Howard Feldman

America's trumped up women's march

2017-01-25 10:50

It’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to march through the streets of Washington with an inflatable vagina. Who wouldn’t? It’s just that I am slightly confused as to what all the marching is actually about.

It did look like a gorgeous day to be out, and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. But the motivation behind the march still perplexes me. Somewhere in all this I understand that things were said (near the turn of this century) and that feelings were hurt. And that President Donald Trump just doesn’t get it. And whereas as a male I might be genetically compromised when it comes to feelings, and vaginas (I don’t sport much of either), there are certain aspects that trouble me.

A few nights ago I helped my son with some homework. The subject was Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and we spent some time working through examples various basic requirements for survival. He struggled to see why the highest level was “self actualization” and why internet data wasn’t listed as the most basic requirement for humanity. He tried to convince me as to what he would be prepared to forgo in order to secure this “need.”

It was then that I realised that, while I wasn’t paying attention, the famous hierarchy was rewritten. There was now Maslow 2.0. And it is “feelings” that rank as the most important need.

Have a look at social and main stream media if you don’t believe me.

Trump’s past comments about women were appalling. There is simply no way to defend the type of language he used, and there is no doubt that it reflects a deeply troubling view of women in general. To try and defend it by saying it’s simply “locker room talk” is as much an insult to men as it is to women. I refuse to accept that this is the way men speak and I am offended that he should speak for me in this way.

But his words didn’t destroy lives. Not like the actions of his predecessor Bill Clinton’s did. Monica Lewinsky was a young impressionable woman who became a victim not only of manipulation of the president but of the press and others who refused to stand by her.

Her life was decimated by the events that will define her for the rest of her living days. Unable to sustain a relationship, unable to hold a job or even walk into an interview without her past haunting her and unable to have a conversation without a painful reminder. Even as I write this, I am acutely aware that each word needs to be interrogated for sexual innuendo.

And yet for Monica Lewinsky no one marched.

It is not words and feelings that have destroyed the lives of young women in Nigeria. It was Boko Haram. They stole and continue to kidnap women and children. These women are forced into sex slavery and to become suicide bombers. Recent reports show that a new trend is to take an infant with on a deadly mission in order to avoid detection. That is the level of destruction in a war that has resulted in the death of more than 15 000 people.

And yet no one makes catchy placards. And no one marches.

And no one marches for the half a million victims of the Syrian conflict, many of whom are women and children who no longer have the privilege to care about feelings. Because they are dead. And for the women of many countries in the Middle East who suffer daily through legislated abuse and systematic disenfranchisement in every area of their lives.

And yet no one inflates a vagina for them.

Because it is not about feelings.

South Africa’s rape statistics are horrendous. Officially 142,2 sexual offenses occur every single day in the country. In 2015/2016 alone 42 596 rapes were reported to the police. One can only wonder how many incidents went unrecorded.

This is reason to march.

The multi-layered ironies of Sunday’s marches around the world are too numerous to count. The celebrity endorsements and public shaming of those who chose not to participate was possibly the most interesting. 

Add that to the fact that the people marching in the USA were voters who were part of a democratic process that resulted in the other candidate winning makes the entire event more thought provoking.  

There is also no doubting the magnificence of the day. But whereas it is truly wonderful that an important cause can unite and inspire, I can’t help “feeling” that it was a massive opportunity missed. That whereas this might have been a fantastic emotionally charged event, it was also a horrible message to women who actually need their plight highlighted. 

- Howard Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

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