Rec­om­mended read­ing for men and women

CityPress - - Voices - Gayle Ed­munds voices@city­

The pow­er­ful preda­tors are be­ing dragged out into the sun­light. It is in­vig­o­rat­ing. It is cathar­tic. It is ter­ri­ble. It is ev­ery­where.

The only peo­ple who seem sur­prised by the sheer vol­ume of #MeToo sto­ries – re­fer­ring to the so­cial me­dia move­ment en­cour­ag­ing women to share their sto­ries of abuse and ha­rass­ment – are men. I know what you are go­ing to say: #NotAl­lMen.

So, let’s say these men – who pre­sum­ably have moth­ers, sis­ters, aunts, nieces, friends with vag­i­nas and daugh­ters – can­not quite un­der­stand why some­one would not say anything for 20 years.

Deep down, many of them har­bour some sym­pa­thy for the guy whose mar­riage/job/rep­u­ta­tion is now ru­ined (“he only fon­dled her”), with lit­tle thought for the vic­tim, whose en­tire life has been thrown off course and pos­si­bly crushed (“she was 14”).

Even women do this, as the pa­tri­archy is so en­trenched in their world-view that they some­times sub­con­sciously value male life over women’s lives.

For moth­ers like me, it dis­tils the crip­pling fear that we have for our daugh­ters’ well­be­ing. We have myr­iad strate­gies in place to try to dodge the ob­sta­cle course of pae­dophiles and preda­tors that we know our daugh­ters have to nav­i­gate. Be­cause we nav­i­gated it be­fore them, as did our moth­ers be­fore us.

Strate­gies such as no sleep­overs, no un­su­per­vised pri­vate coach­ing, no chang­ing to swim in front of male guests at a braai, no play­ing with older male chil­dren of friends with­out su­per­vi­sion, and reg­u­lar dis­cus­sions about se­crets and how, no mat­ter what the per­son says – “I will kill your mummy if you tell” – they must tell you.

It is ex­haust­ing. But it is vi­tal.

The South African #MeToo story that cap­tures why well-mean­ing cam­paigns such as 16 Days of Ac­tivism never make the so­ci­ety-chang­ing mark they as­pire to is Kh­wezi: The Re­mark­able Story of Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo. Redi Tl­habi’s im­por­tant book – which I read in one sob­bing sit­ting – lays bare the pa­tri­ar­chal in­fra­struc­ture that is de­signed to pro­tect the preda­tor and vil­ify the vic­tim.

This book is so im­por­tant, but I won­der how many South African men have read it cover to cover and in­ter­nalised its lessons.

I fear the an­swer is: Far too few. All the main­stream re­views I have read are by women.

This 16 Days, let’s not “raise aware­ness”. Let’s ask South African men – fa­thers, hus­bands, broth­ers and sons – to buy Tl­habi’s book, to read it within 16 days and to tell us what they are go­ing to change.

At the same time, let’s each read Good­night Sto­ries for Rebel Girls to all our chil­dren, sto­ries of women who have bro­ken bar­ri­ers and changed the world.

We have started to shed light on a sys­tem that al­lows preda­tors to thrive in dark­ness. Let’s hon­our the courage of those who speak out and never al­low the si­lence again.

I won­der how many South African men have read it cover to cover

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