The F-word: Shame of women-on-women violence

2012-07-28 11:05

I know of people who say they don’t own a television set or do social media because they believe these things are beneath their intellect.

For leisure they read magazines like The Thinker.

These cerebral ladies and gentlemen would have missed out an episode of Generations and the excitement it caused on social media networks.

They missed that a certain MamRuby beat up a character named Khethiwe.

Khethiwe, it turned out, was the lustful temptress seducing MamRuby’s love interest.

For that, MamRuby trended (what people born long ago would call “talk of the town”).

MamRuby had almost unanimous approval for thoroughly beating up Khethiwe and doing it in public.

For the record, my issue here is not whether to do away with soapies and just have what politicians and the religious establishment call “responsible programming”.

Soap opera producers must write their tales whichever way they believe their audiences will enjoy them.

If they don’t, they should read The Thinker or something.

I am interested in why it is that in a country that claims to abhor violence as a means of settling disputes, violence perpetrated by women seems to be justifiable.

All violence, including violence involving only women, should be deemed unjustifiable and indefensible.

To try to laugh it off or argue it away gives rise to the kind of inconsistency that does gender discourse no favours.

It degenerates into a gender equivalent of the “blacks-cannot-be-racist” argument.

Tolerance of “catfights” are inconsistent with a progressive discourse on gender and the messages we convey about violence.

Our views on relationship-based violence must not depend on who is the victim or perpetrator.

If we do, we make ourselves judges of whether the victim “asked for it” – a mindset some among us still employ when they have to deal with news of a woman being raped or a lesbian being attacked.

The exaltation of violence in our society will not change unless we take a stance against violence as a means to settle disputes.

We cannot prevaricate depending on who is victim or perpetrator and then think we can end the scourge.

My other problem with glorifying MamRuby’s attack on another woman is the subtle connotation that women must necessarily identify themselves in terms of their relationships.

MamRuby’s defence of her relationship entrenches the unfortunate stereotype that a woman needs a man in order to be of value.

As we celebrate Women’s Month from this week, it might be a good time to revisit this outdated idea that still shackles many young women.

Many of us have come to appreciate that there is no place for so-called crimes of passion.

We readily accept that a man who beats up his female partner because she has a love interest elsewhere is no better than a violent brute who starts a bar fight just because he can.

Yet MamRuby is a social network heroine because she employed violence to let a “loose” woman know not to mess around with “her man”.

If you replaced MamRuby with a male figure but kept the rest of the facts, we would agree he deserved no praise.

If MamRuby had issues with her cheating man, why not leave him?

If inclined to violence, why not make him, and not his lover, the recipient of her fury?

Could it be that even women recognise and endorse the beating up of other women, especially those found wanting of good morals?

Instead of Women’s Month being treated like an extended Mother’s Day, we could use it to revisit our attitudes to issues affecting women and ask uncomfortable questions about the role of women in aiding and abetting the regressive effect of patriarchy, and how society can progressively move towards conscious non-sexism.

» Follow me on Twitter @fikelelo

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