I’m still getting the hang of calling myself a woman, is that weird? 23 years into this life thing and, for some reason, I don’t feel like an actual woman yet. Most of it has to do with materialism. I suppose that after watching my mom break her back to raise my brother and I, and then help me raise my daughter, I’ve subconsciously gotten myself to believe that you’re as good as your titles. I’m a woman in the sense that I’m female and I identify as a woman… I’m a woman in the sense that I’m a natural nurturer. Having given birth didn’t make me feel like a woman, surprisingly, but also the fact that I’m a college student doesn’t make me feel grown yet, does that make sense? I’m working on the mindset, I promise.
There’s hope for me, don’t worry too much about how I perceive myself. I’m well aware and quite vocal about the general stresses and biases that come with being a woman, whether by birth or otherwise, and in a country like South Africa where male-favouring cultural practices tend to dominate and our democracy is fairly young, I’m aware that we have a long way to go until women can fully regard themselves as equals to men, let alone safe around them.
The unfortunate thing is that I only had one female role model when I was growing up, and that was my mother. She was (and still is, most times) my hero: my example of strength, confidence and patience. In a world where I was pretty much raised by the TV because my mom worked long hours which often left me home alone, finding other women to look up to as a little girl proved to be a heck of a task and it took ages for me to identify with some of the women I grew up seeing on my screen, especially as a black girl.
I was about 5 or so when one of my mom’s colleagues taught me about art and encouraged my creativity outside of the classroom. I remember she became my favourite woman after my mom when she bought me a stuffed bulldog I still have to this day (I named him Harry lol). When I turned 6 and started spending a lot of my holidays in the really posh suburbs where my aunt worked as a housekeeper, she then became my next favourite woman and it’s because of her that I realise now, I had a beautiful childhood outside of the drama that constantly went on at home between my parents before they officially split. When I started ‘big school’ at age 7, all the other girls were head over heels in love with Kylie Minogue and I remember trying to identify with her—with her music—but it was empty… but my brother soon introduced me to Aaliyah and she became my very first female celebrity role model: a woman who oozed sexappeal regardless of how boyish she dressed—there was an aura about her that even I, at that age, couldn’t look past and leave it at just admiration for her. She looked like me and she was doing well for herself—I could do well for myself someday. After that, my brother got me into Blue Cantrel, Destiny’s Child, Sade… and when I was about 13, I discovered Oprah Winfrey (by ‘discovered’ I mean I really paid attention to her; she was no longer the voice in the background on TV while I played with my toys) and I wanted to be just like her.
My list for inspirational women in my daily life is only as long as two people: my mom and my best friend who, to this day, continues to guide me through my spirituality since she’s way ahead with her own journey. In the media, it makes me so happy to see how black women in particular are becoming more and more celebrated and accepted with their physical differences, and being categorised as beautiful on a global scale. This is the world I want my daughter to grow up in, but you know what would be even better? Actual equal rights for women across the colour spectrum, and actual safety for us.
I want to live in a world where I can freely wear my shorts and head to college without fear that men will sexualise me on my way. I want to live in a world where I don’t have to rush home every time my classes end late or if I’m without private transportation after hanging with my friends, out of fear that I might get mugged or raped. I want to live in a world where I can go clubbing and not have to ask my friends to walk me to the bathroom or keep an eye on my drink while I fix my shoe strap. I want to live in a world where we don’t make Twitter threads, in this country, about safety tips for Uber rides—“sit in the front because there’s no child-lock” but also “if I sit in the front, the driver might touch me”. I want to enjoy being a woman! Everything about it, especially when it comes to dating; I don’t want to have to prove my domestic worth or my physical worth at all to any man—I want to look good for me and I want it to be okay that I’m a better academic/ creative/person than I am a cook or cleaner, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I have a big heart, but also, don’t fuck with me… does that make sense? I want to live in a world where women are allowed to be CEOs and soldiers without there being judgement about it, and I want to live in a world where people just let us be—let us be mothers when and if we want to be, let us wear what we want, let us act how we want and let us be who we want. Being a woman is scary. Leaving the house is scary for us. Just last year, we had a peak in femicide statistics in South Africa and everyone was scared to date men because, for some reason, men thought they owned us. I worked in an industry that sexualised us even if you showed up in jeans, a t-shirt and heels… I want all of that to end and it might never, but I want everyone to try.
I want to teach my daughter to own who she is; I’m going to support all her various phases on her journey to womanhood like my mother did for me, and I want her to stick to her truth and feel freedom and power whenever someone steps out of her life based on her beliefs and the values I’ll instil in her over time—she should never have to compromise who she is for the comfort of someone else. I want to teach my daughter that the clothes she wears are nothing but an extension of her personality and that nothing she wears will ever make her a target for rape. And, God, please bless me with a son someday so I can teach him how to treat a woman; so I can get him to understand a bit about what we go through.
Being a woman is scary, but at the end of the day, there’s so much about us that’s to be celebrated. Women across the world have made history throughout our lifetime, using their various platforms to say something against inequality/ injustices happening not only to women or children, but in our communities, and as I grew up, the media (which I hope to someday be part of) introduced me to a magnitude of women who looked like me and inspired me to dream bigger and shout louder about the things I believe in: Rosa Parks, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Zulaikha Patel, Nomzamo Mbatha, Serena Williams, Bonang Matheba, Rihanna and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are but a few of them, but it makes me so happy that my daughter can grow up with this scale of inspiration and motivation from as young as she is now whereas it took a few years for me to be able to name one woman other than my mother to aspire to be like.
Apart from the general battles we fight in society, women are raising generations of people on a daily basis, being examples to our children without even realising it. We’re constantly working on proving ourselves for ourselves even after being knocked down constantly by the people around us. Women naturally know how to hustle! Someone explain to me how women who earn minimum wage can find ways to put all their babies through school, provide food and shelter and still spoil those kids when they exceed their expectations? Women show up every time! We stand together, we motivate each other (mostly), we support each other, we cry with each other. Women are natural lovers; we care even when we say we don’t. The beauty of being a woman isn’t in our curves or on our faces; it’s in our hearts, in our courage—how we fight each day, cry behind the scenes and start afresh the next day. When people tell us we can’t, we find a way to prove them wrong… women are a gift and if you identify as one, this blog post is to celebrate you this National Women’s Day. No matter what you’re going through right now, know that you are loved and appreciated and because you keep trying and fighting and showing up, you’re a role model to me.
Happy National Women’s Day! Thank you for continuously choosing to be a queen.