‘New day’ for women de­clared

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

More car­toons on­line at An­gela Mudukuti is an in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal jus­tice lawyer at the Wayamo Foun­da­tion, for­merly with the South­ern Africa Lit­i­ga­tion Cen­tre and the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court

AWARD shows can be in­cred­i­bly dull, but this year’s Golden Globes show­cased the power of celebrity and the im­pact fa­mous voices can have when they are utilised to raise aware­ness.

One of the most mem­o­rable and sig­nif­i­cant celebrity speeches of our time was de­liv­ered by Oprah Win­frey when she ac­cepted the Ce­cil B DeMille Award for her con­tri­bu­tion to the en­ter­tain­ment world.

She used the op­por­tu­nity to shed light on so­ci­etal ills, de­nounc­ing racism, and salut­ing brave vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault.

The event be­gan with a vast ma­jor­ity of the nom­i­nees and in­vited guests wear­ing black to raise aware­ness about the anti-sex­ual ha­rass­ment cam­paign “Time’s Up” and en­gag­ing in what is pop­u­larly re­ferred to as “red car­pet ac­tivism”. Sev­eral celebri­ties chose to bring gen­der and equal­ity ac­tivists as their “plus ones” in sol­i­dar­ity.

Time’s Up is a move­ment help­ing vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing a le­gal de­fence fund which sub­sidises fees for such in­di­vid­u­als.

This move­ment was in­spired by the 2017 #Me­Too cam­paign that mo­bilised mil­lions of peo­ple glob­ally to stand against sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment.

#Me­Too was cre­ated by civil rights ac­tivist Tarana Burke in 2006 and was pop­u­larised by ac­tress Alyssa Mi­lano in Oc­to­ber 2017, when she en­cour­aged women who have been vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment to tweet those two sim­ple words.

Those two words have been tweeted by mil­lions of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in the wake of the shock­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against Hol­ly­wood mogul Har­vey We­in­stein.

More than 80 women ac­cused We­in­stein of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and/or as­sault and/ or mo­lesta­tion.

Time mag­a­zine’s 2017 Per­son of Year was a group of women rep­re­sent­ing mil­lions of other “si­lence break­ers” who moved past the shame, self-blame and pain of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse and shared their heart-break­ing yet in­spir­ing sto­ries with the world.

And what bet­ter cause to cham­pion on a plat­form such as the Golden Globes. Many pre­sen­ters and award re­cip­i­ents took a mo­ment to re­flect on the im­por­tance of putting an end to sex­ual ha­rass­ment, but the night reached its crescendo when Win­frey took the floor.

She ac­knowl­edged the plight of vic­tims and recog­nised the brav­ery of the women who have spo­ken up and re­fused to suf­fer in si­lence.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual vi­o­lence is wide­spread. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey re­ported by Time’s Up, one in three women be­tween the ages 18 and 34 have been sex­u­ally ha­rassed at work, and 71% did not re­port it.

South Africa is sadly no stranger to sex­ual ha­rass­ment and vi­o­lence, and has some of the high­est rape sta­tis­tics in the world. In 2016/17, 49 660 sex­ual of­fences were recorded by the po­lice, but how many more go un­re­ported?

As the first African-Amer­i­can wo­man to be be­stowed with the Ce­cil B DeMille award, the ob­vi­ous chal­lenges of racial in­equal­ity in Hol­ly­wood and in many parts of the world, could not be over­looked.

The award has been be­stowed 64 times on an an­nual ba­sis (ex­cept in 1976 and 2008) since 1952. Only four African-Amer­i­cans have ever re­ceived it. Ac­tor Sid­ney Poitier was the first, in 1982, a point Win­frey men­tioned in her speech.

The fact that in 2018 the world is still count­ing African-Amer­i­can or black firsts in var­i­ous fields, pro­fes­sions and po­si­tions is a sign of how far the world is from some sem­blance of true equal­ity.

The in­domitable Win­frey has other firsts un­der her belt. She was the first wo­man to own and pro­duce her own talk show and Forbes’s first African-Amer­i­can fe­male bil­lion­aire.

The rel­e­vance of Win­frey’s re­marks, against the back­drop of 2017, which saw its fair share of vit­ri­olic hate speech and per­se­cu­tion on the ba­sis of race, was more than just ap­pro­pri­ate – it was nec­es­sary. Win­frey took the au­di­ence all the way back to Rosa Parks, an African-Amer­i­can civil rights ac­tivist who re­sisted bus seg­re­ga­tion in 1955 in Alabama by re­fus­ing to give up her seat to a white pas­sen­ger.

Win­frey also told the lesser known story of Recy Tay­lor, an African-Amer­i­can mother and wife who was gang-raped by six white men 1944 in Alabama. Her as­sailants were never brought to jus­tice. Tay­lor died just 10 days be­fore Win­frey’s speech.

These pow­er­ful rec­ol­lec­tions re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion as long-last­ing ap­plause filled the glitzy Bev­erly Hil­ton ball­room.

Win­frey aptly and elo­quently cap­tured the sys­temic in­equal­ity that plagues so­ci­ety to­day and pro­fessed that a “new day is on the hori­zon”.

Af­ter her in­spir­ing speech, so­cial me­dia and news plat­forms were abuzz with the thought of Win­frey be­com­ing the first fe­male African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent of the US in 2020. An­other long awaited first the world is yet to see.

SIG­NIF­I­CANT: Oprah Win­frey, win­ner of the Ce­cil B DeMille Award at the 75th An­nual Golden Globe Awards last week­end, whose ac­cep­tance speech cen­tred on the Time’s Up cam­paign.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.