Cape Town – If you you live under a rock, or go through life with blinkers, the roar of black South African women tired of waiting to exhale has to have reached you.
The simmering lava of rage seeping through in the public discourse and social media is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Black women have consistently said they are fed up with the black man’s refusal to transform. Not just from patriarchy, but also the continued use of African culture as a scapegoat for senseless unabated hurtful deeds by some black men in our communities.
Instead, the black man has mastered the art of employing academic research to explain he is bound by systematic problems inherited from the irreversible effects of colonisation and apartheid.
This perspective, while factually solid, inadvertently also seeks to underplay the cruelty of the same system on the black woman. It exposes the neglect of the complicated hang-ups of apartheid the black woman has to deal with, which have deep links to modern societal ills, such as the so-called blesser phenomenon.
We, too, are descendants of women who were forced to rise above societal prescripts and the very African culture used to masquerade patriarchy.
In a study looking at the social re-engineering of South African society, University of Johannesburg’s Professor Ndangwa Noyoo lamented how the labour system, which was yet to be completely abolished in the country, had a highly detrimental effect on the African family and the country’s social fabric.
Black women have said they understood the sensitivities of this impact, but were tired of having to continue to be sensitised to accept that which, ultimately, seeks to render them less human.
The most intimate contact I had with how deeply embedded patriarchy is, involves a conversation I had with my older sister some years ago. There had been a disagreement between my father and I about issues related to my insistence he acknowledged his patriarchy, just as he had entrenched within us the need to deal with the injustice of racism head-on.
In reply, my sister said: “Just be glad our father stayed with us, unlike the many who fled their homes.”
Indeed, it is true many of us have effectively normalised this abhorrent behaviour, but it is also what black women have finally begun to unlearn.
For centuries, black women stood by their men, tending to their bruised egos, their physical bruises and shattered bones.
But black women are incensed at how, when it suited the man, women’s bodies were welcomed in the front line of the fight against racism, yet were expected to be mute on issues threatening their survival.
We no longer want to go through life strangled by fear of the black man we love so deeply, who renders our worth below that of the German sedan secured for him by the proceeds of the freedom Struggle.
That vehicle weighed heavily on the backs of women who suffered and died for it.
Even those whose fortunes are not as sparkly, who are trapped in shacks and rat-infested informal settlements, treasure more the beer they can now drink openly because black women rose up and stood alongside men to reclaim their race’s right to self-determination.
In the secrecy of the mansions, mud houses and the shacks we call homes, we come face to face with the unrecognisable faces of monsters who have turned the beautiful body of the black woman into a bloody battleground.
They use their fingers to scratch our palms when we shake their hands in greeting. In narrow passages, they nonchalantly smack our behinds and grab our breasts seeking to remind us that even in broad daylight, they own our bodies.
Attempts to launch conversations which examine the state of the strained relationship between the black man and the black woman, are consistently reduced to spats.
These lay bare the divide between the genders.
Even when a wish is expressed by women for the men they are with to really engage in the difficult conversation, men use the moment to antagonise and mock.
It is shot down. Women may be labelled “jaded” or “man-haters” – terms used to discourage the spread of a truth.
“Stop generalising,” some have said. Even those raised by single black women may view their mothers as mere subjects.
These are the men who are absent in the emergency wards to which black women are sent when other black men’s beatings leave them unconscious.
They are silent too when they hear their neighbour use everything at his disposal as a missile to target the body of the black woman he supposedly loves.
That they are complicit in their silence is an open secret, yet they want to force us to believe in an idea of a different kind of black man.
The weight on the shoulders of black women is already heavier than that of any other human being in the country.
We know that this disjuncture is also embedded in the struggles for power at every level of black society – that mass unemployment, poverty and inequality have disenfranchised the black man in his own country.
The time for hushed tones is over.
We refuse to be imprisoned by your choice not to transform.
It is not fit either that our boy and girl children should inherit this strained relationship between the black man and the black woman.
It will only deter the black nation’s quest towards social and economic upliftment, erasing the efforts of the women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956.
The feminist black men among you have proven nothing stands in the way, but you.
– Cape Argus
*The views expressed are solely of the writer’s
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