She offers a mind powerful and controlled, tuned to the frequency of his success. She brings a warm and ready fertility from which to reap his wealth, a loyalty to support his vision, and a soft place to land and sheath his sword. She is lightness of being, peace of mind, and sensuous sensuality unleashed.
For these gifts of femininity well-presented he offers her his strength and becomes her shield and her provider, and in him she is well satisfied. She fears nothing, he stands between her and the world. He will speak life over her and she will write it into being and birth it, creating a magnificent tapestry threaded through with a passionate joy speaking his delight in her, her pleasure in him and their satisfaction with their creation.
I want beads to wear while dreaming and creating my future,
Beads to speak of cool water and black mud
And the shade of thorn bushes in the savannah.
Beads to wear when speaking of the magic lizards of the Matopos
And weaving tales of the Great Spirit of the Sky while the cicadas play chorus.
I want beads that will banish fear and make me brave and wise,
Strong enough to stand the pain of creating out of nothing
And wise enough to be ruthless when it is time to destroy.
I want beads that will recall the stories of my survival,
The stories that tell of who I have been and of the things I have done and seen,
Beads that hold my stories in their depths and speak my magic by their existence.
I want beads that will be unseen until he is ready
Until I am ready
Until he has unclothed me from the inside out.
I want beads to be seen by ubaba who knows the difference between fucking
And creating creative force,
Beads for the Minotaur who finds strength in tenderness as well as in dominance.
I want beads that will entice my lover
Without my having to say Daddy please;
Beads to be the soundtrack to our lovemaking,
Audible evidence, perceptible proof
Of the rhythm of this vibe.
Beads for the man who cherishes her in whom there is no fear, only yes.
I want beads for forgiveness, for moving into a brighter future.
Beads for when I need reminders of the wires I have walked on
And the fires I have walked through.
I want beads that will be our secret, just me and you.
I want waistbeads because here is the drummer
And the dancer was never able to say no to his heat.
The hardest thing about being a woman in the 21st century is navigating the conflicting messages zipping through the air about what it is to be a woman. Is it a feeling? Is it a biological fact? Is womanhood a social construct? What, really, is a woman?
A black woman?
A Nguni woman?
What does it mean, in today’s world, to be a wife, a daughter, a sister, as opposed to being a husband, son, and brother? Does it, in fact, mean anything?
One of most difficult realities to navigate is black womanhood, largely because of the the seemingly natural dichotomy that exists in womanhood. Women, generally speaking, must be both soft and hard, tough and sweet, that Madonna/Whore narrative is as insidious as it is difficult to quantify. We must navigate with equal ability the requirements of the workplace and those of personal relationships, despite that we are raised to (attempt to) succeed in one arena – the work place – with little to no support given to help us achieve equal success in parenting, courtship and the myriad other relationships that make life rich and complete.
Anti-feminist rhetoric you say? If your feminism diminishes you by telling you all the things you can’t be and not all the things you can be, then is it even feminism? Or just another way of policing you?
This is how I look at it:
Women are so busy shoring up weak male egos and affirming toxic masculinity that they have no time or energy left to do what they are supposed to do: give men that feminine touch that adds value and worth to men’s lives. Did I say men’s lives are valueless without women’s contributions? Well, did I?
And what about the feminine response to the male gaze? What is the right way to be a woman in a world where men don’t have to do anything but exist to get female attention, up to and including sexual access? I’m sorry, women’s standards need to be higher than he’s breathing because this tolerance of male bullshit is killing the world. Fuck boys, galore.
And no, women do not have to fix men. Fuck all the way outta here. Women can’t fix men because women cannot teach men to be men. Pretending men and women are the same is not what we ought to be doing to restore balance between the sexes or combat sexism. Different does not mean less than.
Women, black women in particular, are bombarded constantly by messages to smile more and we’re constantly being told why other races of women are more desirable. I’ve never seen anyone other than black women ask the most relevant question: what is black men’s contribution to black women’s image as perpetually and unreasonably angry? I used to think this was an American thing but you know what, African men are calling African black women angry and guess what the fuck else? Fuck yeah, we’re angry. Our men have let us down badly and holding up a race is backbreaking work.
Black women are dying out here and black men are reason number 1 why.
On the other hand, people are quick to hold black women to account for black men’s failings. Black men are the way they are because their black mommies made them that way, because their black high-school sweethearts broke their hearts and made them bitter, because black women demand things like support – financial, emotional, spiritual support – in addition to sexual prowess. How dare women expected to be cared for and fucked right! Who do they think they are? Multi-faceted beings with diverse and nuanced needs? Obviously men can’t keep up with all that pressure. The problem with toxic and dare I say it unevolved masculinity is patriarchy perpetuated by men and male-identifying women (who come in all sexual orientations, mind you) in a world where women do not need men to self actualize.
Isn’t everything better when you have someone to share it with?
Women owe it to themselves and to men to demand better and to hold men accountable for their contributions – or lack thereof – to individual women, to their communities, and to the world at large. Women need to come to a true understanding of femininity, of feminine energy and its relationship with the masculine, and we need to stop sleeping with the enemy, literally and metaphorically. But most important of all, women need to embrace womanhood with all its dichotomies and confusions and demand, by being true to it, that men do better. Men will always rise to the standard set by women.
That said, it is not women’s job to fix men. Part of the challenge of restoring balance between the feminine and the masculine is that so many of today’s men became men under the tutelage of women, women who, not being men themselves, have been, understandably, unable to teach men how to be men. There is a lot of work to be done by all concerned, and especially by the men who do get it who need to get men to get men’s shit together, and by women who understand and are willing to prioritise women’s contribution as women and not as men with vaginas.
I think about it a lot. See Skin Hunger 1 here.
What manner of touch can satisfy the hunger I have for touch that sees me,
Touch that feeds me and nurtures me,
Grows me and protects me?
Touch that gives to me and fills up the blank black spaces on my skin
With the intricacies of love and romance?
Skin hunger is a real thing.
It can even manifest as rashes, as stress pimples, as flaky scalp, as hair falling out for no reason other than that you’re horribly, unbearably lonely, whether or not you realise that.
Skin hunger manifests as rolling out of strange beds at irregular intervals;
As strange bodies that in the morning look out of place in your home;
Deep voices that suddenly grate;
Calls that never come;
Budding romance at 9pm that blooms into full life at 1am
And dies a quiet demeaning death before noon the next day,
Leaving a ravening shadow even more desperate for touch,
Prowling the streets for another hit.
Talk to your therapist. Drink your water. Fix your skin and your hair and the aches and pains of singledom. Do the work. It’s difficult but it’s doable, all it takes is love. Every day, as you pat your skin dry speak life into it. You are gorgeous and you are worth more than the one night stands you pretend serve your purposes. Stroke your own hair and speak lush life over it. It is your crowning glory, testament to your ancestry and to the strength of those who came before you, like your skin. Strength you can and should harness to create the love and the life you desire.
Practise self care, consciously and deliberately.
Love yourself hard.
Skin hunger doesn’t go away but when you stop thinking of it as a cross to bear and understand that it is evidence of fulfillment to come, you can walk tall knowing that being alone is not the same as being lonely;
Knowing that even if you are at times lonely
It is the loneliness that pushes you to do better
To cross the valley of shadows and drink the sun.
It is the loneliness that reminds you of who, when and why you are,
And to which you can defiantly shout: this is a now thing, not a forever thing.
And then the hunger passes, that achy skin hunger, and you live to love another day.
Skin hunger is real and the best way to resist the self-destructive behaviours it can inspire is to love yourself harder than you’ve ever loved before.
Love yourself fiercely, honestly, radically;
Give yourself the nourishment you need and one day you’ll look back on your years in the desert and use the knowledge and experience you gained there to help others come through unscathed.
We struggle not just for ourselves but for those who come after us. All of black womanhood is built on the collective experiences of each individual woman. Love yourself, love others, learn, teach.
Black women are not soft marshmallows but hot chocolate mousse: rich, decadent, luxurious; not for the faint of heart.
Black women are not cute kittens but lionesses, queens of their jungles, afraid of nothing and bowing to no-one except, by choice and desire, to their lion kings.
Black women are the embodiment of the triple magic of melanin, sunshine and moonlight, harnessing elemental power and bringing forth a femininity that demands both to be conquered by and to ride the strength of black masculinity.