A few years ago I found myself in a circle of friends who thought that sexist jokes were the funniest thing on earth. The stream of boob jokes and woman in the kitchen jokes was unending, and it didn’t bother me at first. I laughed them off. Until one day it did bother me. It bothered me a lot. Frankly, it was just damn annoying. This frustration kept building up and I didn’t know how to let everyone know that it was really not okay anymore, because that was just the norm. When did it become acceptable to constantly bash women, joking or not? Even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, these kinds of negative quips about a female’s implied inferiority were beginning to take their toll on me.
Then one day I was browsing through Exclusive Books and this little book with a white cover and an embossed gold bird cage on it caught my eye. It was called The Goddess Bootcamp, by Kagiso Msimango. I think I even heard it call my name. There’s even a Pablo Picasso quote on the front cover which reads,
There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.
This book was written for me.
The Goddess Bootcamp instructs the ‘bootcamp recruit’ to procure a journal that will become your best friend throughout the book. The idea is that you’re supposed to make notes and answer the prompts and questions given in the book’s activities.
I progressed through Goddess Bootcamp and devoured every single word. I later bought the Kindle version so that I could carry it with me everywhere. I made notes and highlighted extensively and became immersed in the activities. It was such a cathartic time of self-discovery for me and it got me to think and question so much about life and the world that has moulded me. Some of it made me angry, and some of it made me sad. Some of it made me so freaking ecstatic that I had to just tell everyone about it – and so I did. I think I got about 6 other women to buy the book, and I’ve preached about it to countless more.
Then, I hit a brick wall. I got to a section in the book where the activity required me to write a list of 20 reasons why it’s great to be a woman. And I just couldn’t do it. I had spent my entire life surrounded by a world that glorifies men and objectifies women. I had grown up seeing men effortlessly ascend the corporate ladder, while women held down the meager admin positions. I had learnt that in South Africa, a woman makes an average of 70% of the salary that a man does, in the exact same position with the same level of experience. Every day we are bombarded by media messaging that tells us that a woman’s value is in her youth and in her beauty, and that women must stay home to cook, clean and raise the children. Or worse: be expected to hold down a full time job and still single-handedly take care of the kids and household duties.
And so for all of these reasons (and many others) I found myself devoid of any reasons why it’s great to be a woman – because everything I’d ever seen and experienced in my life indicated that, in fact, it’s not so great to be a woman at all. I went back to that activity for days on end, trying to come up with some legitimate female pride, but I couldn’t muster it. And so my Goddess Bootcamp journey came to an end.
But the seed had been planted, and even though I still haven’t finished Goddess Bootcamp, it completely changed my outlook on life and made me feel like I should be proud to be female, even though I couldn’t quite feel it yet. It lit a fire in me.
Since then I’ve taken myself on my own journey to develop a sense of female pride. I read extensively about feminism, gender inequality and all the things that are wrong (and right) in the world with regards to women’s place in it.
I now co-moderate a Women’s Forum group at work, which entails getting together with a group of women each month to hash out our views on topics that mean a great deal to us. We work towards uplifting ourselves and each other, and towards changing the world one woman at a time. This experience in itself has been so empowering for me, and it’s fantastic to have been able to connect with like-minded, brilliant women in this forum. I’d love to be able to do the same within my blog.
This very long essay has been leading up to something.
Today I’m launching a new blog series – Feminist Fridays.
Each Friday I’ll be posting feminist and gender-equality related content. Some weeks it may just be a great article that I’ve read, and other weeks it may be a fully fledged rant. I hope that you all (men included) will join me on this journey of self-development to seek knowledge, understanding and equality; because we all deserve better.