”We need to learn that across generations there is as much to learn as there is to teach’’- Gloria Steinem (more…)
Why is the proposed polyandry law government’s attempt at ‘equalising society’ and creating a unified and diverse nation, when we have so many other issues that must be addressed first?
The covid-19 lockdown is proving to be a global newsroom for this Wits Vuvuzela student journalist. (more…)
My experience with stress and how I am overcoming it. (more…)
Males are taught from a very early age to not be in touch with their emotions. (more…)
We break our backs in the act of giving, and we forget that we need to be cared for, too.
Advertising has come a long way since jingles about cereal and housewives wrestling with Verimark vacuum cleaners. The standard, cookie-cutter formula of selling brands, perception or products with the ubiquity of white picket fences and nuclear families with pearly-toothed smiles gushing over washing powder just doesn’t quite cut it.
With limited airtime and competition over space, advertising doesn’t manipulate the unattainable anymore, it weaponises black rage to cause a stir.
Take the now infamous 2017 Dove advert: the Unilever giant distributed an advert of a black woman seemingly transformed as her cleaner, whiter self after using a Dove body-wash.
The racist undertones of the advert became a source of outrage and debate on social media. The recycled PR apology from the brand made its rounds and Dove still remains as prevalent as ever with the backlash barely making a dent in sales.
Another beauty brand, Nivea, was found guilty of the same pattern of symbolising whiteness as the aspiration through their Natural Fairness lotion advert in 2017.
In 2018, H&M made the only black child in their catalogue wear a ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ sweater, alluding to the racist tropes of othering black people as wild animals.
Gucci’s recent 2019 advert featuring a white woman wearing a Jim Crow-type black jumper with exaggerated red lips seen in the blackface minstrel performances of the 1950s also utilised black outrage to stay relevant.
Gucci and Moncler did blackface. Burberry thinks a noose around the neck is fashionable. I’m starting to believe the fashion industry has an agenda this Black History Month pic.twitter.com/CSVuNhlpVe
— Joshua Chenault (@joshuachenault1) February 19, 2019
Each of these brands have released content perpetuating colourism, racism and a strong undercurrent of anti-blackness in a social climate that makes it difficult to believe the intention was anything but deliberate.
Brands feed on the black response to racist representations and with each validly outraged Tweet comes an increase in their chances of staying in the 24-hour news cycle without bearing the brunt of any real lasting ramifications.
Technology enables us to have conversations across borders instead of a one-dimensional, one-stream flow of information with zero participation at the end. Decades ago, adverts were simply funnelled down your throat with little to no input, critique or comment on how they were received other than if the product sold or not.
Decades ago, people of colour were subjected to racist misrepresentation in the media, depicted as voiceless, identity-less tropes without much say in how we wanted to see ourselves.
Now, we have platforms to shut down the careless narratives people who don’t look like us construct but that we need to realise that the freedom of expression has become a weapon in the arsenal of conglomerates.
Retweets, shares and likes are the currency of the digitised world. If your ideas aren’t going viral, they’re lost in a virtual sea of over-saturated content. Advertisers know this better than most.
The pattern in modern age advertising is to bet on riding the clout of trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.
As the old adage goes, “bad publicity is still publicity” and advertising seems to manipulate valid outrage at being marginalised as a way to stay in the limelight.
The problem with exploiting black rage for profit is that, even after centuries of colonialism and oppression, our rage isn’t an infinite resource. Monetising black rage is essentially free advertising but what it costs to the psyche of black people is a lot more.
There are tangible consequences to this: black rage has been a tool for our survival in a world that expects silence or submission from the historically and perpetually oppressed. Exhausting black rage by having to constantly fight for your humanity every time H&M wants their name in headlines is causing distraction and fatigue from what we should be really focused on.
Black rage is critically important, it is valid and it is the very thing that ensured the liberation of this country and the emancipated black identity from the constraints and skewed narratives of white hegemony.
The burden shouldn’t be on the marginalised to have to expend our rage to make neoliberal corporations recognise our humanity apart from what we spend or don’t spend. Black people don’t have to expend emotional labour doing free sensitivity training for brands that should know better.
Maybe originality is dead (and there is absolutely nothing about original about racism), but it’s time for a new stage of advertising where humanity is worth a bit more than a click-through rate.
FEATURED IMAGE: Busang Senne, student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE OF LIFE: I am the master of my fate, April 2019.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: A white student’s dilemma: Shut up or speak out?, April 2019.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE OF LIFE: Umemulo: Coming of age in modern times, April 2019.
My choice to have a child has nothing to do with anyone else.
Before the 2018/2019 Student Representative Council nominations close on September 20, here’s some advice from a person who has experienced the office first hand.
I recently discovered a Facebook group called “I regret having children”. It’s a group where parents anonymously post about how they regret their (often unplanned) pregnancies and how much children have ruined their life. I had left the group absolutely certain that, at least for the next 10 years, I do not want to have children and began considering long term birth control like the Intrauterine Device (IUD). Yet, when I explained this, I was met with, “but how can you know? What if you meet someone in the next few years and they want kids?”
At the time I dismissed it, along with all the laughs I received from older people when I explained my stance. They gave me knowing winks, as if saying, “sure honey, wait a few years and then get back to me”, before asking what my hypothetical future husband would think. I then slowly began to realise how universal the attitude is.
The first realisation came when a family member described to me how she had gone to a government clinic for an IUD. She arrived only to be asked by a nurse what her future husband would think and got pressured into getting a Depo Provera injection because, according to the nurse, giving her an IUD would be a waste of government money as she would just come back to take it out in two to three years after she’d met a suitable husband.
The second came when in America, reproductive rights, which had seemed like a settled debate after Roe v Wade (1973), were thrust back into public discourse due to policy and legislative changes which threatens to roll back funding for clinics like Planned Parenthood. This has created a ripple effect felt by women in developing countries, where Donald Trump’s Global Gag Rule has led to non-profit organisations which provide women with reproductive services being defunded. As a result, millions of women have nowhere else to turn for reliable contraceptives and safe abortion services.
And to drive the matter home, just two weeks ago, medical doctor and reproductive rights activist, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, was left visibly frustrated as an interviewer on Afrovoices derailed a discussion about abortion access into a debate about whether or not it was the duty of black African women to birth African populations comparable to India and China.
Earlier this year, I attended a talk held at Wits Junction about access to abortion titled Whose body is it anyway? In many ways, this question has become only more relevant in 2018. To whom do women’s bodies belong? To lawmakers in faraway countries who can cut off access to reproductive services with the stroke of a pen? To future armies and workforces who need someone to provide them with young, healthy bodies? To governments who can pressure women into taking potentially harmful hormonal birth control for the sake of being economical? Or to hypothetical husbands whose feelings must be accounted for in our present day medical decisions?
What these questions point to is the invasive policing of our bodies. The societal pressure we face to have children, combined with the increasing restrictions women the world over face on reproductive healthcare, has created a suffocating scenario in which we are beginning to lose control over our own bodies. As some women resort to desperate methods like backstreet abortions to cling to that control, others deal with the devastating consequences of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies which, ironically, are often derided by the same people who oppose reproductive justice in the first place.
I believe it is impossible to envision women’s liberation without reproductive justice, because of the many ways that a lack of access to reliable contraceptives and safe abortion services directly harm the wellbeing of women. As we move into Women’s Month the central question we should be asking ourselves when it comes to reproductive issues, such access to abortions and contraceptives, should be “whose body is it anyway?”
- Wits Vuvuzela, How round are your rotis?, July 2018
- Wits Vuvuzela, Slice of life: The blessing of independence from the women who raised me, May 2018
- Wits Vuvuzela, Slice of Life: Team work makes the dream work, May 2018
As 2016 came close to an end and people started popping champagne bottles to usher in 2017 with happy smiles, I came to a very stark realisation. I was terrified of what lay ahead. I had reached a point where I could no longer hide behind the title of student to explain why I wasn’t employed in a job that was taking me places.
I couldn’t excuse the fact that I was still not financially independent after four-and-a-half years of university study (preceded by three gap years). Worst of all, I could no longer continue in the miserable pattern of waking up, going to work, going home, trying to do something valuable before going to bed in the hopes of achieving some change, falling asleep and struggling to wake up the next morning to repeat the pattern again.
Truth be told, I didn’t regret any of the choices I had made until that point. I valued all my experiences and I was grateful for every opportunity life had presented. I had been an ambitious, daring go-getter but my then situation was not sitting well with me. I had fallen into what I came to regard as a “quarter-life” crisis. I didn’t know where my life was going career wise.
The more I spoke to friends and acquaintances in more or less the same post-university stage in life, the more I realised this crisis was a real and common thing. Talking about these struggles and comparing mine to other people’s stories helped me to feel normal. Once you realise you’re not alone, that there are other people feeling exactly the same way, you gather some courage to carry on fighting.
So, on New Year’s Eve, 2016, having mulled this over and gathering the courage to climb out from behind the bottle of champagne, I made a decision to make two changes. I wanted to apply for bursaries to further my studies overseas and I wanted to find a new job.
It took the whole of 2017 to make any sort of progress on these resolutions. It was a difficult, pick-yourself-up-again, time-after-time, kind of year – applying, being rejected and feeling nothing I had to give was good enough. By the end of the year I could hardly find the strength to get up and go to work in the mornings. I loved life but I just didn’t feel as if it loved me back.
It was at this point that I decided I needed to make a drastic change. I stopped looking overseas and set my sights on studying closer to home.
In the process, I had discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in journalism.
As 2017 drew to a close, I had applied, been for an interview, and had been accepted for study towards an honours degree in journalism at Wits. It was a step I nearly didn’t take – not because I didn’t want to, but because it was logistically very hard for me to go back to full-time studying. Despite the hurdles, I decided to be that ambitious, daring go-getter again and, in my experience, life has a way of rewarding that. Things fall into place like they should precisely when they should when you refuse to give up.
I’m not there yet and I can’t say I’ve made it but, if I survive this year, I can face the end of 2018 full of hope in my heart, happy to be popping a champagne bottle or two in the face of 2019 and the start of a new chapter in my life.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE OF LIFE: Getting evicted from my comfort zone, March 12, 2018
There has to be a line between being nice and a walk over.