OPINION: Don’t buy me flowers, respect my power
It's almost Valentine's Day and it's during this period that many women give up their feminist cap in exchange for a candlelit dinner, a box of chocolates, maybe a negligee and a bunch of strange-smelling flowers - the whole clichéd Valentine's Day shebang.
I have never claimed to be a feminist or an activist, I am just a person who wants to be given the freedom to be me. But the #RacismMustFall and #ForBlackGirlsOnly hashtags have reminded me (because I have always known this) that perhaps being me, a young black woman living and working in South Africa, is not the easiest thing to do.
So, instead of waiting on a reckless tweet, the month of August, or that designated 16 days in a year, I have chosen this period to 'huff and puff' and hopefully blow off the rose-tinted smokescreen to remind my 'sistren' that although we have come so far in our fight to be recognised as having the same talents and capabilities as our male counterparts I think this is what the learned would call 'gender equality'), we have quite some way to go.
In a society where hearing, "I did not assault my women, I just slapped them to reprimand them", (as in the case of Donald Sebolai who has been convicted of the brutal murder of his girlfriend Dolly Tshabalala), has become the norm, it comes as no real surprise that most South African women die at the hands of someone known to them, more often than not their lover.
Violence is never the answer, especially if you're a woman, right? Sindisiwe Manqele's claim of self-defence in the murder trial of her rapper boyfriend Nkululeko 'Flabba' Habedi was met with much disdain, while the explanation of four shots fired by Oscar Pistorius into a confined space was accepted by many as a 'mistake'. Don't get me wrong, a crime is a crime and everyone (found guilty) should do the time... no false starts or replays. Reeva Steenkamp's Valentine's Day gift was also red, with a distinct metallic scent and it came at a hefty price... her life.
These are a few of the high-profile cases that have made it onto the front page of newspapers, but in most communities the face of a battered woman comes standard at the front door of their houses.
But we will never know the true extent of gender-based violence in South Africa. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) paints a grim picture on the handling of domestic violence cases, let alone the recording of such statistics. According to the ISS, the Civilian Secretariat for Police found that between October 2013 and March 2014, only 1.4 percent of police stations inspected were fully compliant with the Domestic Violence Act, 77 percent were partially compliant and 21 percent were rated as non-compliant.
While the Police Minister announced in his tabling of the country's crime statistics that cases of rape had gone down, the trend of 'corrective rape' seems to be on the increase.
I guess women are still not allowed to choose who they sleep with, and they certainly may not choose who to love or how to love.
For those who women choose to be in a polygamous marriage, the assumption is she must have settled or been forced into the arrangement. This is perhaps why some media latched on to the revelation that actress Florence Masebe was in a polygamous marriage as more 'tragic' and thus more newsworthy than the heart-wrenching melancholy around her losing her beloved child. Power and strength to you, Florence!
Did I say 'power'? The power of a young black woman continues to be defined by the price of her weave, her dress and the car she drives... Oh, and the value of that 'asset' we call husband/partner/boyfriend.
If you dig deep beyond the scandals around the Nomgcobo Jibas and the Dudu Myenis of this life, you get a Thuli Madonsela, Yvonne Mokgoro, Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, Wendy Luhabe, Basetsana Khumalo and Nonkululeko Gobodo (note that these beautiful powerhouses are all over 40). But we need more like them.
There are far too many 'entry-level success' stories which basically translate to a highly indebted middle class. Not enough black people hold positions of power, not enough black women head up industries, own or take on big business.
Mam'Lindiwe Zulu, Mam'Susan Shabangu, this is where your respective departments come in. We just can't seem to get to the 50:50 ratio in government...
High levels of inequality feed the grizzly monster that is gender-based violence; does anyone else see this vicious cycle?
I don't want to have to gather at a secret location to be openly, proudly black and female.
I don't want to have to work twice as hard as my white (male) colleagues to make the corner office.
I don't want to have to look or sound like Bonang Mathebe, or Lupita Nyongo for that matter, to be accepted as beautiful.
I certainly don't want to have to wait for one day in February to feel my worth is recognised and appreciated.
So this Valentine's Day, please don't buy us flowers; rather respect our power.
Masechaba Sefularo is an Eyewitness News online producer based in Johannesburg. She is mother to a three-year old daughter who she wants to grow up in a society where she can 'just be', without having to constantly define her identity by the standards of others.