How has toxic masculinity affected you?
My personal experience was always “because you are in this body, in this sex, you’re supposed to behave in a certain way and do things in a certain way”, and my body influenced the level of violence and violation that I went through. [When I was young], I felt like I needed to be more aggressive and forceful to make sure that men don’t take advantage of me because I’m in this body.
Now I embrace it differently. I’m able to play in both roles. Before, I didn’t want anything to do with femininity, because it makes me vulnerable to vultures who take advantage of that. Now I embrace everything. During Covid-19, I grew an afro, I had a James Brown look and my friends were like, “you are still so masculine, but so feminine in the same way”. You learn as a girl to embrace both.
How do you see us changing these notions of toxic masculinity?
There is power in asking “how do we come together and [hear] different voices in addressing this?” So this is one way of inspiring change, one way of building change and one way of shifting things if we continue to have this conversation within our households.
These [conversations] give young people tools to voice what they are feeling to their fathers, to say “this cannot go on” because it perpetuates violence and cycles of abuse. If we start changing how we talk, how we live, how we move around in these spaces; if we practice equality in our households and wherever we are and where we go; [if we] speak out to rally against these things, we can do it together. It’s about using our voices, using art as a tool, using whatever we can think of to dismantle toxic masculinity and institutions.
We need to spread love and kindness. My gospel is kindness and my religion is love. Everything else comes after that.
Talk about your foundation?
The foundation is based in an informal settlement, a squatter camp, outside Alexandra township, just by the Jukskei River. I’m a theatre practitioner and we gather people together to find solutions and to heal through forum theatre. We perform scenes and then [the community] can jump in and say, “no this is wrong” themselves. From there, we mobilised young women we’ve been working with, the same young women from 2017 to now.
We talk about finding their voices, helping to build resilience, not just to be strong to fight patriarchy, but also to fight themselves. [We want young people to know] that poverty doesn’t define you; you can triumph through all of that, you have resilience within, you can fight any situation. We also help them schoolwork.