Was this inappropriate? Ill advised? Simply a cultural difference? Or am I over-reacting?

Been mulling over this one for around 10 days or so and decided to ruminate here.

I recently attended a cultural and language day in a Cape Town township and 99% of it was really very cool – I took R with and we got to meet new people, learn some phrases in a language other than our own, take a bus ride and walking tour through shacklands as well as government housing – basically got to interact with fellow SAffas and see a little more upclose and personal how some of our neighbours live.

I didn’t feel in any way unsafe (in fact I have spent a fair amount of time in townships in PE, KZN and Cape Town and have never felt unsafe) and our welcome was very warm.

But two things made me uncomfortable…

The first  issue I had was with the tripe. I am pretty brave to try new foods – if they smell good. But man oh man the big boiling pots of tripe made by the very warm welcoming local ‘mamas’ smelled (to my white nose) absolutely dis.gus.ting. Seriaaas. It had the aroma of sewerage being cooked. When my friend AvR who drove through with us mentioned he’d seen ‘bits of lung’ floating in the watery gravy I nearly heaved. I was however super hungry by the time lunch was served and really did enjoy the rest of the food (veg, potato and pap).

But that’s not what I’m really wanting to discuss.

This is:

While we were eating outside we visitors were entertained by a group of young school kids singing and dancing for us. The first several dances were great – these kids have real natural rhythm and the dances were pretty polished considering some of the kids were really young.

Then they trooped off and on came another 6 kids – my guess is that they were 11 – 14 years old, I wouldn’t reckon older. 3 boys, and 3 girls. The girls were wearing teeny tight denim shorts and pink hoodies and shoes with thigh high stripey socks. They divided into 3 couples, the music began – and they danced. Although “close to dry humping’ may have been closer to an accurate description. These youngsters were good dancers – maybe even excellent – but the moves were so suggestive – no – graphic – that I didn’t know where to look. Nor did my son and nor did AvR who was sitting with us. I looked around and there was a fair amount of discomfort in the faces of the other visitors. There were other families present and I saw one boy of about 8 shoot his father a look of shock and his dad didn’t know what to do. Many of us had to avert our eyes – and whenever I looked up (as one dance led to another, equally sexual dance) it didn’t ease up any.

The 6 of them (the girls had soon stripped off the hoodies and were parading around in blue bikini tops/bras) had moves I’ve since seen in the new Alejandro music video from Lady Gaga (not ALL the moves of course).

So on the way home we discussed it and it seems we felt similarly uncomfortable – AvR said as a man he didn’t know where to look – as a mom I felt really uncomfortable, and while R was quite amused in a giggly way I noticed he too had kept his eyes on his plate a lot of the time.

What I am left wondering is this:

Someone choreographed those dances and helped the kids practice – I imagine this would have been a teacher or dance teacher.  In a country where HIV and Aids are so rife, where unwanted babies are regularly aborted, abandoned or abused; where rape – including the rape of children and even babies – is a scourge – who would encourage such young kids to enact such blatantly sexual dance moves? Do any of their parents or guardians feel this to be inappropriate, to be sending the wrong message?

Or are the cultural difference so diverse in our country that I (and some other visitors present) am just naïve to the way sexuality is portrayed and experienced in the townships – not in secret or behind closed doors but everywhere. I know of course that the lack of privacy in the shackland situation means many young children get to be exposed to sex in their homes at a very early age – but somehow I still thought there would have been some acknowledgement of the fact that sexual activity can cause so many serious, even life threatening problems – and that somehow more wisdom would be used by those who are leaders – including the teachers or whoever taught these kids to do these dances.

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18 Responses to Was this inappropriate? Ill advised? Simply a cultural difference? Or am I over-reacting?

  1. Robi27 says:

    It’s frightening how suggestive and provocative kids dance. It’s somewhat scary when an adult does it but they really are just kids.

    • I think so too. What also was kind of eerie was that while the moves were so suggestive and I have to say well executed, their faces were blank. Maybe they were just concentrating but it was strange.

  2. Jenty says:

    woah, I would not be happy if my kids had been there

    • I didn’t want to tell R not to look – he’s old enough to make that choice – but I didn’t have to, he really was quite uncomfortable (tho maybe cos I was there?) I was glad that AvR made his comments in front of R so he could hear an adult man saying it made him uncomfortable too.

  3. ExMi says:

    1. i’m a vegetarian and would NEVER eat tripe.

    2. yes, it does certainly bother me. which is why i dont venture out of my comfort zone often – i dont like to be made uncomfortable, i guess.

    • Tripe – seriously. Never ever. (I never knew you were a vegetarian BTW)

      Everything else about the day apart from these two things was really good and why I DO venture outside my comfort zone – and take R with me so he can see for himself other aspects of our country. Guess you have to take it all – and it can make for interesting parent / child conversations (tho The Kid may be too young for a debate of this nature :-))

  4. Nayes says:

    Haha!! You’re definitely not alone honey. I’ve always watched those kinds of dancer (they have them at The Boardwalk sometimes) and wondered “What the hell! Is no one else SEEING this?”

    Honestly? I don’t know how to answer your question. My kid tries that and I’ll have a heart attack!! I think the only way to get anywhere here is to actually ask a mother of one of those children. Because without that particular viewpoint it is hard to know how to respond. Perhaps they are simply learning specific dances taught to them by older kids. I don’t know.

    It’s a tough one…

    • Hm, yes I didn’t think of that, guess older kids could have taught them. I was thinking of asking the man who pulled the event together (tho I am sure he had no hand in the kids dancing, that was community driven I reckon) – he’s a white dude but spends a lot of time in and among the community and he may be able to shed some light…

  5. Walter Pike says:

    You need to look at the annual SA youth sexuality surveys to get an idea of the real picture.

    I don’t have a link at the moment but I’m sure you could search it. In it you will read that oral sex performed by girls as young as 8 and 9 is reasonably common place. Based on reading these surveys I would be very surprised if the 12 or 14 year old dancers are not sexually active. It is highly probable that they are acting out their experiences – not taught moves.

    It may also be interesting to know that the famous international success of AXE deodorant (A brand created in South Africa as Ego) is not repeated in South Africa because the “men’s fantasy premise” that it will “make women do things they don’t normally do” is totally lost on South Africans. Because here woman – normally do.

    I was speaking to a Nigerian author about 18 months ago – she said that South African woman have a reputation for being notoriously easy

    I think that it is totally shocking.

    But its a comment on the society surrounding us.

    I have a daughter of 12 – this whole thing sends shivers down my spine.

    • Walter Pike says:

      I hope I don’t offend the groups and people to whom this doesn’t not apply.

    • Very interesting POV. I have also heard of such young kids being sexually active in a number of ways, I think what got to me about this was the very polished and practiced performance, they weren’t making it up as they went along so to me it would seem it was taught, whether or not the same kids act this out in reality too. Also the fact that stood out was that this was a public performance not kids experimenting or fooling around – it was put across as apparently acceptable and condoned.

      My son is about to turn 12 and he loves to act, but would die before carrying out some of these moves in front of a whole bunch of adults!

  6. AB Me says:

    Helluva blog. Helluva.

    Must think on this. You’ve raised some interesting points.

    re. tripe; on the other hand. The day I got engaged – many moons ago – I took my fiance to a leading Seffrican restaurant – I think it was called Leipoldt’s (something like that), and it was a buffet thing.

    I dished up everything I could find, and the “white stuff” was the best. Tasted great! Then I saw it was, er, brains. Sheep’s brains; apparently an Afrikaans delicacy? Really? I almost vomited.

    Ek is maar net vol fiemies, I think the saying is.

    • I would in all honesy eat a smiley (NOT the brains and eyeballs tho) before I had one mouthful of tripe.

      The only thing I ever came across that smelled worse was a 5 day old rotting whale on Kommetjie beach.

  7. That would freak me out as well… no matter the culture, it’s so hard for children to just be children… what happened to innocence?

  8. Di Russell says:

    Oh, that is so disturbing – it’s not confined to SA, however. In Canada I see this kind of stuff too, and I have friends who teach grade 6 & 7 who regularly hear about their students’ oral sex parties…imagine. I get the same creepy feeling when I see those little beauty pageants for girls too – they look so horribly grotesque in all the make-up, teetering along provocatively in high heels and minis. To be honest, I feel the same way about adult beauty pageants, but that’s for another blog post.

  9. Pingback: My 2010 Blogging in Review | the green hair mermaid blogs

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