I have written. I have read. I have edited and deleted everything and started again. I have cried. I have agonised. I have procrastinated. I have carried this work with me to London, to New York (twice), layovers in Cairo and Dubai – while doing other important work, always staying in to write at least one paragraph – and finally, when it was complete, I presented it in Mumbai. I have crossed into new years with this work. I have become an author in a completely new genre while doing this work. I have taken my time and given so much of myself for it to be here today and I’m just so grateful for the community that loved me and held me through this work.
Here’s to the end of the chapter titled: “Lebohang studies and completes a Masters degree – can you believe it?” I wasn’t prepared for how long and demanding this journey would be and the creativity I would summon to distract myself from doing it *enter children’s book and a whole new life as a literary figure* and the many steps it takes until it’s officially done done but we are finally here now. (I consider this the official end because the graduation ceremony is optional.) This research has been such a ride. I really got to know myself anew and witness my entire political beliefs do a 180° transformation. I got to sharpen my instincts as a researcher and to trust the guidance of my intuition. It’s also been very hard being on the opposite side of people’s moral stances and being addressed like a delinquent here and there. So it has been immensely affirming to recieve feedback from people who really get it. My convictions may make the work controversial but as long as I remain true to my personal ethic of thinking and writing about black womanhoods in ways that are respectful and dignified, I’ll be okay. When I approached the women with whom I worked in this dissertation, I promised that I would not reproduce the trope that the media loves; the lie that black women are either so hypersexual or so poor that they have to sleep with men for money. I’m not interested in that. I am interested in exploring adult women’s consensual romantic practices with their partners and the logics that inform their desire to only date men of particular financial and social standings, with the context of a neoliberal society. While I do consider the vulnerabilties and violence that these women could encounter, I am more interested in the pleasures and joys of their lives. I do not want to constantly represent black women’s lives as marred by struggle when there is a plurality of experiences and when we are out here living and loving happily, too.
A few weeks ago, on Tuesday 27 August 2019, I was invited to present a small portion of it on Power FM’s #AcademicDigest with Aldrin Sampear. I really enjoyed the converation. Aldrin really took the time to familiarise himself with my work and interview me in a fair and balanced manner. Here is the article and podcast. Please keep in mind that we had about 40 minutes and we did not disuss my +/-70 page dissertation in detail. The host and producers obviously highlighted what they found to be most topical.
The subsequent Twitter engagement was revealing and not at all surprising. People, and seemingly men, mostly, were against my work. People refused to make space for the possibility that people can be in wholesome romantic relationships and that women can have particular boundaries and standards. It is also remarkable that there people are so unwilling to open themselves to thinking broadly and understanding the myriad of women’s choices and sexuality without reducing them to prostitution. (I have no issues against sex work or sex workers and I refuse to engage in the moral shaming of any woman, ever). It’s also revealing that the constant scrutiny and negative analysis of women’s sexuality and romantic practices is confined to a certain race of women while other women get to live their lives unbothered and unquestioned (as they should). I appreciate all of the people who offered thoughtful responses, suggestions and critique. It was refreshing to have your insight and to also think differently about my work.
Here’s to more thinking and theorising. I have already begun my PhD on the same topic and I am so excited and a little apprehensive about this journey but the will of god will never take me where the grace of God will not protect me, okay?
Shout out to the National Institute of Humanities & Social Sciences (NIHSS), Dr N. Mkhwanazi, Prof. N. Falkof, Dr C. van Staden, Dr M. Wilhelm-Solomon, Dr D. Ligaga, Prof. L. Lingam and Mpumi’s Magic Beads for showing up with much needed light, affirmation and critical intervention when I needed it most to make this whole thing more wholesome and thoughtful. Who knew the day would come when this would be past tense?