"Being pro-women does not mean you are anti-men" - Thandiswa Mazwai

Credit: Instagram/thandiswamazwai/
Credit: Instagram/thandiswamazwai/

“It’s not about exclusion. Being pro-something does not mean you are anti-something else,” artist Thandiswa Mazwai tells W24 ahead of her women-only birthday event, taking place at Johannesburg’s Newtown Music Factory this Saturday.

Mazwai’s call for a birthday celebration where she emphatically states her desire to be surrounded by feminine energy has been met with criticism from others, specifically men, who feel left out.

READ MORE: 'I’m inviting my sisters to a women only gig on my birthday in celebration of their resilience and strength.' - Thandiswa Mazwai

In one opinion piece, writer Amos Mananyetso writes that he will be “gatecrashing”.

It’s hard to think of this as anything but a disregard for women and their wishes.

“What about male feminists who have been and are continuing to fight for equality?” he asks and further states that he will rock up at the event in ‘stilettos’ if he has to.

For many, this assertion reeks of entitlement. Here is a man who feels he has the right to crash an event created for the enjoyment of women, never mind what the host of this event has requested. It’s hard to think of this as anything but a disregard for women and their wishes.

The question, naturally, becomes what it is that necessitates women-centric events like Mazwai’s. All over the world, as women’s voices against abuse have become amplified through movements like #MenAreTrash and #MeToo, the entertainment industry, known for its entrenched ‘boys club’ culture has been forced to reckon with itself with varying degrees of success. 

READ MORE: '#MeToo won't change anything for women in hip-hop' - Cardi B

The exhaustion surrounding the abuse of women in festival and event spaces and the exclusion of women performers in line-ups has necessitated the establishment of the world’s first women-only music festival in Sweden, for example.

Here at home, events like Pussy Party at Braamfontein’s Kitcheners are a monthly oasis of feminine energy, where the dance floor is reserved for women, trans and non-binary individuals, in order to create a space where they feel comfortable, not having to worry about being groped, harassed or abused.

It’s about my moment, on my birthday. It’s about what I want in my own life, creating a space for much more women’s empowerment.

Recently, the organisers of the annual Rocking the Daisies festival announced that they would be creating a women-only campsite following demand from women to do so. “After years of thinking it through and planning, we have decided to now launch it.”

In response to men opining on such women and femme-centric initiatives, DJ and artist manager Angela Weickl says: “Hating on Rocking the Daisies for trying to create a safe space for women at the festival rather than only focusing on the horrible behaviour of men and combating that, is counterproductive.”

“As a man, your privilege disqualifies you from deciding on the propriety and necessity of this space. Even more so if you have never been a victim of violence in such a space.

“You are asking a music festival to rectify the behaviour of men who have been raised without respect for women, who do not register the word NO and who have no measure of their own limits when intoxicated.”

She further adds: “If you are a man who does not assault and disrespect women then you have no reason to be offended by the creation of this safe space. You should be calling out the misconduct of men every single day to help change the way society has created an entire world of unsafe spaces for women and femmes.”

On the creation of safe spaces, specifically, Mazwai feels this is a utopian idea, but nonetheless believes women should be allowed the space to spend time with other women only.

“It’s about my moment, on my birthday. It’s about what I want in my own life, creating a space for much more women’s empowerment.”

Tickets to Thandiswa Mazwai’s Amandla Womxn Fest are available through Quicket, at R250 each.

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