A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted this message on his Facebook page after the brutal rape and murder of Cape Town teenager Anene Booysen:
“I know for the past few weeks being a South African male has been a crime. The whole world has branded us cowards, killers and rapists. I just want to say I’m proud to be a South African male. And if you choose to paint us all with same brush because the actions of a few that’s fine. We know who we are and don’t need your validation. It’s always been hard to be (a) South African male. We have been at constant war since colonisation (all races). We’ve never known peace and yet the expectations on us have only been piled further even though things have rarely gotten better in this country. So to all South African men of all races, backgrounds and sexual orientations . . . . I SALUTE YOU, MY BROTHERS!”
This horrific act reared once again, the notion, that men are a cancer in society. However in the midst of the anger and resentment that has gripped the country, this incident showed how as a society we can all rally together to fight and get rid of the cancer that festers through our society.
My weekly column has taught me many things, one of them is that a lot of men yearn and want to be better. They want to be better fathers, providers and leaders in society. Every time when a story of domestic abuse or rape makes the headline, a lot of us men are disgusted and ashamed. People ask themselves, “How could a man do this?”
The simple answer is that many of us have let it happen. Violence and rape is a learned behaviour. I remember when I was a teenager; a group of my friends would huddle and crack jokes.
Generally, being boys, the conversation would gravitate towards sex. One of my friends would tell us a story of how he had sex with a girl over the weekend. This individual would reveal how this girl, at first refused to take off her clothes (because all women want it, but they will play hard to get) until he threatened and she finally gave in.
This friend of mine would further reveal how much this girl enjoyed the session and would surely come back for more. This type of behaviour was glorified and this individual was cool in our eyes.
A lot of people are saying this scourge is only picking up recently, I beg to differ. When I was a teenager, these acts were committed and they went on unreported. It is only recently that more women have found the courage to speak out and report the rapes that put the spotlight on them. Our society for a long time has remained silent. No more.
It is time to stand up and just like those kids in the Sarafina movie; we need to shout from the top of our lungs and burn, burn, burn! Our rage has to teach young boys to respect and protect any female that is around them. If we do not rise as nation, we will die as individuals.
Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller said, “First they came for communist; I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for socialist, I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for trade unionists, I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me. And there was no one to speak for me.”