How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? One … and it's not funny.
Unlike what this old joke suggests, I do have a sense of humour. And yes, I am a feminist. I believe that women and men are different, but that these differences do not imply any difference in value or dignity. Thus, I have fought all my life for the right of women to be treated equally.
I am also not a prude. I appreciate the sexual nature of human beings. I have no problem talking about sex (my kids are now rolling their eyes in embarrassment) and have no objection to a good sexual joke.
So after all these disclaimers, let me get to something that really annoyed me last week.
A few hours after the special debate on gender-based violence in Parliament, an article appeared on News24 titled: 'Dames, sê my wat jou naam is': Afrikaans rapper Biggy tops local chart. The article said that Biggy had joined the ranks of international hit-makers such as Post Malone, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith to be one of the top played songs on the music streaming website, Spotify.
Not to be found wanting (yet again) in my knowledge of the popular music scene, I clicked on the song's music video.
And there was Biggy (hair innocently side combed and dressed in a little pull-over jersey and bow tie) perving on women, in short shorts and tight T-shirts, pretending to wash cars in high heels. That is, when they can take their eyes off perving Biggy
The images were so stereotypical and frankly devoid of any artistic creativity that it was almost boring. But what really annoyed me were the lyrics of the song.
Oh sy skud haar heupe (Oh she shakes her hips)
Hey sy lek haar lippe (Hey she licks her lips)
Kan sien sy soek net dinge (Can see she is looking for things)
Wil my trick met al haar nukke (Wants to trick me with her whims)
Like vat my terug na jou huis toe (Like, take me back to your home)
Laat ek jou net wys toe (Let me just show you)
Kom nader na my toe (Come closer to me)
Klim in my kar en ons gly toe (Get into my car and we will glide)
Heavy keen want sy's oulik (Heavy keen cause she is cute)
Vat aan my been like oh shit (Touch my leg, like oh shit)
Ge-hypnotize met daai boude (Hypnotized by her bum)
The song/rap goes on to tell how Biggy playing Adrianus and one of the women end up at his house, but when she asks him to order her an Uber (after realising that he still lives with his parents and changing her mind), he responds with: "Uhm, what is wrong with your feet?" He then throws her and her shoes out the door.
The chorus (or whatever it is called in rap) is repeated over and over again: "Ladies, tell me what your name is, my name is Adrianus, the neighbours will know when I'm done with you."
Of course it rhymes in Afrikaans, but let's get one thing straight: just because something rhymes, doesn't make it funny.
So here is what troubles me:
Why is it that more than a million people have streamed this song and video without questioning the content – especially at a time when the horrendous level of violence against women has been highlighted in the media and during massive public marches?
Clearly, this song and video objectify women as sex objects in the crudest of forms. It also justifies men having their way with women or throwing them out the door when they object to sex, whilst triumphantly declaring "the neighbours will know when I am done with you".
I'm often asked what can or must be done in order to stem the horrible tide of gender- based violence. Of course legislative changes are important, as are punitive measures once the deeds have been perpetrated. But we will never stop gender-based violence or even reduce it if we don't stop objectifying women and understanding them privately or publicly, in real life or in media, as objects existing solely for men's pleasure.
If we truly want to put a stop to gender-based violence, we need to fight every little bit of patriarchy that humiliates, insults, objectifies and minimises the status, agency, and worth of women.
We have to get the message through: women are not here to serve men, sexually or otherwise.
No matter what (some) men might think, women are not their personal domestic workers, who are supposed to cook and clean for them. Men have no right to expect women to obey them, or satisfy their "needs". Women have every right to be successful in the work place and be paid equally for their work. I can go on and on.
The point is that it is the objectification and feelings of entitlement and ownership of women that lead men to abuse (physical and mentally), rape, and even kill women and girls.
We are appalled (as we should be) when a man rapes a little girl in a restaurant bathroom or a postal worker rapes and kills a young woman. But we forget that it starts with how men perceive women as lesser beings – something society often teaches, condones, or silently allows.
All of us (women and men) have to fight the obvious and insidious ways in which degrading women is part of our language, enshrined in the division of roles in the home and work place and yes, even in our music.
Because the rape and abuse of women is not in any way funny.