face of reconstructing ideals about self-image, there isn’t much representation in mainstream media. Furthermore, there isn’t adequate representation in the corporate world and those who have access to this often diminish the value of how reaching out to women who want access to that world. Every black woman needs a black woman to mentor them. “A mentoring relationship between Black women and Black girls encourages them to break through stereotypes and helps to create a pathway for them to be leaders in the future. Mentoring allows young women the chance to spend time with a caring and supportive woman invested in their success”- Deja Jones
The odds may be against us, but through active representation and cultivating what we believe to be our story for future generations to come will redress these disparities amongst women of colour.