Writing

“Well there is it. I would like to write the story of a man and his wife who never took the train journey, but I can’t. When I think of writing any single thing, I panic and go dead inside. Perhaps it’s because I have my ear too keenly attuned to the political lumberjacks who are busy making capital on human lives. Perhaps I am just having nightmares. Whatever my manifold disorders are, I hope to get them sorted out pretty soon, because I’ve just got to tell a story.” -Bessie Head.

The thought of other people seeing my work or it being open for critique makes me want to cringe. The thought of letting my grip on the words loosen a bit scares me. I just want to hold onto them and never tell a soul. They hold my secrets and my deepest insecurities. They speak the most when my voice cannot.

Words are almost an extension of my lungs that allow me to breathe out when the load on my chest is a little too heavy to carry any further. In the very wise words of Bessie Head, whatever my manifold disorders are, I hope to get them sorted pretty soon, because I’ve just got to tell a story.

I am learning that the will to do something and fear can coexist, that one does not have to stifle nor threaten the other. I must stop going through life like I there’s an imaginary timer counting down deadlines for my unlearning and progress. I need to affirm my pace and never feel like I have to go any faster or slower because of an outside gaze.

May I always be comfortable with leaving room for failure and understand that not every day is for black girl magic, and that is okay.

 

 

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I am not difficult to love

The world cannot wait for my healing so I slip on self-sabotage like a second skin.

It’s ill-fitting and uncomfortable, however on some days I am brave enough to peel it off.

The days of bravery hold the reminder that in-between trauma there is resistance and love.

A love that gives me the courage to extend those days of resistance.

A love that stains self-doubt and all my insecurities combined.

Those are the days I write about the different ways my smile chooses to curve.

I also write about the characters that I meet in the books that I read.

Then there are days the recovery takes a little too long.

I shut myself down and break myself apart.

I dim my sparkle. I dim my shine.

I shrink and mold into my second skin again.

I make myself into what is deemed palatable by society.

A little less colour and not too much of a woman.

But here I am, in all my glory, trying again to peel it off.

God help me, if I ever put it on once more.

Lessons from the book called ‘Maru’ by Bessie Head

This is the most intriguing book that I have ever read in my life. Wow. I actually have no words – okay, just a few to share my thoughts on this matter.

The end of the book speaks on inferiority, how the oppressed people had allowed themselves to be treated inhumanely when they were just like anybody else and they roamed free after making the realisation.

What this book taught me is that inferiority doesn’t stand in your way of peace and achieving wonderful things. It is actually something that makes you believe that you can’t achieve even though you are as capable as anyone else. If you also look very closely, you will find that the social status of people depended on the labour of the people at the bottom. In the book, Maru who was born into cheiftancy, prided himself with the large number of slaves that he owned. Without the labour of the slaves, who was he?

I know that sometimes it is hard for me to express myself because I feel like I do not belong in some spaces. I actually do. The people that I think are at the top are actually counting on my inferiority complex. I once thought people would disrespect me because I have no power when in actual fact I do. I have my own intrinsic creative intellect and beauty that makes the flowers bloom and the stars shine a little brighter at the sight of it. I am truly a marvel and worthy of wonderful, beautiful things.

It is not a mistake that I feel insecure because of other women. This has been pre-destined that I render yourself worthless or lacking because that is the source of strength from the actual people who are lacking. I am a real wonder and I am a beautiful person.

To myself:

When you think of athlete, put your name there. When you think of a beautiful person, put your name there. And when you think of slaying all the pharmacy third year subjects, put your name there. When you think of a successful future, put your name there. Success takes up many forms. Remember that people wish to be different things, some hope to be the radiating sun, or the beautiful moon or the bright star. Whatever they wish to be is entirely up to them. You have your own successes and you have your own goals.

Becoming and coming into full being is going to take a while and that is okay. These hurdles will forever shape who you are and put meaning to your life. Also, when you have a chance to smile and be peaceful, grab it with both hands. You never know what life has in store for you but what I do know is that you have all that it takes within you to handle it. Do not allow anyone else to ever feed you the lie, that you do not have the capacity within yourself to overcome adversity.

Deferred Exams

Choosing to defer my November exams was the most difficult of choices that I have ever had to make and not to mention how much of a risk it would be. I had to shut down other people’s voices in my head and make a decision after understanding why writing in January 2017 was going to be more beneficial for me. Sometimes I wish someone would have told me that things would turn out to be amazing and that I didn’t have to feel like a failure for choosing to write in another exam period. Before I left for home, I wrote to myself and these are some of the things that I said:

  • You’re still intelligent, no matter what happens
  • And I know that you can turn any situation around
  • If you managed to pull up your socks and try your best, what makes you doubt that you won’t do it again
  • You have two months to prepare for your exams
  • Remember that you are not in the same situation as everybody else
  • Sometimes you need a guardian
  • There’s nothing wrong with tapping out and starting all over again
  • Push and you will be able to do it
  • The space is not conducive to learning
  • If you want to leave, leave
  • You went through something traumatic and that’s okay
  • Life isn’t easy and people project expectations on you all the time
  • It’s okay if you want to leave
  • You have to follow your own path
  • At home, they will also have expectations
  • Don’t you ever police yourself again
  • You deserve to be happy. You deserve all the wonderful things.

Line after line, I wrote affirming words to myself. I had tears in my eyes, I was doubtful but I went through with it. I did it. I did it with loads of hurt and trauma on my back but I had to leave because I knew I was going to be unsuccessful with the upcoming exams. I was not coping with my school work and also anxious about police shootings on campus. Most of all, I was feelings anxious because I was not used to putting myself first and taking care of my emotional well-being. Choosing to defer, for me, was a huge act of self-love.  The 2 months of exam preparations was a myth, I spent most of my time at home doing a lot of healing and recovering from the toxic space that I was in at UCKAR. I had given myself another chance and I am proud of myself for that.

The 3 Stages of my Feminism

When I first found out about feminism in my first year of university, it felt like I came across a puzzle that I had to solve by finding what pieces fit where and how in my life. I had to figure out what the word means for me and the kinds of ways that I will choose to express it. The word feminism and its meaning has to curve, bend and fit to the ways of my being. I now identify by it, I am very much a feminist the same way I am black. A black woman at that. As I progressed, many feminist-books-read later, I realised that I went through different phases to get where I currently am. There are many nameless phases in-between that played a huge role but the 3 phases that make up the skeleton of my feminism are: white feminism, bell hooks phase and the self-preservation phase.

The first stage is the white feminism stage. This is where my knowledge of feminism is hazey and vague, like what white feminism actually is. This is the stage where my understanding of oppression was very much blanketed on everyone. Honestly, at this point, feminism was just a buzzword I threw around with minimal understanding of what it actually is. I am really not going to spent much thought into this, white feminism just ain’t shit.

The second stage is the bell hooks phase, when I started reading black women’s work in general. I read people who just put to words what I have been struggling to say all my life but I just could not put a finger on it. This is when the awakening of my multifaceted being started, basically the unlearning part. I stood on the shoulders of other black women for the discoveries of other ways of being. This is the stage that explains why I am constantly angry at society and all the systems than I can possibly name because I start to realise that the world is deliberately trying to dim my light and everywhere that I go is a battle to keep my paths alight. This is where the call-out culture in me starts to manifest and the sense of holding every single person to account. This is the stage I wear all my oppressions on my sleeve, not taking good care of myself and not reflecting on my thoughts and actions.

The third stage is the self-preservation phase. This is the stage I explicitly define the core values of my feminism. This is where I began understanding the various ways I inflict oppression and the other ways I am a victim of other oppressions. This is the time where I seek to establish a strong sense of self. I start reading on love and what that means for black communities. This phase is basically keeping blackness, inclusive of all marginalisations within it, the centre of my beliefs. This is the point where I get comfortable in my skin. The more comfortable I am in my skin, the more alien it becomes, understandably so considering the time spent not investing in myself. The more I get to know the stranger that is myself, I get to realise how beautiful and brilliant I am and I just can’t seem to fathom how I thought I was anything but, before.

These stages make up the skeleton of my feminism. They do not even begin to describe the ups and downs I had to go through, the vigorous unlearning phases and when I had to rediscover myself and learn the history that has been hidden from me through my schooling years. At the centre of this learning process is black women who have shined a light on my paths when the SYSTEMS got the better of me. The third stage is not necessarily the final, there are many bridges inside of me I have yet to cross. One day I won’t have convince myself of things I already am, all the beautiful and brilliant things? I already am. One day soon.

My Existence is Defiance

 

Shrinking myself has always been my first response to (unwarranted) criticism but I am slowly basking in my glorious self, my skin and my hair. I think I now finally understand what Toni Morrison meant by racism being a distraction because it truly is, among other things. Instead of creating new ways of being, outside the narrative imposed on me that deny my full humanity, I am busy proving to people that I am a human being. I do not know why I was sleeping on this quote for so long but I now finally get it. My existence is truly defiance.

This realisation came about through thinking of how I am often labelled ‘too political’ and how I get told that I do not belong in the sciences, without understanding that the mentality of boxing what can be deemed political or not comes from a place that glares with inadequacy and that serves to stifle dissent. From that understanding, I cannot measure my worth using people who have no issue with the status quo. Especially if it is going to interfere with expanding my ideas and making this space less and less asphyxiating for myself. I refuse to conform to what a ‘typical’ science student is or what they can aspire to be.

“They prefer us to be silent, passively accepting their ideas. They prefer us speaking against ‘them’ rather than developing our own ideas about the feminist movement.” –bell hooks. She was referring to the middle class white feminism movement in her book called, ‘Feminist Theory: form margin to center’. These lines jumped up from the pages because it just resonated so much with me at this point of my life. I really cannot get caught up in critiquing my faculty, people who criticise me for merely being political and so on when I could be strengthening my own causes, however it’s not to say that they cannot co-exist.

Self-reflection is extremely important and I hope to value it for the rest of my activism days and may those days be filled with unlearning and relearning. Distractions are merely just that. They will not serve me and my purposes in any way.

The Speech I Gave at the Opening of Gender Week

“My name is Lisolethu Dlova and I am a Pharmacy student who really interested in politics around gender and feminism so I’ll be a giving a short talk about gender and sport and soon afterwards we can maybe have discussions.

I am a part of the Gender Action Project and I am affiliated with Chapter 2.12.
The gender action project is an activism society that aims to raise awareness about gender and having spaces for people to express their gender freely without fear and discrimination. Chapter 2.12 aimed raising awareness around rape culture in our university and the way in which the justice system favours the perpetrator, moving from silencing tactics implemented by the university to the hashtag we believe you campaign.

Since gender week is upcoming, I can’t not talk about what gender actually is, the misconceptions, linkages to rape culture and how sport is a reflection of the society as a whole.

Gender is basically the roles attached to being a women or a man and the type of appearances that go with femininity and masculinity, like for example, its women’s month and all you’re going to see on tv is pink which is very cliché and not every woman likes pink but just because it is attached to femeninity. Gender identity is an individual’s expression of how they see themselves and the gender that they identify themselves with. The misconception is always around the fact that gender identity is linked with someone’s sex. Your sex is basically determined by your genitals. So we are having these conversation so that we can respect other people and not impose out own definitions of what gender is on other people because it may seem like something that is obvious to other people but its important to consider that there are people who identify with neither of those indentities which a gender non-conforming people and transgender individuals who identify themselves as a different gender that the one they were given by society at birth.

The misconception around sex and gender identity is often dangerous because it leads to gender based violence and an example of gender based violence is rape. Its called gender based violence because it is not limiting it to violence against women and children only but broadens it to violence towards a person because of how they choose to express their identities, which can be to gender non-conforming individuals, transgender individuals and to also men. The protests that took place this year are really important in sending out a message saying, there IS a cost to violating other people. We always get told the statistics of how many women get violated but there’s always a grey area when it comes to knowing where the perpetrators actually are, so you get a lot of rape victims and survivors in society but you know nothing about rapists. The protests succeeded in showing that the violators are actual people that we go to class with, even friends with, and not aliens from the bushes, or a random group of people that travel around the country violating people.

So how is this conversation tied to sport? We all know that sport plays an important role in uniting people of all colours and genders. It’s really great that today we can have mixed teams and have fun, however it is really important to have conversation about how gendered sport is and the treatment of women and gender non-conforming individuals in sport because we are the ones who face the brunt of our unfair system. Our unfair system not only gives higher wages to men compared to women but also aims to humiliate and enforce violent gender roles. The woman I want to talk about today is Caster Semenya. She has excelled and dominated in athletics for many years but throughout those years, her excellence has been questioned on the basis of her “looking like a man”. As a result Caster Semenya had to go through Gender verification tests which were made public by the International Association of Athletics Federation. This is an indication of how dominance is linked to masculinity, a man is often praised for being strong and dominant however when a woman has the show the same characteristics, it deviates from femininity and the roles of a woman and thus we become targets of abuse.

And I want to end of my talk by quoting Caster Semenya on a bbc sport interview, “”It was upsetting, you feel humiliated. You cannot control what people think. It is about yourself, controlling yourself – what is in you. But now I want to focus more on the future, I don’t want to go back there. What is done is done.”
“I am not a fake. I am natural. I am just being Caster. I don’t want to be someone I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be someone people want me to be. I just want to be me. I was born like this. I don’t want any changes.””