I don’t think there has ever been as much conversation about the underwear choices of a South African celebrity as there has been over what Zodwa Wabantu chooses to do about her broeks.
The dancer, who hails from Durban and gained fame from dancing at Eyadini Lounge, has caught headlines in the last two years with her bare-it-all outfits and a habit of going commando.
Just last week, the controversy that surrounding the breakout star followed her across borders, where she was deported from Zambia on the grounds that her performance would “undermine national values”.
Now, it’s a series of behind-the-scenes photos from Oskido’s new video for his track Serope that’s got the internet abuzz.
Zodwa, who is starring in the video, posted pictures of herself wearing what she called a “dress-thong”.
Yes, a dress-thong: a dress in the front, a thong in the back. And in true Zodwa style, it has left absolutely nothing to the imagination.
Bombarded by what now feels like desperate attempts to keep the spotlight on yourself, I’m more bored by images like this than I am offended or scandalised.
Much like seeing yet another naked selfie by Mrs Kardashian West, I rolled my eyes and scrolled by.
There is nothing shocking here and nothing we have not seen before - Zodwa has made sure of that. She has clearly decided her body is for public consumption - all of it - and, quite frankly, that’s okay with me.
Just don’t expect me to be surprised by it.
“I think everyone wants me to change, you know? I’m a woman, I’m free, I’m able to do what I want, it’s my body. It’s my choice not wearing a panty,” she told Drum magazine following her deportation.
A sentiment that perfectly aligns with my feminism - the freedom to choose to do whatever you want with your life and body.
But while I understand and agree with why she may be doing it (exercising that freedom), I haven’t yet developed the thick skin that comes with embodying that freedom in the way she does.
Because, in truth, our intentions don’t matter to the people consuming what we put out there and that’s something we all have to make our own peace with as feminists, using our platforms to voice our politics in whichever way makes sense to us.
I squirm reading the comments on Zodwa’s Instagram posts (“she should remove the bra as well, cause panty and bra go hand in hand” [sic]/ “Grandma please i have no problem with u showing us ur naked body, but atleast get some work done on ur sagged body before u expose it.. This is too ugly” [sic]), but I am under no illusion that she doesn’t see them.
I don’t believe that dealing with harassment or bigotry should ever be pegged to “coming with the territory” of fame.
No one is “asking for it” regardless of what they’re posting.
But nothing about Zodwa’s media persona and exposure gives me the sense that she is being exploited.
If anything, I think she’s exploiting all of us and cashing in on our obsession with just how far she is willing to push the boundaries.
We’re always going to tune in to see just how daring the next outfit is going to be. So the conversation should really be less about her commando vosho and more about how we view nudity and who gets to gain from it and how.
We’ve linked nudity and the exposed body - especially the naked bodies of black women - with moral standards of decency.
And, unless that naked body is being used in the ways we deem more acceptable - in photographs as “art”, in male-lead music videos and pornography as props - we don’t know what to do with it.
It’s seemingly unfathomable that a woman could use the image of her own naked body, exposed as she chooses to expose it, to gain fame or money.
And if she does, she deserves to be shamed for her indecency and moral perversion.
Zodwa is doing it on her terms - baring her own body, cashing in on it, and using it as a symbol of empowerment for women who see her as setting her own agenda.
People just don’t know what to do with this kind of self-determinism.
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