GBV: 'Show up in ways that make it harder for the trash to be trash' - experts tell men

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People at a Stop Violence Against Women March in Pretoria.
People at a Stop Violence Against Women March in Pretoria.
Alet Pretorius
  • UJ's Faculty of Humanities and The Centre for Sociological Research and Practice hosted a webinar on issues surrounding GBV. 
  • Panelists agreed that men needed to come to the party to join the conversation. 
  • One of the panelists said, for GBV to stop being the norm in post-apartheid SA, it had to be understood as a language.

Men are already involved in the debate around gender-based violence (GBV) and how it can be brought to an end, but they need to show up and take up space in different ways.

This was the opinion of Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, of Nelson Mandela University's Centre for Women and Gender Studies.

Gqola was speaking during a special webinar in celebration of Women's Day on Friday morning. It was hosted by the University of Johannesburg's Faculty of Humanities and The Centre for Sociological Research and Practice.

The webinar focused on the topic: "Gender-based violence against black women's bodies in post-apartheid South Africa." 

Wits University Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Malose Langa, was on the panel. 

Answering the question of how men could be brought in on the topic surrounding GBV, Langa said men didn't have to see feminism as the enemy. He added that, in engagements with men, their pain and hurt as a result of patriarchy should be listened to. 

READ | 'Surge' in gender-based violence during lockdown Level 3, says Ramaphosa

Langa added that spaces should be created for men to also express their fears and anxieties, as well as to self-disclose and critique associated practices of hegemonic masculinity. 

"But all this work should be done with a lot of caution because, more often, this is the response you hear: 'No, but I'm not trash. Not all of us as men belong in category of being trash'," said Langa. 

He said concerns about such responses were that they missed an opportunity for men to reflect on their own power and privilege when it came to the topic of GBV. 


Gqola said men have always been involved - but they needed to now try doing so differently. 

READ | Laws not enough to curb GBV, men need to join in

"If not all men are trash, that's fine, but can the 'not trashy men' play a different kind of role. What is their responsibility?

"In many other identities, we are invited to show up constantly as the thing we claim to be, so that men who are not trash need to show up in ways that interrupt the trashyness because they are already involved, even if their involvement is silenced... and not active violence." 

Gqola added that men needed to show up in ways that would make it hard for those termed "trash" to exist. 

"Interrupt the trash, and show up in ways that make it harder for the trash to be trash, and that's how i think how men can take up space differently, rather than being brought in because they are here."

Gqola also said that, for GBV to be stop being the norm in post-apartheid South Africa, it had to be understood as a language.

She said understanding GBV against black women required one to also understand it as institutional and institutionally-sanctioned. 

"We have to move away from notions of gender-based violence, popular notions of gender-based violence against black women as attitudinal or occasional. We have to recognise that gender-based violence is institutional, it is structural of how patriarchy works.

"If we seek to unmake gender-based violence as a norm, as a taken for granted status in the world, in South Africa post-apartheid, we have to understand it as a language - and if it is a language, there are a variety of attributes that we associate with what it means to be a language, what it communicates, when it communicates, who owns the language and why the language is owned the way it is?" 

Gqola said people also needed to understand that GBV was available as a language because of historic processes that created it as such.

She added that, to do away with that, it is important to understand the meaning and the kind of language GBV is. 

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