Choices have to be made, and I choose me

I do not consider myself a selfless person, I am selfish and self-interested. I’ve messed up quite a bit in the past, always putting myself above what is really important. Partying instead of focusing on my studies, choosing friends over my family- I’m not the greatest of decision makers, I almost always make the wrong choice.

Because the honest truth is that when it mattered, I put how people would perceive me as more of a priority than how I would perceive myself. I chose to put others before me and it has never worked out.

I’ve been struggling to have a conversation with someone who I really respect, who gave me a chance and who I’ve grown close to. I want to tell her that I am not happy, that I’m not in a place I want to be and I want to move on to the next best thing. But I struggle to get the words out because I fear that she will be disappointed, and to me that has been worth staying miserable in my situation for so many weeks.

The place I want to be in is where I will feel in control and not constantly undermined and disrespected every day. It is a place where I can be creative and have more of a chance of balancing both work and studies- It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about and always wanted to do.

And I do feel guilty that my current situation is only a stepping stone to somewhere better. But should I feel guilty? If it is something that truly makes me happy, that is all I see myself doing.

I didn’t immediately get what I want because I was in a situation where I didn’t have the luxury of choice, hence I was given a small window of opportunity and I took it. But now I feel almost ashamed- I feel I am abusing this luxury, this chance and opportunity to want more. It sounds silly as I write this, but the fear is definitely there- the fear of wanting more. Only I stand in my own way.

But life is too short, too fleeting to be miserable. I am not an unhappy person by nature, moody yes, but being absolutely depressed does not suit me. I don’t want to be in the position that I complain every day, feeling worthless. Complaining can be so futile and exhausting, especially when the person who most needs to hear about my feelings is completely unaware.

So this week my goal is not only make the right choices for myself, but to also choose me. Because if I am going to be selfish, I may

as well be happy about it.

 “If thou openest not the gate to let me enter/ I will break the door, I will wrench the lock/ I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.”– Ishtar, Babylonian goddess of fertility, love , war and sex

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A Letter to Anene Booysen

Picture a new age parent- the one who packs lunch for her toddler for a one hour church service, who allows retail staff to baby sit while she muses over Guess or Levis and who will threaten Little Tommy, warning that his Xbox will be taken away for two days if he doesn’t behave. He smirks as she wags her manicured finger in his face and you wish, almost get up so you could slip off your pump and beat Little Tommy yourself.

This mother disciplines through empty threats and Tommy knows that although there may be shouting and he may have Zimbabwe-like sanctions imposed on him, he just needs to wait out the storm and life will go back to the way it was.
My heart bleeds, as much and as powerful as Oprah’s tears and when I see a cause being fought by a lone, brave soldier. So when that cause creates mass awareness, people join the movement and promise to put all their resources behind it, I’m ecstatic. It is every activists dream: recognition that your hurt, your suffering is important.

Dear Anene

I cry for you. You in a way were one of the lucky ones. Out of hundreds of rapes that happen on a daily basis, someone recognised that what happened to you was not okay- an entire nation was supporting you- voicing their disgust and outrage.

PSA’s were created in your memory to STOP RAPE; there was plenty of finger wagging in rapist’s directions.

But this month, Anene, when you needed people to fight for you the most, the conviction of your named rapist fell through. He walked away while you lay cold and incomplete under the ground.

And you continue to lay there, with no more finger wagging, no outrage on your behalf. Your suffering equated to no more than a couple of RTs to make media feel like they were doing their jobs and being effective.
Your court case was synonymous with a hit and run driver whose famous brother may or may not have intended to shoot his girlfriend who sat defenceless in a windowless bathroom.

What was supposed to be a movement of hope, transitioned into indifference. Anene, they grew tired. Tired of fighting for you. Tired of the struggle us women face on a daily basis. It’s not okay though, from the prosecution that messed up, to the media and political watchdogs who silently allowed there to be little fall out. What happened to UN condemning this horror, our president speaking out against sexual violence? We as activists cannot afford to tire. Our support for you and other Anenes’ will continue to be relentless. Those of us who were lucky to survive are cursed with the burden of continuing your battles.

You are important.

All of us are important.

I hear you. I feel you.

You are not alone.

Love Mallory

Anene-and-Alleged-Killers

Seeking the Goddess as a Daughter of Eve

If we think about it, Eve is where it all started- literally the genesis that would dictate the way the mother of mankind and all her daughters would be treated for the rest of their lives. The traditional religions may not agree who gets the Holy Land in the religious clash of ideologies, but they Judaism, Christianity and Islam sure as hell share a common belief that Eve screwed up paradise for them.

In some lore, Eve is seen as Adam’s second wife, coming in after Lilith (yes the epitome of a female devil) who refused to be inferior to Adam and runaway from him and paradise (and had raucous sex with a number of demons thus populating evil on earth), therefore God decided he shouldn’t be lonely and created Eve to be more submissive and a more appropriate companion- not that it helped much with her giving birth to a murderer.

Lilith, Adam's first wife

Lilith, Adam’s first wife

Whether I am actually a daughter of Eve or a hell spawn of Lilith, is irrelevant to this topic. I choose rather to discuss the ramifications of Eve, the positive effects that she had on womyn.

Eve, through eating the fruit of knowledge, brought curiosity and wisdom to our world. This would later spark innovation, questioning, awareness and thought to human beings. We have her to thank for separating us from animals and basic instinct. Poor Adam, had he his way, we would be walking around naked, not questioning our purpose in life, not looking for meaning in the world. Say goodbye to our philosophers, our inventors, our scientists, our liberators and our freedom fighters.

Eve recognised that there was power in knowledge, and for some odd reason man will always be uncomfortable with feminine authority, resourcefulness and command. Eve’s power wasn’t destructive, nor was it malicious as we see when men come into power. There was nothing corruptive about her intentions. Instead of keeping the knowledge to herself, she chose to share it- her compassion and wish for others to grow in wisdom should be admired rather than criticised.

Power is as delicious as an appletini

Power is as delicious as an appletini

Knowledge is power as the clichéd saying goes. I’m unashamed to want power, to continuously absorb and grow in knowingness. But this power is for me, to enable to do my sacred and divine duty to help mankind, just like Eve and Lilith. I may be tossed aside and be labelled a witch, a jezebel or worse and I think as soon as Eve took that bite she knew, but she continued to share her knowledge and her power for the greater good.

South African women need to rise up and eat that apple, pluck it right off the branch instead of waiting for it to fall into expectant hands. Then take that bite, not the danty one, but rather the dribble inducing, sweet juices running down your chin kinda bite. You have to get dirty sometimes and now is the time to do it.

Erotica… my new literary obsession

I remember hearing all the hype about the latest craze, “mommy porn” when 50 Shades of Grey hit the stands. I was anxious to get a hold of the first book in the trilogy, unfortunately my student budget couldn’t afford with the expenditure allocated to drinking and good times. However when I returned home for the holidays, I saw that my father had purchased my mother the trilogy and it sat gloriously on top of her night stand. My first thought was being completely grossed out- I don’t think anyone wants to imagine their parents as sexual creatures, and now having my (too my eyes) conservative mother reading about BDSM was too much for my brain to process.

I quickly shoved those thoughts to the back of my mind for my own sanity; however I did relieve her of the collection of books. My first impression about this was that it was NOT mommy porn. Anastasia Steele was someone who was my age, fresh out of varsity and ready to enter a world of curiosities. This was not some middle aged house wife who was bored with life, and I didn’t understand why they had to escape into something which was my life and not something more realistic. I guess escapism isn’t meant to be realistic.

Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. I’m someone who has always been intrigued by the world of BDSM- not to the point of Edward pretty much destroying Bella and breaking ribs, but kinky foreplay with spanking and handcuffs? Why not? Sex like the rest of social interactions is about power, which is dynamic and constantly shifting. There is always a Submissive and a Dominator and it tells a lot about a person on which end of the scale that they are in. The automatic assumption, which was repeated in 50 shades, was that the Dominator was the one in the position of power; however the opposite is actually true. A submissive is the one with all the choice, who holds all the cards in the game. She at any moment can cry out the safe word and the game comes to an end. She sets the rules and the limitations and with that limits how far the Dominator can go. Essentially the submissive is the one who gives permission for the Dominator to act out his fantasies.

What I loved about the character of Anastasia was that she held the power in the relationship, although she did not abuse it. She walked in to the relationship with the notion that she would be dominated and owned by Christian Grey, when in fact she reclaimed her position of power and he was lost without her. Everything that was done was on her terms and there is a lot of empowerment that comes from that. She was surprisingly strong and definitely someone who I would aspire to be like- independent, open minded and ready to take risks.

A man’s perspective

So I devoured the entire trilogy and while I waited anxiously for the next set of EL James wonders, I decided to test out the waters and see what else I could get my hands on. I’m currently working at a local bookstore and while unpacking the shelves, I came upon Gabriel’s Inferno and became just as excited. I mean a student and a lecturer, makes me think of the good old days at Rhodes where my politics lecturer could get it, any day he wanted. Many a fantasy happened while I was reading about second-class citizens and evictions of illegal settlements.

However, the book turned out to be such a disappointment. First off, it was quite lengthy but [SPOILER ALERT] actual intercourse only occurred in the final chapters. So I had to sift through plenty of low-self disorder conversations and anguish until my lust filled head could be sated. Prof Gabriel Emerson also turned out to be too feminine for me with his long soliloquys about his sin and damnation, I sort of wished for Julia Mitchell to shake him and jump his bones, just to get it over an done with, however she put up with him and I had to read one too many mushy conversations about their illicit love. I mean, if I wanted all that mushy stuff I’d hit Mills and Boons right? I wanted erotica to be hard and fast, and whatever emotions where attached to that was secondary.

I’ve yet to give Sylvia Day a try, but she’s definitely on the list once I (with my OCD tendencies) finish the rest of the Gabriel series. Maybe Gideon Cross will rock my world like Mr Sebastian Grey. Meanwhile I’m still hoping that Prof Emerson’s spice will go from Sweet and Sour to Chicken Masala.

It made me think as I’m writing that, about why this was the case. Did Mr. Grey’s sexual prowess seem better because love-like emotions didn’t factor in the foreplay unlike Emerson’s devotion to his love? Maybe it was the fact that eventually love stops being exciting and thrilling, which is why so many housewives picked up 50 shades in the first place.

What happens when you have a run in with the man who assaulted you?

I guess that a smile and a hug aren’t the most logical or expected reactions. Although, how am I supposed to act any different? I can’t exactly go into a screaming, crying mess and completely disregard the life I’m trying to carry on living. The world moves on and unfortunately  no man or feeble woman has discovered a way to prevent its continuous rotation.

It won’t change anything, it won’t change the past and what happened. I don’t want to defend the guy, although I’m probably not doing a good job of convincing you otherwise, but really, how is he supposed to know that I’m  near fainting and feel cold and in pain- a gigantic brain freeze of my body? That moment when you feel cold in your bones and no amount of friction can warm you up. Not exactly a conversation you bring up on the way to the bank.

But it got me thinking about how many women still see their assaulters going about their daily lives, I can’t be the only one. I didn’t report the incident. But lets say I had and joined (optimistically speaking) the braver, stronger 50% and reported it. Less than half of the reported cases would have become a court case. And so then if I was lucky to have my case referred to a court, there would be more than 50% chance that the case would have been withdrawn, thrown out or settled out of court.

I’m not the best at maths but lets say that I did go all the proper routes… there would be an 11% chance that the man who assaulted me would face conviction and that I wouldn’t have to see him all spiffy and suited up, going about his business.

I have a gambling nature, the odds just aren’t in  my favor and for a lot of women in South Africa.

I am not a victim, nor do I want to be

I really should stop drinking. I remember in school how the teachers always lamented about how alcohol could put girls in a vulnerable position and how I scoffed at this feeling invincible. I was young, naive and unworldly- seeing S.A for the greatest country on earth.

In my matric year, my parents were really over protective of me. Understandably since I was the first born and all, daddy’s little girl. They warned me to be hyper aware of what was going on around me and never put myself in a compromising position, especially since I was off to 2 weeks of sun, surf and sauce in Durban for Matric Vacation. I had finished 12 years of school and nothing could hold me back or prevent me from going to the university of my dreams, Rhodes University.

On my final night, we were drinking at the apartment, me and a group of friends. We decided to hit the club at the casino, ready for a really hot night of youthful debauchery. It was as we left, or maybe later that things pretty much went south. I arrived at the club, and we ordered another round of drinks. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the bathrooms. Thankfully alone. I hadn’t had a lot to drink, and I was confused at how out of sorts I was. This wasn’t a normal drunken stupor. My friends found me, saying that I had been gone for hours. When they found me I was shaking and crying and didn’t know where I was. They called my mother to come fetch me, and I couldn’t stop freaking out. It took hours to calm me down. I knew my drink had been spiked. Whether it was the guys who were making our drinks at the apartment or the bartender who served the first round at the club, I didn’t know. But knowing the end result doesn’t help when you cannot account for the hours before. Anything could have happened to me. Thankfully, nothing did.

In my first year I dated this amazing girl who drew me into the world of activism. It was so inspiring and life-changing to be able to make a difference, not only in my life but in other people’s lives too. At the same time, activism exhausted me, drained my soul and emotions on a daily basis. We were little people trying to fight a super power of patriarchy that had existed since Adam and Eve. But I had to keep pushing on, attempting to feel like I was making a difference. It was hard sitting in a room with my closest friends and realising that I was the only one who had no directly been affected by sexual violence. Morbid curiosity and slight egotism had me thinking: when was my turn?
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Second year I joined the “feminist society”- Gender Action Project (GAP) to continue with making a difference. I also took part every year, for the past 4 years in the Silent Protest where I was taped to symbolically represent women who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak out due to fear of being persecuted. Even though I partook in this, I could never identify with the stereotype of the angry, man-hatting and bitter feminist. I nicknamed myself “The Happy Feminist”, believing that you could get through to more people through understanding and communicating and finding compromises rather than allowing hatred to segregate you from people who just wanted to understand.

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I had the opportunity to speak to local Grahamstown men and educate them on the definition of what was considered rape. Many didn’t know that a drunken girl could not consent to sex. I taught them that it was better to “be safe than sorry”. Even mates when they were taking home a clearly intoxicated girl, I suggested that they shouldn’t sleep with her because she could wake up and accuse him, even though she consented the night before. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

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Me posing nude for an activism shoot

A few months ago, I was walking home late after a jam; it must have been about 5am. I’m normally the type to when drinking and I realise I’ve had enough, to just leave and head straight home immediately. My friend did suggest I wait for him to walk me home, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and besides, my apartment was only 2 streets away, I’d walked around many times alone at night in Gtown and felt safe and secure. It was on the street closest to my house that I felt strange, I nearly jumped out of my skin realising that there was a man walking right next to me. I was nervous but I have an irritating habit of being really friendly with strangers so I greeted him and chatted politely. He offered to walk me and I smartly denied, but I didn’t register that he kept walking with me. It was then that I realised that his hand was on my arm- either reaching for me or the strap of my hand bag. In fact, it was lingering on me in a manner that just didn’t seem right. My flight or fight mode kicked in and I jumped away from him and ran the short distance home. I guess I got lucky again.

I guess I didn’t learn my lesson from… I don’t know how many incidences. But a few months later- I was getting ready to move back to Joburg, work was done and now I could just celebrate with mates who were all leaving to join the job hunt with me. We drank and partied up a storm and at about midnight, decided to hit the club. I was unsteady but I was fine, I was safe, I was with my friends. It starts getting hazy but I remember just I was about to enter the club, I greeted a friend I knew and we had a chat. I blinked. I was in his car and we were driving somewhere. I blinked. He handed me a glass of wine and I was admiring his apartment. I blinked. I was on a bed and he was on top of me. I blinked again, and I was walking back into the club.

I think I’m scared to admit what I think I know. I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be angry. I almost sometimes don’t believe it happened. I’m not the girl who these things happen to. But, I think it did. But did it? Did I not entice him? Did I not consent? I don’t remember. Maybe it wasn’t his fault but mine.

In light of the “Stop Rape Now” campaigns spreading across South Africa, creating awareness of sexual violence, this story came to mind again- this memory which I had tried to hide. I’m going to continue to be active and campaign against sexual violence. I refuse to be victimised, and I know many women may have a story similar to mine. You are not alone, and nor do you have to be. So many women in this country are suffering, and it needs to come to an end. Men and women need to listen. They need to understand. Something must be done.

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SA perpetuates white patriarchal media

I remember when I was interning a few years ago; I was invited to my first press lunch. I gathered my notebook and pen and made sure I looked the part and not a completely nervous wreck of a Journalism student. I was very eager to network and share common ideas with journalists who had been working in the industry for a number of years, hopefully giving myself the edge that I needed.

When I entered I immediately felt at a disadvantage. I was surrounded by the status quo of journalism- white, middle class white men. There was nothing to be done about it of course; I just accepted it despite how uncomfortable I was at the ratio. Then, last year, everyone was so caught up with the new TV show “The Newsroom” with hard hitting journalism and an in depth look at the ‘real world’ of the media industry. All I saw was the ‘real world’ of once again white, middle class intellectuals spreading their opinion to the masses. The anchor and lead, a white male, the station manager, a white male, and all this equating to a homogeneous opinion shared by all.

Media houses ‘lack gender policy'” I read yesterday, and I was surprised that this was news when for me, it was history. The statistics:

  1. 9% of media houses in South Africa have a gender policy in their work environment.
  2. Men were more likely to earn 8% more than their women colleagues and 81% of sources within news content were men. 
  3. Gender based violence and stories about HIV/Aids made up 5% of news content 

I shouldn’t need to spell it out that this is a huge problem. Why have we still not allowed female voices to come through and be heard? Do they have nothing to say of relevance? What makes a male source more reliable than a female one? These are all questions I think about. Men are commonly filmed at work, women at home. Men are filmed angry or calm; women are filmed usually being emotionally.

We are engendering media and escalating the very problem that patriarchy has caused us in the first place- by making the status quo and opinion the right one.

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