Category Archives: Johannesburg 2010
As so many people choose to do what is right for 67 minutes today all over the world, I hope that we all remember that you have lived your life as a revolutionary who thought that justice could triumph, even as many in our county and the world would rather pretend that you are a teddy bear, benign grandfather figure. Here’s to your most revolutionary self and much love on your birthday.
As a rule, I try not to blog about issues that relate to my friends being maligned in the press. This is the only reason I have not blogged about the entire mess with Nomboniso Gasa and the CGE, which continues to enrage me in the injustice of it all, or Xoliswa Sithole and the backlash to her brilliant _Shouting Silent_ saga, or similar things that I may change my mind (re blogging about). But this week, while I was dealing with personal drama, a writer that I think matters – my difference with what he writes notwithstanding – went public with an issue that I think off-page disagreement can no longer serve. This week, Eric Miyeni, author of three books, popular personality, touted eye candy and recognised misogynist in many circles, went public with his hateful nonsense this week by writing an article in Sowetan that really needs more responses than the one Lebo Mashile felt pained to write, even though I am sure she has better things to do with her time. It is totally ridiculous that Mashile had to respond to this rubbish at all, and if Miyeni had the courage of his convictions, there is no shortage of stuff to take on in SA. I have a column on which I may take this up more coherently and calmly but since it is not with the newspaper in question – and papers can be sticky about responses – blogs offer a great opportunity for unedited copy for us writers.
Miyeni’s piece feigned some concern with Mashile’s health in various ways as a thin veil to attack her for deigning to be anything but a self-hating woman. He does not have any reason to think that Mashile has any health issues – or that the presumed existence of these merits waving her privacy. He declares that “under all those layers of fat that she now carries, Lebo Mashile is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met.” Miyeni’s is very thin veiled misogyny.
How dare Lebo Mashile be anything less than rake thin and deign to think we can take her seriously for being gob-smackingly beautiful physically, profound, talented and radical without starving and begging for favours in order to live on her work? How dare she not be a cokehead and rake-thin as a result so that we can feel better about “ourselves”? How dare she not secretly have bulimia or anorexia or be on endless diets so that she can look like the image propped up by skinny women who hate their bodies in order to stay on magazine covers? How dare she be radical, beautiful, “big”, popular, unapologetically feminist and an icon today when we all think we have the answers about South Africa being so conservative?
Yes, I also think that SA is more conservative than we’d all like to admit. And yet, Lebo Mashile’s ground breaking television show, L’atitude, and “formula” is copied over and over again in popular culture – tv and beyond – and pulled many more audiences across the board than many others. She won the coveted and prestigious NOMA prize for her brilliant poetry before she even realised how significant an award it is.
I am not saying Lebo Mashile is perfect. She is a human being – and therefore automatically imperfect. And because of her courage, she is a wonderful example and affirmation for smart girls and women in this country in a million ways. This is nothing to apologise for, no matter how much hatred – in the manner of Miyeni and similar – she receives.
Eric Miyeni’s vitriol against women who are not stick thin deserves attention and rebuttal. It deserves recognition for the hateful nonsense that it is. (Maybe those of us who think he is hateful should not spend anymore money on his books.)
First of all, Eric Miyeni seems to think that you need to be thin to be healthy. However, he is clearly disingenious in this claim. He may be an infuriatingly smart but lazy writer – talented but unwilling to polish his words before subjecting his writers to them, unlike Mashile who respects her audiences too much to torment them with sloppy copy – but he has worked in advertising/media/marketing long enough to know how unhealthy many skinny women and men are, and he is intelligent enough (even though he sometimes pretends not to be) to know that most ‘fat’ people in this country are much healthier than the skinniest people on our media pages.
The column that he anchored on Lebo Mashile is probably one of his shoddiest pieces of writing and a very cheap, hateful shot. Lebo Mashile is there simply to titilate. In other words, no matter how important and profound her work, on Miyeni’s column she is the exact opposite of what she is in her work (profound, provocatice, intelligent, attractive). When Miyeni had nothing interesting to write about, he chose to pen a column about a writer whose brilliance he has not met even though his writing career has been much longer, and a writer whose genius he may never live up to, hateful cheap shots notwithstanding.
That is what misogynist do all the time in this county, and maybe it is time we stopped taking them on off-page.
Every Friday Jozi explodes in yellow and green. I have it on good authority that the whole country is in the grip of deep FIFA World Cup fever – not just Jozi. A friend updated her facebook status from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape by pointing out that she could not get away from the national flags and soccer jerseys.
Some schools have started asking parents to please ensure that the children are dropped off wearing Bafana Bafana soccer jerseys on Friday mornings. My baby wore his yesterday, and will wear another one next Friday. Another friend’s son was fined R10 at his school because his green and yellow is a Brazilian shirt, not Bafana Bafana. All of this excitement is to show a country well behind our national squad as the soccer tournament grows nearer and nearer.
My family loves soccer, so I have no qualms about the soccer and Bafana are closer to my heart than I’d like to admit. Otherwise, how do I explain the anxiety I feel for days before each match they play whether they are on a winning or losing streak?
I have never seen so many flags in the streets in my entire life. There are SA flags on people’s cars, rear view mirrors, outside people’s houses, on people’s hats and caps. The only flag on my car is a rainbow sticker, and I am not likely to have the national flag waving from my car windows anytime soon. It’s not that I am immune to the fever that has gripped the country I call home.
Far from it.
I am as likely to get swept up in the feeling of the moment as the next person. I was a nut during the Africa Cup. But I am just a little frightened of nationalism so the flags overwhelm me somewhat. At the same time, I remember being less bothered by nationalism and being unapologetically patriotic at other times: when I lived in Germany for a short while, I was extremely South African. In 1994 and 2004, I did not apologise for loving SA and being Southern African. Before 1994, I called myself a patriot sans fear of contradiction.
I know that I will probably buy one of those Bafana Bafana flags for my car before I take my seat at the opening match and my resistance to the shirts is lowering all the time. Everytime I enter a Woolies or Pick and Pay, the green and yellow beckon louder and louder. All I need now, I imagine, is the assurance that the soccer flags and shirts are not made in China but locally, and I’ll exchange more of my cash for the goods. Eish.
Of course, there are larger problems with the FIFA World Cup, and whether all the hyped up benefits will stand the test of time. But I honestly am not thinking about that as I marvel at how popular the national flag is, and how for the most part people actually have the red part on top.