CityPress - - Voices -

Wits Univer­sity Press 300 pages R350 n the be­gin­ning is the scream. We scream… The start­ing point of the­o­ret­i­cal re­flec­tion is op­po­si­tion, neg­a­tiv­ity, strug­gle. It is from rage that thought is born, not from the pose of rea­son, not from the rea­soned-sit­ting-back-an­dreflect­ing-on-the-mys­ter­ies-of-ex­is­tence that is the con­ven­tional im­age of ‘the thinker’.’ – Hol­loway, 2002.

Black ur­ban women are a force un­leashed in the #FeesMustFall move­ment.

Their strug­gle tac­tics are rad­i­cal. Women stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes Univer­sity (Rhodes) and the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand (Wits) em­ployed the fem­i­nist ac­tivist tac­tic of strip­ping to show dis­gust at so­ci­ety. They stood top­less at their bar­ri­cades, most of them young, black women. These acts evoked the mem­ory of Leymah Gbowee’s Women in Peace move­ment in Liberia. When forc­ing the war­lords and the men to make a truce, they oc­cu­pied the ho­tel where the peace meet­ings were be­ing held and threat­ened to strip.

As the 2012 pub­lic furore over Brett Mur­ray’s images of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma dis­played, re­veal­ing in­ti­mate parts of the body in the ur­ban con­text still of­fends many black South Africans (tra­di­tion­ally, women in ru­ral ar­eas went bare­breasted in pub­lic, so taboos around nu­dity are con­structed dif­fer­ently). The bare-breast protest by Rhodes and Wits women stu­dents thus smashes through pre­vail­ing so­cial norms, even ac­tivist norms.

Pol­i­tics be­gins with the scream. The scream is not pretty. The scream tears at the so­cial fab­ric of so­ci­ety. ‘Ugly fem­i­nists’ is about the body of the fem­i­nist and the nec­es­sary ug­li­ness in the fem­i­nist and/or rad­i­cal act.

‘Ugly fem­i­nists’ as­cribes hate­ful­ness to the fem­i­nist body as it vo­calises its rad­i­cal ag­gres­sion. The de­mure African ‘girl’ has been kicked aside by

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