Fanning the flames of sexual oppression

2010-03-13 08:45

HOW typical of the arts and culture minister to storm out of an exhibition because she felt it was “pornographic”.

Lulu Xingwana claims she was upset by the pictures showing a lot of female flesh. She found pictures of naked black women “vile”, especially the piece called the Rape of Europa.

The minister was offended by what she said was a picture “depicting a sex act with a nature scene as the backdrop”.

She is allowed to frown upon al fresco sex, but only in her sexual repertoire.

The photograph is not sexual. “It’s about self-reflection and looking at things about myself that I don’t like,” is how Nandipha Mntambo explains her work.

I am personal with a lot of women. And we constantly talk about the beast in self-reflection.

“To me, constantly peeling off all layers and baring my soul to myself is a monstrous process often accompanied by feelings of isolation, self-loathing, hope and mostly confusion.

The albatross on my neck is the treatment and perceptions that seem to think a black woman can only be a maid or a whore.

As maids, we get paid less than men and white people as research keeps stating.

As whores we are sexual novelties, product pushers for designers, producers, advertisers and gender roles that insist that the kitchen and bedroom are our natural habitat.

The minister huffing and puffing about a piece all women relate to is unfortunate.
More so as she seems fixated with “rape.”

It reminds me that she was part of everyone in the ANC that kept mum when friends of Jacob Zuma were harassing the woman who accused him of rape.

Rape touches every woman in this country. And I remain offended that the right to pick a team (Zuma or Kwezi) was not extended to Kwezi’s right to dignity. After all, one of the devils in the details of justice against rapists is the prevailing notion that women “ask for it”.

The belief that we ask for it adds a double burden on women who are lesbians. Their gender and sexuality makes them moving targets.

And the rest of us holding on to culture and religion to justify homophobia are exacerbating social problems people pile on homosexuals.

We are adding fear and self-loathing to the cross of sexism and continued discrimination of the black woman.

The minister, people who find lesbianism awkward and people who mock homosexuality are part of the reason that lesbians get raped for coming out of the closet.

They do so by promoting the idea that a woman’s body belongs to others; men, her partner, fashion buyers that prefer us stick-thin and video producers who prefer our asses doing the shaking than our voices singing.

So it really is a great pity that the minister chose to hang the artists than use the exhibition as an opportunity to create dialogue. Sure her reaction has us talking; but harping about the sadness of homophobia is not exactly progressive conversation.

Progressive would be committing to making South Africa safe; it is not right that women live in fear of rape and that one of the first things we tell young girls about sex is to warn them about someone tampering with their private parts.

Progressive would be people no longer being shocked by sexual intimacy between people of the same sex.

Progressive would be Africans stopping to put barriers of divisions between ourselves; what is so shocking, upsetting or abnormal about love and sexuality? And why should finding love and intimacy be the curse we have turned them into for gays and lesbians?

Back to the minister and her so-called pornographic images; black women have always shared their nudity – we bath together, prance among each other uninhibited by a size complex.

If the minister is going to talk for us, then she must rubbish the safety and comfort we find in baring our nudity to each other by saying the work of Zanele Mhuli and Nandipha Mntambo stereotype black women.

I feel empowered and affirmed by Zanele and Nandipha; after all, it is rare to have a black woman given ownership of her body and sexuality.

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