Last week Rachel Kolisi and the rest of Twitter caught me off guard in a bundle of confused nerves when social media was divided because of one of Rachel’s tweets. (Just a side note. I’ve been there for all the good times. But I’ve also been there for ALL the bad times. Honestly this should go without saying: Respect my relationship and woman to woman, respect me.)
This came after a thread of reactionary responses from Rachel who was pushed to the point of defending her marriage with Rugby player Siya Kolisi after she faced a storm of attacks from 'black Twitter' for being a white woman married to a black man.
The basic premise? If you marry a black man as a white woman, you must accept that we are entitled to him. In fact, one Twitter user even tweeted that she would “snack” on Siya and send him home, just for fun.
This is a complex and rather inconvenient conundrum that deserves a lot of introspection. On the one hand, this kind of thing happens all the time. Women thirst after men, objectify them, and to be fair, have every right to, especially in the safe realms of social media. Any potential risk of abuse or being taken advantage of is lowered.
Also, there’s the celebrity crush factor that we need to consider. A habit as old as time. Who didn’t have a Brad bible when they were younger or a Matt Damon diary or whatever? It’s pretty normal. Comes with the territory. So to vocally state that Siya is eye candy and that you’re “thirsty” for him is excusable. But, that’s not where the bar stopped. And so, the ball of nerves I found myself in started…
What is it about this specific instance that has me so… confused? I thought. Why is what’s happening here so different from the examples I explained above? Why, as a woman, do I feel so worried and disheartened? Disappointed even?
And then, I continued reading and it hit me in the face the way denial smacks you when you least expect it just to let you know you’ve been indulging in its safety too long, “It seems like #MenAreTrash (in the case of Rachel Kolisi) crosses gender lines, and in this case, women are trash too”. There it was. In black and white. On Twitter. The thing I most feared reading. The conclusion I most feared Twitter would come to…. Male Twitter that is. Because yes, it was a man who made that statement, and it’s women who gave him that ammo.
What are we doing?
The Rachel Kolisi saga is a bit different from thirsting after a poster boy.
She was well within her right to express her views, defend her relationship and define it no less on a public platform when another woman, a woman with a following of her own openly disrespected another woman (Rachel).
You see, the full story is that Rachel found herself watching “Being Bonang” when TV personality Lorna Maseko spoke about her friend wanting to date a black man. During the course of the conversation, Siya’s name came up. There was a bit of back and forth in the way of encouragement. “Sure, go after another woman’s married man” – that kind of thing.
The conversation continued on Twitter (as it does) and another user proceeded to call Siya a “type”. The type, basically, that has affairs with other women, who abandons the responsibilities he has in the form of four children and who is disloyal to his wife. In a nutshell, the #menaretrash type.
#MenAreTrash can definitively be described as masculinity evolving too slowly. For men to not be trash, masculinity needs to move in a direction of growth where its power and the exercise of it powers is less of a horrible experience and less jarring. Men have never had to confront their own genders. They have never had to confront masculinity. That is of course the sole purpose of a hashtag like this, to force men to sit up and take notice of why they are trash.
Women on the other hand are confronted by the fact that they’re women from the time they take their first breath on this earth and are wrapped in a pink blanket stitched with gender discrimination, unequal pay, sexual harassment, rape, abuse and a host of other things. This confrontation is true for Rachel and it’s true for Lorna.
So why then, are women eating other women?
If we are born into a world where our fight is imposed on us and we have to struggle for who we are, erase stereotypes and affirm ourselves, then why can’t we do it together?
Men are traditionally known as protectors and providers, these variables are handed down from father to son (according to the psychologies), however, there is no proof that that we cannot deviate from the ‘typical’. After all, it’s not so long ago that the ‘typical’ was that only men could play sport. We have proved that women can do that too, so why don’t we start working on proving that women can protect and provide for other women as well?
We have evolved as women, but our ongoing struggle, our struggle by the virtue of being born as women does not excuse us from growing past a stubborn and jarring position when it comes to other women.
We need to start asking ourselves: “what type of woman will we be?”
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