No, no scrubs

joonji No, no scrubs

Dina Pule should have paid more attention to TLC’s Grammy-winning hit of 1999

It seems to me that one of the key contributors to the downfall of former communications minister Dina Pule is that she became the victim of what an iconic hip-hop group called a “scrub” – the man who gets by from riding on other people’s coat-tails.

When the song came out in 1999, its catchy hook and edgy video caught on quickly, winning a Grammy and adding a new word to the urban language.

It also caused some grumbling among men. Not used to being on the other end of the objectification scale, men took exception to being labelled based on what was on the outside as opposed to being recognised for their inner attributes.

dina pule clingy man No, no scrubs

Us women just bobbed our heads and shimmied our shoulders, and concentrated our energies on more pressing matters: mastering the new TLC dance move while we sang:

“I don’t want no scrub

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me

Hanging out the passenger side

Of his best friend’s ride

Trying to holler at me.”

Rap group Sporty Thievz unimaginatively countered with No Pigeons, a juvenile parody that didn’t go as far:

“Ya’ll chicks ain’t gettin’ nada

Your p***y ain’t worth the Ramada

Anyway your friend looks hotter

Game is somethin’ we got a lot a.”

I would say that that TLC song inspired the most notable contribution from men on the global debate on gender equality – at least in the world of pop culture. They seem to have remained mute ever since.

At the end of the day, as with all old-school hip-hop, we all learnt something new about the ways of the world.

The song made us women a little street wiser – well, some of us anyway. What TLC was trying to tell us was that that opportunistic man would jump from riding shotgun in his friend’s car to yours if you gave him half a chance.

So while men hated the song, it created some sisterhood because, haven’t we all been there, ladies? I got rid of my scrub when I had to pay for my tea and his beer – on my birthday!

Like TLC lead singer Chilli said early this year in an Esquire tribute of the song: “A lot of guys would hate on No Scrubs … I could be walking in the mall and hear, ‘Chilli, I ain’t a scrub. I ain’t no scrub!’ Girls telling me, ‘I don’t want no scrub, either’.

It was like the girlfriend song, for real.”

And it did more. It pointed to a societal shift. The world was starting to see a notable change for women in the 1990s, with more and more of them in high-powered positions, with earnings parallel, if not more, than men. This is reflected in their futuristic video, where TLC is trying to warn us against the perils of this power pedestal and teaching us how to karate-chop away the freeloaders.

I think Dina’s issues are bigger than that. She’s exposed herself to be of questionable moral standing, denying and lying to cover up the truth.

But as much as I relished being witness to the humiliation of a corrupt public official in Parliament, I could not help feeling sorry for her.

Pule was ensnared by the charms of the kind of man ­ T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye were guarding us against (I mean, wasn’t he married in the first place?). It’s the pitfalls of the high-powered generation. We can have the earning potential and stature of men, which is as attractive to a man looking for a step up as it would be to Khanyi Mbau.

Until TLC came out with that song, there was really no word for this that applied to men.

I’m not saying that women with money cannot be the primary earners or spenders in a relationship. But everyone should be aware of a partner that’s exploitative of their status – where he’s looking to get a free ride at the expense of another.

In this case, it was not just Pule’s professional reputation that paid for Phosane Mngqibisa’s free plane and luxury car rides, and stays at world-class hotels – so did the taxpayer.

Ultimately, it was Pule’s bad judgement that landed her in this mess. She got what she deserved, standing there as a lone figure in Parliament.

But there was a man who should have been by her side, if only as a warning to all us women.

» Follow me on Twitter @joonji

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