My Body, my rules: Masego Panyane writes about body image. Photo: TJ Lemon
Body image plays a huge role in how we are perceived by the society we live in. This perception impacts our experiences in everyday life. We are nudged, not so gently, to make an effort to look a specific way. It’s everywhere. We see it in images on television, magazines and billboards. We are told about perfection on radio. We speak about it in everyday conversations.
I was bullied for about half of my early schooling days because my teeth were skew and I was the fat little girl. My tormentor, a girl much shorter and skinnier than I, used to refer to me as Sibeko from a comedy show called Emzini Wezintsizwa. The horror I had at being compared to the fat, untidy, always drunk-but quite smart- television character. Bathong!
As a result of that, I became an awkward and sad fat little girl. Until one night, I had a glorious dream of me bashing my tormentor into the ground. A classic case of mind over matter.
“I have struggled with weight and my body image for years. It took me storming out of the gym one afternoon to realize that I had been doing it wrong all this time. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to fit in, not because I wanted to be healthy”.
I walked onto the playground the following day with the bravery of a Charlie’s Angel. The bully started her usual routine and made fun of one of the other girls. She made a stupid comment about how dumb the girl was because she couldn’t read properly. I didn’t laugh. She noticed, called me Sibeko again and I promised her a serious beating if she carried on. The rest, as they put it, is history.
For the next few years, I built my confidence up brick-by-brick. I focused on the things I was good at. Accepted all the things I was not. I made it work. But for some reason, the confidence I felt in my head didn’t mirror with how I felt, physically.
Now before you give me a lecture about fitness and weight loss, please do me a favor and have a seat. The likelihood that you are going to tell me something I have never heard before is slim. Yes, pun intended.
I have struggled with weight and my body image for years. It took me storming out of the gym one afternoon to realize that I had been doing it wrong all this time. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted to fit in, not because I wanted to be healthy.
Since that penny dropped, I joined a number of body positive movements which advocate for a healthy lifestyle and a positive look at your body, regardless of what size you are or however many defect your body has.
I realized how much pressure I had put on myself to transform my body into what it could possibly never be given my genetics.
I am aware of my body. I know that becoming more active would be great for me. That does not mean I must hate myself in order to achieve this. I will dress as I please and I certainly will not disappear from the face of the earth because I am not conventionally pretty. No can do.
My experience with the school bully stripped me of my voice for a while. After I got through that, I promised myself I would never allow that to happen to me again.
I will get healthier. But at my own pace. Not because I am trying to subscribe to some standard of beauty that I probably would never attain.
SYMBOLIC: The “Seder” plate with the different signs representing the festival of Passover. Photo: Ilanit Chernick.
Passover or Pesach is an annual festival celebrated by the Jewish community over 7 days in April. Wits Vuvuzela journalist Ilanit Chernick shares the experience of the festival as it happens in her home.
As the candles sparkle on the mantelpiece we gather around and admire their beauty.
The table is set, our best cutlery and crockery laid out in order of each course, each with an accompanying Hagada (the religious text) on top. An abundance of desert wine with a seemingly equal number of glasses stand in readiness for the traditional four helpings of this sweet alcoholic treat. Each helping signifies the different levels of redemption.
Some say, “It’s the perfect opportunity to get a little drunk”. But in actual fact this is a time for family and friends to come together, to learn, reflect and grow.
We renew our spirituality, our freedom and our remembrance of trying times.
It is Passover – a festival which celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. A tradition passed down for thousands of generations from father to son since that fateful period when the Jews were saved “by the hand of G-d (God)”.
Yet many people still question the strange and inspiring rituals the Jewish people uphold during the first two nights of this holiday period. We read from a book that talks of our history (the Hagada), churn what seems like hills of greens and horseradish in our mouths which are hard to the touch – never mind the tongue. We mix apples, nuts and wine to make a sweet paste which is spread on to the cardboard-looking thing called matzah (unleavened bread).
The seder (Hebrew word describing the order of events over the first two nights of Passover) is held as a way to teach generation after generation – young and old – of the miracles beseeched on the Jewish people during their time in slavery. It is a time to encourage the younger generation to ask questions about the historical significance of this night. The youngest at the table sings a tune in Hebrew asking “why this night is different from all other nights?” or “why on this night do we eat bitter herbs and matzah?”
[pullquote]”These words slip off our tongues like water on a hot day as we recall the story of our ancestors slavery.” [/pullquote]
Throughout this evening we examine the fascinating plate of insignia’s, talk of “the four sons”, deliberately spill our glasses of wine as we listen to the 10 plagues and sing songs of freedom in Aramaic. These words slip off our tongues like water on a hot day as we recall the story of our ancestors’ slavery. We long for these words to come true – for the return of a time of comfort and redemption.
As the adults eat a meal filled with chicken soup and kneidelach (matza-balls), rich meats and cooling desserts, there are squeals of delight as the children search for the Afikoman (a small piece of matzah hidden to continue the process of ‘asking’). Prizes of lush chocolates or packets of coloured sweets are handed to the children for solving this little mystery. A process of bargaining, swapping and sharing treats takes place as we proceed to eat the Afikoman.
One after the other, the children fall by the wayside on the couch or on pillows scattered on the floor as we end this night of extraordinary events with humourous songs. They prompt us to count or take us back to a time of old school plays we performed during this period of the year. We smile as we let the wine settle and sing-along to “Had Gad Ya”, a parable similar to that of the nursery rhyme “there was an old lady who swallowed a spider”. In our dazed state we make the sounds pertaining to each character and tease when anyone misses their cue.
Sooner than we’d hoped, the plague of darkness begins to settle upon the house as each of the lights go out one by one. A reminder that 1am has come and it is time for bed. As we walk our guests out we look up at the stars with awe – a blood moon has appeared – the same phenomenon which took place thousands of years ago on the night of our redemption.
FAMILY TIME: The Chernick family gather together on Passover to recall our history. Photo: Ilanit Chernick
I come from Cape Town, a city in South Africa, but really, its own little country.
The Republic of Cape Town moves to its own rhythm. It nonchalantly sways with the Atlantic tide and pumps to the beat of the south-eastern wind. It’s a giant film set, picturesque, landscaped and any other slushy adjective you can think of equivalent to a scene out of a Jane Austin novel.
I have always been one for change. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and am somewhat of a “yes man” when it comes to trying new things. When I was given the opportunity to study journalism at Wits University, I jumped on that bandwagon in a heartbeat. I knew nothing about Johannesburg at the time—this goes for almost all Capetonians. But I like to think that after a year in the City of Gold I can make some comparisons.[pullquote]”I love being able to say that my home is in Cape Town despite many of the people there being so insular and set in their own ways.”[/pullquote]
What I love about Cape Town is that I can go from work to the beach. I love that the sun sets so late at night and that I can do more for less. I don’t have to spend much on travelling and the public transport is great. I love being able to say that my home is in Cape Town despite many of the people there being so insular and set in their own ways.[pullquote align=”right”]”For an aspiring journalist, I had to get off this one lane avenue and onto the highway.”[/pullquote]
Capetonians LOVE getting involved in any public petition such as, let’s say, bringing back doggy water bowls at the Corner Café because their Maltese poodle is so parched after a long walk on the promenade. Discussions on e-tolls or the upcoming elections don’t draw the same passion as a thirsty shitzu.
For an aspiring journalist, I had to get off this one lane avenue and onto the highway.
Moving to a city where I knew no one helped me focus on what I was trying to achieve. At first, I made my Joburg experience all about my studies. But it didn’t take long for me to realise that Jozi has so much to offer, and making my studies my first priority was going to be difficult.[pullquote]”There is a certain swag about this place, like a large thug smoking his cigar.”[/pullquote]
There is a certain swag about this place, like a large thug smoking his cigar. People don’t mess around here, they know what they want and where they are going and make no apologies for their ambitious spirit.
Compared to Cape Town, Joburg is a difficult city to live in. People talk fast and loud. They cash cheques, break necks and drive angry. Jozi hardened me up. It’s given me perspective and relinquished my need for everyday comforts and vanities – something Capetonians know far too much about.
I think there is something so magical in people believing that a place can bring them opportunity and that their dreams can come true. You can feel and see this in the people in Jozi.[pullquote]”Drenched in memories and history,Joburg makes me feel like anything is possible”[/pullquote]
I love the rawness and dirtiness of the Joburg city. It seems drenched in memories and history. Joburg makes me feel like anything is possible and that being here instantly connects me to the rest of the world and everyone in it.
Cape Town to me will always be the Mother Land, my mothers’ land. But Joburg is the man in my life who gives me butterflies and fireworks – my lover, who encourages me to be crazy, to push myself and to explore.
“I don’t mind women in general wearing crop tops or short shorts, but I don’t want my girlfriend wearing those things because they make me feel uncomfortable,” said a male friend.
He considers himself sympathetic to feminism. This conversation occurred after I had accepted the label, feminist. If it had happened two or three years ago I might have “understood” where he was coming from, now I don’t. It took me quite a while to come to terms with feminism, to understand it and identify with it. To me feminism simply means the freedom to choose who I want to be.
[pullquote]”I don’t mind women in general wearing crop tops or short shorts, but I don’t want my girlfriend wearing those things because they make me feel uncomfortable.”[/pullquote]
In the past I’ve labeled myself as a “laissez-faire feminist” and described myself as such in social conversations. What I meant was that I do recognize that patriarchy is real and is at work 24/7 to undermine people of my gender. What I was saying along with this at the time is that I prescribed to the gender roles dictated to us by society, and that I was comfortable with this status quo.
The attitude has fallen away to be replaced by a more precise concept “black feminism”. I am out. Loud and proud. I have successfully rid myself of the fear of discrimination for being vocal about feminism.
A lot of people have a stereotypical image of an unshaven, angry, man-hater when they think of the word “feminist”. I was scared to associate with the feminist struggle because of this negative stereotype.I now realize one can shave, like to cook, love men and still be a feminist.
The problem with patriarchy
People are uncomfortable with accepting certain truths, especially if they somehow benefit from whatever it is you are speaking out against.
Men, whether they like it or not benefit from the patriarchal shield that makes their lives a little sweeter. God forbid he cook and clean, domestic chores are for girls. He should sit on the couch, have beers and snacks delivered as he shouts at the TV in front of him. This kind of behavioural conditioning in the media and in our homes provides a breeding ground for the next generation to play into the same kind of zombie like fixation with gender roles. [pullquote align=”right”]”Patriarchy is the reason we have a rape culture here and elsewhere.”[/pullquote]
The problem with patriarchy is that it makes men believe they are rightfully entitled to certain things where women are involved, women’s fashion choices among them. It makes women believe that they have to do certain things, look a certain way, say certain things to win them the “real women” label. Being desirable trumping other pursuits, overshadowing other attributes of their womanhood.
Patriarchy is the reason we have a rape culture here and elsewhere, it allows for the pathological thinking that says a woman can be owned, domineered and conquered at will. That a woman’s body can be seized, forcefully if all else fails.
What feminism says
Feminism stands up and shouts “NO!”. It says women are more than their boobs and their bums, more than the scrubbing their hands can endure, are more than the nappies they can change. It says women are capable of more than they are given credit for. It says that women deserve to be treated justly, that they have a place outside of the kitchen. It says gender roles are bullshit, archaic and oppressive.
[pullquote]”I don’t have to be an emotionless “bitch” to be respected, that independence is not about being alone, that my sex life is no one’s business but mine.”[/pullquote]
Feminism has taught me to ignore the cues given to me by society about what kind of woman I should be, because they say so. I should be the kind of woman I choose to be, because I say so. I don’t have to cook and clean to be “wifey material”, a man who thinks like that has no business looking for a wife because clearly all he needs is domestic assistance, which is fairly easy to find in a want ad.
Feminism has also taught me that I don’t have to be an emotionless “bitch” to be respected, that independence is not about being alone, that my sex life is no one’s business but mine. It’s taught me that justice and equality aren’t the same, that sometimes justice does mean giving someone an opportunity based on their gender or race – because equality tends to ignore the existing imbalances between two people when handing out the so called same opportunity or advantage.
It starts with some subtle courting, then a proposal for a dinner date. You plan the outfit carefully a week before, pick the right shoes and accessories? The day before you get a call to confirm your date, along with it an sms that night saying: “I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow, sleep tight.”
[pullquote]”We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark.”[/pullquote]
You arrive on time –15 minutes before, in fact, just to be safe. You ask for a table right in the middle of the restaurant so your date can spot you immediately and so that the two of you can be seen. After an hour you start to worry, your call is met by voicemail, you text incessantly but in vain. You start to notice patrons whispering about you.
The waiter is optimistic, says he’ll arrive any minute now. The manager has seen this happen before. She is sure you’ve been stood up and should probably just head home. She comes over and says: “These things never work out, don’t do it again.” After waiting 2 and 1/2 hours you admit defeat and head home, maybe it will work out next time, you think.
Voting in our beloved country has become much like the above scenario for many discouraged South Africans. We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark. Only the other side doesn’t show up. They leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The upcoming elections present an opportunity to make our voices heard, or so they say. There are millions of voices trying to have their say, our government can only do so much, right? They may listen but it’s hard to believe they actually hear us. My generation has only just entered the arena as citizens with a voice, but already so many of us are weighed down by an overwhelming apathy because of the disconnect we can see in the promises made and the promises kept. [pullquote align=”right”]”We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either…”[/pullquote]
We fill our heads with countless readings, hours of roundtable discussions and engage with one another on the interwebs trying to find a way. Just trying to find someone and something to believe in, someone and something bigger than the various constraints of our supposed privilege and contrasting poverty. There’s not much consensus between our leaders and us, the youth and the future. We don’t believe their lies, but we know it’s all part of a bigger game – if they don’t do it someone else will. We don’t believe there’s any point in choosing the lesser evil either, picking a side just to pick a side. The whole thing smells like a convoluted fishy mess to me.
But what choice do we have? If we keep quiet, we’ll have to watch it all burn. If we make a spoiled mark we may be accused of dishonouring those who shed blood to give us this right. If we agree to just pick a side as an act of “democracy”, we would willingly be hopping aboard “The Assimilation”, a ship destined for failure.
We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either but they think they do. We have a choice to make, an important one.
It’s up to us to make the one that says the plan isn’t working, one that says let’s revise the plan, let’s turn the plan on its head if need be.
Our inked thumbnails do mean something and will mean something either good or bad for those to come. As the architect in the Matrix said: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”
TIMELINES on twitter are clogged up by constant sports updates on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The most tiresome of the bunch are the football ones, random tweets with things like “foul ref!”, “4-3-3” and “what a cross”.
Maybe a little understanding of the so-called beautiful game would lead to less annoyance come kick-off time. I decided to find out what the basics are, so that I too can get angry when people are offside and tweet about it. Along with this I am on a mission, like Will McAvoy, to civilise, to reform the poor spectator abilities of those of us who watch for ‘hunks of the week’ instead of ‘sportsmen of the week’.
Soccer versus football
Firstly there is a whole debate about whether to call it soccer or football, football or soccer.
“It’s fashionable to be angry and indignant at people who call it soccer instead of football, it’s f***ing bullshit” said one dreadlocked enthusiast.
He went on to explain that people have become obsessed with calling it football as a way to defy the Americans. They call it soccer so as not to be confused with their American football, also known as fake rugby.
“Just because European football is considered better, now all of a sudden we want to change what we’ve been calling the game for years, it’s soccer man!” said someone in the newsroom.
Good on those who choose to colour outside of the lines drawn by those in the land of the free, but let’s just stick to local lingo and go for diski.
I went around asking semi-keen people what they were unsure about or wanted clarity on when it came to diski. The responses included “what the hell is offside”, “are the soccer players single?” and “what do those numbers like 3-5-2 stand for”.
4-3-3: Formations in football or soccer (whatever you call it) are used to ensure flexible play but given the fluidity of the game they can become redundant. Graphic: Provided
The offside rule is actually quite an easy one to wrap your head around and once you do, the game starts making sense.
The FIFA rule book says “It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent”.
Student and avid football lover Brendan Zietsman said to imagine this scenario:
“You are at a club and you see a girl/guy you like. Another person has seen the girl/guy too and they have a drink in their hand for that person. Your friend slides you a drink across the bar to give to the girl/guy. It would be wrong of you to step in front of the other person before their drink has left their hand. That is offside”. Simple.
Hotties on the pitch
The second response points to the question on many minds when they watch 22 men running around after a patent leather ball. I will admit that I am one of those people.
When the teams line up I watch out for a hottie to keep my eyes on for the 90 minutes that will follow. Every team has that one player who captivates the imaginations of those of us who aren’t ‘fans’.
3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 are “those numbers” which indicate a team’s planned formation for the game. Formations are used to strategically place players across the field, to enable them to attack and defend in the best ways possible. Now to watch a match to see if I scream “offside” at the television with confidence.
This Mandela Day will certainly be regarded as the most significant so far – but why do we need a Mandela Day at all?
On July 18, 2009, Mandela’s birthday, Mandela Day was declared an international day for peace and to celebrate his legacy. People pledge to give 67 minutes of their day to do good, a minute for each year Mandela gave to fight against the oppressive apartheid regime.
On the website, the reason for Mandela Day is given as: “To inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.”
But it is this concept of doing 67 minutes of good that interests me most. Why do we need a specific day, time or place to do something good?
In doing 67 minutes of good on Mandela Day, people are joining together in an initiative they feel is worth being part of – clearly, or no-one would bother. A whole year has passed since the last, but people sit and wait for someone to tell them that this is the day they should start feeling charitable.
This is an example of how humans cross the species border and become sheep. It all stems from our need to be guided, to follow, in an attempt to be normal.
In Tribes, Seth Godin writes about humanity’s need to belong. He says all people want to be part of a tribe, a connection of people who are like-minded and share common beliefs. No matter how big or small, people need to be connected to a leader or an idea.
People look to leaders who have similar perspectives to their own. Everything that has been accomplished over time, including overcoming apartheid, was achieved by the actions of leaders. These leaders are people who take the initiative to vocalise their beliefs and make a change in one way or another.
We follow them because we see ourselves within these leaders. We share their innate morals and cultural outlook. A leader holds a mirror to our subconscious and helps us put into motion what we already knew we wanted to achieve.
Why is it, though, that all credit goes to that particular leader? Why do we attribute all the accomplishments achieved on behalf of our country to one man? Is it up to Mandela to hold us together? Or can we learn from him in the attempt to continue his leadership tasks, working consistently together to keep South Africa on the right path?
With all the greatness the country has achieved, South Africans should look to themselves and their own leadership qualities. If we didn’t share Mandela’s need for change, his forgiveness, his drive and heart, he would never have been able to achieve what he did.
It is now time to take our own virtues into consideration. We need to recognise our inner power and learn to do something with it.
The truth is, South Africa got where it is because we all have the ability to do good. We followed Mandela because we have his qualities and he shares ours.
With Mandela Day approaching, people are suddenly browsing the web for some charity or event to participate in for 67 minutes, do some good and just to be involved. But surely all this does is make us feel complacent; that we’ve done our bit for the year.
Is it not time that we as humans see ourselves as captains of our own ships, makers of our own destinies? The beauty of life is that we are all given choices, and it is up to us to be active in the choices we make.
Give yourself some credit as a South African, and realise that you don’t need a “Day” or a leader to show you the way or to make a change. We all have the ability to be the leaders that the rest of the world needs.
Instead of sitting around and waiting for Mandela Day, do what Seth Godin tells us: “Shine a light, build a tribe and make a difference” today.
Wits Vuvuzela got a hold of free issue female condoms from Campus Health, and then asked Witsies if they had had any experiences with the condoms, and what their general attitudes were towards female condoms.
by Pheladi Sethusa and Mia Swart.
Public holidays are an issue of contention in South Africa. Some religious groups feel that they are being discriminated against and their public holidays are not fairly represented.
Wits Vuvuzela asked Witsies for their thoughts on the matter.
Given the ongoing issue of sexual harassment at Wits, Wits Vuvuzela spoke to male students about the way in which the issue has been covered given that all allegations have stemmed from female students against male lecturers.
By Jay Caboz
IN THE Wits Vuvuzela newsroom, for whatever reason, there is a collective sigh from the journalists when the sounds of hundreds of marchers begin their chanting near Mary Fitzgerald Square.
When there is strike in Johannesburg, I can almost guarantee you a journalist will know about it.
There is nothing quite like a strike. You never know when someone is going to start throwing rubble. You never know if a journalist is going to be attacked. You never know if Julius Malema is going to rock up.
As someone who may not have such tentative ears, you might think to yourself, “Oh what? Another strike today?” Before you simply move on and forget about it.
How is it that we as South Africans are so used to the idea that striking is normal? I think, most importantly, we as a nation are becoming very nonchalant about the seriousness of the reasons people protest. We dismiss it, thinking that the strike will never go beyond affecting our traffic route.
But more and more, strike season is becoming strike year. According to Wikipedia, South Africa has one of the highest rates of public protest in the world. If you look back over 2012, we have seen some of the most violent protests in our democratic history. Who could forget the Marikana strike? And, in the Western Cape alone, 179 violent strikes were reported last year. I dread to think of the amount of service delivery strikes that occurred in Gauteng over the same period.
Is it your problem if farm workers down in the Western Cape are paid R69 a day? And should you care if a small township in the middle of who-knows-where has any public toilets? What about youth wage subsidies? What about our own Wits lecturers and staff protesting about low wages?
But, suddenly, it is your problem when you have to pay e-tolls.
Stop and think for a minute. Why are people so angry that they have to take to the streets on a regular basis to have their demands heard? I want you to ask yourself, “how many stories have I heard about strikes and how many of them have been resolved?”
The way things are going, striking is only going to get worse. So maybe it’s time we stopped and listened to the anger in those chants and realised that these protests affect more than just the people willing to stand up. It affects all South Africans in one way or another.
THE most common theme that stuck with me through all the dazzling and rather well-attended events in celebration of women during Women’s month has been that women should stop pulling each other down and begin to nurture a culture of support.
Yes! We all do it subconsciously…hate on that girl who got a higher mark than you on a test, the one who’s looking a li’l extra phly today wearing that top you loved when paging through this month’s Cosmo, oh! And let’s not forget how we envy that girl who looks like she’s finally found a good man and they are building a healthy relationship together.
Just last week, a young lady tried to commit suicide on campus. Did any of us ladies ask ourselves why she thought it better to jump off a bridge rather than seek solace from another woman?
The truth is, you, or maybe a friend or a family member of yours has probably faced the challenges she felt she couldn’t live beyond.
If we were more welcoming as women then maybe, just maybe, the need for a month in celebration of women would diminish as we celebrate each other every other day.
Some of the talks given by prominent women, who were honoured guests at these events, were uninspiring. I felt something real was lacking. I think that’s the element that keeps us from understanding each other and reaching out to one another as women. The point here is not about the whole world loving you, but it’s definitely about us pulling one another up as women.
I look forward to the day when women can meet at a luncheon and none of those who attended have to breathe a sigh of relief as they walk out because the eyes of judgement and sizing-up are finally off them. The day when we can celebrate each other, advise each other, pray for one another and take joy in knowing that we can approach other women for help.
So, as the month of August came to an end this week, I feel more self-empowered in the acknowledgement of how I have pulled other women down in the past and the steps I will now take in ensuring that I look to help, rather than judge, and compliment, rather than scornfully envy, my fellow sisters.