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A supportive space for women

The other day I was driving in Joburg and slammed into a pothole, which jolted awake my daughter in her carseat. She began to wail. Then I hit traffic, which was actually moving quite smoothly with an unhoused man directing it through a dead traffic light. But he walked out of the intersection just as I got to it and chaos descended. Should I go? Is it back to a four-way stop? 

When I got home I started rushing to get a load of washing on before our power went out, and I noticed my whole body was quivering with tension. But I had no time for its needs. I had to start dinner and fold clothes and attend to bath time. Later, just before our next bout of loadshedding, I stood beneath the tree in our yard and watched the dogs sniff around in the cold. The tree has not dropped its leaves this year, and again I felt a pang of deep concern for the seasons gone strange and the world my daughter will have to contend with. While I waited, one of the dogs slipped round to the front, and as I strode across the lawn to fetch him I felt a quelch beneath my slippers. Then I began to cry, there in the dark.

Everything feels intensely and newly difficult in a world turned turbulent. Everyone has to face failing infrastructure, rising prices, loadshedding and the spectre of an uncertain future, but women have to do it while also doing the dishes. 

The general global trend in women’s rights is towards greater gender equality – despite a backlash in recent years – but much of the domestic labour does still fall on us. This means women do breadwinning work in the day and home keeping work at night, and there’s often nothing left for the person doing it all. 

Now more than ever we need tranquil spaces to calm our fiery bodies, to slow down, to be taken care of. And we need to do it with and among women. 

So the following day I opened up time in my schedule and went to toast&co. I sat next to a mother and her nervous early teen getting her first leg wax. My beauty therapist told me she used to give that mother her pedicures when she came in pregnant and foot sore with the now-teen. A generation had moved through this place, being offered its gentle atmosphere and genuine care. It is a haven in which to extend to each other company, succour and tenderness. 

This is what women need, and what I think we’re creating more and more: consistent supportive spaces where we can gather to walk one another through these wild times. 


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