Monthly Archives: August 2008
It seems odd to post about taxi drivers in Women’s month, but since I am having a really crazy week, I am going ahead and doing it anyway, so below are the rules for dealing with South African taxi drivers:
1. if you are in a big hurry and three taxi drivers try to push into your lane, make way because if you end up in an accident, it will be your fault. Remember, a taxi driver is ALWAYS right on the road;
2. if you are a passenger in a taxi and you have the dubious pleasure of being in one of those old fashioned minibuses, rather than the new Dept of Transport ones, do not complain about being made to sit between seats or as the fourth person in a three seater row. Just sit down or catch another taxi;
3. if you’re in your own car, do not argue with a taxi driver on the road, or hoot at him no matter what he does;
4. if you are driving along happily and the taxi in front of you suddenly stops with no indication, wait until you can change lanes or until the taxi passengers have finished getting on and off. Do not act up. Just sit there patiently because the taxi driver is ALWAYS right on the road and you don’t want to piss him off;
5. if you are in the unfortunate position of being in the front seat in a taxi with or without a gaatjie, just pass the change back and forth and don’t complain. If something should happen and there is too little or too much money, just look at the people behind you with incomprehension;
6. if you are having a manic day and need to change lanes in front of a taxi, you need to be a little aggressive and pretend as though you are entering the lane you want to be in. Taxi drivers understand this and will think you’re crazy not being one of them technically, but they’ll let you in with little fuss;
7. if you’re in a hurry and it is rush hour, take the free way and let the taxis weave in and out. If you take the main road – whatever main road, wherever you live – then you can’t blame taxi drivers for stopping just before and just after robots because there are no taxi lanes in most cities;
8. if you want to fight with a taxi driver and you are in his taxi, it is better to do it when you have other people who will back you up and when in motion rather than at a taxi rank. A taxi rank is the taxi driver’s kingdom, so if it’s about money, it’s not worth it;
9. if you are in Cape Town and the gaatjie calls you ‘my girl’, ignore him and wait until you’re on the road to start telling him off;
10. if your robot is about to turn green and the taxi going the other way looks set to cross the barrier line, just wait and be sure the taxi driver is not colour blind. If you collide with a taxi, even though your light is green and his red, it it YOUR fault;
11. if there is a fight between competing taxi associations, and it is safe to do so, take the bus because you don’t want to get caught up in the crossfire of something that has nothing to do with you;
12. if the taxi driver is playing loud music and he is about to miss your stop, scream for him to stop at the top of your voice because otherwise you’re set to go on a joy-ride. He will not put the music down because there are two types of taxi drivers: those that like their music at deafening frequencies and those that don’t. You’re stuck with the kind driving your taxi;
13. if taxi drivers are ganging up on anybody at a taxi rank, call the police immediately. Don’t ask questions unless you have an army ready to help the person being ganged up on. Taxi drivers as a group only understand other taxi drivers and the police;
14. no matter what the taxi driver does, you will not get your refund, so just let it be;
15. if one of the passengers in your taxi starts to fight with the taxi driver, side with the passenger. This is the only time that taxi drivers back down;
16. don’t let the fact that the taxi driver is playing loud gospel music fool you into thinking anything about his likelihood to be nice to you. This applies especially if you’re in the part of the eastern cape that used to be a homeland with the letter C;
17. if you see Joburg Metro police stopping rows of taxis, just drive by, quickly;
18. taxi driving is incredibly stressful, so be nice to the nice taxi-drivers and ignore the annoying or mean ones until you’re on the road and someone will back you up;
19. don’t make taxi driver jokes.
a) they have to wake up at the crack of dawn to make as many trips as possible;
b) the owner want his or her bottom line, so the driver has to rush up and down all day;
c) there are no legal places for them to stop, so where do you want them to stop?
d) passengers don’t want to walk an extra 20 metres, otherwise they would take the bus;
e) they’re just as bad on the road and as men as most other men in our society, so you don’t need to cut them some slack, but you can understand that.
f) they have to put up with all sorts of people all day everyday. Wouldn’t you be meaner?
g) back in the day when fewer Black people had cars and businesses, they were the biggest Black business and they made up their own rules;
h) oh, i don’t know!
Two friends of mine … usually very intelligent, talented and serious feminist scholars … in a mad moment … lots of suggestions that we write about motherhood, now that we are mothers … well, maybe academically … maybe otherwise … anyhoo … one suggests that I should organise a colloquium on motherhood … am surprised because she also doesn’t want to write academically about it … her colloquium idea is that we should have lots of academic mothers bringing their babies … all nurse collectively and let the babies go crazy … crying, peeing, crawling all over our highly esteemed campus … none of the mothers should say a word during all of this … collective nursing … i was in stitches, of course … shall not reveal who this is …
as we were laughing on the phone about this one … remembered an equally odd funny suggestion by my other feminist mother friend … at faculty meeting when someone says something crazy … whip out breast and spray offending speaker … cool weapon, she reckons, sort of like a watergun but less phallic and more fun … outrageous, i say …
if you’re going to respond to this particular post, please say something outrageous … don’t tell me we’re crazy … we know … but hell, it’s women’s month, we can do whatever we like … feminists all being ferried about to speak here, there everywhere in SA this month …
On Tuesday evening, a rare thing happened on South African radio, especially considering that it is woman’s month (August) in SA. I tuned into Metro FM, a nationwide Black radio station, and the studio guests were three feminists, and what dazzling feminsts they were: City Pulse magazine editor, recovering academic, writer, Gail Smith; Commision on Gender Equality chairperson, activist, photographer, writer, Nomboniso Gasa; and StreetNet International co-ordinator, unionist, widely published socialist, Pat Horn.
The show was hosted by Sakina Kamwendo, who did not always ask the most insightful questions and did giggle here and there. Overall, though, she was not too bad on this topic if you consider that she used words like “lesbianism” and asked “is feminism still relevant” or something to that effect.
Horn reminded the audience that there were various feminisms. She stressed that feminism enables us to deal with issues and systems which are hard to contest as individuals; as a feminist collective, we are able to make inroads. I don’t really think the value of this was completely explored in the discussion, but radio always has time limits. Kamwendo wanted to know the uses of feminism, and I suppose if we have to think in such instrumentalist ways, this was one of them.
Smith and Gasa were their usual brilliant selves. Gasa spoke about how women’s labour and contributions to society are taken for granted, and dealt with the ways in which ‘culture’ is often used as a way to silence women. It is interesting, Gasa, reminded us, that although self-appointed cultural custodians are very eager to use ‘culture’ against us, especially on the African continent, there are as many liberatory practices as there are oppressive one. This is important both for those misgogynist cultural custodians and for the anti-African critics who often argue that African culture is more oppressive, more backward, etc than other cultures. Yes, mostly such discussion speaks of culture as though it is singular, static and fully-knowable. Gasa used the conflicting examples relevant to the presence of wife abuse. One relates to the pressure for women to persevere in marriage (kuyanyamezelwa emendweni). The other relates to the ability of a married woman’s family to claim her back when she is abused or unhappy in marriage (ukutheleka). Now these two appear at odds, but they are from the same cultural sphere. The former is often evoked as though the second does not exit, and conveniently too. Gasa has this incredibly ability to cite very knowingly from very diverse worlds. I value her work, mind and presence for this and deeply envy her that head on her shoulders.
Smith spoke about the intersections between sexuality, feminist expression, and violence in SA. She argued that feminism is demonised in the media and other sites of ideas. Sometimes this is done through the ascription of lesbian status to all feminists as a way to scare young women, who may be complicit with homophobic institutions. The lesson here is that women who prioritise women, care for women politically, erotically, psychically, etc are threatening. In this schema, it is important for women to be repeatedly taught not to prioritise other women, but to compete with them for men, who are seen as the ultimate reward. At the same time, men need not rethink how they give expression to violent masculinity.
Smith insists that as feminists we have much to be angry about as response to dismissive comments by two callers, Alfie and Eddie who ranted and raved about angry women isolating men with talk of feminism and did not quite get what the show was about. Their attempts to put this particular feminst in her place backfired considerably as both Smith and Gasa reasserted the need for vigilance. Smith asked, “Why is an angry woman so deligitimated in this society? I have good reason to be angry. What is wrong with anger?”, having just spoken about the need to embrace and support creative, subversive masculinities. Subversive to patriarchy and enforced heterosexuality, that is. An anonymous gay man had asked a question about solidarity with feminists. Smith had underscored the need to constantly refashion masculinity and embrace masculinities that are not “life threatening to women” forcing us to be “hypervigilant to violence … which has material effects on our lives”. I am sure looking forward to her column in this Sunday’s City Press main body.
There were other questions and comments from callers. Percy, Lindiwe and Lucas were quite interesting, rasing various ways in which it is in our interest to question dominant masculinities and docile femininities always. They talked about specific sites of oppresion, ways to counter these, and the importance of coalitions among progressive (‘the anti-establishment’ types to use Percy’s formulation).
This was a highlight for me because August is so exhausting for those of us who are feminists in South Africa. Not only are we in ‘fashion’ suddenly, and therefore expected to agree to speak at all manner of stupid glitzy functions, but we are also bombarded as women, generally, with invitations to the most patriarchal nonsense throughout. I wish for more intelligent feminist voices on television, newspaper pages, radio and everywhere this August and every month of the year.