Volume 5: March & April 2015

The Bold & The Androgynous – by Masiyaleti Mbewe

Back when my hair was nothing more than a tight twist into the beckoning fate of long dreadlocks and neatly placed buns, I stood at the achingly thin lines of gender ambiguity. I was androgynous, and quite good at it.

I’d find it in the odd glares on the bus or the not so subtle whispers of strangers in a store. “Is that a boy or a girl?” They’d ask, forgetting their carefully catalogued to-do lists long enough to mouth out what they had been thinking. “I’m a girl,” I’d respond, my voice as flat as my chest. I was a little annoyed that something as painfully obvious as my gender could get confused although to be fair, my clothes weren’t helping which would explain why it happened so often. I remember then how my womb would twinge and coil each month, how I’d buckle over in pain at my only apparent splashes of womanhood, I never mentioned my monthly plights to these strangers instead I found comfort in a hot water bottle and ibuprofen.

And then it became cool.

Firmly pressed shirts adorned with playful bowties and tailored pants were all the range. I was on the cover of every magazine except it wasn’t my face or my story, it was just a trend. I imagine the machinery of fashion piecing together the look in a dreary studio somewhere in the catacombs of glamorous ambition, cavalier suggestions of what was ‘in’ and what was ‘out’ misplacing sound space every five minutes until by some stroke of luck the word ‘androgyny’ surfed the room into the dull murmur of satisfaction. The look I’d been living and unsuccessfully pulling off since the odd tangles of puberty befell me, was now ‘a must have.’

In a way I’m glad androgynous women are now considered beautiful. I think we needed that permission, the kind of self-validation that comes with every magazines backing. Although a huge chunk of the story has not been told, there’s a chance people will listen and understand that behind the boyish frame and the awkward strides, therein lies a woman. I might not have the widest hips or the fullest chest but I know I’m as capable as any, to be a good mother, a great sister and the best of friends.

True androgyny is not in the pages of some edgy fashion magazine nor in the whimsical folds of that bowtie you found in the priced to go section at Mr. Price, it’s in the grand spokes of self-love and self-acceptance, the kind of thing every woman needs.

4 thoughts on “The Bold & The Androgynous – by Masiyaleti Mbewe

  1. Pingback: Vol. 5, Issue 3: Editorial | ARTWOLFE

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