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Jacana

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Miss Behave a manifesto for South African black women, writes Nkateko Mabasa

Miss BehaveUpon encountering historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s quote, ‘well-behaved women seldom make history’, Malebo Sephodi knew that she was tired of everyone else having a say on who and what she should be.

Appropriating this quote, Malebo boldly renounces societal expectations placed on her as a black woman and shares her journey towards misbehaviour.

According to Malebo, it is the norm for a black woman to live in a society that prescribes what it means to be a well-behaved woman. Acting like this prescribed woman equals good behaviour.

But what happens when a black woman decides to live her own life and becomes her own form of who she wants to be? She is often seen as misbehaving.

Miss Behave challenges society’s deep-seated beliefs about what it means to be an obedient woman. In this book, Malebo tracks her journey on a path towards achieving total autonomy and self-determinism.
 
 
Miss Behave will challenge, rattle and occasionally cause you to scream ‘yassss, yassss, yassss’ at various intervals.

Nkateko Mabasa recently reviewed Miss-Behave for The Huffington Post, describing Malebo’s memoir as “a manifesto for South African black women”:

In the coming revolution, it seems to me, that it will be women who shall lead us. Or rather it shall be a black radical feminist. For it is them, who not only have a true sense of reality but honestly seek to fight oppressions of all kind, having been subjected to it all.

And it is in the work of debut writer Malebo Sephodi that one has a glimpse of what that liberated future might look like. In her insightful and deeply personal book “Miss Bahave”, Malebo presents a world of the black woman in South Africa.

A world of hidden anxiety, maltreatment and nervousness, not to mention the inner turmoil of being silenced. Bearing society’s burden on a body that does not belong to itself. It is the world hidden from view but existing nonetheless. And as a society, we refuse to see this body, let alone hear it. It’s absence and silence confirms to us our sense of normal; it hides our moral depravity. But then appears in this deep and lonesome night, a bright light.

Sephodi, much like a skilful director of a play, breaks the fourth wall. The audience is shocked, realising it is actually participants in this play called life. Shocked not out of horror but out of the responsibility they must accept. One is moved from passive observer, to face up to one’s role in the continued subjugation of black women.

Though Sephodi seeks to write about how ‘to navigate life as a woman’, she does more. Miss behave is about women refusing to ‘know their place and stay there’, refusing to behave, to be docile and submissive.

Society is put on trial and has been found wanting. But all hope is not lost.

To enjoy the democracy and freedom of our ideas, black women cannot be ignored any longer. Here is a brave voice to speak on the issues that matter.

Continue reading Nkateko’s review here.

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