Kabelo Chabala writes that Mama Winnie was the epitome of a black African feminist here
What trigger warnings are and are not here
Molly Ringwald reflects on the Breakfast Club here
Does ‘Nice for What’ mark a new era for Drake? Find out here
Our Bodies, Ourselves is shelved, so what now? asks Jessica Valenti here
Junot Diaz writes about childhood trauma, the silence, and its impact on The New Yorker here
Tim Winton writes how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny here
Jen Thorpe, editor of Feminism Is, unpacks what it means to be feminist here
Jobs and Opportunities
Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA) is looking for a consultant to conduct a mid-term review here
Mama Cash is looking for a short-term consultant here
Submit your essay for the Bodley Head prize here
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Come to the 5th Feminism Is book launch this Thursday in Cape Town. Details below
Feel free to mail us with your opportunities, articles, events, ideas, books etc via email@example.com
The Feminist Women’s Art Network would like to know your answers to these questions:
- What do you think of Bathabile Dlamini’s appointment as Minister of Women?
- What are your thoughts on the Women’s Ministry as a whole (before Dlamini even)?
- How do you think this is going to affect how women’s issues are dealt with? Do you see it being different?
- What message do you think the ANC and President Cyril Ramaphosa are giving Women in the country?
- What should we demand, how can we act to fix this?
By Jen Thorpe
This morning I finished reading Jessica Valenti’s Memoir Sex Object. The book is a collection of personal reflections on topics such as street harassment, abortion, drug use, sex, and child raising. Throughout, it explores the way that the world treats women, casting them as objects for men’s comment, pleasure, and enjoyment. It also explores the very powerful physical, psychological, and political effects this categorisation has. I found the book painful and difficult to read, not because of the writing but because of the content. Despite this difficulty, the book is important in that it raises important questions that we need to consider.
Valenti considers what it means for her to be raising a daughter in this world and the qualities that she would like her daughter to have. She wants her daughter to be brave, to still be the girl who wants the best part in the play when she’s older, and most of all she wants her not to have to endure the constant harassment, abuse, and assault that most women are exposed to on a daily basis. She wonders what it might be like if that was not the world that existed, and what women would believe about their own potential if we had the space to live our lives un-objectified.
It’s a powerful question that bears reflecting on in South Africa, where street harassment, domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse, and gender discrimination remain the norm. Sure, we have the laws that say it’s not allowed, and the Constitution says we all have the right to feel and be safe, but for most of us, those are just pieces of paper with good intentions.
Last year I spent three months out of the country on writing residencies. It was an amazing time, not least because I had uninterrupted time to write, and my meals were mostly cooked for me, which feels like #livingthedream. What I loved most about the residencies, that took place in two small towns, was my ability to walk alone, for long periods, on the road or in the wilderness, without being harassed. This simple pleasure, an hour long walk a day where I didn’t feel like I had to be afraid, where nobody said anything to me about how I looked or what I was doing alone, and where I could be in nature and consume the beauty of the natural world, was something that I treasured. It helped me sleep better. It helped me write better. It made me feel more human.
The first week back in South Africa after the first residency, I was sexually harassed by a man while walking down the street to visit some old work friends. When I ignored him, which is my instinctive reaction (sometimes my instinct is to keep walking with my middle finger in the air), he took the liberty of crossing the road in case it was a matter of his lewd suggestions being unheard rather than deliberately ignored. He wanted to make sure that I knew he was there, looking at me. It was only when a kind male stranger walked next to me and told him to go away that he stopped. But even this didn’t make me feel better – he didn’t stop because he realised it was vicious, destructive, or offensive to shout comments at me. He stopped because he believed I belonged to another man. I was still an object to him.
I’m at the age where I think about what it might mean to raise a little girl in this world and to be frank, it terrifies me. I wonder how I will tell her that she has the rights and power to do anything she puts her mind to, but simultaneously explain that she should also probably be hypervigilant when crossing the street at night or when choosing an intimate partner. I don’t know that this double-think double-living is psychologically tenable.
I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where women could go on a walk every day for the sheer pleasure of it, and what women would be capable of doing if they were really free.
16 Days of Activism to end violence against women
For release: Late Wednesday 6 December 2017
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO….?
CASE 10: Mohapi Jihad Mohapi, Free State representative to the National Council of Provinces and chair of the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs
In February 2015 Mohapi Jihad Mohapi, chair of the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Select Committee in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend. According to a journalist who had access to the photographs, the woman’s injuries included a blue eye and bruising to most of her upper chest region, the upper part of one arm, as well as one thigh. Mohapi handed himself over to the police and was charged with assault, kidnapping and crimen injuria. The fate of the criminal case is unknown.
Parliament’s Ethics Committee reported on 16 March 2016 that the Mohapi matter was referred for further investigation to a subcommittee, with a hearing scheduled for April 2016. It is likely there were no meaningful consequences as Mohapi remains the chair of COGTA and is also a member of the Select Committees on Petitions and Executive Undertakings, along with Security and Justice.
Like Mduduzi Manana (#NotOurLeaders Case 9), Mohapi is a MP who experiences no disconnect between his public duties and private conduct. While Manana was leading dialogues on gender-based violence on university campuses at the time he assaulted three women, the Select Committee in the NCOP that Mohapi chairs was exercising parliamentary oversight of the Department for Women in both 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the year of parliament’s investigation into Mohapi’s conduct, the Select Committee dealt with reports from the Commission for Gender Equality too. (Neither body appeared before the Select Committee in 2017 though.)
“Right now there’s a great deal of emphasis on getting men to take up the problem of violence against women,” said the Women and Democracy Initiative’s Vivienne Mentor Lalu. “But appointing men to powerful political positions in order to champion matters of gender equality purely on the basis that they are men is naïve – even dangerous – when it is not accompanied by careful scrutiny of their conduct and history in this field.”
Forgetting violence in peri-urban and rural area?
Mohapi Jihad Mohapi’s case is not the only one to disappear quietly. These four rape cases reported between 2013 and 2016 have all disappeared equally quietly.
- Unnamed ANC Councillor, North West – Arrested after being accused of raping a 13-year old girl in March 2013. This may have been Benjamin Khoza of Moretele, who was reportedly suspended from the ANC subsequent to the criminal charges being laid against him. In 2015 the Sosh Times reported the case as still ongoing. No information on the case’s eventual outcome could be located.
- Unnamed ANC Councillor, Devland Gauteng – accused of raping his 10-year-old daughter in November 2013. No further information of the outcome of this case could be located.
- Unnamed DA Councillor, Buffalo City Metro, Eastern Cape – In February 2015 the media reported that the councilor had been arrested, but not yet charged with the rape of his former girlfriend. No further information of the outcome of this case could be located.
- Unnamed ANC member campaigning to be nominee in the 2016 local elections, Vryburg, North West – charged with the rape of a 14-year old girl. To its credit, the local branch of ANC Women’s League protested his actions vigorously, including outside court. No further information of the outcome of this case could be located. It is also unknown whether or not he went on to stand as a local councilor.
“What each of today’s cases have in common is their invisibility” said Lisa Vetten. She identifies this invisibility as occurring on at least two levels:
“The first has to do with the absence of violent images of these crimes. Mduduzi Manana’s violence, along with images of the women’s injuries, was broadcast across Twitter and beyond. These visuals playing a considerable role in provoking a public outcry over Manana’s conduct. But in Jihad Mohapi’s case, the photographic evidence of his violence remained within the confines the police docket. This surely contributed to the near non-existent response to his behavior, including by the general public.”
A second factor contributing to the invisibility of these cases, she said, is their perpetration by men based within provincial and local political structures: “Because they hold a relatively low-level, unglamorous status within the hierarchy of our democratic institutions, provincial and local structures and their staff attract far less public interest than their national counterparts.”
Vetten also highlights how
“A great many of these reports come from peri-urban and rural communities where social and traditional media almost never go and help is often absent. In these forgotten corners of our democracy, political position seems less open to critical scrutiny – so magnifying its power, which is further entrenched by networks of patronage and protection. Further, in small or rural areas, the municipality is often the biggest and most important employer. Speaking out in this context, where employment and promotion opportunities are limited, can present real risks to complainants.”
#NotOurLeaders calls for the following action
Our call today is very simple and directed at the media, as well as South Africa’s various public groupings:
- Report on and follow-up cases involving our political representatives and institutions. It is in the public interest to know what our power-holders do with their positions and authority.
- Treat all reports of sexual misconduct, abuse and violence with equal seriousness. A focus only on the high-profile, national figures should not overshadow the victimisation of women and girls by less-prominent individuals, in small, rural areas.
For comment contact:
- Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933
- Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
- Vivienne Mentor-Lalu Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
For more cases from #NotOurLeaders click here
|RELATED MEDIA STORIES|
|About the #NotOurLeaders campaign
During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and gender violence specialist, Lisa Vetten, turn the spotlight on political representatives accused of sexual violence and the practices that protect and enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. By contrasting the range of incidents reported with parties’ inconsistent – even non-existent – responses, the campaign aims to demonstrate the chasm between political-speak and political actions on sexual violence.
The campaign emphasises the need for strong political leadership by all political parties and representatives in tackling the pervasive problem of sexual violence in South Africa.