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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Quiet casual violence of everyday actions

Every day we practice a quiet – or for some a loud – casual violence on ourselves. I'd say the noise surrounding the mess that is school hair rules like those at Pretoria Girls High, shows just how built-in the quiet casual violence is. We have internalized all these “rules” as if they're the norm, as if they speak for all bodies. When instead those rules have been designed with white bodies in mind, they force us to comply to this gold standard of whiteness triumphing over all. And we fall in.

We fall in with looking at ourselves each and every day with a critical eye that was created by others for our bodies. We look at our hair, and it is not straight enough, long enough...white enough. So we brush and comb until it hurts so that our hair can be neat enough/flat enough/straight enough…only it never is. Then we turn to chemicals that burn our scalps, leave open sores and scabs for weeks. And it is still not enough. The politics of decency is yet again, another way for others to control a woman’s body.

We look at our bodies, our hips, bums, and tummies are too round. Our noses too short and squat. Our shapes not good enough. Again, we tackle our bodies like it’s a thing we can beat, mould, starve, push into a pleasing shape. A pleasing shape for who? Because even when we get close to that pleasing shape we are still not good enough.

We police the way we talk; the words we use, the way we pronounce and enunciate certain words, all so that we can be told we are articulate. Which is the new code of you speak so well, for a person of colour. So we punish our tongues, our mouths, our minds. We read more thinkers who think the way we are told we should think. We quiet our voices for fear of being that loud women. We temper our thoughts, our thinking to go with the group because we see it every day when we disagree, the person we are engaging with shuts us out. Refuses to listen to us because we are just women.

This casual, quiet violence turns our bodies into battle grounds. We are told over and over that we will never be good enough. And it is not something just told to those of us of colour, it is told to every, single woman.

I don't know what the answer is to all of this. But I do know that the actions of those young women at Pretoria Girls High is astounding. I stand in awe of the way in which they are acting against the quiet casual violence of being.


  1. "I stand in awe of the way in which they are acting against the quiet casual violence of being."

    *Stands up and claps*


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