Hello, I’m Tawanda and I’m trash.

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The only time we typically seem to be in agreement that “Men Are Trash” is when something physically violent or hurtful has been done to someone by a man. For instance, a man rapes someone, man beats up a woman, or a man is deceitful to his family, then we are all in agreement that men are trash…well, most of us anyway. But is this really the measure we should be standing ourselves up against? Is this really what we, as men, should be aiming for? To not rape, assault, deceive, or pillage?

I remember Munroe Bergdorf getting slaughtered by the media for saying all white people were racist. She explained her statement very clearly, however all the focus was purely on the phrase “all white people are racist”. Rather than listening to the explanation and arguing it logically, even the most accomplished white journalists found themselves reacting only to that phrase and not her clarification. “Are you saying I am racist?”, “Have I ever said anything racist?” they all screamed. But what Bergdorf basically meant, as she repeatedly explicated, was that white people benefit from racism and thus are racist. I totally get her argument. If you benefit from criminal activity, are you not a criminal? If you benefit from a system designed to benefit, prioritise and protect your race before anyone of any other race, are you not a racist?

This is exactly what happens with the statement “Men are Trash”. We focus so much on the semantics that we get defensive by pointing out how non-violent we are towards women. Where a white person would say to a black person “I did not call you the N-word hence I am not racist”, a man would say to a woman “I did not beat you up hence I am not trash”.

To use Ms Bergdorf’s argument as a starting point, if, as a man, you benefit from patriarchy, are you not trash? In my humble opinion, you are…I am. When women say “Men are Trash”, so many of us are quick to reel out our non-violent attributes à la “I don’t beat up my wife”, “I take care of my family”, “I respect my girlfriend”, etc…but what we should rather ask ourselves is “do I benefit from patriarchy?” “Do I benefit from certain privileges in my home, workplace, and/or daily life purely because I am a man?” “Do I call out patriarchy when I encounter it?” “Am I a genuine ally to women in their struggle to put an end to patriarchy?”

It is not enough to not physically abuse women. We must go beyond that, way beyond that. We must be visibly part of the fight to dismantle patriarchy at every turn. I mention the term “visibly”, because sometimes we as men do fight patriarchy but only behind closed doors. I remember someone tweeting that her husband used to treat her as an equal in everything until his boys were around. Then, she’d have to be a traditional wife and him the traditional alpha male. TRASH!

Come on gents; let’s dismantle patriarchy in ourselves and in our sons (and daughters) from the day they are born. Let’s help each other, let’s open up, share, and talk about it in our spaces. If we see patriarchy rear its ugly head, let’s call it out. And yes, I know some men (and women) will call you weak for it but you need to remember that that thought process too is a result of patriarchy. When women think emotionally expressive men, or men who aren’t alpha, macho, or violent, are weak, they do so because they are conditioned to think that way by patriarchy. We’ll discuss the effects patriarchy has on women’s thought processes another day. Until then, let’s kick patriarchy out of your spaces by any means necessary. Otherwise, we really are just trash.

Just scribbling my trashy thoughts.

 

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Caster and the curious case of performance reducing drugs…seriously. :-|

13th IAAF World Athletics Championships Daegu 2011 - Day Nine

So, it appears our friends at The International Association of Athletes Federation (IAAF) are at it again. This morning they published a set of rule changes aimed at any athlete who has what they call “a difference of sexual development (DSD)”. In science speak, this is any female athlete with levels of circulating testosterone (in serum) that are five (5) nmol/L or above and who is androgen-sensitive.

The new law stipulates that female athletes must adhere to the following rules:

* must be recognised at law either as female or as intersex (or equivalent);

* must reduce her blood testosterone level to below five (5) nmol/L for a continuous period of at least six (6) months (e.g., by use of hormonal contraceptives); and

* must thereafter maintain her blood testosterone level below five (5) nmol/L continuously (i.e.: whether she is in competition or out of competition) for so long as she wishes to remain eligible.

Put simply, according to the IAAF, if Caster Semenya wants to continue competing in any events from 400m to the mile (including 400m, hurdles races, 800m, 1,500m, one-mile races and combined events over the same distances), she must take performance reducing drugs. Yes folks, performance reducing drugs. | WHISKEY, FOXTROT, TANGO???

Those of you who follow athletics know this has been a thing for a while now. The IAAF has been after Caster Semenya for years. I’ve listened to their arguments repeatedly and, to be honest, the more I understand it, the more I don’t. You see, the IAAF believes most females have low levels of testosterone circulating naturally in their bodies (something between 0.12 to 1.79 nmol/L in blood). However, they believe individuals with DSD can have very high levels of natural testosterone, extending into and even beyond the normal male range. Herein lays the problem.

Now, up to this point, I understand all of this (kinda), but here’s where I get a little lost: the way I see it, athletes like Caster Semenya were born the way they were born. They are who they are. Caster Semenya did not dope herself to become faster than the pack. She was born that way. Why then are we making her dope herself so the pack can catch up? If we are going to allow doping to be part of athletics, why not just allow the other athletes to dope up so they can catch up to her? Why is she being punished for being awesome?

And while we are at it, where do we stop? Usain Bolt was the king of sprint for years, thanks in part to his height. Was that an unfair advantage? Should we have slowed him down for the shorter athletes? Michael Phelps apparently had a larger lung capacity than the norm and a long ass wing span. Should we have removed one of his lungs? In fact, so many elite athletes have some anatomical advantage over their competitors. Where do we draw the line?

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying Caster Semenya and other female athletes with supposedly higher testosterone levels do not have an advantage. Maybe they do. My question is simply this: if indeed it is an advantage, is it not a god-given advantage? Isn’t she just blessed? Or Talented? Or Gifted? Or whatever other superlative we tend to use for exceptional athletes?

Just scribbling my testoste-thoughts.

Draw up a relationship will…in case your relationship dies.

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My ex used to have this habit that annoyed me at the time but, in hindsight, I kind of understand where she was coming from. Basically, whenever we were on holiday, we would take a photo together right? Then she would ask me to take a photo of her on her own i.e. same photo we just took but without me in it. Why? “In case we split up” she would reply rather candidly.

I remember tweeting this some time back and a lot of people thought it was weird and quite pessimistic. Like I said, it annoyed me too but now I get it. I mean, I have so many awesome photos of various holidays we took together but I can’t post them anywhere because my ex is in so many of them. She on the other hand has lots of photos without me in them. She can gladly post them wherever she wants without having to answer to her new partner(s). You see, she wasn’t willing the breakup, she was just preparing for it…in case it happened…which it did.

We always prepare ourselves for possible negative outcomes in our lives. We have car insurance in case of an accident or theft of our vehicles, home insurance in case of break in’s, immunisations in case of illness, wills in case of death…why then do we not prepare for breakups? I mean, if you understand the importance of preparing a will in case of your death, why not also prepare a will for your relationship? Yes, a will in case your relationship dies.

Have you ever been to a divorce court? I have. I’ve been thrice actually, as a mere spectator I should add. It’s not a pretty sight at times. If you ever have some time to spare, go to your nearest divorce court and spectate. You will not believe some of those couples ever loved each other. And yet, I’m sure if you go back a few years in their lives, you’ll find they were madly in love; the “I can’t live without you…here take my kidney” type of love. And now it’s all court orders, visitation rights, and alimony.

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I genuinely think a ‘relationship will’ is a great idea especially whilst you are still in love and have each other’s best interests at heart. Decide now how you will handle the children, the property, the finances, etc should you ever divorce/break up. Decide how you will discuss any issues regarding the welfare of the children. Discuss how you will handle the presence of your new partners especially in respect of your children, assets, communication, etc. Once you are happy with everything, sit down with your lawyers and iron out all the nitty gritties till you and your partner are happy.

It may all seem awkward now but best believe it’s a million times easier now than when you despise each other and are going through a nasty breakup/divorce. And no, preparing for a possible breakup does not mean you are willing the breakup to happen…just like having car insurance does not mean you are willing your car to be stolen and/or damaged. You’re just preparing….just in case.

**** Just scribbling my thoughts…just in case ****

Just be happy you’re here…immigrant!

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I’ve been an immigrant for over half my life now. South Africa is the 3rd country I have settled in since I left Zimbabwe at age 17. It’s always nice to move to a new country. New life, new people, new cultures, new languages…I mean, what’s not to like? Oh yes, the xenophobia. There’s usually always a bit of xenophobia to greet an immigrant wherever you emigrate to. That part of the experience is never nice.

Anyway, what I wanted to scribble about today is something I’m sure many immigrants have faced before. The “if you don’t like it, leave!” narrative. There is this notion that when you are an immigrant to a country, you don’t really have the right to complain about any shortcomings or negativity that country may have; that the country is doing you a favour by taking you in so you really should just “be a good immigrant and be happy you’re here.”

I remember once being attacked on Twitter because I was complaining about some government department in South Africa. Someone said to me “if you don’t like it why don’t you go back home?” That tweet gave more Tweeps the impetus to have a bit of a discussion on the matter. There were tweets like:

“I hate how foreigners come here and aren’t grateful for our hospitality”;

“Why do foreigners always complain? They are not prisoners here. They can just leave”;

“You allow people to come here and they start acting all fly”.

Now, this got me thinking…I live in South Africa. I may not be a citizen, but I am a resident. Do I not have a right to be unhappy about certain aspects of the country? And if I am unhappy, do I not have the right to complain?

And please note, this is not a South African phenomenon. From the United States, to the United Kingdom, to Australia. Ask immigrants in any country worldwide and they will tell you a similar story. It’s bizarre really. Why do locals feel the need to curtail the rights of foreigners to vocalize their grievances?

Anyway following my dressing down on Twitter, I was telling the Mrs. all about it. For context, she’s South African. I rant to her about how I think it’s so unfair and borderline prejudicial to be expected to live (or die, rather) in silence just because I am an immigrant who should be grateful to be living in SA. Guess what? She agreed…with the Twitter folk! WHAAAAT? She wasn’t as crass about it but she agreed with them nonetheless. Her exact words were “You can complain…just not like us”

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It’s always a tricky subject. I guess immigrants can’t be choosers…or was that beggars? What do you think? Do you think immigrants should just be content with what they get from the host country and if they don’t like it, they should just leave? Or do you think immigrants should be allowed to complain if they are not happy?

 

**** just scribbling my immigrant thoughts ****

Co-parents are not single parents.

I had an interesting conversation (read: argument) the other day with a friend about her use of the term “single mum”. Single parents are not a new phenomenon but they are on the increase globally. I saw a statistic the other day that said “15% of children around the world live in single parent households”. Here in South Africa (SA), only about 30% of children live with both their parents. Of the over 1.1 million births registered by the SA government in 2014, 64% of said registrations had no information regarding the fathers.

There are numerous reasons why single parent households are on the increase but that’s a conversation for another time. Today I just want to scribble about the term “single mother”. I can’t help but think some mothers are misappropriating (for lack of a better word) the term. Now, I agree you don’t live with the father of your child, but is that enough to be categorised as a “single mother?” What if the child’s father is present and active in the child’s life? Are you still a single mother then? My sister and cousin are fitting examples of this:

My sister is a single mother. She takes care of her daughter’s every need. We last saw my niece’s father about 8 years ago. He doesn’t contribute anything to his daughter’s wellbeing. He doesn’t call her, doesn’t send Christmas cards, hell, he doesn’t even know what school she goes to. In fact, he’s pretty much dead to us…till he decides to pop up out of nowhere when his daughter’s all grown up and employed…the absent father’s ultimate party trick.

On the other hand, my cousin’s baby daddy is present in their son’s life. He pays the boy’s school fees, buys him clothes, takes him on holiday with his other kids, and takes him on alternating weekends. He attends most of the boy’s school events and has been there for all his birthdays to date. The only difference between their setup and a “traditional household” is they do not live together. They are married to and live with other people. So can my cousin call herself a single mother? Personally, I don’t think so. Co-parent? Yes! Single mother? No!

And yet, so many women in my cousin’s situation still throw around the term “single mother”. Question is: is that fair to an active father? I play my part in the welfare of our child and you, his mother, continue to label yourself a single mother? Seems a tad unfair don’t you think? More than taking away from an active father, I think it takes away from actual single mothers because, God knows, “real” single mothers have their work cut out for them. It’s even worse when they don’t have a supportive family or adequate finances to get help.

Ultimately, whether you’re a single parent, co-parent, or parent in a “traditional household”, you hold a precious life/lives in your hands as parents. So do everything you possibly can (and more) to ensure your child becomes everything they can be. And remember, unless one parent has died, there really shouldn’t be any single parents out there. If you played your part in creating a life, play your part in raising that life.

**** Just scribbling my parental thoughts ****

Ps: Shout out to the single fathers out there. Rare as they may be, they are there; single handedly raising their kids. We see you too.

 

Maria Sharap-It’s Over!

Maria Sharapova News Conference

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 07: Maria Sharapova reacts as she addresses the media regarding a failed drug test (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

 

Can I just start by saying I did not come up with the “Sharap It’s Over” pun. I remember seeing it somewhere on Twitter. I just don’t remember where it was now, but I found it absolutely hilarious.

 

So yes, Maria Sharapova is a drugs cheat. Who would have guessed? The darling of tennis. She may have been beat more times by Serena Williams than a teenage boy beats his meat, but she indeed was still the face of tennis. That’s why when you take into account her endorsements, she makes a tonne more money than Serena does. But yes, this was a shock to everybody. On March 7th, Sharapova tweeted the following:

Sharapova tweet

As you can expect, the rumour mill went into overdrive. There were three main rumours circulating:

  1. Maria was retiring;
  2. She was injured; and
  3. She was pregnant

 

That was it. Every news channel or sports programme you watched, that was it. At no point did anyone say, “Hey, maybe she failed a drug test?” ‘cause it’s Maria Sharapova right? She would never cheat…right? Right? WRONG! She would…and she did.

 

So here’s my question to you: How does one of the most famous athletes on the planet and highest paid sportswoman on earth fail a drugs test and the news doesn’t leak? In this day and age where media get their hands on even classified government documents before presidents do, how did they not get wind of this? How was she afforded the chance to send a buzz-generating tweet to build hype around her announcement and still NOTHING but some speculation from the media? I’ll tell you how…white privilege, that’s how.

 

Do you genuinely think if Serena Williams failed a drugs test she would be allowed this much space and sympathy? Do you think she would be allowed this much courtesy by the same media that’s always body shaming her? I mean, the UK’s Daily Mail once wrote of Serena “…she’s physically powerful and has a ferocious temper…but cannot compete with Maria Sharapova’s blonde Siberian beauty”. David Frum, senior editor of the Atlantic and former adviser to George W, once sent out a tweet implying Serena uses steroids. Hadley Freeman once remarked that “Serena has long been compared to animals, from gorillas to generic beasts, with one sportscaster suggesting in 2001 that she looked more suited to National Geographic than Playboy”. Remember Shamil Tarpischev, the then Russian tennis boss? She referred to the Williams Sisters and “Williams Brothers” adding that they are frightening to look at?

 

There are loads of examples where some of the news articles about Serena are almost tinged with revulsion. Imagine that. And this isn’t just anyone we’re talking about here. This is probably the greatest female tennis player of all time. And yet, here is Maria Sharapova with her failed drugs test and we are flooded with news headlines like USA Today’s “Maria Sharapova handles positive drug test with grace”, or Miami Herald’s “Credit to Maria for her honesty”. I’m hearing words in the media like “upstanding”, “upfront”, “integrity”. Really? Hell, even Serena herself praised Maria for her “courage”.

 

But that’s white privilege for you. So ubiquitous yet so subtle. If you blink, you just might miss it…like Maria missed that email. 😉

 

**** Just scribbling my thoughts ****

 

American woman steals candy from a blind baby

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In case you decided to read this post purely to find out why the hell an American woman stole candy from a blind baby, sorry to disappoint you. This post actually has nothing to do with that. But, if said woman had indeed stole candy from a blind baby…or any baby for that matter… would her nationality be relevant to the story? That’s what this post is about – the relevance or lack thereof of mentioning nationalities in news headlines. Check out these actual headlines from various papers here in South Africa:

 

Nigerian drug dealers released on bail

Zimbabwean in court for fraud

 

These are real headlines from real newspaper articles. I mention only South Africa articles simply because I live here but this is common practice worldwide. Every time I see a report like this, be it in print media, digital media, or on TV, it makes me cringe. Why is it necessary to mention people’s nationalities in such reports? What does the perpetrator being Zimbabwean have to do with the fraudulent act he committed? Am I the only one who finds this kind of reporting to be more harmful than it is helpful? And the thing is, it’s never the nationalities of locals that’s mentioned, it’s always the nationality of foreigners…as if to say “hey, look what they’re coming to our country to do.”

 

I’ve had this discussion with some friends in the past and their argument is usually that the report is mentioning nationality simply for descriptive purposes. But if you are mentioning the nationality as a mere description, why stop there? Why not mention religion, qualifications, height, or even sexual orientation? Why don’t the above headlines read:

“Tall, dark, Nigerian Muslim drug dealers released on bail” or “Short, gay Zimbabwean Christian in court for fraud”

 

Tall and gay are descriptive right? But they are never mentioned. Why? Because they are irrelevant to the story. I’m not saying let’s not mention nationality in news reports. I’m saying let’s stick to information that is relevant. If the article is talking about immigration, then nationality is very relevant. If the article is talking about athletes at the Olympic Games who have been busted for using performance enhancing drugs, then nationality is very relevant.

 

Maybe journalists have a good reason why they are so eager to mention nationalities of foreigners in their stories. Is it something that’s taught in journalism school? Is there some sort of journalistic or scientific reason for doing it? Do tell because, from where I’m sat, it just looks like subtle fodder for the xenophobic inclined folks among us.

 

**** Just scribbling my Zimbabwean thoughts ****