Tattoos, Piercings and Boys

Tattoos, piercings and boys – I don’t even know how to get into this one but as far as I can see it, it all gels and works together nicely. But not according to Lihle, my friend. We were in conversation about journeying together to her sister’s graduation in the UK, when I excitedly shared my thoughts on potentially getting another tattoo done there. She shook her head, hardly turned to look at me and with a firm voice and only catching a glimpse of me from the corner of her left eye, said, “Billz, men don’t want this thing’. “This thing” of course being tattoos and as she had alluded once, the piercings too. 

I considered that perhaps her conclusions about what men want (and don’t want) has a lot to do with her ‘plain-Jane’ self that she is yes, comfortable with, but also, that she is convinced is what men are all interested in . No make-up, dreadlocked, nails not done, only two piercings per ear, no tattoos and just good old clean. Which is not too different from me except of course, I have an additional three tattoos and a nose ring. Three clean nicely done tattoos and a tiny stud on my nose. Does this level of neatness even matter? Look, I reckon Lihle long concluded that a simple and natural look leans more towards what men want and therefore anything that suggests a worldly character decorated with tattoos and piercings is less desirable. That’s me. That’s us, so-called ‘likers of things’. And yet I thought we were just expressive hearts and lovers of art but alas, some of us are genuine ‘likers of things’.

Photo Credit: Prince Akachi

I guess I should be glad that as things stand, I’m still somewhat acceptable and stand a good chance of getting hitched. But anything more spells trouble. Thanks Lihle, noted. But also, whatever dude. It’s already problematic that one must entertain comments such as, “Men don’t want this thing”, and it’s also problematic that we must still entertain conversations on what women should and shouldn’t do in order to be any more attractive to men. But not now on those politics. What I do want to interrogate though, is why tattoos (and piercings) on women come across as unattractive to men and I guess generally to other people who are repelled by a woman clad in ink and piercings. Someone between my siblings (bloody agent) told my mother about my first tattoo before she could even see it. I remember she had sent me a very sharp and stern message expressing her disapproval of what I had done and alluded to Satan’s ways which I had fallen victim of. My poor mother’s heart. I didn’t respond to her message and spoke to her only two weeks after her message and when I eventually went home and had her see it, she displayed a level of calm that insinuated relief. Not an outrageous tattoo, I guess.

For some people, tattoos are fascinating and those who have them go further into loving the endorphin rush that comes with getting inked and placing permanence on significant moments in their lives. Some perceive tattoos on women as sexy but this also depends on where on the body they are placed. My brother, for instance, hates chest tattoos because “they’re too much”. I reckon though, that he imagines the tattoo artist in that ‘private’ space and doesn’t quite like the idea (or he just shudders at the level of pain in that area)… We won’t even talk about the thigh area… Then there are those who loath tattoos and disregard them as being any form of art and find them unattractive, basically. And then, interestingly, on the other hand, the same people who couldn’t care less about tattoos find them particularly beautiful, intricate and intriguing on women. Another friend of mine says that a tattoo does not make one any more interesting than the other and that it’s not everyone who feels the need to wear their stories and scars for the world to see. A bit of spice there, right?

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When it comes to dating, people of course have preferences and men have definitions of beauty and how they prefer the female body to be presented and represented. Numerous studies conducted on men’s perceptions of women with tattoos reveal that inked women are generally perceived in a negative light. And I can believe this just from my own experience. I’m generally surrounded by men who couldn’t care less about whether the female body is decorated in ink or not. But then of course, there’s always just that one or at least a handful of them that will throw stones and denigrate the woman and her decisions.

A good friend of mine, Thami, after spotting my latest tattoo, told me clearly that I wouldn’t be allowed in his home, that they’d probably keep me far out by the gate – not in their home with my tattoos. Never! I laughed at his outburst, even the way he had expressed himself, with all the seriousness he could master on his face. He praised my boyfriend for being a ‘nice guy’, what with not dumping me with my additional tattoos and piercing. And come to think of it, when I went for my first date with my him, I deliberately wore a long-sleeved shirt to cover up my tattoo. I gave up on covering my thick and long dreadlocks and so I let them hang. All this because I was aware of the stereotypes and judgement that I may fall prey to so thought to save myself. The plan was to just go on the date; no real plan for the aftermath, I mean, the tattoo would still be there. Then it happened. The tattoo showed itself as my one sleeve dropped down a bit from my wrist. He spotted it and immediately asked to see it. Game over! Well, not so much, he was chilled with it and chastised me for thinking he was that ‘backward’. Phew! 

Photo Credit: Dom Hill

Anyways, as I was saying, women with tattoos are more often than not perceived in a negative light. Common conclusions made about them are that they are less attractive, less honest, less religious, less intelligent and tragically and sadly, more promiscuous. I mean, can you believe it? This is so bizarre! How does one make so many conclusions because these are evidently only some of them? But then again, I consider how women have always been unfairly interpreted and judged based on the clothes they wear, the hairstyles they have, whether or not they wear make-up and on the lip colour they choose, their nail colour and nail length… it just doesn’t stop! We are all at risk as human beings, of being judged on what we decide to display for the world to see but in most cases, women are not only judged differently from men but more harshly. What is it with us glorious beings? 

But in response to Lihle, I don’t think it’s as simple as “Men don’t want this thing” because some men approach tattooed women purely because they conclude that they are more sexually receptive and even forward. I’m half giggling as I write this because why is life honestly this complicated, interesting and even unfair! These things vary I reckon, different strokes for different folk so whilst tattoos, piercings and boys gel for one, they might be the worst thing for another. 

So what’s your experience inked girl? What with your piercings too, tell us all about it.

Photo Credit: Jazmin Quaynor

The African Child

I don’t know about you but I certainly find it rather interesting that International Day of the African Child, Youth Day and Father’s Day all fall on the same day this year in South Africa. It’s like the phases of a person, don’t you think? A child, a youth then an adult (father). Maybe I’m stretching things a little too far here but besides just having a ‘packed’ June 16 where commemoration of certain events are concerned, this year certainly has me considering a different narrative – today is one of a kind!

International Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 since 1991, initiated by the Organisation of African Unity. The day honours the 1976 Soweto Uprising participants and goes further into drawing attention to the education provided to African children and the need to improve it and fulfil the right for every African child to have access to education. For those who have more, they are encouraged to share their abundance with an African child.

Photo Credit: Bill Wegener

Youth Day is a public holiday in South Africa, celebrated on June 16 as well, also honouring those who shed their blood in 1976 for an improved education system that catered for South African children, equally. Thousands of school children marched on the streets of Soweto, demanding that their rights be honoured and be taught in their own language. Hundreds of school children were shot and injured and over a hundred killed in the protests that continued in the following few weeks. South Africa honours the students who dared to stand up against the apartheid government and suffered for it.

The Soweto Uprisings, in which school children stood up against the Apartheid Regime

And then there’s Father’s Day! Fatherhood, the influence of fathers in society and paternal bonds are celebrated. Father’s Day is recognised worldwide; it honours male parenting, fathers and father figures on the difference that they make in the lives of their children.

Photo credit: @kaysha

Today is a little more special for me and I’m happy to dub it ‘The Day of the African Child’. Here is how it all comes together for me and how today had me thinking and creating a narrative that these ‘days’ sparked: with International Day of the African Child you have, of course, the child who has a dream about ‘this Africa’, a pure and untainted vision of a beautiful and happy Africa. The hope for a better future, “our ancestors’ wildest dreams.”  The child with a dream speaks of hope but also draws us to a tragedy and sad reality because even though they have the dream, most of the time they don’t have the tools to achieve that dream. Then we talk about the June 16 1976 Uprising in which the youth died. The youth, who was once a child, grew up to face threats to their dream. So we find ourselves with a youth who decided to take matters into their own hands because the adults failed them and so took to the streets and blood was shed. And then we have Father’s Day and of course, the youth has now grown into parents themselves. And throughout these phases, there is still the sense of hope and tragedy weaved into the story of each individual; in this phase we have fathers who are present and contributing in the best of ways in the lives of their children and protecting their dreams. There’s a fantastic story to tell there about how responsible and present fathers make all the difference in a world where many more children are without fathers and thereby embodying a fatherless nation without a dream nor a future to be hopeful for. The absence of fathers and/or father figures is still a real issue in South Africa and in this narrative, the child’s dream remains a dream.

So today what we have, essentially, is a child who has a dream, the youth that died for the dream and the father who has to deliver the dream.

Happy International Day of the African Child, Happy Youth Day and Happy Father’s Day! And just in case it’s your birthday too, happy birthday!

Photo credit: Gift Habeshaw

Girl Boss Discusses South African Elections 2019 with Wits University Students

Girl Boss contributors Simi and Londiwe sat down with Wits University post graduate students Tumelo, Bakang and Angeline to discuss the South African 2019 elections, political parties and whether their intentions are for the social and economic progression of girls, women and the people of South Africa.

Simi Gumede is a Bachelor of Social Science Graduate from Rhodes University, her Majors were Politics and International Relations, and Psychology.

Londiwe Sibanda is an Education Graduate from The University of Witwaterstrand and is currently completing her Honors Degree in Science Education at the same institution.

Tumelo Ratlhogo has a Bachelors Degree in Education and is currently studying towards her Honours in IT at The University of Witwaterstrand.

Bakang Mputle is currently studying his Masters degree in Geography and Development Studies at The University of Witwaterstrand.

Angeline Duma has her Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Witwaterstrand and is currently completing her Honors degree which is a BSC in Science Education at the same institution.

Why I’m not a Feminist

Because I am not angry. I’m okay with serving the man of the house his food. On a tray. Perform a slight curtsy, uttering sweet nothings as I place the tray of food down. I’m okay with him being (labelled) ‘the man of the house’, let him be the head of the family – I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being the homemaker; caring for the kids whilst he’s out tilling the land for his children and his children’s children. I could be terribly simplifying it and reducing the scope of the feminist agenda. But that’s the thing, when responding to the question of whether or not I’m a feminist, I feel the immediate need to rule out ‘anger’ and the positioning of the man in the house, as problematic (for me).

Photo by Jasmin Wallace Carter

I don’t have a husband yet nor do I have children so I can take it if you will suggest that the ease of which I talk about these things that I am ‘okay’ with, is due to lack of experience and understanding of gender roles and how, if disproportioned, can prove to be an injustice to the woman. I actually agree but in a world of options, it would either be staying to make things better or leaving before I break. Again, I may be making things seem simpler than they actually are. But say then for instance, I’m not particularly aggrieved by what feminists perceive as inequality in the home, do I qualify at all to be one? What should bother me in order to deposit me in the feminist agenda? Is it a combination of societal injustices or can I still march with my fist up in the air if I only identify with say two issues out of the five that may be presented?

A friend of mine, having seen the light of course, boldly testified to being a feminist. “I can’t say I am”, I had said to her on that glorious and sunny day. “It’s okay, it will come to you. I was also like that – I just didn’t get it and couldn’t relate to what they were on about. But it just comes and you will know”, my friend had gently responded. It sounded like something another friend had said to me regarding putting on make-up; that the interest and eagerness to learn how to make my face up would come. I digress, but my point is that a couple of years later, I’m still on the same page. But there’s something that I reckon is important in what she said, that part of ‘relating’. I do have the understanding that feminism confronts discrimination based on gender and it goes without saying that should one experience this level of discrimination and have a tangible encounter of being treated as lesser than, then without a doubt, they’d be able to relate, at least to some level, with the feminist agenda. And perhaps understanding alone is enough for a person to launch them into being an active feminist. I get it. I am not denying that inequality between the genders exists nor am I denying the reality of the issues that the feminist brings up. I just can’t identify with the ‘anger’ part of it, that being the vibe that I often pick up. And of course, I’m not interested in challenging the man’s place in my house (which by the way I have everything to do with) and obviously, he must show up for it because it comes with a lot of responsibilities. And this is a matter of preference – aren’t we all selfish, in one or another?

Photo by Joanna Nix

Google defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Wikipedia: “Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the genders.” We have a bit more meat here. Equality between the genders is advocated for in different spheres of existence; the political, economic, personal and social. I get it. I reckon I want the personal space left to me and my preferences. I also get it more clearly from an excerpt from WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS, a talk delivered by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. And it’s in between some of the lines I will share below that I am better able to motivate my stance.

“Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable. Both men and women are resistant to talk about gender, or are quick to dismiss the problems of gender. Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable…”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Changing the status quo is not only uncomfortable but demands self to be intentional and carry through with the agenda. And often that calls for work and consistency and as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I’m not just lazy to join in the movement and shake things up to address the problems of gender inequality especially in the ‘personal’ realm? And as I wonder too, I am not particularly moved to nor am I bothered by being okay with being a homemaker and still be flourishing as whatever else I want to be or in whatever else I want to do. Because it’s possible (with help) and that’s what I’m intentional about. At least for now, that’s where I am. So I don’t know about what my friend said alluding to something that will come and make feminism make sense to me… “It will come and you will relate”, she had said.  I don’t know, I still reckon I’m just not angry (enough).

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I’m nodding my way through this and in total agreement. I’d probably be that person questioning the use of the word ‘feminist’ as opposed to just admitting to being an advocate of human rights, generally. But I understand the need and purpose in being clear to use ‘feminism’ and intentionally highlighting and addressing gender inequality at which women are at the receiving end. This makes so much sense and again, I get it. But for some reason, I am still not at a place in which I can confidently call myself a feminist.

Photo by Thought Catalog

Reading about feminism is informative, one gets it. Reading Chimamanda and listening to her speech is encouraging and good too but there’s a snap and break that happens on the ground when you experience feminists. The air is different, I really struggle with the vibe. I don’t feel welcome and I struggle to relate because of how seemingly hostile and mad she is. The feminist. She’s at war and perhaps yes, she literally is fighting for her recognition and place in society. And this is why I say the reason I am not a feminist is that firstly and foremost, I am not angry. I’m not chanting, ‘Men are trash!’ I’m not up to here! I’m not mad as hell! And I need to be. I need to be fed up by the status quo. Right?

Simply put, for Chimamanda, a feminist for her is, “A man or a woman who says ‘yes’ there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.” This I can sign up for. Online somewhere. I can like this as a status update – it’s inviting and inclusive. I don’t know what happens when we get to the ground. I’m certainly not there.

Through the Phone’s Blue Light, can there really be Love at First Swipe?

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope”

Maya Angelou

Okay so who actually believes in Love at first sight? Well, believe it or not, I do. I have actually experienced it. Now how does one describe the indescribable? My first reaction was disbelief, me really? Is this guy really looking at me like this. I remember looking over my shoulder to see if there was a prettier, more attractive girl standing behind me. Afterwards I remember feeling exhilarated and hopeful and as soon as I started feeling hopeful I told myself. Girl get real, quit dreaming, it’s never going to happen so give up hope now before you break your own heart when unrealistic hopes fail. I felt unworthy like that guy would never in a million years be interested in a girl like me, I thought I’m a 6 and he is like an 11. Since, I have taken some major strides in my self-confidence but things didn’t go well with that person, sadly.

Photo by Gift Habesh

Also I have experienced something else more recently. It was like that person glowed and we both were 100% present, and we were both completely ourselves. Our authentic selves. And that takes a measure of self-love to stand in your authenticity because if that other person judges you, it’s not going to change anything in how you conduct yourself when standing in your truth…

Anyways I’m single. And it seems I have been single forever. Yes there are love interests but not anything that has turned into a solid romantic relationship in a while.

We live in an age of loneliness. There are not many people who accept you when you stand in the truth of who you are in that present moment. But, most of us want real connection which is the antidote to loneliness. Sometimes your family doesn’t accept you, or parts of you. And, of course we have our best friends who accept us most of the time, and those are also the loves of our lives really. I’m no saint also, I’m not perfectly loving but it is something I try to do and meditate upon. We have our loved ones, but we also want to be with the one. The kind of intimate relationship in which you experience profound romantic love.

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel

If you’re single like me and don’t want to be, you can just hop online and see whose swiping in your area. A common dating app is Tinder. The sister of Grindr, which is a gay hook up app. There are stories of people meeting loving partners on Tinder. You can even meet your life partner or marriage spouse on Tinder. So yes, you can find lasting love on dating apps. The virtual world is so integrated into our waking lives that the two have basically become one. However people tend to pretend, who they really are irl and also on social media. We’ve all watched the shocking, heart breaking and entertaining stories on Catfish the TV show.

However, those were the dark ages of online dating. We have more accurate online dating apps now, as you don’t have to wait months or years to meet that person. Apps like Tinder find people that match your interest criteria within your geographic radius. Tinder has changed the way we date for sure. There’s a lot of multiple dating, I remember seeing a post on Valentine’s day on Facebook that read “If one boyfriend makes you happy, imagine having three? Think big in 2019.”

When meeting someone online, they are most likely to be a stranger who doesn’t run in the same social circles as you do even though you live in a similar geographic location. Therefore you can date multiple people at once as your dating life becomes separate from your regular social life. But I can’t solely attribute this phenomenon to being caused by dating apps, rather maybe, people have become more honest about their side baes.

Photo by Angelo Moleele

I have used Tinder but to be honest I’m rather over it. I was using it in hopes of finding a beautiful romantic relationship. At first, I was scared of using it in my hometown, because I thought what if people I knew from my childhood came across my profile? I was afraid I would be judged as being promiscuous. So, it took a while for me to actually start using it.

Once I started swiping, and received matches, the conversation would be exciting at first but after a while it would fizzle out. I would just lose interest and stop replying, yes I’m that girl. How will I ever find a partner if I stay ghosting? But there was just no chemistry through the text. Tinder is also looks based, although you consider the profile in your swiping decisions but in all honestly, you’re very much like hmm I can imagine this person as arm candy, swipe right. But hotness can only get you so far when it comes to love, if it even gets you anywhere at all.

Of the dates I have been on, the first guy had really bad breath and there were no vibes. The other person whom I almost met with on valentine’s day insisted I go with him to church and I was like woah that got too real, too quick. He was cool though and we did get along, we would video chat. But, when we spoke of the church he attends which is Rivers church, I considered it and I was like, is that the church Somizi goes to? And he was no but he has seen Kwesta and Casper Nyovest there. And so being me, I was like what do you think of homosexuality? Long story short, he was like “Those idiots started HIV/Aids”. And I was just like sigh… Thank you, next.

So, I haven’t had much luck on Tinder in meeting my beloved. As Rumi said, “I crave a love so deep the ocean would be jealous”. In the shallow waters of the world wide web, I’m not sure if that’s really possible. But, as Maya Angelou said, love knows no boundaries. You definitely touch someone’s heart through the phone.

Photo by Bruce Mars