Wednesday, 18 December 2013

TEDx Johannesburg Women

Earlier on in December I was fortunate enough to be invited to the first TEDx Johannesburg Women Talk. For one of my Multimedia majors at university, it was required to study various TEDx talks for our end of year examination. Even though I found this method of education a bit strange I would repeat all the TEDx talks and even recommend them to my friends and family. After attending the TEDx Johannesburg Women Talk, I wanted to repeat the experience and found myself telling all my friends about what I had heard and learned.

View The Madiba In The City Exhibition at
TEDx Johannesburg Women took place at the Gordon Institute of Business in Rosebank, Johannesburg. It was my first time attending a TEDx talk and it would definitely not be my last.

Women from different backgrounds and industries all had something enlightening to say to the women and men in attendance.
An experimental musician, social justice activist, journalist, engineer, supermom, game design lecturer and poet were all among the speakers who would share their wisdom that day.

There were four sessions and two of these were webcasts form San Francisco.
If I could, I would have recorded everything the women spoke about but when you are as engaged in a conversation as I was, the last thing you want to do is distract yourself with technology.

I refer to the talks by the women as conversations because it felt like each woman was talking to me and me alone.

Desray Clark, a gender activist spoke words that no woman wants to hear or speak herself:

"You strike a woman you strike beach sand" - Desray Clark

I agree with Desray. Woman have become very weak. Among other women they appear to be the strongest women who have ever lived, just put them in a room with men and they fade into the background. Even though that might be a basic summary of what Desray had to say, it is the absolute truth.
I always acknowledged to myself that women had become a lot weaker than the women who fought for our freedom in 1956, however hearing another woman, a stranger say that South African women have become quiet made me realise that it is true.

Read Posts From The Women's Month Series

Clark also mentioned that women do not support each other, and she is right. Whether at work or in a social environment women are always bringing each other down. There is no way we will be able to function as a society if we are forever looking for the bad in each other.

Maria McCloy
After Clark told an anecdote about a recent trip where she watched a lioness fight, she mentioned that women need not be afraid of being lionesses and when choosing your man, choose a lion not a hyena. Men love lionesses so be a lioness.

Every now and then we would laugh at the jokes the speakers would share during their talks but no one was laughing when Gillian Schutte started speaking.

The social justice activist spoke the truth everyone whispers.
Before she let the audience know of her subject, she told us that she had been called a black wannabe, self loathing and a witch to name a few painful nouns.
Just judging from her outer appearance, I could not understand why someone would say such about someone else but when she asks white people to stop saying BEE oppresses them, you can only help but wonder what other hurtful words have been used to describe her.

I may not be white but that does not mean her talk about 'whiteness' did not apply to me. Black men and women who attended previously model c schools and have reaped the rewards of a democratic South Africa, always seem to distance themselves from black people who are still living in the township or rural South Africa. Not only do black people need to stop distancing themselves from their brothers and sisters, white men and women need to also stop thinking that BEE is a form of oppression.

Schutte mentioned that 91% of all CEOs in South Africa are white males and as far as she concerned that is not a reason to complain about BEE.

"Fear wears a black man's face" - Gillian Schutte

Besides asking white people to stop denying their racism, she told the audience about her son who is both black and white. The lessons she taught her son are those that can be taught to anyone and should be taught to everyone.
She has taught her son that not all black men are tsotsi's and she did so by referencing her husband and asked her son if he thought his father is a tsotsi.

As painful and eye opening Schutte's talk was, it is very necessary that all men and women, look within themselves and get rid of the underlying racism we still have in South Africa.

After Gillian's honest conversation, we all took a break for lunch and I got to interview Maria McCloy.

McCloy is an urban culturist, publicist and journalist. Dressed in modern African attire, I immediately thought about how people most probably box her into a certain category. Reasons why I knew she has been stereotyped is because I have fallen under the same stereotypes as she has.

During our conversation she mentioned how South Africans are dressing 'african' because western designers are saying it is alright to dress 'african'. She also asks, why can't we dress in African attire everyday, why do men and women only dress in African attire when attending a formal event?
A question she gets asked when she is dressed for the day is: "Are you going to a wedding?" McCloy wants men and women to be proud to wear their African dress everyday and stop believing that the western way of dressing is normal.

McCloy wants women to know that it is perfectly fine to wear clothes that are indigenous to South Africa and you do not need to be attending a wedding or funeral to do so.
McCloy is grateful that western designers have embraced African attire but she is scared of what will happen when the trend wears off. With women like McCloy I definitely do not think the African trend will die off anytime soon. We are lucky to have someone embrace African attire the way she does.
Messages to Nelson Mandela
Read The Tribute To Nelson Mandela Blog Post
The TEDx talk is an experience I can only write so much about. In order to realise how great it actually is, one needs to attend the talks. Besides hearing the brilliant speakers tell their stories, you also get to meet women and men from South Africa who are interested in what you are interested in, or who will even teach you something you already did not know.

If you have the oppurtunity to attend a TEDx talk, grab it with both hands. You will definitely leave as a new person.


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