Gape Aubrey Khudu widely known as GeeGee Strauss is a 20 year old Bachelor of Arts Chinese Studies student at the University of Botswana and the founder of the #boyinskirts movement, a movement which was influenced by an urge to challenge gender norms in his conservative country, Botswana. The idea of creating the movement came about after GeeGee travelled to China and saw the vast contrast in China's fashion industry to his country's and felt the need to step out and push boundaries.
GeeGee initially encountered some challenges in getting the movement off the ground due to the negative notions and associations of men in skirts in his country, for instance wearing a skirt is only acceptable if it is for cultural reasons. Through the movement, GeeGee has managed to challenge the norms of society and has raised topics of conversation such as homosexuality and other gender-based issues which are still very fragile and sensitive topics in Botswana. He has faced questions about his sexuality but only on social media, from a distance.
GeeGee also started the movement to advocate and influence self-confidence in the youth in his country by showing them that you can be whoever you want and dress any way that you want and not be confined to people's views and opinions. He adds, "I also want everyone to be able to get into a clothing store and be able to buy any clothing item no matter which gender section it is from." In a more positive light, GeeGee claims that at least there has been some progress in terms of gender roles from a career based perspective. Where women and men are not confined to specific careers, "today we have women who are engineers, miners, and even taxi drivers while some men are hair-dressers and designers." But he still feels that this is a slow progression and more needs to be done.
In further delving into how the #boyinskirts movement has been received, he states, "my peers have supported me endlessly and although some are against me and what I do, most of them have shown me so much support to the point where they have had photos of themselves in skirts on social media to show that they support my movement and what I stand for."
He adds, "the movement is progressing quite well even though it will take some time for it to get where I want it to be but all I can say is that I'm satisfied about where it's at right now."
Geegee is enthusiastic that Botswana youth are driving change beyond gender inequality, he says, "2017 is the year that the youth of this country are going to bring a lot of change in every industry but with fashion I think we're already doing that. Today we have guys who wear long dress-like garments and that makes me happy because now the fashion industry is starting to flourish as it should be."
Photography: Van Deaarde
Writing: Phendu Kuta