A birthday Initiative
The #MeToo movement has empowered women to reveal the global extent of gender violence and harassment, but revelation in itself does not create change. "Many of us feel powerless in all this," says IAWRT South Africa Chapter head Makganwana Mokgalong.
So IAWRT - South African chapter supported a young woman's birthday initiative as part of its contribution to the #MeToo movement. This poetic sharing is Mantedieng Mamabolo's #MeToo.
For Mantedieng's 30th birthday, Mantis (nickname) wanted to put together comfort packs to give to an organisation called Matla A Bana which works with the police in handling cases of child abuse - According to IAWRT South Africa "this practical act is a bold stand in the face of what feels like a solution-less nightmare - Mantis doing what can get done is inspiring to us" says the chapter head.
The possibility that the first sexual experience will not be consensual is undoubtedly high.
Tint the shade of the skin a tad.
Coarsen the hair atop their crown.
Dusty up the streets upon which they walk every day.
Imagine an immature vagina between the thickness of thighs.
That possibility lessens with certainty and becomes probability.
It is probable that the first sexual experience of the Black girl child will not be consensual.
This is not proven or documented as fact. I do not need info graphs from FactCheck in the comments. This is also not an opinion that I hold. I do not need your point of view and discussion hereafter. I will not listen on the radio. Lived experience being a Black girl child informs this probability.
I was five.
The story is not a unique one and you have probably heard some version of from the Womxn who glitter your life. I was somewhere I was not supposed to be because toxic masculinity rules the streets. I was with the boys who lived two doors down from home; them not that much older than I was, but already undesirable in their actions before even their teen years. My first sexual experience happened. Unconsented.
On top of me.
I went home, threatened into silence, and fell into a slumber so violent, unspoken and never ending. My sexuality awakened, unconsented, my entire relationship with my own sexuality, already determined, was to play itself out in that state of slumber; a dream, without rest. An unhealthy relationship sparked with myself,
sparked outside of my consent. Outside of myself.
Don't touch me please.
Unable to believe your embrace platonic.
Don't kiss me on the lips please.
Scenes of painful pecks replay themselves.
My demeanor always defensive.
Ready to put up the fight I could not have possessed.
I was five.
I am thirty.
I want to say consent has been a constant in my sexual experiences since, but I would be lying.
In a society that fails to educate its children of what it truly means to consent, the line between sex and rape blur in proclamations of love and drunken nights that end in sex not considered.
I am not sure if I am fully awake, but I have since stirred from the endless night of violent slumber and in this state of woke I keep moving.
My next sexual experience, as a Black, queer and non-binary Womxn, existing in patriarchal dominance, is not guaranteed to be consensual. It probably won’t be.
Mantedieng Mamabolo’s #MeToo.
16 October 2017.
If every Womxn who has been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
My morning begins around 6:30am. Like most in my generation, characterised by an almost complete immersion in digital media, my morning begins with a now habitual scrolling through Facebook. The above post is first on my timeline. The individual who posts it is well versed in the “Men Are Trash” hashtag, so I read it as another extension of the Black womxn’s rage and move on to the next. Twelve statuses in, I notice that the same status appears for the third time. I scroll up and sit up for the first time in my day. The third #MeToo post comes through from a mixture of six Black men, four Black womxn, a nice White lady and a suggested post. My intrigue dares me to look a little closer, so I tap on the hashtag and my soul is rocked.
Friend A went to a party and woke up with only her panties awkwardly wrapped around her one ankle, and no recollection of saying yes.
Acquaintance A cannot remember a yes but has clear memories of a mutual friend thrusting in and out of her body. He still occupies space on her friends list.
Friend B lays her truth bare in a post, long and graphic in its account of the one attack. The perpetrator is kin to her and I.
I believe them. All of them. Friend. Cousin. Friend. Acquaintance. Celebrity. Activist. Friend post after post. I believe them all.
14 October 2017.
Her friends call for me to come and pick her up. She has been raped. A boy from school. Today is her 15th birthday.
23 April 2016.
I am on my way to an interview for a job I don't want but desperately need. I walk past a construction site at 7am and the wanting spits at me in comments about my ass and descriptions of how my body would be used to fulfil the fantasist of bricklayers. I am shook. I don't get the job.
I keep scrolling. I believe them all. I keep scrolling. Black men remain nonchalant in the posts. I notice the silence of White womxn as the pain of Black womxn screams at me.
Flashbacks of running through a taxi rank. My gender questioned and answered with threats of rape and violence. He came close. Twice.
I am five years old. . A scrap car. Cream in colour and without its windows is parked in the backyard of a place I was never supposed to be at. Time and time again, mama said never to go there, but here I am. A game turns to my shorts and panties awkwardly wrapped around my ankles and me flat on my back with the youngest of the neighbourhood’s troublemakers taking turns. Happenings beyond my immaturity and comprehension occur and I hold that in, for 25 years.
I believe them. All of them. I believe me. #MeToo opens a new world of pain for me but in the many posts I find strength and light and love for the resilience of womxn.
Illustration used with the kind permission of Laurier Richard.