Zodwa Wabantu not as revolutionary as once thought

Zodwa Wabantu
Image: Alon Skuy

A few weeks ago I made the comment that Zodwa Wabantu is the new-age feminist icon Africa deserves.

As a young woman who has been forced to live in a country that polices women’s bodies I was proud of the strides she has made in challenging patriarchy and I was mentally high-fiving her for her tenaciousness

From dancing in her threadbare outfits (allegedly with no underwear) I saluted her for taking ownership of her body in a society that makes it hard for us to do so. She was the epitome of how women should be able to walk around in their skin without fear of victimisation. We all know how impossible it would be to walk through the Johannesburg CBD without being verbally or physically assaulted just for simply wearing a mini skirt. 

But I respected her even more when she announced that she would be paying lobola for her fiancé. I was proud of the shackles that she was breaking for black women in the country and how she was challenging outdated traditions.

However, after the recent comments she made about gay men on her show Zodwa Uncensored, I found myself questioning if she is in fact as revolutionary as I had originally thought and if she sees the irony of what she said.  

On her show she mentioned how gay men need to stay in their lane and stop competing with women because they don’t have vaginas. I don’t have a TV so I saw the video clip trending on Twitter just hours after she had broken the internet again for her jaw-breaking outfit at this year’s Durban July.

Her candidness on her true feelings about the LGBTI community is the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I find it sad that she has used the very same utterances that have been used against her to talk about a community that has had her back from the first day she vosho’d into the limelight.

The same hate she has been spewing out to gay men is the same hate that has been thrown at her. Zodwa has been bullied and cast out by many straight women who think that they are the sole proprietors of femininity and how it should be presented to the world. All you need to do is throw in Zodwa’s name into a women’s church conference and you will hear similar remarks to those she made on TV - that Zodwa does not respect herself and that they tolerate women like her in the community even though they shouldn’t have to. She has been cast out by women who ultimately see themselves as holier than thou and accepted into a community that shared her pain. But the truth is that no one owns femininity, just as no one owns masculinity.

Zodwa, who has been challenging gender stereotypes and gender roles, is the last person who should have said that she "tolerates" gay people. Some of her defenders have argued that she isn’t educated on issues in the LGBTI community but since she has said in her defence that she has more than 20 gay friends, she should have known better and could have done better.

Her nonchalance on the seriousness of her comments on such a public platform is worrying in a world where the LGBTI community, particularly black, is always in the sights of violence.

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