There is no need to invalidate women in the entertainment industry when a big break comes

DJ Zinhle. Picture: Instagram

DJ Zinhle. Picture: Instagram

Published Oct 30, 2021


When it comes to women in the local entertainment industry there will always be a group of men that find a way to ruin a moment and somehow try to invalidate their achievements.

While there is a valid conversation regarding how much “pretty privilege” and desirability politics played a part in Uncle Waffles going from relatively unknown to a viral sensation for example, the conversation quickly devolved due to men, specifically of the cisgender heterosexual variety, moving from celebrating Uncle Waffles getting not only the stamp of approval from Mzansi but international acclaim, to seemingly saying it only be because of her looks, specifically the Instagram follow from Drake.

Speaking to BBC One, Uncle Waffles revealed that she learned to DJ during the pandemic and on the night of the viral video she wasn’t supposed to have that slot: “The person that was supposed to take that slot cancelled.

“Just like that, a 30-minute slot that was not supposed to be mine, here I am today.”

Uncle Waffles. Picture: Instagram

This makes it clear that her moment was a series of events that aligned for her accession.

However, there seems to be a habit of men wanting to discount a woman’s achievements and mock/make a joke of it.

In this scenario, a video was shared that showed a man wearing a plastic bag as a wig, in a crop top with something on his face to illustrate make-up, in low-rise jeans with a makeshift exposed thong, using a two-plate stove as a DJ deck, who was trying to make fun of the viral video.

But why does this seem to be a regular occurrence when women have a moment and men, consciously or unconsciously, try to invalidate it by masking it as a joke?

First, the most glaring reason is that due to how the heteronormative patriarchal society we all exist in functions, the only way cishet men can express any form of femininity is if it is presented in a “humorous” way, not only as a way to keep their version of masculinity intact, but to distance themself from being perceived as queer.

We’ve seen this multiple times in media from the likes of Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry and Martin Lawrence, or any sketch show from the ’90s/early2000s – where they get in drag to play women presenting characters, but it’s always done as a joke.

While there is some progress with regards to the idea of both femininity and masculinity not being owned by a specific gender, for the most part, the only group of people that are allowed to express femininity are women and queer men.

The second reason is misogyny and to a greater extent misogynoir (dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against black women).

No matter the occasion, when women in the local entertainment industry do something big, there will be a group of people trying to invalidate how these women got there.

Local TV director and DJ Olwee pointed out on Twitter how a similar discourse happened when people found out about DBN Gogo’s, real name Mandisa Radebe, and wanted to invalidate her success by claiming that she got so far because of her family connections. This made no sense since it was very much unknown before people found out, and her star was shining before then.

DBN Gogo. Picture: Instagram

This need to “humble” women once success comes around all links back to how patriarchy and misogyny join forces in an attempt to make women seem “lesser than”.

Even the conversation around pretty privilege can’t effectively happen, since, instead of looking at that system in place, the discourse swiftly moves to blaming women, failing to take into account why it even exists.

Even when you just look at the way women in the industry have to present themselves to be taken seriously, it’s clear that there is a standard that is put on them that isn’t extended to cishet men.

Looking at the current crop of popular male DJs, they get on stage and look as if they just rolled out of bed without so much as being ridiculed for their looks.

Meanwhile, there is an expectation from us as the audience that women in the entertainment space have to have their hair laid, full face of make-up on and serve a look. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things, people should be able to present in any way they feel fit.

However, this expectation is only placed on women. If you look around at the boom in female DJs we’ve seen, thanks to the take-over of amapiano, among those deemed popular there is still a look they chose to present, whether deliberate or not. Because if they don’t, the insults and snide commentary would come in from all sides.

A great example of this is how Saweetie made a lengthy apology on Instagram when she performed at a festival, for wearing normal clothes because her stage attire didn’t make it on time for the show.

During the same time, J Cole was praised for wearing Crocs, a T-shirt and joggers on stage. The fact that Saweetie felt that she should apologise for the way she appears highlights the unequal standards when it women in comparison to men.

The view of femininity as lesser than, coupled with the overwhelming patriarchal systems in entertainment, are at the root of why women also get comments to try to invalidate their success, instead of a unified front of celebrating women making it in a system that has many things stacked against them

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