On the Rainbow, Racism and Unanswered Questions

Everytime someone says something racist, people keep asking if black people can be racist. This is giving me sleepless nights and is making my head spin so this entry is a challenge to myself to think this through so I don’t collapse from dementia and also convince myself that I’m not cray cray.

As a country, we are not that great at talking about race and this is not our fault. Mandela’s Rainbow is a concept that has continuously been forced down our throats and now that we are vomitting it all out because life for black people is still shit and the Rainbow doesn’t feed us, people want to act shocked and surprised and blame third forces like they’d thought this Rainbow concept through in the first damn place.

I want to take a step back.

I think people were clear on what racism was when everybody was fighting to end apartheid in the 60s, 70s, 80s. It was the system, apartheid:  It was visible and had been oppressing everybody who wasn’t white, it was legal because there were laws put it place that made apartheid okay and it was institutionalised because it permeated and dictated every part of life. From toilets to beaches, every institution was separate, unequal, maintained for the clear purpose of subordinating non-whites and benefiting all non-blacks.

The anti-apartheid movement was huge and was inspired by many others that were taking place all over the world at the time. The movement also included white people which then put a spanner in the works in terms of identification of the real enemy, how to act in fighting this enemy, how black and white people were going to work together and more importantly, conceptualising what life was going to be like after the end of apartheid. Nevertheless, the struggle gains momentum, becomes stronger and more influential and people start realising and recognising their own power for what it is.

But then of course, this upsets the apartheid government and they go into a huge frenzy of arresting movement leaders, banning political parties and sending people into exile because of course the truth is one tough pill to swallow and power is one helluva drug. So the movement is in disarray but then Steve Biko emerges with black power and 1976 happens to again shake things up but then they kill him. They also kill Robert Sobukwe MK and POQO are also busy at this time but the whites remain unshaken and resolute.

What happens next is just my reading of events.

The ANC was big on non-racialism from the word go – that all South Africans get into kumbaya formation, love one another like the 1913 Land Act and colonialism never happened and stop seeing racial lines that we never created in the first place. Things are awkward now because Mandela, Tambo, Sobukwe, etc are in jail and the whites have to try negotiate with them because the other bigger bosses in London and Washington are threatening to not give South Africa some Rugby World Cup glory and of course of this is too much to bear for Botha and team.

So as the dominant political party at the time, the whites negotiate and who knows what happened to the question of land being returned to their rightful owners but the point here is that this obscure concept of non-racialism wins because whites needed reassurance that the natives were not going to kill them and they wouldn’t be forced to swim across the seas back to Europe. Then people vote in 1994 and while some people are unhappy (another story for another day), the euphoria takes over, we end up winning the Rugby World Cup, the TRC established for some of us to cry about our oppression, RDP gives some blacks houses to shut them up and the Rainbow Nation Project is in full swing.

Fast forward 20 years later and the Rainbow loses its chill.

Everybody is a racist and nobody can really tell us why and nobody is punished for a thing we feel and cannot name and condemn. Again, this is just my reading of how things are fucked up and stuff. I am saying that nobody really set the rules of engagement when it was decided that it was now okay to play play together – this is why this racism remains a thing. Back then racism was apartheid, it was all the people like Verwoed and his gang but is it that when apartheid ended, racism also ended? I think not. The Rainbow’s primary purpose was to make believe whites weren’t going to be racist anymore. But they have and for everyday, we have a new racist and everybody can fall into this category because the language for us to communicate effectively about racism was never saw light of day, a conscious decision was never made about whether or not we were keeping this black and white thing, we never really talked about how we were going to deal with racism and the fundamental circumstances created by racism that keep black people from flourishing in life, remain.

Blacks were sold out and sold dreams that have never materialised and people want to say black people are racist? The bus needs to there because black people do not have the capacity to practice a deliberate structural and institutionalised hatred and oppression that seeks to keep others inferior on the basis of their skin colour. We are not capable of this evil, there is something fundamentally wrong and twisted in imagining things this way and those on the “Ntokozo Qwabe is a racist for asking about the land” need to check their reading on the privilege barometer is and go meditate by the Rainbow.

The colour of our skins condemns us and the very systems created that seem to only benefit white people remain.

 

 

Of Fat Bellies, Protest, Violence and Laughter

Love this narrative by Tiisetso. The future is going to be very lit if Fees Must Fall is anything to go by.

nzingacollective

uct.pngBy Tiisetso Tlelima

Occupy Luthuli House! The moment had come; black students set to confront those in power. Those who are not only liable for the pain and suffering of fellow blacks, but also pride themselves in existing  as the buffer between the poor black majority and the insatiable white minority. Yes, the ones who call Luthuli House their home. They sit there every day you see, parading their fat bellies and stuffing their faces with Nandos.

Black students bellow: “Fees Must Fall!”

The big bellied people retort: “Students Must Fall!”

Then they laugh and laugh and laugh. They laugh so hard the students can see the fangs protruding where their molars should be.

The laughter is a loud thunderous one that pierces through the hearts of thousands of black workers who wake up at the crack of dawn to vacate the labour camp that is Soweto in order to…

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Winnie has solitary confined herself in lies

The UDM’s Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala presented some thoughts and arguments that got me and the Nzinga Collective quite excited on August 30. I tried to reflect on them in this piece.

nzingacollective

Winnie

A reflection on the “Winnie as a danger to the ANC” Nzinga Conversation by Silindile Nyathikazi

I don’t know about you, but for me there is a strong resemblance of Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala (KLT) to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. We have been cheated of both in the past and in more recent times.

People may differ when it comes to KLT’s credibility especially in the current political dispensation particularly with her recent move to the UDM from the EFF, but there is no denying that there has been a certain kind of way that KLT has stood resilient in a very charged, volatile and agenda-driven political space. Yes, many may have got to know her just because of the EFF but there is more to KLT than meets the eye.

There is a silence and stillness that engulfs the room when she speaks on issues, particularly those on Pan Africanism. When you listen…

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: Prisoner Number 1323/69

If Paki’s review of Winnie’s book is anything to go by, then our this talk on the 30th is gonna hotter than fire. I really like how one of the sub topics is how her politics have at times contradicted the dominant politics within the ANC. Whooo, iz gon’ so be naarce. Don’t snooze, don’t sleep.

nzingacollective

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This is a review of the book 491 Days. Prisoner Number 1323/69

By Pakama Ngceni

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela could have done with stage 4 load shedding in May 1969.

Police kicked doors open to her Soweto home, scavenged through intimate belongings, took her away, to a windowless cell. The only light came from the electric light burning day and night. This was the start of a 491-day period for her and 21 others rounded up under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, and thrown into solitary confinement.
“The difference between day and night or daybreak and dawn is hard to tell when you can’t sleep,” Winnie writes in her book, 491 Days. In the book, she shares diary entries written on loose pages and smuggled out of jail through her lawyer David Soggot.

491 Days almost reads like a liberation manifesto against captivity. That is if we could stop pretending that…

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21 years of deception

There’s this thing they always say about this distorted history that’s always been constantly fed down our throats ever since the day we learnt the alphabet but you never quite truly grasp the extent of it until you hear the truth from the horse’s mouth.

I sat and listened to Xola Tyamzashe talk about POQO and the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) one Saturday afternoon and got shivers down my spine, to say the least.

He gave facts and told countless stories of the hundreds of political prisoners still languishing in jail that will tear you to pieces.

The late Jafta Masemola was the longest serving political prisoner in South Africa, but do you ever hear anything about him? No. There are an unconfirmed number of APLA comrades still in jail and while there have been three sitting presidents under the ANC government who promised the release of these prisoners over 21 years ago, people are rotting in jail. Why? The ANC won’t give you that answer. Amongst these political prisoners still in jail, many are dying, getting buried in unmarked graves. Many are losing their minds and dying in this state. Some are released in secret but don’t have anything to come to be coming back to because of broken promises. No homes, no families, no work and nothing but emptiness to look forward to on the outside.

So apparently, the state does not recognise prisoners who fought in the struggle as political prisoners; they are regarded and treated like common criminals. After the negotiated settlement happened, these prisoners applied to be heard at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but they were never called for their cases to be heard. The government simply decided that they not be released. Today, the problem in our jails is so bad that apparently even prisoners who get charged on rape, theft, etc. are able to claim being political prisoners when they are incarcerated.

Cde Matigari weighed in on the discussion and also gave an analysis that broke me even more. He made it quite clear that the APLA problem is a problem of a liberation movement incarcerated and said: “The current system was simply inherited – it is the same system as apartheid but just under different management.”

He believes the fact that we still have freedom fighters in jail symbolises that we have a freedom that is not free. Of course, there is no greater insult than this because it symbolises an aborted project of national liberation. So imagine a whole country having a mass abortion with the few elites like Cyril Ramaphosa spitting at people, like they still do today.
The question then turned to what the psychology is behind this treatment? So apparently, and this should not come as news to most of us, but the ANC has never been about national liberation. APLA comrades are in fact casualties of a struggle betrayed. In other words, they actually never loved us, not one little bit.

“The problem with us is that we want to give birth without dying.” At this point I was freezing my ass off.

Fast forward to 2015 and and Cde Matigari says we are at the point where Robert Sobukwe and them were back then, i.e; a crossroads and decisions need to made about what we’re doing and where we’re going and there can’t be any more talks about a common humanity while we are not in a position of power, while we are in a position of weakness. We need to be defiant. We cannot continue to form part of the very system that oppresses us.

What we have been in the past cannot hold anymore. There is a need for rapture.

I still want to

I still need to go back to academia and teach. I still need to go back to academia and learn. Perhaps I still need to back to my mothers breasts and suckle all over again. Don’t think anyone knows anything for sure.

But, I still need to perform as an employed person, even though I was never prepared to be one, even though never  wanted be one. Actually, I never wanted to be one.

Anyway, I must still teach others what I never was taught myself. I must still teach myself! (Sorry, “they” are not interested in this part of my life.) They don’t even know this. I must still grow and flourish and still “stay slaying” in all of this mess that I’ve lived and that’s been handed to me.

In all of this, I  must still stay sane and level headed and still stay being on time for things that have got nothing to do with me or my bigger picture. In all of this, I must still obey and, as some would tell me, keep my head down. I must get dictated to because apparently that is how you learn. This is just something someone once told me.

In this world of constant disappointment, hate, crime and even more crime, I must still go home and find my big girl panties for the next day and for fuck sakes put them the fuck back on. In all of this, my emotions, my intuition and my gut are a big fat joke. In all of this I must still stay within the lanes of what they perceive is normal to them.

I am still expected to be creative, fresh and still have these great new ideas they expect from this so called new generation. Fuck. I’m still still stuck in the 90s.

So I looked at all this and wondered how in the hell all of this is expected of and from me? And yet, no one bothers to look back and think about who the teacher is that must teach, how the accountant must still count,  how the writer must still write, how IT guy must still IT things, how the coordinator must still make things happen, how the manage must still delegate, how the filmmaker must still have something for you to see, how the lover must still love and the lover, who still aches more than anything just to love…

Silindile

Looking at you dead, Malume

It was the most hurtful thing for me that hear you were no more. Felt like someone forcefully removed a chunk of my heart. It was hard for me to hear that tomorrow would come and you wouldn’t be there to see it with us. It was even harder for me to hear that you died the way you did. I don’t know what’s better, brutal or not.

No one could do anything, not even the strongest in the family. I know you would’ve wanted to kill somebody if that had happened to any of your siblings. I know how much you loved them. I know how much you loved their children. I know how much you loved your parents. I felt that love.

I know how much you wanted to spread knowledge and teach the world. The same things you wanted drove you to your end. I’m trying to understand this. I am still trying to understand you, even in your absence. I saw you dead in a coffin but I am still trying to understand because it’s only now that you’re gone, now that I am older, that I am trying to see what the meaning of all this life is. You tried to make us all see when we were all still alive. I love you so much. So much no one will ever understand. I just hope you know how much it broke me to see you not being  able to speak, shout, drink, smoke, play chess, cause havoc, speak your mind, impart knowledge and be free.

I know how much you ached for that. You used to live that. And we never understood that. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I couldn’t be there for you when you were always there for me when I was growing up. My protector. You were there before I even needed to know where I needed to be. Told me I needed to play chess, play sport, do well and school and do right by people. I love you so much for that. In your mistakes, I learned lessons and I admired you for teaching me  darkness and light. You don’t know what you mean to me, Seeing you dead in a coffin  changed the whole game for me. I am going to live better for you, your sunset left me with no other choice.

I’m sorry we couldn’t understand you better. I saw you dead. Dead in a coffin. And then you went into the ground. You were dead. Gone to me forever. I’m never going to see you again. I grieve. I still grieve. I love you Malume.

ps. thank you for your Tupac too!

Comrades believe it’s their turn to eat

Last night I watched John Kani’s latest offering, Missing at the Market Theatre and it felt me feeling unexpectedly emotional a little. I have some reservations about some of what I saw but want to share some thoughts about how I interpreted the story first.

The story begins in an icy cold Stokholm apartment which was appropriate for the night because Joburg was freezing cold last night. There is a family of three – an exiled Apartheid comrade Robert Khalipha, his white wife Anna Khalipha and their coloured daughter, Ayanda Khalipha.

It’s quite a nice family where evidently everyone has the space and liberty to make their views heard and they are heard, respected and taken into account. The women of the house are very chatty and love the man of the house deeply and the man of the house equally so.

The man of the house, now slightly aged, has been waiting for a phone call from the South African government since about 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, but the call has never come! He is frustrated, angry, old, sarcastic and witty, loving and quite open-minded. His daughter Ayanda is a doctor and is about to marry a white guy called Carl (who we never meet) and hates his father’s fellow struggle comrade and understudy, Peter Tshabalala who seemingly makes inappropriate advances at her all the time. The mother, Anna, complains about having to accompany her husband to events hosted by the Ambassador’s office (which he heads up), and equally, the husband complains about having to accompany the wife to business dinners with lots of men around.

Robert laments the call he has never received from the new South African government. He has been waiting for 30 years. I was moved when he recalled memories of his family and upbringing, almost in the form of a monologue. Robert was named Vuyolwenhliziyoyam (I hope I remember correctly) by his mother who lost two children before having him. He fought in the struggle but was one of the “lucky” few who were sent to go study overseas. This part of the story made me think about Thabo Mbeki a lot and John Kani’s uncanny resemblance to him didn’t help matters either, but I digress. Robert Khalipha is from a generation of ANC comrades who were mentored by The Great Oliver Tambo but his assistant, Peter Tshabalala is the opposite.

The family lands in South Africa for Ayanda’s introduction to the ancestors ceremony ahead of her wedding and things go well until Robert meets with President Thabo Mbeki and finds out Peter has betrayed him in the worst possible way.

Peter, who has served as Robert’s assistant for many years, has kept letters addressed to Robert from the South African president a secret from him, and moreover, has replied to these letters on Robert’s behalf without him knowing. These were letters ordering Robert’s return to South Africa where he would take up a top job in government. Peter defends his position by arguing that it is his turn now to eat and enjoy the fruits of freedom while Roberts retorts it is not his turn and he must instead wait for his time. Robert desperately tries to make Peter see that some among us were not born to be leaders but instead deputies and assistants to the leaders. Peter rejects this pointing to how he has always been second best and always shunned aside; at home, in the struggle and while working for Robert.

Of course the family is infuriated and everyone is shocked at what Peter the Judas has done – this is where things reach boiling point for the Khaliphas. The family, and in particular the wife and husband, are forced to confront a reality they have postponed for many years. Robert feels he is at home and wants his family to stay with him in South Africa and not return to Stockholm after Thabo Mbeki offers him a job as a Minister Without a Portfolio because the cabinet had already been taken. The president assures him of another post in a year’s time.

For considering the job offer and wanting to stay in South Africa, the wife accuses him of being no different to Peter Tshabalala – choosing his family over a government job just like Peter betrayed his comrade for the same. She gets even more unrelenting in her criticism when she asks why he didn’t go home when the struggle ended just like other comrades. Robert laments at finding out how comrades viewed him as a “house husband who married money (his wife) and without revealing too much, let’s just say things are tense for the couple at this point.

After a long and emotionally charged dispute with his family, Robert, to my surprise, decides to cave in and not stay in South Africa after all. For the wife and daughter, Stockholm is their home and they clearly are not keen to stay in this unfamiliar place called “Africa”. Robert bases his final decision to go back to Stockholm essentially on the fact that his job as comrade ended and was complete when Apartheid was abolished in South Africa. And so, the story ends with everyone going back to what they know as “home”.

But before I go, I just wanted to share and point out the following about what I felt, post the play.
It was my very first time seeing the legendary playwright and actor, John Kani, live in theatre so I was a bit star struck and in awe to be honest. I seriously enjoyed the uncomfortable truths he kept dropping and the uneasy but necessary humour he threw in there too.

For me, Missing juxtaposes comrades of the pre-1994 era and those we have now post-1994. Robert Khalipa continuously impresses on the Judas, Peter, that they fought for the people in the struggle and that what the politicians of today are doing goes completely against what they had stood and fought for. The fact that the play ends with Peter being forced to recite his oath of office speaks volumes. I walked out feeling disappointed that Robert opted to go back to South Africa but after thinking about it now, I understand his dilemma much better.

Missing is a must see because we need constant reminders of what role people like John Kani played in South Africa’s liberation movement, we need to stay woke about the magnitude of the damage Apartheid, corruption and the general decay of post 1994 South Africa.

On Being Labelled a Coconut

While walking home one sunny afternoon, some dude came up to me and called me a snob, said that I was aloof and that I walked around like I thought I was “better” than everyone else.

Said person continued to say that I never greeted him and never wanted to hang with anyone in the neighbourhood whenever everyone in the neighbourhood was gathered and hanging.

I can’t remember the year but it was somewhere during the late 90s in my early teens, I was probably about 12 when this dude stopped me in the street to tell me what (shit) he thought of me.

Needless to say, I was taken aback by the guy’s accusations mostly because this person did not know me from a Sunlight green bar soap. He only knew me from a distance, we had never had a decent conversation. So yes, perhaps my not paying attention to the guy may have across as me being aloof, even though I struggle with that reasoning in my mind.

He only knew me from watching me going back and forth daily from KwaMbatha, our local spaza and watching me come back from school every late afternoon, or playing with my friends in the street or going to and from church every Sunday with my family.

You see he was one of the corner boys, let’s call him Themba, those who seemed to have nothing better to do with their time than to torment young girls in the neighbourhood with some or other demeaning comment that was trending whenever we walked past. The corner was his beginning and it was his ending. Ok, maybe that’s a bit too harsh, but do you catch my drift?

So even though Themba did not know me, he knew a helluva lot about me. He knew where and what kind of house I lived in, maybe some of my cousins, maybe went to one of the township schools with them (if he ever attended classes) what school I went to, who my neighbourhood friends were – he seemed to have a whole a file of information on me, a file I was unfamiliar with.

His words to me seemed to come from a place of years and years of observation and research I was completely unaware of. He had been collecting and storing information on me while I was in complete oblivion and while I had no particular interest in who and what he was, which is what I thought pissed him off the most. I mean, I was I just carrying on with my life.

Despite the state of confusion and shock he left me in at the time, little did he know what impact he had on me and how I was to perceive the rest of the world going forward. See, I have always been aware that I (was) am an irregular girl living an irregular life. It was always clear to me that waking up before everyone else and coming back home after everyone else was not normal.

My cousin, uZama, who was my age, always boasted about being able to come home during lunch while I had to carry a skaftin every day. She only had to wake up a whole hour after me while I always had to wake up during witching hours to get to school on time, everyday! I had a homework book that had to be signed every night, while she didn’t. And I always had MORE homework.

When it was netball or some other sport season I participated in at school, I would be back home basically just before supper. My mother would never allow me to play too far from the house or go anywhere more that 200 metres away without her consent. She has always been the strictest of strict.

I, in essence, kind of lived two lives, while she didn’t have to. Everything and everyone she knew were in her immediate surroundings, while for me it was the opposite. I left for school in the mornings to go to school via school bus and almost always came back in the late afternoons. I never really quite lived in the township but I never quite lived in the suburbs where I went to school either. This is how I suppose the guy drew to the conclusion that I was a “Model C/Coconut”.

I’ve been thinking about this whole Coconut/Model C label thing for years now and I think I drew to the subconscious conclusion that even though I was born, bred, grew up in different parts of the Madadeni township in KZN but it has never been a real part of me, my being, my identity and who and what I have become.

This may seem like a paradox because I assume growing up in a certain setting has the most profound on a human being and it’s not like I do not celebrate where I come from but I’ve never been able to relate to the township in the way most would expect.

Being a coconut, as per my friend Themba’s definition, was never something I sought to become, it became me, mostly because of circumstance.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, for now.

‘Jezebel’ – The Unedited Version – City Press, November 2011

The edited piece titled ‘Jezebel? No, we control our lives’ was published on http://www.citypress.co.za/columnists/jezebel-no-we-control-our-lives-20111105/ on 5 November 2011. The is the raw unedited version.

Jezebel? No, we control our lives

“[…]Jezebel also used the spirit of domination and seduction to get her ways”, 2 Kings 9: 30, but how do we qualify a woman in this day and age as a Jezebel?

They occupy the passenger seats of many a snazzy BMW. At dinner tables, they order the most expensive drinks and meals and are stressless about who is footing the bill.

They have a particular type of man they choose to go out with and he is monied – no negotiations. As a man, to be in their company, you better be sure that your money can talk.

They are daughters, sisters and even mothers but we side-eye them and label them as sluts who like things. These are our modern-day Jezebels and the term does not come out of nowhere. Remember the original Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal and wife of King Ahab in the Bible?

She is said to have been an evil woman who practiced witchcraft and turned an entire nation to worship idols. Jezebels have captured our imaginations so much so that Kwaito artist Professor had an entire nation singing about his jezebel girlfriend who loves whoring around with DJs. Not to mention the Spikiri’s “Vat en Sit” released a few years ago (2002).

Anyway, just as we have upper and lower classes in society, the same differences also apply with regards to jezebels. On the one hand, we have the fairly younger ones attending at various institutions of higher learning or even high school girls who yearn for the high life more than the qualifications they left home for. Come “Phuza Thursday” night until Sunday or Monday, depending on the time of year, arrangements have been made and cars line up in their numbers while they get ready to go out, clad in the skimpiest of clothes even in the dead of winter.

These men, who are typically your young ‘black diamonds’ or tenderpreneurs, like to go out with these young women because they know they are easy, they like things and of course being taken places they could never afford with their own allowance money. They know that all it takes is some flashing about of a few hundred, chauffeuring them around to their favourite party spots and the ‘shag for the night’ deal is sealed.

On the other hand, you have your more experienced and ‘high class’ Jezebels who have graduated from the amateurish ways of those mentioned above. These ones are focused, know exactly what they want and will tell you with a straight face that they do not date, go out or sleep with any man who cannot pay her rent, buy her a car, take her shopping in Sandton and give her loads of cash.

These Jezebels are now looking for a life-long golden goose, and man-oh-man must those eggs be ostrich-sized! They scout for men who have what would seem to be perpetual wealth, and then do everything in their power to hook them (gym, expensive clothes on credit, boob jobs, skin-lightening, the works!), and then miraculously get themselves “accidentally” pregnant. As the joke goes, some Jezebels, as soon as they’ve hooked that man and fallen pregnant, call home: “Mama, I’ve found a job!”…

Take Khanyisile Mbau for instance, who is unapologetic about her pursuit of the bling lifestyle funded by men (married or not), and now Joyce Molamu, who is acting like she is a victim of Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula when it is clear that she willingly had sexual relations with a high profile politician who is married with kids.

That rumours are flying around that this 27-year-old model has a reputation for this sort of thing, and that Mbalula has labelled her an “extortionist” does not help her “I’m a victim case” very much either. She is now in the public domain and we as society have done what we do best and labelled her as undoubtedly a Jezebel who represents a generation of women who are home wreckers and like to get around as if they are immune to HIV/Aids.

This affair speaks volumes about who we are as young black women today and how much we value ourselves and our bodies. It speaks of the lengths young women are willing to go to to achieve their ambitions. My question is, why we can’t aim to compliment the rich men we want so badly by working towards being rich ourselves? Why must our dignity always be at stake in our pursuit of success? And do we always want to be remembered as that Jezebel who slept her way to the upper echelons?