- Media darling, Redi Tlhabi is just one of a new breed of women making their own way in the previously male dominated world of communication
- An author, and regular columnist in the South Africa media landscape, she is as comfortable on screen as she is behind the mike on the radio shows she has hosted and run
- In an interview with a magazine she once explained what it is that makes her and the women she holds in high esteem different from the ordinary
Badass isn’t usually a description that women are supposed to find flattering, yet in the 21st century, women are celebrating the way they strike against convention, to the point that one leading women’s magazine runs a regular feature on “Badass women”. Redi Tlhabi was only too eager to take on the title and wear it with pride when she acted as guest editor for the fashion glossy, Marie Claire South Africa.
Briefly.co.za gathers that Tlhabi isn’t keen to shrink into the background. She said she absolutely considers herself to be a badass woman. “That’s the only way to be in order to survive, in order to make an impact, in order to have your voice heard,” she said.
She was quick to point out that the title used to have negative connotations, but she doesn’t see it like that. “All that it means is that I’m a woman who recognises that I have a bigger purpose, I have a role to play in society, I'm aware of the historic gender discrimination, I am aware of the lack of social justice in my society, and I need to use my platform, my power, my privileges to be a voice of reason, a voice of positive influence,” she said adding that to her it isn’t about being aggressive or combative at all.
Asked for examples of women she considers to be “badass” she listed a variety of women, from student activist, Naledi Chirwa, to politician Makhosi Khoza arguing that it is difficult to identify exactly what makes a woman badass because of the variety of different factors each woman espouses.
“Take Naledi Chirwa,” she said, “She's a student, she's young, she's a feminist, she's an activist. She spoke at Winnie Mandela’s memorial this week and said something that really resonated with me and actually resonated with a lot of women and children in South Africa: that we can't breathe in our communities, in the taxis, in our homes because of gender-based violence. She’s a young woman who proves that dynamite comes in small sizes.”
Of Khoza she says the courage of her convictions made her stand out. “She didn't give a damn about any of that and stood up to the ANC when it was not fashionable to do so. I think I'm mindful of the fact that a lot of politicians are standing up now denouncing Zuma and his era but they're doing it now when it is safe. She did it when it was most unsafe to do that,” she explains.
Tlhabi also spoke of how much she admires artists like Lebo Mashile. “She's used her art and talent to preach her political consciousness. The road between art and politics is not new, but it's very easy and very tempting to just be an entertainer. But with her work and words she forces us to think and reflect about our society.”
She also loves the way women fight battles for the sake of others. She uses as an example Wendy Appelbaum. “She's wealthy but she’s not divorced from her society. And one of the things she did was to fight off these irresponsible credit lenders who are impoverishing workers. She just stood up and she fought them off. She also defied her own father in the boardroom. She is such an interesting woman with such a rich history, rich story and such a love for South Africa and that I admire.”
Tlhabi also expressed admiration for one South African women who had caused much controversy of late, Zodwa Wabantu. “Her background, where she comes from - she should be stuck in menial work, unrecognisable and all of that, but she's tapping into something. She is offering the public what the public want. She’s a badass girl because she is not playing by the rules,” said Tlhabi.
“She’s famous for attending events and I’m rooting for her. Why not? She must have gotten out there not expecting to commercialise whatever she is offering. She also has been cheeky with the way she dresses or doesn't dress,” said Tlhabi expressing the opinion that if people are willing to pay her to attend functions because it will get them news coverage, then she is smart to make money that way. ”I think she's a badass businesswoman. Good for her.”
Finally Tlhabi spoke of the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. “She broke all the rules. Was she reckless? I think she was in some aspects. Was she complex? I think she was. But there is so much fierceness and strength and wisdom that came out of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and she used it for good.”
Tlhabi recounted a story from her childhood when Winnie Mandela was summoned to solve a problem almost as if by magic. “Where I come from I remember a child being hit by a car and people not knowing what to do and someone in the crowd saying call Winnie Mandela and in no time she was there,” she explained.
“People associated her with the kind of strength that is needed in times of crisis. Also, it was a given that Winnie only shows up when she's needed the most and I think that makes her badass.”
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