Monday, July 28, 2008

What’s love got to do with it?

I’m still reeling from a not-so-gentle and well intentioned scolding that I recently received from a beloved matriarch. She had enquired about my plans for the day. After listening, she told me in a flash that my two hour schedule would need at least double the time and so I would be running late before I even step out of the door.

My matriarch’s no holds barred approach, jolted me into the re-evaluating the phenomenal superwoman legacy I inherited as a mind-condition and a tradition that likely requires re-orientation. The fortitude of our foremothers is to be acknowledged, respected and admired – yes, but in our times, it is apparent that a different type of strength is needed for survival.

After advising me to simplify my life, my matriarch’s closing words were: ‘what ever you think you are doing by consistently over charging your day, it is not love’

What’s love got to do with it, you may ask? Well, everything! In our increasingly pressured and busy lives, the culture of being busy is something we as women use as a yardstick to measure our worth.

The side-effects of juggling families, careers and all that makes up ‘life’, spell one word – stress! In our stress addiction, we become trapped in a paradigm of doing rather than be-ing present and taking time to live and be love. We complain about it, yet we perpetuate it. So, we can change it!

August is women’s month in South Africa. It’s a time when odes to women abound through numerous celebratory activities. We mark the month in recognition of women’s courageous role in the fight for freedom in apartheid South Africa and continued role in creating a new society.

In an admirable bid to recognise and reward women, a slew of South African award ceremonies like Woman of the Year, Women in the media, Women in Government in Business and others, spotlight women who are transitioning society. What links them all? A core virtue - service in love.

While basking in the glow, I ponder when last we took time to taste every morsel of food in a delicious meal, when we just stopped to breathe, and when we will realise that loving ourselves first has everything to do with be-ing. Does it follow that the more we do, that the more people who are touched by our love cloaked as busy-ness (often to the point of martyrdom) the better?

According to my matriarch a resounding NO! She believes our creator had other plans for us. She often reminds me of a simple philosophy directed by nature. As the sun goes down, so it is our time to slow down. Her matriarchal wisdom goes as far to suggest that at night time we should not turn on lights or use electricity, as it is precious time, an invitation to restore, replenish and rebalance.
Lights out, love in!

Monday, July 21, 2008

It never fails to amaze me how the fashion industry has grown to be so influential in every sphere of our lives. Every season the style mercury rises set by hot heeled Fashionistas and pouting models and iconic musicians.

Hi-gloss catwalks from Johannesburg to Kingston, from New York to Paris, seduce us into believing that if we are not in tune with the latest hemline, we are somehow less than we could be.

As world spaces evolve into global villages, it begs the question whether our grandmothers and their mothers enjoyed greater freedom to just be. I imagine life was far simpler back then. What influenced their style expression?

Our apparel speaks volumes about us before we even open our mouths. Power dressing, hip hop, bling are all potent symbols and images of power. The choices we make in presenting ourselves to the world are pawns in a power game, a dance of smoke and mirrors.

Over the ages, gender activists marched, burnt bras and many died in the quest for equality. After the blood, sweat and tears, just how free are we to just be as women? Some might say, we, multi-talented, multi-faceted, multi-tasking queens never had it so good.

South African society has walked a long road in the fight for gender equality. There is still a long way to go. In a country where incidents of abuse and rape are alarmingly high, power dynamics between the sexes is a burning issue. Freedom of expression, be it through voice, dress, the media or otherwise, is a human rights issue.

Earlier this year, women wearing mini-skirts were assaulted by men at a taxi rank because their clothing was said to be provocative and inviting rape. Fittingly, this event sparked outcry, protests and swift moves from government and civil society to denounce such behaviour as unacceptable.

Last month, research figures exploring people’s feelings about whether revealing attire contributes to the chance of being raped were released. In this, the second study (the first in 2006) there were significant drops. In 2006, 33% of South African metropolitan adults as opposed to 23% in 2008 agreed that women wearing revealing clothes were asking to be raped. That men are taking it upon themselves to beat women into conservative attitudes of compliance indicates there are still many battles to be won. Rape and violence being issues of power rather than sex is really where it’s at.

From mini-skirts to pant suits to midriff exposing lo-rise jeans, who or what influences our dress and what does it say about us? Women of this millennium have more opportunities than ever before to define their iconic style sensibilities. Let us consciously embrace our alluring chameleon like nature and create engaging, sometimes mysterious, sometime brazen expression in honour of our evolution. Let us be.