Opinionista Vuyokazi Futshane 16 November 2017

Sleeping with a feminist is not a conquest: My relationship with a banker

Unfortunately for fake feminist allies, for classic nice guy f**k boys, and for the rest of those on a mission to put difficult womxn in their place, womxn-hood and the manner in which we choose to express it is not a rehearsal for wife-hood.

Feminism, contrary to public misconception, is not a hatred for men. It is a declaration that equality is not predetermined by hetero-normality or one’s sexual reproductive organs. Over time it has evolved from fighting for womxn’s suffrage to an all-encompassing movement that challenges the subordination of womxn, politically, economically, socially or otherwise. So it perplexes me that in 2017 I still have to pen this article about patriarchy that still finds its way into our most intimate spaces, that unbeknownst to us it still enters as invited guests between our bed sheets.

A few months ago, I attended Malebo Sephodi’s launch of her book Miss Behave. I recall being deliriously excited about that night, a space where like-minded individuals would be gathered. There are still surprisingly few such spaces where feminists can come together to release. I’d attended the launch braless, wearing a T-shirt with the words “Fokof Patriarchy” across my chest. I was of course being deliberately defiant. Malebo’s book had re-fuelled my rage against sexism.

A single quick glance across the room indicated that most of the men in attendance were with female friends or their significant others. So meeting a guy who was there in attendance alone, simply because he had read Malebo’s book and had an interest in feminism, was the last thing I had expected to happen. But it did.

We hit it off and a courtship began. Among other things we spoke about the book, and how he didn’t necessarily identify as a feminist but shared the same sentiments on gender equality. We reflected on the conversations of that night, in particular the irony of feminists’ critique of men they still chose to go to bed with. This raised what I’d labelled my ‘intimacy issues’, and how I’d found celibacy an easier route to take rather than navigate the uneven power dynamics that often accompany sexual relations between men and womxn. He wasted no time in offering to help me fix these intimacy issues. A week or so later, I discovered that he conveniently forgot to mention that he had a wife and child. “They now walk among us,” I thought, annoyed by this new form of duplicity.

Determined to stay away from fake feminist allies, I fell for another wolf in sheep’s skin. A classic nice guy f**k boy. He was open about his social conditioning, that he was admittedly oblivious to his male privilege. He described himself as just a guy who worked at a bank and wasn’t exposed to the systemic injustices I was so passionate about. He said he wanted to learn. I took it upon myself to enrol him in a process of social justice education, recommended readings and documentary nights in tow. Fast forward a few months later, it became apparent that I was a challenge he meant to conquer. Sleeping with me was an affirmation of how the world should be, and the emotions that ensued were an indication that I was becoming a normal womxn, that  I ndizithobile (humbled myself). 

“Your son does not know how to love a woman without trying to erase her from herself, without trying to burn her into ashes, without trying to possess her body.” These are the words of Ijeoma Umebinyuo in her poem Conversations with Broken Girls and this is the best way to sum up my relationship with the banker.

I’ve had friends pull me into the bathroom during a night out because my feminism was rearing its ugly head again, because it made the men we were with uncomfortable. That it is unacceptable to quote the Woman’s Charter in conversation at the same night club where it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to stick his hand up my skirt. I have been cautioned more times than I care to remember that I should tone it down, that this “angry feminist vibe” is off-putting and no man will want to date me. I have been coached by well-meaning friends to not bring up #MenAreTrash or abortion rights or my disapproval of lobola on first dates. Chomie they won’t come back, you are difficult kodwa nawe, uyawoyikisa amadoda (you are scaring men away)”. Good, I say. To quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in,as a response.

These anecdotes are an indication of the gratification men still obtain from the sexual domination they seek in relationships with womxn and the difficulties we still face in loving them.

As a feminist, relationships have become miniature concentration camps, where I find myself suffering through an acquiescence of normative gender roles in the name of love and companionship. Are masculinities so fragile that they are defined by the illusion of power men think their sexual organ yields? Are they so unevolved that they require their validity through a womxn’s conformation?

The banker actually told me one day I would meet a man whose dick was so good, I wouldn’t hesitate to marry him,” that somehow sex would erase my ideologies and the craving for sour milk and goat’s meat (served to a new bride in a Xhosa ceremony called Utsiki) would overwhelm me. It is completely baffling that there are still men who think womxn who do not conform to normative behaviour, womxn who don’t want marriage and kids are weird and that they need to be socially corrected with a penis.

Unfortunately for fake feminist allies, for classic nice guy f**k boys, and for the rest of those on a mission to put difficult womxn in their place, womxn-hood and the manner in which we choose to express it is not a rehearsal for wife-hood.

Our bodies are not your unholy communion. DM

Vuyokazi Futshane is a social justice warrior dedicated to the realisation of a just and equal society who works as a researcher in the non-profit sector and is currently pursuing an MA in Anthropology focusing on a human rights perspective towards decriminalising sex work in South Africa. Her special interests lie in Pan Africanism, Afri-feminism, intersectionality, redistributive justice, social transparency and accountability

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