Six days of the week I find myself on a train from Diep river station to Cape Town station. You can find me either dosing off or lost in a book, whatever it takes to keep to myself. I do however make it a point to greet the person/people sitting next to me or opposite me. Sometimes it is an elderly gentleman who nods not sure if my usually inaudible greeting (I have a tendency to mumble) really did just take place.
It’s the women who I take particular note of, maybe because I am a woman in the making myself. I give an extra big smile to the kind eyed elderly women because they usually smile back and make me feel warm inside. I excuse the ones who then clutch their bags tighter, I sympathise really because that is usually indication of having suffered a previous trauma; it can leave you with being overly cautious as a defence mechanism.
It’s the ones who look me up and down who almost make me say something along the lines of “I assure you I am not a vagabond”. My sense of style can confuse you, no makeup and all – but I assure you I do shower daily. Let me pause here; you’d think with women like Alicia Keys going all natural, females like me would finally get the green light to just be. Do not get me wrong, I honestly could not give two hoots, but it does get me thinking; is she a feminist?
If yes then my problem then becomes does she fully understand the concept for which she stands for? I have met feminists who are of the mind-set that the movement is primarily against men. Yes, they do exist misinformed women within our cause. Yes she might have a pro-feminism t-shirt, book, bangle even a head wrap, but is still the one who shouts the loudest when a female is being body shamed in public for her choice of clothing. She is the soon to be sister-in-law who discredits me because I am high maintenance (even though I fit the bill). It’s usually a woman who might have the crowd take notice of another female’s alternative clothing in an uncomfortable way. To be honest it is way easier to accessorize with feminism especially when it is most convenient for you. I want more from my sisters, mothers, cousins, colleagues etc.
I am not seeking approval when I accidently bump into you at the train station and sincerely apologise. I want acknowledgement of my existence, that there is more than one way to feminism. Not less or better because of my dreadlocks and hand painted t-shirts. It is a two way street, not just the women who wear make-up, weaves and never miss on their weekly manicure appointment who throw shade, it’s also my team natural comrades who are unhesitant to link a Brazilian weave to an identity crisis, it could be the case, but that is not the gospel of feminism.
What I am trying to get at is that before we raise placards to the world, fighting for equality, we need some far reaching introspection. Shouldn’t sisterhood be a prerequisite for female feminists? Love should be the essence of being a woman. I am not saying men should be excused for their continuous crimes against us, but when I walked through a bus terminus wearing a short dress I heard more women insulting me than men. How many of us are actually paddling the movement boat forward and not blowing holes to sink us? In my short existence is a low key activist (low key because before I go big my daily life habits need to be on point) I have met the most resistance from women. Female voices were loudest in telling me my alternative lifestyle choices were demonic (I would have appreciated kind words like different before having my confidence crushed).
It is not some stranger: It’s my sister who by not giving her friend sound advice encourages toxic female behaviour; it’s my mother who will not listen to what I want to study instead at university; it is my aunt who won’t stop asking me when I will get married; it is you reading this who before looking at my C.V will disqualify me at the interview not because I was not smartly dressed, but was just too natural for your liking.
I am not saying we should not criticism each other – constructive criticism is vital to growth. When criticism does not come from a place of love for another, it’s translated into hate speech and so much more. Sisterhood does not mean we are all going to be best friends for life, we do have our differences, it is based on the knowing that every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you can, being able to treat each other the way we want to be treated.