Voices

Women’s Month: When abuse is a virtue and a political football

2018-08-19 23:34

Everywhere during Women’s Month there is a man telling other men how “we” must respect women and treat them well, how women don’t deserve to die/be raped/be unable to walk home safely after work.

The “we” though doesn’t include him.

He’s one of those #NotAllMen guys. And he’s in good company throughout Women’s Month.

He is also – like his legion – too busy talking or virtue-signalling to listen.

These men are part of a larger pattern that forms a nauseating month-long road show of faux concern – and calculated deafness.

Companies that give a rat’s arse about real transformation suddenly roll out their female managers for profiles, start spouting their gender-parity numbers and send out press releases about how much they care about women being murdered and raped wholesale.

Then there are those who don’t have the numbers or the female managers and they put lipstick on that pig by filling women’s inboxes with pink and purple invitations to spa days, to “pamper yourself”, to “treat yourself” – and all because you, as a woman, are worth it.

And there are the ever-opportunistic political parties out in full force – desperate to be seen to be the men, and by extension the party, who care the most that our sisters, daughters, mothers and wives are under constant attack. They shine up their slogans and ratchet up their rhetoric and hit the road. Not to listen. To speak.

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was in KwaZulu-Natal on Women’s Day.

“You know the majority of voters of the EFF are men and we can’t be proud of that. It means there is something wrong we’re doing because women are attracted to things that make sense. So it means we’re not making sense because the majority of EFF voters are men. We want women’s votes. Start treating women properly if you want them to vote for you,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Mbekweni, Paarl, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “As men, we hang our head in shame ...

“I ask that we honour those women who have been brutally killed; those women who have also been raped; those women who have been brutally violated through violence – young and old.

“But particularly those women who have died recently, either through deep depression or who have been killed,” he said, before asking the audience to stand to observe a moment of silence.

Then last Sunday Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi addressed a crowd of hundreds at the party’s Women’s Day rally, held at Dales Park sports grounds in Pietermaritzburg, praising the women of his movement.

“You hear people say, when you strike a woman you strike a rock. But the bedrock of strength that the song refers to is the strength of women united.”

The DA’s Mmusi Maimane didn’t speak at an event, but released a press statement to have his say on the day.

“As a nation we need to fight for the rights and equality of women in our society – whether in communities‚ the private sector or the public sector.

“The work started by the women of 1956 continues 60 years later‚ as we change South Africa for the better,” Maimane said.

While all this talking is going on, the women of South Africa have been telling their stories in blood through the years – there’s just no man to listen.

The scandal over Shevolution, inviting convicted abuser and former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana to speak, is another instance of this incessant need for the male voice to be heard. He and his ilk should have been invited – but to listen.

Not only do women have to face the dangers men pose to them daily, they have to listen to men repeating the problem, reframing the problem and then delivering more platitudes.

With Women’s Month almost over, perhaps men and their enablers can spend the other 11 months of the year not talking about how much we must respect and protect women but rather listening.

Actively listening and then taking decisive action to solve the problem.

We could start with quick action courts that deliver swift and tough justice to perpetrators; let’s have an automatic “believe her” policy for the police; let’s publicly shun abusers; let’s fire them from their jobs; let’s fund places of safety for women and children.

Mansplaining be gone, instead let’s extend that moment of silence so that #AllMen can concentrate on listening.

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September 23 2018