Comfort in politics and media for serial abusers
The charade called 16 Days of Activism against GenderBased Violence ends today. It seems fair to conclude that South African women — especially women who are victims of genderbased violence — have lost faith in such campaigns, which do not gain much traction. In the media, which perfected the art of making women sex objects to be used as sales tools, activism from women is muted. The newsroom is a patriarchal platform; many women in media work for misogynists and just grin and bear it.
How do you explain a lack of activism where there are so many women talk-show hosts yet there are horror stories of sexual harassment in so many newsrooms?
Look at the SABC, for example — so many towering women hosts there, yet so much sexual harassment. At least the new board has had the courage to investigate, but we have yet to see whether the predators will be brought to book.
Early this year a female presenter at a Gauteng radio station called a fellow female presenter and broke down on air about sexual harassment at the station. There was never an investigation about that — the same accountability is needed in private media organisations.
There is, however, an absence of activism even by some of the most articulate talk-show hosts in places like this — that is why it is easy for management to fail to account for their acts even as the media calls everyone else in society to account.
Stories in the television and music industry are disgusting, where women actors are asked for sexual favours in return for career advancement. The sex-for-jobs habit has become a modus operandi of many workplaces and the abusers go about their business as usual, just waiting to harass the next person who needs their largesse.
This is the nub of the issue where failure of these campaigns is concerned. Our society has not matured to a point where violence against women is frowned upon. In many a circle of friends it is accepted, and so the abusers find emotional refuge. In our workplaces there is no solidarity with victims. Colleagues move on and turn a blind eye.
If there was activism in these places, the tide would have long turned and women hopefully would feel safer. I suppose we should not be too surprised if you look at the political landscape.
Parliament is not led by example — women bashers are protected and even promoted. I am not aware of a woman basher whose career did not advance because they beat up a woman. Mduduzi
Manana, whose incident was well publicised, still went on to be elected to the ANC’s highest decision-making body, rubbing shoulders with some of the most courageous women activists of our time who are members of the NEC.
The posture of patriarchy is a stench across all political parties and sadly there are no consequences. So we should not be surprised by horrendous levels of femicide: if an MP can sit in parliament for months and not be punished, or a male MP thinks it is OK to threaten a female MP, we will not win this fight.
In the education fraternity, women students are forced to sleep with professors for academic favours. And at basic education level we hear stories of teachers sleeping with multiple pupils and getting away with it. It’s a total mess all around where abuse of women and children is concerned and there seems to be no place that is safe for them.
As if that is not enough, the church has become the worst place instead of a place of refuge. The current case of Pastor Omotoso’s rampant sexual abuse is sadly not an exception. Predators in the pulpit. So should we really be surprised if the 16 Days campaign is not taken seriously by the women of our country?
If there is no activism in the NGO sector and the media, where there is no leadership by example in our high echelons of leadership (the president gave us Bathabile Dlamini to lead the fight: go figure), what are you going to do?
Leadership is not going to come from above. It is up to you and you only to stop the abuse of our women and children.
In our workplaces there is no solidarity with victims; colleagues move on
Tabane is the author of Let’s Talk Frankly and an independent political commentator and communications expert