Something felt sweet, but very wrong from day one when they embellished me with Princess Sophia fairy tales. When they took turns to drill me to embrace her purple world and to dream her dreams. I neither had her pink skin, nor her longish, curly nose, her accent nor her long hair, nor her tall, “graceful” stature. True, my greatest motivation to befriend Taylor at Early Childhood Development (ECD) was to be able to touch and feel her long flowing hair — the ideal drilled by TV and parenting. So my black dreams turned purple and pink. I hated my scrawny stumpy hair.
MATHABELAZITHA/THE ANVIL BY ZIFISO MASIYE
I cried livid if anyone dared call me Ntombizatekhaya, Nalenhle my indigenous name. My dark skin embarrassed me, accent I could work on and always, I quickly found myself some elevated platform to achieve some height, poise and sense of white elegance (Qwa! they called me, for every moment I got, I jumped into my sophisticated auntie’s high-heeled shoes in pursuit of the princess image) I learnt, very early on in life, not how to pursue and achieve that purple dream, but that, being me, I simply deserved the name, status, wardrobe and every tasteful dessert that comes with such elegant title as Princess Sophia, The First.
We were happy in our spaces. About him they all said “wow, intelligent boy. About me, “what a beautiful girl!” Hear me too, for while they quizzed my little brother with mental challenges and tricky puzzles to work through and solve, for him to win his gun toys, race-cars and footballs and to grow his piggy bank, they pampered me with a roomful of cute fluffy dolls, wedding dresses, kinder joys, and a purple-patch of Princesses! No big deal there, except I found out so late in life how much real power there is in sport, politics, guns and money and how little power there isn’t in “Ara, Huru Huru! Out and Side” and Sophia phantoms!
Without doubt the conscious invocation of industry, innovation, war and networking, and the deliberate tuition, albeit in baby-play, of enquiry, competition, self-agency and grind were implanted early in the formative cognitive world view of my brother Ndimenhle, and all the boys. In equal measure, my circle of girlfriends and I seemed to undergo a careful grooming for some legitimate expectation of benevolent care, favour, freebies and life’s red carpets only if we showed up to life’s endless interview of macho pleasure with exquisite smiles, feminine elegance and compliant attitudes to grace male podiums!
Something felt special, but something felt amiss when year after year I lined up with immaculate drum majorettes to wow the crowds and please the eyes of Mugabe at those Trade Fair or Independence Day spectacles. For hear me too, unlike the multiple nuanced ex-curricular frolics of boys , Boy Scouts who attained priceless life skills training and competitive channelling and became the professional achievers we marched and pranced for or the main act of football teams of the day, the girl guides and drummies simply had no discernible career progression path …., seemingly, our highest ambition was ever to warm-up mail domains, to paint-brush Alpha egos, to usher, sing and dress-up and march for wanton crowd pleasure and futile gender outcomes.
For hear me too, Minister Kirsty Coventry. It is a shameful injustice that the policy framework, the social infrastructure, the funding and the entire orientation of sports, arts and youth development only serves girls and women incidentally and not by deliberate design. Where are the female academies, studios and clubs of basketball, music, football, athletics, art, cricket, golf, rugby that must nurture girl talent and produce the future she-versions of Peter Ndlovu to hold up that 2030 vision?
Something felt good, but something felt wrong when Minister Mthuli Ncube scrapped duty on sanitary wear. Some measure of our dignity was restored. But hear me too, I felt ripped apart and raped. I feel my natural monthly issue is a guilty charge when myself and the millions of unable girls out there have to pay for inevitable pads, but optional condoms are availed free at every institutions. Really? If I had my country in Africa, not only pads, but girl education would be free right up to university.
Something felt great too, but something felt very wrong on the political front, when myself, young women, mothers and sisters abandoned our multiple daily chores, rocked up to them rallies, registration points, filled up halls and polling stations and the streets of November 17 to register the voice of women on how we want to be governed .
Women participation in governance and politics seems to have improved remarkably over the years. But hear me too, we are good for the votes and numbers, but never good for the positions of power and decision-making! There are a couple of place-holders and female political rubber stamps here and there, but there are no women movers and shakers up there. The quality of decisions in relation to real benefits to the generality of ordinary women across the country remains a far cry compared to the rubber-stamping “femocrats” sitting in parliament, cabinet chambers and executive boards. Hear me too. True power resides with us mbokodo, we do not owe any debt of allegiance to these male mother-stuffers. The sooner we understand that the ultimate war of women emancipation must be fought in collective solidarity and unapologetic, organised women warfare and that its benefits can never come to us as gracious manna delivered by generous men, the better, girlfriends! is it no shame to equality and justice that throughout the continent, when a man is shot and killed by his brother, it is murder and the state acts with equal horror and swift anger — whereas when a man stabs and kills his wife (as they do hourly), it is termed a crime of passion, and the state, invariably tip-toes and drags its feet around it? Hear me too, ladies.
It is an injustice we need to confront and reject with universal women power that our beautiful bodies are in the literal clutches and legislative control of men. It is wrong, evil and nonsensical, that although we comprise 52% of the population even globally, only 23% of the decision-makers of the world are female. Future generations will read and be shocked to hell and back that in our time human beings who have never experienced a period pain, people who know nothing about pregnancy and childbirth, who haven’t a clue about… sit in boardrooms and parliaments and chambers around the world and make legislation relating to women’s bodies. When must that “no more” arrive?
Hear me too. The multiple jeopardies afflicting women of Africa is no different to the fate of an ant that you step on and crash in the normal course of life and never blink. Every woman is just an unnoticeable statistics of untold pain, trauma, rape.
It is by collectively accepting to hide the abuse we suffer, but silently carrying our indignity and hurt throughout our lives that, as women, we have rubbished our individual and collective value. Hear me too, in these days of activism, we need to stand up and relive the histories and journeys of trauma that have broken and built us, to honour ourselves by rejecting without apology any abuse or violation of any girl, woman or child anywhere we get a mere sniff of it.
Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.