This Women’s Day, we decided to reflect on all of the things that separate us from each other. We tried to find the beauty in our differences because it is in these differences that we can truly capture the nuance of what it means to be a woman. It means appreciating the beauty trends that make other women feel beautiful but choosing not to follow them. It means dreaming of a traditional wedding, but accepting that some love stories are played out differently. It means knowing and respecting traditional cultural values, but finding your voice in the opposite. It means realising our destructiveness towards other women and choosing to break the stigma.
Happy Women’s day from the 9Lives team. You are uniquely different, beautiful, strong, and should be celebrated daily.
Am I less of a woman if I had to cancel my wedding?
I know you read that and thought, seriously?! But believe me, the very first moment that we discussed this article, this immediately popped into my head. It’s a thought that I’ve been fostering at the back of my mind for some time now. There are so many different pressures and perceptions of how you are supposed to feel about nearly everything surrounding weddings, that having to cancel kind of leaves you in the dark.
A wedding, by modern definitions, is a woman’s time to shine. She has to take responsibility for the entire event, obsess over every detail and be intimately involved in every second of the process. Whenever you try and bounce an idea off someone, the usual response is ‘You’re the bride, do what you want’. The result of this phenomenon is that subconsciously womanhood and being a bride becomes co-dependent.
So if I had to cancel my wedding I fail as a bride, right? And if I fail as a bride, I fail as a woman, right? Wrong. The most important piece of advice to anyone getting married would be to stop internalising the perceptions of others. A bride and a woman are two completely different constructs – strong women cancel their weddings and look ahead, and brides will be brides whether they have a massive wedding at the most expensive venue or a small elopement for two.
Is ek minder van ‘n vrou as ek nie in die Afrikanervrou-boksie pas nie?
Die volgende uittreksel uit een van my gunsteling gedigte, “Dame in progress” deur Ronelda S. Kamfer, het my op ‘n dinktog gestuur wat die al ewige vraag “is ek minder van ‘n vrou?” beantwoord.
“As ek een dag ‘n dame is sal ek rok dra en minder Jimi Hendrix luister. Ek gaan ophou rook en bier drink en ek gaan die oulikgeit van gehoorsaamheid aanleer.”
Die rede hoekom ek juis terug verwys na hierdie spesifieke gedig is dat dit deurlopend goed uitlig wat volgens die samelewing, en my dierbare tradisionele Afrikaner-ma, nie gesien word as iets wat ‘n “dame” sal doen nie. So my antwoord op die stelling is:
“Is ek minder van ‘n vrou as ek nie in die Afrikanervrou-boksie pas nie? Die einste boksie waarin my ma, my sussie en my niggies so mooi in pas?”
Hierdie is ‘n stelling waarmee ek nog my hele lewe lank mee stoei. Maar ek het oor die jare geleer dat ek nogsteeds ‘n vrou in eie reg kan staan langs ‘n familie met netjiese haarstyle, geen tattoo’s en ‘n man aan my sy. Vir jare het ek die goed wat my uniek maak as ‘n Afrikanervrou weggesteek as ons familiebyeenkomste het, maar na 25 jaar in ‘n tradisionele familie het ek besef dat ek nie hoef nie. Ek hoef nie my tattoo’s weg te steek nie en ek kan ‘n glas brannewyn en Coke geniet terwyl ek gesprekke het oor hoekom ek nie wil trou nie en nie my bos hare plat stryk om netjies te lyk.
Nou hoekom pas ek nie in die tradisionele Afrikanervrou-boksie nie? Alhoewel ek groot gemaak is om perfek in die boksie te pas, is ek ook groot gemaak om onafhanklik op my eie twee voete te staan, om ‘n opinie te hê, om alles te beproef en die goeie te behou. Dit het egter beteken dat ek die Afrikanervrou beproef het, maar wat volgens my goed was te behou en dit is hoe ek laat staan is. Met ‘n lelike lag, rock & roll en geen planne om binnekort huis op te sit nie.
Am I less of woman, if I sometimes fear other women?
While that questions seems glaringly out of place on Women’s Day, I view it as a way for me, and hopefully, others, to come to terms with our sometimes destructive way of treating fellow women. Marié and I went to a friend of a friend’s house a while ago and never have I felt more saddened by women’s inability to value other women than on that evening.
Walking into a house where you only know one other person, and that person is a guy, strikes fear where it shouldn’t. We arrived, introduced ourselves, and resolved to spend the rest of the night in the corner talking only to other men. This was because of the very real scorn and looks of judgement that we received. It was obvious that we were crossing some invisible threshold into their territory and we weren’t welcomed.
Once we got home, the evening stayed with me and it made both us unbelievably angry. Why, after everything that we endure daily, together, are we still so graceless in our approach to meeting new women and making them feel welcomed? That night wasn’t a solitary event and it was by no means new. Instead, I realised that this behaviour is experienced by other women daily, whether they know it or not.
I can go off on a tangent and blame the patriarchy (there’s it) for creating this divide as a means to infinitely hold them in higher regard, but the only ones at fault here are us. After that night, I not only felt miserable about the treatment that we received but also saddened that someone else could’ve felt the same way about my presence and behaviour.
Women’s day is about celebrating us, and while intersectionality will never completely equalise us in terms of discrimination, it is hopefully a time for us to reflect on our behaviour toward, disdain for, and appreciation of other women. No matter how dissimilar we are in looks, age, size, nationality, sexuality, religion, or all the other factors that make us feel scared of each other. The truth is that we live in a constant fear that our bodies will one day be used against us. It is time for us to stop fearing other women, and rather be feared for our courage, solidarity and unwavering resolve to value each other.
Am I less of a woman if I don’t get excited about beauty trends?
With teenage years in an all-girls high school, and a career in the beauty blogging industry, I have been confronted a lot with perfectly groomed fellow females. When I was younger I always felt there was this secret club I wasn’t part of, where girls learned how to style their hair according to the latest styles, or incorporate the newest makeup trends. I always admired how perfectly beautiful they were, emanating this flawless grace.
When I started working as a beauty editor, I guess I officially became part of this club, gaining first-hand knowledge of the hottest looks that would launch into stores. I met fellow beauty eds who got genuinely ecstatic about new products. Their Saturdays were spent scouring the shelves of Clicks and Dis-Chem to stock up on new nail polish shades and eyeshadow palettes. I’d browse their Instagram profiles and I kept wondering whether I was supposed to do this too? Would that make me a more successful beauty editor? Would I then become one of those perfectly groomed girls I always revered in high school?
It took me a while to realise that if this need didn’t come naturally, it wasn’t for me. And that was okay. Now more than ever we can explore what makes us feel beautiful, whether that’s fashion-forward makeup trends or all-natural skincare routines. Kim Kardashian, Bobbi Brown and Gwyneth Paltrow are all leaders in the beauty industry, though completely different. Instead of comparing, we can find our own forms of expression and self care, and simultaneously celebrate the way other women shine their light in this world.
Am I less of a woman if I want the corner office?
“I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.” – Whitney Houston
Okay okay, I know how feminist this must sound, but hear me out. There has always been this idea that women are supposed to wear skirts and dresses, walk up straight, don’t swear, don’t talk too loud, find a good man, take care of the children, etc. and while all of this is fine and all, does it make me less of a woman if I rather want the corner office with a big leather chair wearing expensive linen suits?
I have always dreamed of being the CEO of a big company and leading an aspiring team to success, but the reality is, the business world is a man’s world and with the premeditated misconception that women belong at home in the kitchen, there has been little space for us at the conference table. In one of my favorite books, Nice girls don’t get the corner office, Lois P. Franklin said: “Women act powerfully all the time, but in ways different from men.” And this is a statement I can agree with. I most definitely think that both the male and female energy is necessary to succeed, but that is the point, BOTH male and female, and although this has improved in modern times, a male’s voice is still more valued than women speaking up.
I have decided, no, it does not make me less of a woman if I have goals and aspirations. I still love being all the things that are required of me as a woman, but I am also working towards my CEO title and I am going to rock that suit with some red lipstick and bring all of the traits to the table that is unique to my being. I believe that no girl should conform to society’s expectations and put on those high heels and kick some corporate butt.
Am I less of a woman if I am no longer scared of my femininity?
The question might seem very meta. A lot of my perceptions surrounding womanhood have changed in the past couple of years partially due to the turbulent nature of being a 20-something creature growing up in a milieu where you can be anything and do anything, except for being a walk-over and showing your soft under belly – for me that meant hiding my femininity behind a tough facade.
My generation is not known for sticking to the status quo, in fact, we tend to see it as the oppressive antagonist. Gender roles, for one has been specifically targeted by the angry mob that has become synonymous with being “woke”. I used to be an angry mobster in my youth (like last year), but I overcame the anger and resentment that I held towards certain aspects of femininity that I acquired through a series of small events.
One of these small and quite insipid events included my boyfriend (at the time) asking me “Why can’t you put more effort into your appearance if you know that you are going to see me?”, he said in his little rugby pants with a pair of eyes scanning my cute blue and white summer one-piece from under his unkempt beard.
I know you might think that I am sensitive about now, but tiny encounters like this one is what really pushed me to resent femininity and the standards that are implemented for women. This resentment made me hardened for a time, and led me to believe that women who embrace their femininity and handle life more gracefully were weaker than those who fought a constant battle of femmelution. I was wrong.
It took me some time to figure out that there is power in being gracious and confident in your own skin and not forcing your power off onto others, but by acquiring respect through smart hustle. I am not scared of my femininity anymore, does that make me less of a woman?
Am I less of a woman if I prefer to hang out with the boys?
Growing up in my family, I always had to follow the unspoken rules of being a girl. The how-to sit, eat, not run around, watch the way you speak rules. Naturally, I have never been one to follow the rules. Instead, I have been the girl between the boys. The girl who joins in the touch rugby, PlayStation until 3 in the morning, and even the infamous burp competitions.
When my girl cousins or friends would ask me to join them for make-up or dress-up, and even the well-known girl talk, I would often shy away. First, because the number of girls in my life have always been way more than the number of boys and that freaks me out. I enjoy small crowds, it doesn’t overwhelm me as much or triggers my “what do I say next” social anxiety. Second, I have this idea in my mind that these gatherings always come with a set of drama. Hanging around the boys made me feel comfortable. I knew there weren’t going to be competitions for beauty, or talent. When it came to the boys, we only cared about who had the highest number of fatalities in Mortal Kombat or who’s burp could travel down a passageway and back. It would be funny, and I would be free.
However, I always felt judged, leading to my question, am I less of a woman if I prefer to hang out with the boys?
I think not, just because I prefer sneakers to heels, can’t speak make-up to save my life and pop my pimples doesn’t make me any less a woman. Instead, it makes me a woman who prefers comfort, laughter, and just plain being a quirk.