Thursday, 12 January 2012

Le mal(e)

On the farm, I wanted to pour everyone a glass of wine for dinner when my gran looked at me sternly and said that I should let my cousin do it because he is, after all, the man in the room. I have no problem with gentlemanly behavior, hell, I find it rather encouraging if people have nice manners and if men treat women like ladies. But if I've got the bottle already in my hand, if I am a second away from pouring, it is silly to me not to do it because I was born with a vagina.

It angers me incredibly when people tell me I cannot do something for the simple reason that I am female. To this day, I have not met many men that were not in some form or another a disappointment. Everyone is flawed, everyone makes mistakes, and these stupid gender rules that my grandmother and many others live by irritate me endlessly - I have grown up thinking that I could do anything, that my rights and my role in society was equal to every other person's, irrespective of race and gender and age and whatever else you could list as a reason to separate human from human.

Times change, mindsets adapt, but the old cling to their doctrines as though they were drowning in the thinking of the new age. I will also be old and frustrated and feel a sense of loss because I am being replaced by younger generations who ignore that their achievements could not have been accomplished without the foundations that their lineage laid down.

But I think it is stupid to say that you cannot change the old, that "because they are old" you cannot have a discussion with an elderly person. I love my grandmother, but I cannot stand to hear her speak of the k*****s, of the "anderskleuriges" ( people of a different colour) as though we were not all the same. And she should know better : she speaks fluent Sotho ( one of the 11 national languages), she built a school for the black children on the farm, she always treated the workers on the farm with dignity. Also, she says that the best time in her life was when she worked as a teacher before she got married, and her biggest regret is not doing it for longer. In a life filled to the brim with more fantastic experiences and a great family, I cannot understand why she fixated on those two years of independence,but tells me that I should submit more to a patriarchal way of thinking.

I like hearing old stories and asking questions that only my grandmother can answer since she has lived the longest. She should be wise and I should learn from her, I should be able to take her life and mould mine accordingly, but all I want to do is shake her and say that for 60 years, she has believed wrongly,that she is ignorant and foolish and keeps making these errors without accepting any blame, without taking any responsibility. I want to say, "Ouma, skrik wakker, wees in beheer van jou lewe, en hou op om die heeltyd so flippen die moer in die wees. Alles was jou keuses" ( Gran, wake up, be in control of your own life and stop being so damn angry. Everything was your own choice). Instead, I ask her if she wants more coffee, listen to every story and complaint 20 times because she forgets she has told them before, and forgive her for not being what I imagined a grandmother should be.

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