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The oppression that exists between the two of us

She wore brown dungarees. A yellow t-shirt, Jackie Brown laughing with a poofy afro on her heavy breasts. In her takkies she walked with a swagger that most claim is the abode of men. She had an exuberance for life, a big laugh and a warm heart. She feared no one, and wanted to make fearful no one. Her eyes would squint at you behind her nerdy glasses as she threw her head back in a guffaw. She could not be owned, she was free, and she wanted to own no one. Freed from the falsification of our spiritual origins by love, she had become a loner in her marveling. Finally she could lay the anger to rest in the arms of true love. Yes she had a spring in her step. The wolf whistles and catcalls washed off her like she was shedding prisons. Prisms winked at her and she marveled at the colour love had bathed her life with. Love had kicked the rebel out of her.

She should have hidden her light.
In the shadows of her wonderings a storm was brewing.

You see, unlike the anger that drives men to kill a gay man, the anger that drives men to kill a lesbian is tainted with a sense of ownership over her body.

As a woman, no matter how successful you look, even a beggar on the street believes they own your body. I have experienced this. “Hello nice, hello baby!” Some men will even go the length of touching you, grabbing you. You have to put on a bulletproof mask when you leave your house, so that you may not be emotionally incensed enough to want to lash out in anger.

Instead of changing the vampiric nature of patriarchal society, we try change the victim. Maybe you must dress differently, maybe change your attitude, we say.
Patriarchy is a power game. Woe unto you if you step in the path of a powerless, patriarchal male. He will make you pay for the pain of his emasculation. He does not even have to know you to punish you for his disappointments.

She was found behind a spaza shop. Naked, sprawled in a bloody mess of skin and bone. Spread eagled, a green beer bottle peeking out of her privates. They had bashed her skull in, the shards from her nerdy glasses dug deep into her skull. Where her breasts had been were two, raw, flat, circles. They had taken her breasts with them as souvenirs of a womanhood she didn’t deserve. She was a bloody pulp of skin and bone. Close by, lay her clothes. They had been folded neatly, only had a few splatters of blood.
She had undressed and calmly folded her clothes. Maybe she had hoped to wear them afterwards. She did not fathom the violence of their intentions. See, she had been here before. She had an eighteen-year old daughter to prove it.

Monitoring our bodies. Measuring our ripeness. We do not own our bodies.
Maybe the religionists are right. You can only be free in death.
So I remember her hearty laugh. I remember her mischievous eyes, teasingly studying mine to see if I had not changed teams yet. I remember her smile that cloaked so much sadness. By remembering I hope to keep the memory of her circumstance alive. To keep my sanity. That I did not just dream it. I am not imagining it. My body is not my own. One step out of this understanding and I might just end up behind the spaza shop, with stray dogs lapping at my blood. I will not let her be a statistic, as it happens with so many black bodies. Because my existence is not the summation of a statistic.

I am tired of understanding my man’s emasculation, as if I were not there, going through my woman’s emasculation. I was there. Under some sweaty, fat, red faced master and his sons. I too have sacrificed my humanhood to keep the peace and preserve a little of myself. And I have managed to keep seeing beauty. I have loved my children, born out of my humiliation, even when they spat at the roughness of the uncertainty of my touch. I have loved my man, even when he sought refuge in the breaking of my bones. I have, like a mother hen, protected and nurtured my family.

Your problem is that you believe you deserve better than me. That is why you insist your story is more important than mine.

We obviously cannot navigate the waters of our oppression without dealing with this – The oppression that exists between the two of us. The oppression that puts us on different sides of a predicament we both identify with.

Come my love! Let us explore this here truth. Conditioning, like religion, is not for us. We have turned into monsters in our rebelliousness. Because this seed, dropped in the copulation that would birth us -This seed that is tightly woven into our remembering – It will not let us be great. When George Orwell said – ‘some are more equal than others’ – it is because he eavesdropped on our past. He found the weakness that would keep us on our knees. For we understand hierarchy. Finally….you, would understand how it feels to have a master, like we womenfolk do. Of course we would suffer the most for it. For the anger, in a trickle down system of doing things, also trickles down. A deepening dam in the lowest wrungs of society. Choking our vision and setting rot to our foundation. I watch how you suffer. I see how you don’t see me holding a mirror to your pain.

We are all going through each own ugliness. The hierarchy of ugliness won’t allow us to break free. The more we fight, the more it sinks its hooks deeper into our naïve delusions/convictions of innocence. Because none are innocent…though some are more innocent than others.

Come my love. Let us find a place where we can let go of all this madness. A place where the smile of our eyes, the readiness of our bodies, is all we need to decipher the truth of the life we seek. This is the death we seek. For it keeps us alive. We lived. And the raw uncouthness of the days of our lives electrifies the truth-seeking of our progeny….as…the struggle continues.


About Simphiwe Dana

Musician, Writer, Activist, Mom


11 thoughts on “The oppression that exists between the two of us

  1. I will hold your hand on this path you have chosen. You hold mine

    Posted by Paul | October 30, 2012, 02:08
  2. Its so necessary to start at the roots, at the family and cultural level, to address the issue of the formation of male character, in the boy-infant, and the boy child, that includes an engendering of male entitlement, and of the right to violence. At the family level, the traditional level, the educational level, the ‘media level’ (especially most local, most oral)…. your work on making education real is so important. Would like to share with you important work on family and childrens rights from Zimbabwe.. How? will be in Jozi this weekend thabostewart@yahoo.com [John Stewart]

    Posted by John Stewart | October 30, 2012, 04:51
  3. This is an amazingly raw yet illuminating piece. I have always enjoyed your music and I find that your poetry tuggs at the complex strings in life’s melodies we that know exist but shun in giving a listening ear to. Thank you for this. I know it will bring conviction and edification to those who have been blessed to come across it. Stay well and stay true.

    Posted by Daniel Maison | October 30, 2012, 09:28
  4. Thank you.

    Posted by Nakita | October 30, 2012, 16:19
  5. Unfair to believe that your pain is less significant to mine

    Posted by Fani Dingiswayo | October 30, 2012, 19:54
  6. Omg! I read this with a sunken heart. In glad there’s women like you in this world. Women who expose the truth for the rights of other women. I have always thought about this matter with a lot of anger. How you found the strength to sit and write such a piece is beyond me. I hope millions get to read thus and may it change the ignorant. Keep pushing sisi, the war has not been won yet but one day women will walk the streets with no fear but the love in their hearts. Thank you for this and many more to come.

    Posted by Mbali | October 30, 2012, 20:32
  7. god, this made me cry 😦

    Posted by Creative Metaphor | October 31, 2012, 03:28


  1. Pingback: What white feminists like Caitlin Moran do not get « The Modular Man - December 31, 2012

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