12 January 2018

Zodwa Wabantu and the Problem with "Girl Power"

Zodwa wabantu, zodwa wabantu celeste ntuli
Zodwa Wabantu is hers first.


At the beginning of this week, my friend Whatsapped me a screenshot of the DJ Tira finger wag heard across the web. It the tweet, Tira says he has a meeting with Zodwa Wabantu because things need to change and they need to change now. I immediately responded to her that angazi kwenzekani but fuck that tone. Less than a week earlier, while catching up with this friend IRL for the first time in months Zodwa Wabantu's name came up. We were all worried because working with men is tough and is she even making her monies and, my other friend at the table pointed out, how much of a cut is Tira taking?

While we darkly hoped the mysterious tweet was alluding to DJ Tira wanting to help Zodwa reach new heights and make more money and own her image, we were sceptical. I later solved the mystery by sending a screenshot on WhatsApp wherein Tira responds to Anele Mdoda's query re the finger wagging tweet by saying the stuff Zodwa says oh stage is "hhayi ngeke ellipses." Which you can assume is bad. After how many months of exploiting her public image and on stage persona did he come to this conclusion? 

As if Zodwa Wabantu wasn't having a tedius enuf week, comedian Celeste Ntuli, only the second funny woman in the country the male-run comedy circut would have you believe, spoke against Zodwa Wabantu in an interview while promoting her upcoming film. The key quote that every media outlet has been running with is "it's disgusting!" Presumably, Celeste Ntuli commenting on Zodwa Wabantu's act (she, Zodwa Wabantu, dances panty-free enkwarini). 

Usually my "mind your own bum!" tweet would be enuf for me. I have a mental health shit to get consumed by. The reason I'm writing about this is I saw a tweet by Gabi Mbele, I think she's a journalist or a PR person or one of those South African media people who've been on Twitter since 2009. You know the type. Anyway, Gabi Mbele's tweet is all about how Zodwa Wabantu's act (and, I guess, her Instagram) isn't making her feel safe in the time of hashtag men are trash and hashtag me too. First of all, does she really only understand men's violence and sexism in the the prism of these relatively new movements? But also, how does what Zodwa Wabantu does with her specific personal body make you feel unsafe?

Women such as Celeste Ntuli and Gabi Mbele, and men who hate feminism and "those feminists," fail to understand is that women, especially those who break the rules and own themselves the way Zodwa Wabantu does, making their own choices is good. If someone cared about Zodwa Wabantu and the "innocents" she might be influencing then that person would be worried whether Zodwa Wabantu is getting her money. That person would worry about the sort of environment the South African party scene is for women and girls, especially in townships.

Zodwa Wabantu's act, the gyrating panty-free and mingling at events, is her job. That men consume her sexually does not make her depraved neither does it make her responsible for their actions. Someone tweeted "people are raped while wearing panties." And it's true. Now what? How do your anxieties about, and shaming of, Zodwa Wabantu hold water when nothing she will ever do is "asking for it?" Women who use their pretence of "I'm protecting women and our children" to hold women accountable to the actions of men aren't doing a damn thing to move us forward. They're rehashing centuries-old oppressive ideas with a new face or example.

There's a lot to debate where Zodwa Wabantu's act is concerned but one of those things is not her choice to do the work she does or post those pictures of her bum on Instagram. When you come at a woman as grown as Zodwa Wabantu, a woman who has turned this fucked up world and capitalism somewhat in her favour in order to survive and, maybe, thrive and try to correct her. You're doing nobody a favour. Not her, not your daughters you're worried she's influencing. No one. Zodwa Wabantu has enuf to deal with. She works in a heavily male industry, she faces being swallowed by your "sophistiratchet" friends who place hella burdens on other black women to represent and slay and ghetto for them, she's been body shamed. 

Of course, she has been responding to Celeste Ntuli and it's maybe a lesson in "Don't come for me" that Celeste needed.

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