/ 12 April 2023

Friday is a feeling |  Why too much pubic discourse can be a distraction

‘Bitches Brew’: ‘A Married Torso Presenting a Plum in the Left Hand and Hiding a Knife in the Right Hand’ by Lady Skollie.

Eish. This is going to be a tough one. I genuinely have been trying to avoid saying anything controversial for the past seven years after my book The Way I See It trended for three days and it took Andy Murray winning the Open in 2016 for me to stop trending on social media. 

I hope this column will simply slip past the Twitter police because the last time I was dragged for filth and sworn at for telling my truth, so I’m counting on the fact that there are more titillating topics than my random thoughts. But … yhu ha-a … I am tired of discourse. THAYAD!

I’ll be the first to point out how rich this is coming from me. My book was about South African discourse; I wanted to talk about the things we didn’t want to talk about publicly and, since then, boy have we been talking. 

I never ever thought discourse would cause me fatigue — I like to talk and I like talking about difficult subjects — but these days, even something as mundane as food can be a subject to unpack. 

There’s a video I bookmarked on Twitter where a sister was saying the same thing: “Every day, day-in and day-out, it’s a thought, it’s a hot take on a topic. I don’t want to have another thought again.”

I feel her so deeply. It’s a hilarious video but the truth is immutable — everything posted on social media is subject to scrutiny, vitriol or ridicule.

You post your child’s birthday party and people read you the riot act about good parenting, you don’t post your partner and the Twirra investigators open a case so they can find out who it is, but if they can’t, they’ll claim he’s cheating on you and that’s why you’re hiding him. 

Two black men hugging each other is gay, feeding your dog Woolies meat is nouveau riche. Tell us you’re a Drake fan and we’ll call you a misogynist, claim to be a “Proverbs 31 woman” and we’ll label you an enemy of feminist progress. Issalot. 

Being yourself has become so divisive I’m sure people can write a paper about why certain members of the population shouldn’t be allowed to breathe in certain areas of the country/world/universe. It has never been truer than it is now that “opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one”. 

What irks me is that, these days, we have opinions about things that are none of our business. Instead of hydrating, aligning our chakras and minding our own damn business, we’re out there questioning things that should not be taking any of our mental real estate. Because, I don’t know about you, but between load-shedding, corruption, an inept government, rising interest rates and the amount of work we’re doing for very little pay, there’s a lot of our own personal and state business to mind.

This is why I find the conversation being raised by Lady Skollie, Sanell Aggenbach and Lucinda Mudge in their joint exhibition at Joburg’s Everard Read Gallery so fascinating. Sharing a title with one of my favourite jazz albums by Miles Davis, Bitches Brew explores the treacherous territory that is feminism in a time of gender-based violence in South Africa. 

With artworks with titles such as Punani Escapes Fire (a real Daily Sun headline, I might add) and A Stiff Cock Has No Conscience, the exhibition is audacious, stirring and unapologetically feminist. It poses questions about us as a society and how we’re numb to violence. 

Obviously, I’m not saying we all have to be artists to have an opinion but discourse should move us forward instead of making us attack each other for arbitrary things like which glass is best to use for wine. The problem with too much discourse is that too many issues all at once makes us numb to any issue, even if it’s important to discuss. 

Bongeka Gumede has written an insightful piece on the growing “fast fashion” trend. Back in the day, we had to wait for the big retailers to charge us an arm and a leg for a colour-blocking ’fit. Now all you have to do is hit an Instagram boutique to get the same thing for half the price  and in half the time. 

Admittedly, social media boutiques have also left many down in the mouth after ordering based on a beautiful picture and receiving a dodgy, dissimilar, creased version. 

Once again, this type of discourse is crucial because it’s a conversation about quality over quantity. From MaXhosa Africa to Gert-Johan Coetzee, South African designers are finding their designs being modelled by mannequins in Smal Street and this is having a negative effect on their brands and their bottom line.

Times are tough; fast and affordable fashion is satiating the urgent need for the latest trends, but in the same way you can’t subsist solely on chicken wings, ribs and slap chips, fast fashion has an adverse effect on the economy, the environment and local businesses.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying we must put an end to societal discourse — Lord knows that genie is long out of the bottle and floating somewhere in Pretoria — but we’re living in crazy times where we seem to be going backwards instead of moving forwards. 

Countries like Uganda are criminalising homosexuality (side note: this is why heterosexuals keep being dragged by the queer community — we’re too concerned about other people’s sexual preferences instead of minding our own heteronormative business), abortion is illegal again in America and politicians the world over are proving to be malignant narcissists who live in a reality distortion field. 

We have real problems, people. We have a world that needs our attention and solutions. Writing a think piece about Wiz Khalifa’s ugly feet is not the best use of your time. 

The end.