Features

The People’s Definition of Beauty

“The Dark “Natural” Black woman has long been a fetish, even, I’m sad to say, to our own race. She’s the one who “dares” to exist as she was born in a world that encourages her to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, and therefore, from the get go, she is viewed as a hostile/stubborn/strong individual; someone to be forced into submission through self-hatred. She is reminded of her colour, her ethnicity, every time someone mentions it and makes it seem like a handicap.

I find it interesting to note though, that people who measure beauty by aforementioned Eurocentric standards, people who look to Pop Culture to inform them what’s hot or not, still refuse to embrace Lupita as an icon. I find myself wondering whether it’s to do with the fact that embracing her beauty would have to mean actually facing the fact that through the mainstream media we have been told and shown that we’re not considered desirable, something many deny, or whether the self-hatred runs so deep that women who look like her will not be deemed worthy to such people, no matter who says so.

Many dismiss her as “average”. “I can find a woman who looks like her just walking to the store,” they say, insinuating that the average woman to them isn’t in the least bit attractive or worthy of attention, no less admiration. To understand why Lupita is not a Goddess to many, why her triumphs are insignificant, we will need to understand that the bar has been contorted to fit only a specific mould and her acceptance will see her not only altering it, but possibly maiming it and proving it redundant and unrealistic. And during this process she will obviously face resistance, as we’re currently bearing witness to.”

 

My first piece for C Hub Magazine. Read more here.

Shinka: How Anime’s Helping Along Evolution

The anime world is one that provides solace, entertainment, and enjoyment to millions of people around the globe.  To many, it’s a weird subculture that reveals just how committed humans can be to fictional realms and characters. What they tend to overlook however, is that like literature, sitcoms, movies, etc., it provides yet another escape from reality, if only for half an hour (the average length of most anime episodes). You get to see just about anything in anime (and hentai: anime porn), and as a person that has seen about 400 anime series/movies (I know, my life is awesome), I much prefer it to the largely depressing, discriminatory, and all around unsavory reality that we live in.

 

Shinka 1

 

Now I could go on about how amazing anime is, and how everyone on Earth should watch it, but a particular notion about anime viewers was drawn to my attention: we are hardly ever sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, or really discriminatory at all. I say this based upon the members of the anime community that I interact with, and while I have interacted with quite a lot, I can hardly speak for every anime watcher out there. What I will say is that if you do watch heavy amounts of anime, your chances of remaining averse to people that society loves to deem “abnormal” is going to be drastically reduced.

 

Why?

 

The first word that comes to mind is ‘androgyny’. The Japanese, and by extension, anime, is very androgynous in not just their dressing, but their character aesthetic design as well, and the behaviors of said characters.

 

 Shinka 2

This is Haku. He’s a guy. He’s hot. Admit it. 

 

We become attracted to the characters we admire on television, and anime is no different in that regard. I remember the first time I saw some of my friends drooling over anime girls, I was so confused. Like, the fuck? Next thing I know I find myself in love with Haruko Haruhara from Fooly Cooly. It just kind of hits you. But I digress.

 

It’s immensely difficult to maintain sexist views when you find yourself drawn to males/females that you initially thought were the opposite gender. You start subconsciously breaking down those barriers you had put up against them. If you find yourself attracted to an anime guy that you thought looked like a girl, you’re really just one step away from being attracted to males in real life that have the same attributes. Can you really be homophobic then?

Shinka

 

What’s even more fascinating is how these characters behave. Gender roles still exist in anime, but to a far lesser degree than in other forms of entertainment. Men cook, women are frequently breadwinners (it’s REALLY interesting to note that fatherless homes are a lot more frequent in anime than motherless ones, but that’s another discussion entirely), male friends are very openly comfortable with each other… it’s really ideal. So when you watch a lot of this happen, one has to wonder why on earth we so strictly adhere to those roles in reality, when they seem so easily negligible in anime.

 

Women are stronger than men.

 

Shinka 3

 

Scenario: You’re a sixteen year old boy, living a boring life, and nothing exciting ever happens in your town

 

PLOT TWIST: a magical girl bursts through your ceiling, fighting a creature from a different dimension which she obliterates with ease, and you fall in love at first sight with this super strong girl that’s going to change your life forever and make you her bitch.

 

I just described the introductions of probably hundreds of different anime.

 

To be fair, I’m not entirely sure that the roots of female power in anime are righteously rooted. It seems to be more of a fetishizing of the powerful girl, but it’s one that has worked out positively, in my opinion. If you’re an archaic misogynist you do not have a place in anime. Female characters are just as, if not more, popular than their male counterparts. We fucking love them. They wreck shit. They make men do dumb shit for them. They become student council presidents and take control of their entire school (I’m looking at you, Kill la Kill). There is just such an overwhelming amount of anime focusing on female empowerment, from the magical girl variants to the bad ass action ones that you’re just better off learning to love them as much as you should.

 

Cross Dressing/Futanari

 

There is a ton of anime content centralizing around cross dressing and transgender characters. Unfortunately, the latter is still purely restricted to hentai, which leads me to believe there is a large amount of aforementioned fetishizing involved, but I do hope it turns out useful in destroying the very negative stigmas usually associated with trans people. I’m waiting for an anime to actually feature an openly transgender main character, so I can advertise the hell out of it.

 

Cross dressing, however, has been very frequent in anime for many years now. As if the androgynous dressing wasn’t enough already, many anime feature plots where a man/woman is in a scenario where they are either forced to dress as the opposing gender, or they simply enjoy doing so. Now in these anime the initial reaction is always one of disgust, which mirrors society quite aptly. But the beautiful thing is, that these anime use their plot devices to make the cross dresser just as accepted as any other member of the anime.

 

 Shinka 4

Ranma 1/2, one of the most popular comedy/action anime ever released, features a protagonist that changes between a male and a female.

The majority of these anime take place in school settings, where, say, a boy/girl “accidentally” gets into an all-boys/girls school, and is ergo forced to dress as a boy/girl to not get caught (it wouldn’t be anime if they did the sensible thing and just transferred schools, now would it?) They almost always play out the same way: guy/girl starts cross dressing, and is exposed to the various stigmas members of that gender face, which changes their opinion of said gender, and they slowly start enjoying the cross dressing. The climax occurs when the class/school find out about the cross dresser, and they are usually subjected to initial bullying. In the resolution though, the classmates/school members eventually realize they were all changed by the cross dresser(s), and accept that they are just as normal as anyone else.

 

I think that the effect that anime has on breaking down these discriminatory notions is much needed. The messages conveyed of acceptable differential norms are ones that needs to be widespread in our world, in our cultures, and become rooted in our humanity. We cannot continue being so wary of change and difference, and continue to subject the people that are different to negative labels.

 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, go watch some anime and become a better person.

 

-Charles

 

**Charles says “Coming up with bios is difficult” so there’s that.

Find him on Twitter or read his work here.

“She doesn’t mean ‘no’, she means ‘convince me’.”

Why?

Because subconsciously/consciously they don’t respect us enough to believe we can or have the right to make our own decisions.

Because people say things like “When a girl is mad at you, grab her, pull her close and kiss her.”

Because no matter how old you are as a woman, someone will always refer to you as a girl. Someone to be governed and herded. Someone lacking autonomy.

This means that we live in the kind of society where you’re usually the last to have a say in anything involving you, as a woman.
And everyday, if not on the internet or on the streets, you’re reminded of this.

You’re reminded of the fact that to many, it’s a foreign concept to them that a woman can be and has the right to be assertive. That she has the right to own her body and they should respect that.

Lolita: On consent, rape culture and a woman’s autonomy

Something I wrote for ZaGossip.

Go here for the full article.

These Blurred Lines: On racism in South Africa’s school system and the White Psyche

In my Literature class we’re currently reading a book about a said racist killing, how race, class & culture are the blurred lines that intersect and the correlation between them in a South Africa that has just found the Big D known as Democracy.

Now if you’re one of six people of Colour in a classroom of 30 teenage white supremacists, with a teacher who knows no different, everything about this arduous experience will tension you.

Let’s huddle up while I tell this story.

Nearing the end of that period (which was five to the end of the day), I took my cellphone out, because that’s what teenagers do. The teacher reprimanded me & told me to hand over the phone. Now I know I was well within the wrong. Naturally however, you’d want to negotiate your way out of the situation, because yo! Who wants to be without their phone? During this though the teacher hit me with a “You’re going to call me racist for confiscating your phone, now?!”

That burned as much as her shouting did. My natural & instinctive defence was this equally loud response: “Why are you bringing up
race? Which is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand. So no, I am not going to hand it over.” Mind you, this altercation is taking place infront of a class of 30 people who can’t wait to see the action being taken against this opinionated Black girl with a shitty attitude, right?

Not only was the statement she made unnecessary & humiliating to me, it sprawled out the white privilege that she possesses which enabled her to even say that to me in the first place. Or think that it was okay, for that matter. Help me understand the white psyche. We ended up in the principal’s office whose argument remained that I had broken a rule & had every right to be reprimanded. Again, sure. But nothing was said of the cemetery growing inside me, where I’d bury my tolerance for white supremacists like them. Nothing of how stupid it is to throw what the teacher said to me around as a lame defense mechanism (Against what, by the
way?) Instead, she kept telling me about how good of a person she is, because she “hugs all the black kids”. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to laugh.

At the end of the day, that means absolutely nothing. If you’re able to make statements like that & not see your racist thinking, then I don’t know hey.
They acted like I had no idea what racism is. Or what sexism is. Giving me textbook definitions, because this dreadlocked township raised Black girl knows nothing of what she’s talking about.

Help me understand the white psyche.

Why lazy racist thinking like “We don’t see race at this school” is something they deserve a cookie for? No, sir. Please see it. My race & I are not invisible. I’m pretty sure that you can see me. Yes, I am getting a good enough education. But why is it that people don’t want to educate themselves of things that we aren’t taught at school? Especially one where adaptability & the acceptance of change are so stagnant.

Why is it that people don’t get that racism is much more than just openly treating another race badly?

Why is it that the principal so quickly & easily referred to me as a housewife & then as someone in a leadership position in the corporate world; when making an example of how I’d feel in the future if someone broke rules that I set? Because it’s already hard enough to imagine that the Black woman will ever amount to anything besides being a maid. This is the exact internalized &
deeply rooted thinking of superiority towards blacks that whites have systematically been taught.

You, a white person living under the privilege that you attained at the hands of us, Blacks, can be as nonchalant when it comes to race as you like.

I, a Black South African woman, living by a post apartheid doggie bag, cannot.

As a result I have become an openly defiant & opinionated Black girl who can never shut up. I am constantly being taken deep into the white headspace but can never truly grasp it.

People need to understand that the problem is not the skin colour the person is in. The enemy is
the white supremacist thinking. The racist thinking.

Help me understand this “I am above Black people” white psyche.

-Siwo Mata

*More of Siwo’s brilliance can be found on Twitter

Or WordPress

Mdu For Love

We live in a filthy city, and no I don’t mean the actual place itself, it’s not there yet. I’m talking about the people.  There’s a saying that in Gaborone “go bechitswe phamo” when it comes to relationships, which basically means “it’s grab and keep, and every man for himself.” Every other girl is a sidechick, knowingly or unknowingly.  Every other chap is either juggling or being juggled.  The couples that stay together are usually either pretending to be happy, stuck together because of all the time they feel they’ve put in, or fighting tooth and nail to maintain their genuine happiness and keep it from the vultures that are always looming around our social circles.

But I know nothing of long term commitments.

So here Othata, having been with her partner Mdu for 4 years and seven months this Saturday [He wanted you to know he remembers these things] shares her story and her insight on what it takes to keep a relationship going in Sodom and Gomorrah.

292075_10151134731332940_1807428480_n
People have been asking for almost 5 years now, “How do you guys do it?”  It’s a question that should have a simple answer, one assumes, and yet I fail to come up with one.  For the first time in 5 years, however, I will try to give you my side.
People assume we have a movie screen romance, “love at first sight” type of thing, but that’s nowhere close to the truth. I actually used to dislike this Prince Charming of mine, before I even got to know him! He has always been popular, and at some point I couldn’t seem to breathe without hearing his name. My best friend would tell me “Dude, there’s this guy called Pops at GSS [Gaborone Secondary School], wa [of] ‘Hotboys'”.  They had to be semi attractive if they were arrogant enough to call themselves such a name, but chances were, they weren’t. I’d never liked people who were hyped up all the time, 9 out of 10 times I was always disappointed.
198225_100418719968467_200096_n
School would end and I’d get home, time to catch up with my cousin Epe (we lived together, the inseparable twins). I’d ask her,  “So how was school?” as she put down her GSS blazer and the first words out of her mouth would be “So today Pops did this…”   I had to hear about him everywhere I went!
Fast forward a while later, because of Epe I got to know almost half of GSS, made a lot of friends too, some people even thought I schooled there, but I never once met the infamous Pops! God does work in mysterious ways! New friendships were made, we completed High School and applied for Varsity [seems like ages ago].  During this time we were bums, the only thing we would do was go out, where we got all that money still beats me but it happened. And I’d still see everyone, except this Pops person.
We were officially introduced by my friend in ’09 when we were finally being accepted into Varsity, and my goodness, had somebody grown! He was sexy as hell.  Spiked dreadlocks, and like *counts on fingers* 10 piercings [we are grown now, I forgot] and yeah, did I mention he was sexy?
305078_271008582926553_4172234_n
Long story short, I forgot I never liked him in the first place. The start of our relationship began to write itself.
Getting to know each other, first kiss, making it official, etc. Since I’m not trying to write a book here [I think] let me focus on how we make it work.
For the most part, it just happened, I believe it was meant to be and there was no running from it.  If you believe in Destiny, you’ll relate. I thought I had the option of being single in Varsity, what I thought would be the true meaning of “living life”, but God/The Universe laughed and said “Look at this one!”
537968_197445100394592_1226555544_n
I don’t think you can plan when you’re going to fall in love.  How or where you’re going to meet that person etc. We clicked, became the best of friends, easy as pie! But that’s the easy bit, everything else you have to work for.  Hard. There has to be effort in everything you do: communicating, trusting,  loving, caring, being there for your loved one, and although it sounds like work to many, the beauty of it is doing all this (and more) and not feeling like it’s hard work.
Whenever a couple is fighting a lot of single people think to themselves “Thank God I don’t have to deal with all that”, but in reality, people fight all the time: family, friends, etc. In my opinion it’s healthy for a relationship because after said fight you have a better understanding of each other’s points of view.  The other person’s opinion can actually better you (if you can take criticism), which results in you growing together.
309296_10151134719287940_884851030_n
The key is to form a bond with someone who betters you.
Respect is integral too. You have to learn to respect your other half, that’s the only way you can have a fight and still manage to move past it. The only way you can actualize your potential and support one another.
Another important thing you need is focus, and it has to be from both parties. You need to understand what it is you want in life, [I could give tonnes of examples here].
Does being with one person make you feel complete?
Are you in a relationship but still envy your single friends?
Are you easily influenced or do you trust and understand yourself?
Once you know the kind of focus you both have, you can determine how far your relationship goes, and if you guys share the same goals, it will probably work.
Last but not least is trust.  If you understand each other it’s easy to trust one another and you’ll realize how unnecessary it is to question everything.
What is mean to be, will be.
249684_10151134708472940_606948616_n