BOOKS

Launch Dates for Feminism Is 2018

 

Cover[12]
Cover designed by Thandiwe Tshabalala

March 13, 2018: The Book Lounge, Cape Town, Western Cape

March 22, 2018: Exclusive Books, Ballito, KZN

March 27, 2018: Exclusive Books, Rosebank, Gauteng

March 27, 2018: Exclusive Books, Menlyn, Gauteng

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BOOKS

New collection of South African feminist essays to launch in February 2018

By Jen Thorpe

Exciting news!

Cover[12]

Next month will see the release of a collection of feminist essays and poems by 31 South African feminists. The collection, published by Kwela and edited by Jen Thorpe, includes writing from some of South Africa’s most exciting feminists.

The collection, Feminism Is, explores what feminism is to the contributors and touches on issues as wide-ranging as motherhood, anger, sex, race, inclusions and exclusions, the noisy protests and the quiet struggles.

Contributors include:

  • Pumla Dineo Gqola
  • Danielle Alyssa Bowler
  • Colleen Higgs
  • Ferial Haffajee
  • Haji Mohamed Dawjee
  • Gugu Mhlungu
  • Joy Watson
  • Thembe Mahlaba
  • Aaisha Dadi Patel
  • Anja Venter
  • Bongeka Masango
  • Rebecca Davis
  • Nwabisa Mda
  • B Camminga
  • Nomalanga Mkhize
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Helen Moffett
  • Owethu Makhatini
  • Dela Gwala
  • Larissa Klazinga
  • Vuyiseka Dubula
  • Genna Gardini
  • Tlaleng Mofokeng
  • Kathleen Dey
  • Kagure Mugo
  • Jen Thorpe
  • Neoka Naidoo
  • Louise Ferreira
  • Nancy Richards
  • Michelle Hattingh
  • Sarah Koopman

This collection will challenge your thinking and inspire you to action, reaffirming the urgent necessity of feminism in South Africa today. A portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the amazing Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

The collection will launch on 13 March 2018 at the Book Lounge in Cape Town, with launches to follow in KZN and Gauteng. The book will be available at all good bookstores from 26 February. Contact your favourite store to pre-order!

Get excited!!!

For all publicity and media queries please contact Helené Prinsloo via helene.prinsloo@nb.co.za

 

GENDER POLITICS

What would a world where women weren’t harassed look like?

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.

EDITORIAL

We need feminism more than ever – write for us!

It’s 2017.

This year we have seen the forces of feminism and patriarchal political power collide in America. We saw millions of people march against discrimination, hatred, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and inequality. They used their voices and bodies and refused to be silent.

We’ve seen the debates arise over the female candidate to take over the reigns of the ANC, and how often the first female and former Chairperson of the African Union, anti-apartheid activist, former minister of health, former minister of home affairs, has been described as ‘Zuma’s Ex’, rather than a political figure in her own right.

Whether you like her or not is irrelevant – likeability isn’t a criteria for male leaders. Whether she’s perfect or not is irrelevant – perfection is certainly not a criteria for male leaders. Does that mean we should accept low standards for women’s leadership – hell no. It means that we should subject all our political candidates to the same level of scrutiny, and that shouldn’t have anything to do with their gender or genitals. It should be about their capabilities.

We’ll all know that political leadership is not the only gender issue to consider in South Africa. We have drastically high levels of sexual and domestic violence, sexual and gender minorities continue to face abuse from their communities and the political system that won’t let them access their rights in terms of the law, we have municipalities that award bursaries to girls based on their virginity, we still have child marriage, we still face an academy that remains predominantly white and male … I could go on.

It seems as though the struggle for gender equality is not anywhere near over. But, take a moment to think about those marchers we watched in the USA just weeks ago.

They weren’t just marching against – they were marching for. They were marching for equality, for freedom, for safety, for love, for power to mean something other than power over another. They were marching for themselves and for others.

In our own ways this year, let’s begin to consider what we need to be fighting for now, so that we don’t sit with a situation where we’re fighting against something later. All is not lost, but we can’t be complacent. We need to work together.

This doesn’t mean we all have to agree. There isn’t one feminism that is right for everyone. Feminism may, at times, feel exclusionary, hard, wrong, and uncomfortable. Challenging privilege and power often does. Diversity should be celebrated not feared.We need to promote gender equality, and recognise intersectionality. We need to know that our personal struggles may not be the same, but that each person’s struggle is valid.

The point is, things are not right in this crazy world, and we need solidarity towards the end goal – making this a free, equal, and safe South Africa for all people.

Feminists South Africa is back, and we need your writing to make us aware of issues of importance in your heart, in your homes, and in our country. Send it all through to feministssa@gmail.com 

Let’s hear those voices, even if they shake.

Jen

CURRENT AFFAIRS, GENDER POLITICS

Female State of the Nation: Part 4: Crime and Human Rights

Jen Thorpe, feminism, South Africa, feminist
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

Read Part 1 ‘Where are We’, Part 2 ‘Women and the Economy‘, Part 3: ‘Energy and the Environment

As South Africans it seems that it is impossible to go a day without seeing a news headline of a violent attack in some form. Between 2006 and 2013, more than one million crimes were committed against women. Common assault was the most common contact crime, followed by assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm. The Table below provides a breakdown of the SAPS statistics.

But before you get there, statistics of this scale are often hard to process. It’s difficult to imagine what more they represent. So when you see these numbers, I want you to think of the images you know of the 1956 women’s march that changed our history. In that march, there were roughly 20 000 women.

Crimes against women 2006 – 2013[1]

Year Murder Sexual Offences Serious assault (assault GBH) Common assault Total
2006/7 2 602 34 816 69 132 100 390 206 940
2007/8 2 544 31 328 64 084 94 286 192 242
2008/9 2 436 30 124 61 509 91 390 185 459
2009/10 2 457 36 093 62 143 94 176 194 869
2010/11 2 594 35 820 60 630 89 956 189 000
2011/12 2 286 31 299 57 345 87 191 178 121
2012/13 2 266 29 928 55 320 83 394 170 908
Total for crime category 2006 – 2013 17 185 229 408 430 163 640 783 1 317 539

It’s unfortunate that the crime statistics are not reported in a gender-disaggregated way each year that would allow us to track what types of crimes women are reporting. In 2012/13 however, the SAPS did report in this way, as detailed in the table above. In that year, adult females were more likely than adult males and children to be the victim of sexual offences and common assault. In terms of the total number of crimes, sexual offences against adult females represented 45 percent of all sexual offences, and common assault against adult females represented 48 percent of all common assaults.

So it’s clear that women are more likely to report certain types of crimes – namely sexual offences and common assaults. It’s possible to conclude that these common assaults represent some of the domestic violence statistics which, although tracked daily by the SAPS, have never been reported on.

It is important therefore for those listening to SONA to consider what commitments have been made to women in terms of protecting them from crime both outside and within the home. In the 2014 SONA the only commitment made was that the Government would ‘work to reduce levels of crime’. Following the deaths of Anene Booysen, Anni Dewani, and Reeva Steenkamp, a great deal of noise was made by many Government representatives from all parties about the need to address crimes against women. But now that noise has become an almost inaudible murmur.

Two years ago the Government via the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities launched the National Council on Gender Based Violence (NCGBV). This council was formed to address and monitor high levels of violence against women, as well as to consider strategies to prevent further violence. During 2014, after finalising its identity, the Council seemed to disappear. Another commitment made was the development of new sexual offences courts and the refurbishment of existing courts to become sexual offences courts. This is another development which seems to have disappeared from the agenda. There is also an inter-ministerial committee on violence against women. Yet, the relevant departments are not working together to improve the lives of survivors in a way that is evident, efficient or speedy enough. If these commitments are not discussed tonight, why not? If there is not sufficient budget for these important services, where is that money being redirected to?

Of course, as I explained in Part 1 a useful term to understand is intersectionality. That is, the intersection of various forms of oppression on different people. With crime and violence, it is true that certain categories of women are more vulnerable.

Sex workers currently face a number of human rights violations because of the criminalisation of the sale of sex in South Africa. These have been well documented by organisations like the Women’s Legal Centre and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce. Excellent arguments exist for decriminalising sex work, and ensuring that sex workers are able to perform their work without fear of violence from police, and from perpetrators.

Violence against Lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women is also prevalent, and there has unfortunately been a move away from South Africa’s active championship of LGBTI rights on the continent. The National Task Team on Hate Crimes was formed in 2011, and since then the Department of Justice has made several commitments to introduce new legislation to support LGBTI victims of violence. However, four years later this has not happened. This failure to amend existing legislation to enhance sentences for hate crimes, or to introduce new legislation that will effectively allow for the tracking of these incidents and the prevention thereof, is an indication of a lack of political will to really support the right to be free from discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation. South Africa’s failure to criticise other African states for ‘anti-gay’ laws indicates that we have moved back from the leadership role on these issues. In 2014, a transgender woman undertook a hunger strike after Home Affairs repeatedly failed to assist her in changing the sex status on her ID document.

This is not the time to be inactive or complacent about violence against women. There is a need to identify this as a core issue in tonight’s SONA, and if not, to question how the problem will be addressed in the 2015/16 period.

 


 

[1] South African Institute of Race Relations (2013) Page 770.