Cancel Women’s Day, save lives

2017-08-27 06:47
Mduduzi Manana

Mduduzi Manana

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For the past 11 years, I have been manning (or womaning) a news desk. For those who don’t know, the job of a news editor entails evaluating stories brought in by reporters, sending others out on assignments and planning the pages of the news section to ensure our newspaper is the very best it can be for our readers.

It is a bit like playing a giant game of chess, with all the pieces moving at the same time.

So, for the past 11 years, I have been womaning the news desk during Women’s Month, evaluating all the stories of abuse, rape and murder that come in, deciding whether they are unique enough to be considered new – which is what news is – and sifting everyday horror from the exceptional.

After all this time, I would like to make a proposal: Please can we cancel Women’s Day – and Women’s Month, too.

And while we are at it, can we also skip the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, which is coming up towards the end of November?

I ask this because Women’s Day, Women’s Month and the 16 Days campaigns appear to have become a dare. They are a coded request to those who beat, hate, kill and rape women to up their game.

It is as if the misogynists’ club gathers in July and October to hold secret meetings in manly places to pre-empt the women’s designated months and plan new, improved ways of showing women who’s boss. And they are going to show those b****es their place, s’true. If women think, just once, that they are special because they have a month in their honour, we will show them with our fists, and worse, that they are lower than us. That we rule them. That our power is real.

Many argue that we hear of a lot more cases of murdered, raped and beaten women over Women’s Month and the 16 Days campaign than at other times of the year, because there is a heightened sense of awareness. I disagree.

I don’t have any statistics to support my argument, but from what I see, the violence appears to become more brutal, and more frequent, during Women’s Month.

This month has been no different from other Women’s Months, with numerous accounts of abuse and murder. Let us run through some recent incidents involving well-known protagonists.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education Mduduzi Manana allegedly battered three women at a Fourways night spot, and then allegedly offered them money to drop the charges against him. He almost had to be frogmarched from office weeks after the assault. He was defended by ANC Women’s League president, our patriarch protector-in-chief Bathabile Dlamini, as well as Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. (This helpfully illustrates my belief that patriarchy – defined as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it” – wouldn’t work half as well if women weren’t helping to enforce it.)

Besides Manana, there has been political scion Shaka Sisulu, accused of assaulting the mother of his child during a maintenance dispute. He strongly denies the accusation.

And, of course, there has been Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe’s assault by extension cord on 20-year-old Johannesburg model Gabriella Engels, in a bizarre case of woman-on-woman violence.

So, the cases involving the famous receive the lion’s share of the limited airtime and column inches allotted to Women’s Month. So do the bizarre ones, such as this Women’s Month’s unique rape and murder of 25-year-old Zanele Hlatshwayo allegedly by an inyanga (traditional healer) and his accomplices in Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal. This allegation was followed up by up to 300 of the inyanga’s clients admitting to having eaten human flesh – including possibly Hlatshwayo – in the inyanga’s possession.

From this month’s action, it is clear, to me at least, that having a women’s day or month is not helping women. The beatings, rape and murder continue unabated at best – or at worst, increase.

Let us rather come up with another way to honour our heroines, the women of 1956 who marched on the Union Buildings that August 9 to demand the scrapping of the pass laws.

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Read more on:    womens day  |  womens rights

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