#MediaMatters

Lenina Rassool
Posted August 26, 2020 from South Africa

I am a journalist/writer by profession, but a few months ago, I wrote my very first personal piece. I submitted it for possible publication and it wasn't selected. Which is okay. It was my first one. So I'm posting it here because I want it to have a home.

These are from my actual journals over the years. The purpose of the piece was to illustrate the dissonance between our (or rather my) inner and outer worlds, the hiding of the true self, not listening to the self and also the false narratives around love that buries the truth in journals. But it was also to highlight the narratives that are fed to women that lead to us questioning ourselves and also staying in spaces that are no longer - or perhaps never did - serve us.  ________

TITLE: UNSCRIPTED

“Cowboys don’t cry” my father said, in a sissy voice. Fingers mockingly rubbing dry eyes. His face uncomfortably close to my brother’s.

As a young girl, I knew this was not true, even though I could not pinpoint the untruth in his authoritative voice that I was too good to question.

Later, as a young woman, men’s tears looked like love, commitment and sensitivity, and I struggled to challenge the untruth in the voice of partners that I was too nice to question.

Perhaps I should have known, as a psychologist once told me, that relationships often start the way they end. Mine started in tears....on a bench at Seapoint Pavilion, wrapped in blankets in full view of public faces and spaces. In spite, or perhaps because, of the tears, something in my worldview made it seem romantic.

“I’m sorry,” he cried. “It’s okay,” I said. “Maybe...maybe...maybe you didn’t realise that we’re that serious,” I reasoned to him...and with myself.

How stupid that sounds now. But oh, those tears. Man tears. Flowing just for me. After all, cowboys don’t cry, right? ____

07 2010: I feel as if I am in a love triangle...I haven’t voiced it out loud for a long time - but it’s time: X, myself and our past, X, myself and the women from his past, X, myself and the women in my head, X, myself and the man he used to be. ___

21 2011 I am about to explode...with anger, sadness, frustration...tears. All things not good. It’s times like this that I wonder where all the goodness has gone. Where am I in my life. I am getting engaged at the weekend. To someone I feel I barely know sometimes. I... ____

24 2012 And even though I have all of this, I’m Googling Post-Wedding Depression. Cos let’s face it, I’ve been pretty depressed. And I can call it ‘lost’ or ‘directionless’ or ‘no purpose’ - but truth is - I’ve been a teensy weensy tad depressed and I don’t know why. ____

, 18 2016, 23:38 I got divorced today. X and I got divorced today. We were the only couple where both parties were present. The judge asked me the reason. “Adultery” I said. He asked, “What else?” I wasn’t prepared for that. What else do I need?

We left the courtroom together. X held the door open for me. And then we collapsed on the nearest bench. I remember changing out of my heels into flats. I looked down, saw a drop drip onto the floor. X’s tears...dripping onto the floor.

“I’m sorry,” he cried. “I know,” I said. “Maybe...maybe...maybe we can try again. This time it will be different. I’ll change,” he reasoned with me, and probably with himself.

“Yes, this time, it will be different. ’ ,” ____________________________________

Author Chimamanda Adichie, in a TED Talk, speaks about the danger of a single story, within the context of whiteness and blackness in literature, and I agree wholeheartedly. But there is a parallel story that is as dangerous. A story that, in spite of our gains, progress and smashed glass ceilings, continues to derail us. It is the story of love.

This insight first emerged from an unlikely source. When my daughter was two, a social worker told me that she discourages exposure to Disney stories for young children because it is too sexualised.

In that moment, a 32-year old me started unlearning decades of invisible social conditioning about gender stereotypes and love. I started noticing that Disney movies were not just ougat, it was blatantly sexist and filled with narratives of non-consent.

I contemplated what Snow White or Rapunzel might have dreamt of becoming, and realised how absent their thoughts, wants and dreams were in these narratives. Why is that, I wondered. What I found is that less than 10% of Disney films have been directed by women and that as recent as last year, women comprised just 13% of directors working on the top 250 films.

While we may not consider movies as the foundation of our dreams and aspirations, popular culture forms part of our learning, beliefs and worldview. And what we have been seeing across popular media, literature and news for centuries are male perspectives and representations of love and relationships. Consider this, even in Cinderella, where a stepmother arrives with two daughters in tow, we are not given any detail about her previous life. Why was she so heartless and cruel? Perhaps because the only way for a woman to matter in the 1600’s was to marry a man.

Much has changed since then. It is time we start living and listening to our own stories and creating alternative lives and narratives that serve us.

END Lenina Rassool Producer: The Womxn Show FB: https://www.facebook.com/thewomxnshow TW: @Nina_210 Cape Town, South Africa

Youtube Link: http://bit.ly/3aTjkrr 

This story was submitted in response to From Poetry to Paintings .

Comments 8

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Chi8629
Aug 27
Aug 27

Thank you for sharing.

Lenina Rassool
Aug 27
Aug 27

It is a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to read it and give feedback.

Nini Mappo
Aug 27
Aug 27

You write beautifully Lenina!
I'm glad that you are picking up the pen again in spite of your story being turned down back then

You have a great skill and we're here to read your stories as you polish your craft!

Keep growing,
Stay sparkly ✨ :)

Lenina Rassool
Aug 28
Aug 28

Hi Nini, thank you so very much for the feedback. I really appreciate the comments and thank for taking time to read my piece.
I shall continue to write and grow, as we must.
I hope things are well on your side. :-)

Hello, Lenina,

How are you doing, dear sister?

I enjoy reading this piece! My only question is, "how come this courageously written composition didn't get selected/published?"

I see you, dear....when you were listening as your boyfriend cried and believed it was love until years later, his tears fall again begging you to try once more on the day of your divorce.

THANK YOU for bravely writing about how fairy tales and Disney movies led young girls astray: trying to be sweet, beautiful, "perfect" until their prince come to "rescue" them.

Let me add my favorite Disney Princess Belle, who sacrificed her dreams and freedom to rescue her father and live with a beast. They call it love when she fell in love with her "abuser". Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

You are right that as girls we were made to believe that this is what love is: to wait for the prince, to be kissed and rescued and to live happily ever after. You nailed it when you said women were not the authors and directors of these stories and movies.

This piece of writing belongs here, dear. You made a right decision. I hope our young World Pulse sisters can read this.

Sending you hugs for everything you went through simply because "cowboys don't cry". It's insightful that you mention that the story of "love" is as dangerous as what Chimamanda Adichie calls a single story.

Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us! You are so courageous! Hugs to your daughter, too. May she create her own narrative about what love really is.

Lenina Rassool
Aug 28
Aug 28

Dear Karen,
Thank you so much for this deep analysis and response. I hadn't thought to link Belle with Stockholm Syndrome but you are so completely right!!
My dream is to move forward and have more and more and all women writing and directing our own stories and closing the gender gap in media, so that we and our sisters and daughters can see and internalise true reflections of women as whole human beings, and not what men believe we should look and act like.

I thank you for your feedback. It is so very much appreciated.

Regarding not being selected, I think there were many submissions and mine did not fit the specific theme for that journal. But look now, it was meant to be published and I have published it here on World Pulse. And so I have not taken it as failure, but merely as a lesson on finding the right platforms for the right pieces.

Even Shakespeare was not appreciated at the time when he wrote his pieces. :-)

Stay safe and power to you.

You're welcome, Lenina. Yeah, I happened to love Belle. haha.

That's a beautiful dream, dear sister. Media is a powerful tool! Please pursue it. I'll be cheering you all the way. I hope you write updates here.

It's not a failure at all, dear. My first post also found a home on World Pulse when a literary mentor said she has no time to read it because she's so busy. So I posted it here. And I never stopped posting my stories here because this sisterhood is so supportive.

That's true. We appreciate you here, though! Please keep writing! And I'll continue to root for you until I'll hear that more of your stories are published!

Stay safe, too!

This is poignant. It hit home, because it reminded me of wasted hours and feelings spent on men who didn't deserve my compassion. Who saw my wounds and dug their fingers deeper into them.

Thank you for sharing this, and much love to you!