Let’s set the record straight on my opinion piece, ‘It’s time to normalise breastfeeding in South Africa.’


Right, so it was pointed out to me by a good friend that if one Googled ‘Normalise Breastfeeding in South Africa’ , the first thing you’re hit with is my opinion piece published to News 24 opinion on 13 April 2015. Here’s the link: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB0QFjAAahUKEwjH2vbF57LHAhVKHB4KHbVLB2E&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.news24.com%2FMyNews24%2FIts-time-to-normalise-breastfeeding-in-South-Africa-20150413&ei=rzzTVYfHIcq4eLWXnYgG&usg=AFQjCNGCdGhhJ59amdEyQcI6wqk4DMMkAA&sig2=_pvack9R5_eu4f53hSXVWQ

Sigh. This is very unfortunate. The piece was edited by the good feminists at 24, you see. I’ll explain:

I joined the FB group ‘South African Feminists’ a while back and got into big fights there from the get-go. It’s a small group of colleagues from Media 24 who started up the group and admin (read that as gatekeep) what falls within their specific margin of acceptable feminist behaviour. My first argument was sparked by mansplaining of feminist issues. So were the rest, mainly. Having offended a male feminist view by commenting that ‘women can stop having babies at any time if men refuse to come to the party’, one of the Media 24 girls refered to me as Valerie Solanas. My dystopian comment was flagged and I was threatened with expulsion if I didn’t apologise and the Solanas commentator was not required to apologise.

This went on for some time. The part where I left the group was when another male Media 24 ‘feminist’ posted about how women ought to shave their girl bits. My response was that paedophilia is a very real threat when women are expected to have vaginas smooth as seal pups. The inbox threats of expulsion in lieu of an immediate apology started again and I bid that lot adieu. So ridiculous. ADMIN: ‘Anel Olsson, check your other inbox please’ always preceding a sermon on how my ass is so almost out of this particular fold.

Who has time for this? Not me.

I forgot all about the ‘feminists’ and got involved in breastfeeding activism in the beginning of April and when I hit ‘send’ on my first opinion piece, did not connect the particular dots of why my piece was butchered to a point of being completely illogical reading material. Until another good friend at 24 joked I shouldn’t have pissed off those feminists.

Anyway, sane adult readers – here’s what I wrote (and sent off for publication, News 24 ‘feminists’) Pffft.

“It’s time to normalise breastfeeding in South Africa.

Becoming a mother is a massive collapse of ego. Your previously familiar biological self is often unrecognisable. You’re trying to do the best for the huge new responsibility/ies in your life. You may have had to face one or many complications around birth. Your hormones are raging with love, nurture and at time fear responses. Add to that sleep deprivation. It’s a huge adjustment.

And if you are lucky, you are well supported as a new mother. If you are very lucky, you grew up learning the reed dance, so breastfeeding freely is already a completely normal part of your culture. This is an aspiration for the rest of us.

Very often, modern living sends you back to work after 90 days. So if you’re going for gold and exclusively feeding your baby breast milk, you’ll be expressing milk or relying on expressed donor milk to nurture your hungry little bundle.

And at no point is it ok for someone else to attempt to humiliate you by likening your efforts to livestock being milked. Especially if those individuals have huge audiences, they have agency and are opinion leaders.

I’m speaking to you, Gareth Cliff. And you, Rian van Heerden.

As a mother, life as usual does carry on. You go out. You take your baby out with you. A baby will ask for food when and where they need it. And as you know, a hunger makes you angry and upset. Is this how you would like us to treat our babies?

At no point is it ok for anyone to harass you for feeding your hungry baby.

I’m speaking to you Martin Bester. And you Roger Goode. You Cliff, van Heerden and your female co-hosts who chime in to your Calvinistic sermons. I’m speaking to the public who call in to radio stations harassing nursing mothers. The internet trolls. The lactation support specialist who goes on air, telling nursing mothers they must consider others when feeding their hungry young. And then suggests we face a wall in a restaurant while nursing.

Media men, it’s not funny to refer to a breast as a ‘pram.’ Nor play audio clips of cows mooing, while interviewing a champion of promoting breastfeeding. Nor suggest we nurse where baby diapers get disposed of. Nor ask if we can’t just sit under the table to nurse, when in a restaurant.

Roger Goode’s mother going on air and chewing him out publically for his misogynist rant and demanding a retraction, which we got– now that is hilarious.

It’s very simple, guys and dolls. A child’s right to optimum nutrition is enshrined in our constitution. Not your hungry baby? None of your business. You don’t get a vote.

However, if you’d like to be a support, a social movement to normalise breastfeeding is flourishing, in light of this recent spate of vitriol aimed at nursing mothers. It’s time for us to dismantle this particular construct of the patriarchal discourse, too. Let’s do it for the future babies who deserve the best nurture, nature has to offer.

Let’s normalise breastfeeding.”

This is what I wrote and requested you update and got ignored for, mmkay News 24 staff? GROW UP.

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Blue period.


For Shana, ‘Just a hoe. With babies’ blogger (I’m going through a Picasso’s blue period. A Shana period as writer. )

They are calling me delusional online, saying I should get back on my meds behind my back.

These are women who purport to be champion advocats for breastfeeding.

Would you little girls prefer I apologise for being better at this work than you are?

What fucking meds?

The actress thinks I organised a breastfeeding shoot so that I can distribute the pics of her ‘baps’ nogal, to some breastfeeding porn ring.

The shoot brief is babies under 2 being nursed in a public space. The Maha Al Musa meisies are vying for my blood.

The stuff shared on Anel’s group is such trash! Glad I disassociated long ago! pipes up the owner of a Facebook group that is advocating for women to be segregated while nursing in restaurants. Or at LEAST cover up at the table.

Good luck with that lady. You’re not living in one of her majesty’s territories anymore. This is Africa.

And when shopping, her stellar suggestions for normalising breastfeeding include that you go to a ‘facility’.

‘Where there’s like wi-fi and a flat screen TV.  I gave it a 5 star rating, ladies!!!’ She reports excitedly.

I wonder if she noticed the brimful bin of soiled diapers in her fuckoff facility.

Why do you want us to feed our children where they defecate, Breastfeeding ‘Friendly’ SA?

It’s like Drama School all over again.

Jose liked my selfie on Facebook last week where I was crying for my mom.

Liked it. Is that because all those years back in London I said I didn’t FUCKING CARE that Gary lost his mother?

Boohoo motherfucker.

We were sitting with Maurice at the bar. Me in the middle. We’d been celebrating graduating year one and we’d been klapping the pints since lunchtime. They had both wrapped an arm around me and then Gary turned his face to me and smiled. The pain shot through my left breast like a million pins and he wouldn’t stop squeezing. My pint almost automatically tipped into his lap.

He’s up and shouting WHAT THE FUCK.

Maurice didn’t see what he did and kept asking ‘What happened doll?

What the fuck just happened? My doll-face!?’

I join Jose and other sane individuals at their table.

Gary advancing toward me fast and a whole pint of beer flies into my face.

‘You fucking slag’ he whispers.

Eyes burning like my boob.

I jump up and run. Blindly to the bathroom. Water. Water. Howl in a cubicle. There are knocks on the door.

Then banging.  You are to open up this door at once, Anel.

Fellow thespies demanding an explanation for Gary’s wet pants.

I can’t speak. Sob sob sob.

‘Well what the fuck did you expect, love?’

He grabbed my boob at the bar for fuck’s sakes ladies!

‘Gary says you’ve had it in for him since day one, Anel.’

‘Yeah I’m afraid if you’re gonna behave like a psycho bitch, things like this happen, Anel.’

Enough. I work my way through the stares out front.

‘Wait’ says someone from the other class.  ‘I’m a cabby by trade. I’ll give you a lift.’

I cry all the way home. Throw off the lacy catsuit. Sob sob sob.

We go to college for assessments. No-one makes eye contact with me. It’s like me and Matt being the only ones getting the Equity once again.

Only this time Maurice’s Chinese eyes aren’t liquid black and he is not lifting me up in a hug, smelling like heaven.

They are snake slits and his beautiful black arms are crossed.

My mouth can’t make the words he hurt me Maurice. Don’t be angry with me.

Gary is his brother from another mother. I am an uppity white bitch from Saf Africa.

Someone from my class eyes me suspiciously while we wash hands. She wants to know wha’ appened?

I show her the black bruises on my boob. She bursts into tears.

Oy, Gary grabbed her tit she’s shouting.

She’s lying they’re shouting. She hates him, she would make that shit up.

Fucking psycho cow, tha’ one.

I’m gone girl. Forever, as it turned out. A year later an update from class, Jose saying they’re so sorry Gary’s mom died.

Now that I’m motherless too, I feel sorry for her other kids and husband’s loss.

No, I didn’t press charges. And Jose and I are still friends.

Never underestimate the sheer evil of – the stupidity – of the mob.  I thought you learnt that at 21, Anel?

Ohrenkuss


For Kimm Manzanares.

During one of these endless sleepless nights I’ve been having since my mom died, a las tres de la madrugada – I caught an interview with a fascinating woman. Her name is Dr Katja de Bragança. She’s of Indian and German descent, grew up in Goa as a young girl, then moved to Germany and later studied her doctorate in biology. She fascinated me for many reasons…her work, of course. I’ll get to that. But first it was this quiet confidence that she excudes. And the absolute warmth and clarity in her big brown eyes. That effervescence one experiences when you know you are in the presence of a very intelligent person, articulating their world.

Her doctorate was a thesis on living with 47 chromosomes. As a biologist she is absolutely fascinated with the fact that human beings can and do function, function well – with Down’s Syndrome. She feels honoured to be a part of a world that has stopped killing and marginalising people with Down’s.  She is also fascinated and driven by the work that dismantles the part of our brains that says: ‘But they are disabled.’ She refuses to believe that about her colleagues. And she says they don’t believe that about themselves at all.

She started a subscription-based magazine, written exclusively by people with Down’s. It’s called Ohrenkuss…da rein, da raus. The Germans have absolutely beautiful expressions. And Down’s Syndrome people, I have learned, have an absolutely fresh way of stringing language together in a way your prefrontal cortex inhibits you to when you have 46 chromosomes. The title was coined, Dr de Bragança said, when she was out with her magazine colleagues one Summer afternoon in Bonn, where they are based. The sun was shining outside and the chap next to her was having ice cream and coffee. Absolutely in bliss with his world. He leaned over and planted an ice-cold kiss on her ear…an Ohrenkuss. Then their colleague opposite commented: ‘In the one ear, out the other (da rein, da raus) Indeed a juxtaposed response.

It’s a fantastically glossy and exciting publication. I do hope they start translating to English and Spanish, to open up this amazing work to the rest of the world.

Sheesh, I share DNA with some seriously screwed up people


I broke it off with my mother’s family when she died. The reasons are many, complex, motivated by the sense that I would never be used like she was…and the break welcome. Imagine your worst imaginings of dysfunction and the worst kind of relatives and then imagine the relief. One cousin, who I really thought was a friend, wrote this about me when I asked her to make sure my mom’s car wouldn’t be sold without being included in her deceased estate. The thing was, the car wasn’t transferred to my mom’s name and the seller was her brother. Someone sympathetic to my crazy experience copied and pasted this for me from her Facebook feed. If you don’t read Afrikaans, let me know. I’ll translate.

gedig vir .n feeks
.
v.1.0
.
die gif
wat binne my nou
dwaal is
daar gesit met
inspuitnaald my
arms vasgebind
met elke woord
agter my rug
wat kom in holtes
in jou hart
wat oor is van
wat eens daar
was nou
stinkswart dampe
uit jou bek
wat alles voor dit
doodverdwyn
en wolke van jou
skewe denke
hang hier swaar
bo.oor my kop
ek het gewillig hier
kom bly hier
op die bord
en op .n skulp staan
kyk hoe jy my siel
verwoes die
waarheid hoor en
konkel
met jou grys intensies
met jou
skubbe weggeverf
met hoeveel jy jouself
nou haat jy
vrek alleen
en vreet die liefde
uit my uit
en kots dit oor
die randsteen waar
jy lê en kyk
vir koningin wat naak
voor lyf die
hoogte in
ek sweef
jy vrot
ek tel jou op
nee
klaar gekyk hoe
sonder brein
min long en vel
jou slangvroulyf
hier voor my rol
dat alles
wat jy dink jy is
diep onder in my sak
sal pas
en weggewas word
met die reën
so doelloos soos
.n strokie
sonder ink geskeur
en in my lig
sal jy verbrand
jou slaaf
jou onderling
maak skerp dai
tong en groei
die tand
kom kyk of jy
nou man kan staan
tog weet jy sal
verloor
sal ewig doelloos
drentel in
dieselfde pad sal
niemand hê
vir liefde nie
familie niks en
dooie lyke ondervoet
so
sal jy altyd
so moet leef
vervloek vir hoe jy
met my maak
ek speel dan
skaak
jy
dambord
maat
.
.
.
whew!
much bett

You died.


You died on 30 November

For as long as I can remember

The desire to write for you

Has preoccupied my daydreaming

And I cannot believe

Those are the first words I utter

Born November 1 and dead November 30th

Mamma here is your daughter

Lost. Hungry for your skin

Bereft

Another dirge without water.

Bricks and mortar

Running water

Light. Sanitation

Sanity

The things we all take for granted

Not present there in the soil and the stink

And the steel.

Do you remember

The chair from Tashie’s office

That needed some love

You said it was mine later

And I dreamt of it shiny, polished

We put the pillow you crocheted on

And the butterfly’s green caught that

Retro red

It was perfect.

Embedded into the dirt

I found it that day.

The table we sat at so many marvelous meals

Mommy!

Planted.

A graffiti tree.

Slumping there as lost as me.

The daybeds for my porch

In some meth addict’s

Frontroom

With her greedy beady eyes and her arrested speech

So clipped

We’ll put them with the big 5 sofa, her tongue flicked

And I attempted to picture the cheap velour

The realistic animals and your surreal splendour

Lumped together

Regret, regret

My pampered pet

My eyes swelled shut

My pillow wet

From end to end my being aches for you

A clever lover once wrote me

And never did this ring so true

As now that I ache for you.

Ai Mamma

I sigh

A million times a day.

Exhale into the nothing

You left

Since you went away.

holy moment


For T.E.O x

>Today as I narrowed and shaded my eyes and hung my melancholy head and thought
What now.
Your iridescent ship sailed
Sails billowing
Fanfare echoing
Flag raised
Purposefully and Steadfast
Into the choppy waters of these shores.

The mermaids were dancing on deck
It could only be you, my darling!
And you sang:
Holy,holy,holy moment my kin
Do not ever forget.

I almost did.

I almost ceded my soul to thinking
That I was the only one
Inhabiting an island of such immense solitude
And you threw the gangplank clack clack clack
And bid me
Run over!
Let’s break corks on bottles crotcheted in spider webs many moons!
Drink foam with me
It had been long and I had
Thirsted, so
For this oracle
The anchor of your voice
My strength
My warmth
My reason
I love you.

Word Hunger


Since becoming a mom, what I miss most is my sometimes days long love affair with a book. A real pages and smells musty if old, book. That uninterrupted reading, that journey to someone’s elses mindscape. That adventure to a yet unchartered to me world. All the new and fascinating use of the English, Afrikaans and Spanish I can read in.

 What I miss second-most is uninterrupted writing. Good writing, silly writing, writing so I don’t kill someone writing, focused writing because I want to write and sell lots of stories, writing. That is an ambition of mine if you didn’t know.

Today I have help. She’s playing with the kids and I’m stealing a daylight moment to write here to remind myself nothing gets written unless you write it. Regardless of how frantically distracted a mother is constantly.

 

Sigh.