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Women Journalists and Sexual Harassment

Women Journalists and Sexual Harassment

Aarti Narsee tells how women journalists experience sexual harassment on a daily basis

“You are so beautiful, are you married?”
“I should have booked you into my hotel room.”
“I will rape you.”
These are just some of the utterances that I and other women journalists have encountered at some time in our careers.
The onlookers who see the work we do daily, whether on TV, radio or in newspaper, often say its “part of the job”.
My first question to them would be: “Would you be harrassing me or sexualising me if I was a male journalist?
The answer is NO.
But this happens to us almost everyday.
My first startling encounter took place when I was a young intern at a print media house. I was keen and eager to build up as many contacts in areas that were of interest to me.
I had made contact with a chief magistrate, who was quite outspoken with the media and useful to me on stories about challenges facing the judiciary. Along with some other journalists, I was invited to attend an annual general meeting. I took this opportunity to introduce myself to him in person, in an effort to continue building a better work relationship for future stories.
That night, after having briefly met him, I received a text message, saying: “Aarti, if I had known you were as beautiful in person as your name, I would have booked a hotel room here for the night.”
As I read the message I froze, I was shocked and confused. Was he implying anything sexual here? Experience has taught me that he was.

A few years later, the same person asked to meet for coffee, as he was on a trip to Cape Town. I made an excuse to avoid this at all costs. I didn’t feel like I would be safe if I met with him.

There have been other instances. Recently, while doing a live crossing, I had a man standing behind me, making a kissing gesture, directed at me. I didn’t notice this, because I was reporting on live TV. But I later had people on FB and instagram sending me screen grabs,  with the captions saying “the things you experience on the job.”
Then of course there are always personal questions like: “Are you single or married?, Can I be your boyfriend?”
And let’s not forget the politicians who harass us and speak to us differently because we are women.
After speaking to the women journalists, I realised we all shared similar stories.
My one friend, who worked as a AFP video journalist, tells me how she felt “vulnerable and violated” during the xenophobia violence in 2014.
“One guy approaches me, and he comes right up to me and says he wants a kiss. If I hadn’t moved my face he would have kissed me….What annoyed me is that most of the camera people were guys and they all knew me and no one did anything. Everyone just stood there, laughed and said these guys are just so trashed,” she says.
She tells me that another encounter occurred later in the afternoon, during a flareup. “Another guy comes toward us and I was talking to another journalist who is a male. He says to me, “can we just have alone time?” I stood up and walked away.”
One of my  journalist friends is one of the most fearless people I know. She always tend to find herself in the midst of protestors, petrol bombs or tear gas.
“I always considered myself to be a brave person…but last year something reminded me of my vulnerability as a female journalist,” she says.
She recounts that the incident happened while she was covering a protest in Hout Bay and accompanied by her colleague, a male multi-media journalist.
“During the protest things got so intense that at one point I used my phone to file my story. While doing this there were three protesters who told me ‘we will rape you if you don’t put your phone away.’”
“This was a threat they used a few times. They threatened me with the worst kind of sexual violence. It just really brought me back to the reality that I am a woman. They didn’t see me as someone doing a job because they didn’t say this to my male colleague. They didn’t say this to the other male photographers who were also doing their job just like I was,” she says.
She adds, “It reminded me that while I might have the ability to do everything that men do, I still need to be so much more aware of my safety, I need to be more vigilant than they need to be. They probably will never have to face the same kind of sexual threat that I would have to.”
We are the very same women that cover stories about rape, politics, the burning service delivery issues at protests, tracking legislation at Parliament.
We give a voice to those who want to speak out. But who speaks out for us?
Who defends us when we are on a story and someone sexualises us or threatens us?
No one else, but us!
We are Nasty Women and we fight this everyday.
I’m not a rock

I’m not a rock

By Berenice Paulse At the total shutdown women’s march in Cape Town on 1 August 2018, women objected to a male speaker’s use of the slogan for the 1956 Women’s March to Union building ‘wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ I’m not a rock, don’t call me […]

#TotalShutDown A Case for Action

#TotalShutDown A Case for Action

By Anastasia Slamat Here we find ourselves once again, on the eve of women’s month. A month where various events are hosted by government to honour women and their role in society. Awards are handed out by an imminent South African in an Armani suit […]

The Mutilation of the Female Tongue By Berenice Paulse

The Mutilation of the Female Tongue By Berenice Paulse

Berenice Paulse
Many thousands of women were burnt as witches when they did not conform with prevailing social norms.

  

DISCIPLINING THE TONGUE

History is replete with examples of how women’s voices were historically silenced within the confines of patriarchy and societal convention about the spaces they were allowed to occupy (both physically and intellectually). The crudest of instruments of silencing included the use of a scold’s bridle and dunking stool used during the Middle Ages.

The scolds bridle was essentially an iron muzzle enclosed in an iron mask worn by women as punishment for infringements of the tongue (i.e. statements considered slanderous, gossiping and speaking out of turn, etc.). In some instances, an iron spike was attached to the bridle-bit so that any movement of the tongue would result in physical injury – thus literally discouraging speaking (as well as eating and drinking). To intensify the suffering and humiliation, the offending woman would be put on a leash or chain and paraded in public (in most instances by the spouse). The public was further encouraged to participate in the muzzled woman’s degradation through insults or spitting. The dunking stool consisted of a chair attached to a free moving arm, next to a river. It was essentially designed as an instrument to punish women accused of witchcraft or, transactional sex as well as “nags”. The women would be strapped into the chair and dunked into a freezing river – punishment could last between minutes to hours, depending on the nature of the infringement.

A ‘scold’ is a derogatory term, referring to a woman who nags ‘too much’, is chronically short-tempered and irritable. The use of similar words in the English language include a ‘nag’ or a ‘shrew’ fishwife, (the latter is the object of white male writers’ obsession to either escape or bring the woman to heel – see, for example, Washington Irving’s “Rip van Winkle” and William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”).

 

Following the Medieval period, unrelenting attempts to control and discipline the female body (and voice) manifested through brutal witch-hunts that characterised the Early Modern period. Between the 15th and 18th century, tens of thousands of women perished in the raging infernos of moral indignation and righteous ignorance that swept across Europe. The targets were almost exclusively women. Sporadic incidents of violence perpetrated against (mostly) women on suspicion of witchcraft are still reported in Sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa.

Women vulnerable to suspicions of witchcraft were typically those practicing herbal remedies, those supporting other women through indigenous knowledge, and those not under the ‘protection’ of a man either through familial or matrimonial ties.   History’s treatment of women who threatened or disrupted the prevailing social order through speech and behaviour, relegated them to societal pariah status; hazardous to the wellbeing of the broader community.

PUBLIC ACTIVISM, POLITICS AND POWER

Fast-forward three hundred years to a time when 193 global leaders embraced a social compact to end poverty and other laudable development goals by 2030, designated as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender equality and women’s empowerment is regarded as a precondition for achieving the SDGs; hence its elevation to a stand-alone goal (SDG 5). Amongst others, SDG 5 is committed to women’s full and effective participation at all levels, which include leadership in political, economic and public life. However, progress to date has been rather sluggish. By 2017, the United Nations (UN) found that less than a third of women are represented in senior or middle management positions, and less than a quarter (23.4 percent) in national legislatures.

The structural forces that continue to resist women’s advancement are often compounded by the threat of psychological, physical and sexual violence. In 2016, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) released a report titled: Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians. The report, which is based on a sample survey, found that 80 percent of women parliamentarians have been subjected to psychological violence, 21.8 percent to acts of sexual violence, and 25.5 percent to physical violence. The manifestations of psychological violence include the following: humiliating sexual or sexist remarks (65.5 percent), images of or highly disrespectful comments with sexual connotations in traditional media (27.3 percent), extremely humiliating or sexually charged images of self through social media (41.8 percent), threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction (44.4 percent), and harassment – insistent and uninvited behaviour (such as unwanted attention or unwelcome verbal contact), or interaction that may have caused fear (32.7 percent).

Women parliamentarians reported encountering stereotyped perceptions about their appearances, speech, behaviour, and the role they should play. They also reported daily acts of condescension and sexism, conveyed through inappropriate gestures or sound, such as being shushed when they speak, whistles, air kisses, handshakes involving the lewd use of a finger, etc. Almost two thirds of the women (60.5 percent) recognised that the motivation for the threats and violence stemmed from them taking a clear position on particular issues, including those considered controversial such as advancing women’s rights and human rights-related issues. The IPU report confirms the gravity of some of the incidents already exposed in the media.

Parliaments are often referred to as giving voice to members of the public. However, the fact that women parliamentarians draw a direct link between their victimisation and their voices, suggests that legislative bodies, as former strongholds of male power and privilege, continue to function as mediums to muzzle female voices – albeit less overtly. Parliaments are by no means the only public spaces where women’s voices are routinely gagged or mutilated in an attempt to discourage them from straying too far from the path that many still consciously or unconsciously believe is predestined for them. Seniority is not necessarily a deterrent for the typical sexism and misogynist experienced by women in public office.   In 2012, former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, called out the former Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, for his misogynist double standards. Gillard subsequently also spoke out about being criticised for not having children when she was charged with being “deliberately barren”, labelled a witch and a bitch, and being cat-called when she spoke in Parliament.

South Africa’s former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Lindiwe Mazibuko, during her term, was also subjected to an incessant stream of sexist comments about her clothes, weight, hair, and the way she spoke. It would appear that her youthfulness and political alliance made Mazibuko a prime target. Similarly, opposition MP, Phumzile van Damme was labelled a “straat meid” ( colloquial derogatory reference to a woman who engages in transactional sex), while the former opposition national party leader, Helen Zille, was accused of having appointed her “boyfriends and concubines” as criticism for appointing a predominantly male provincial cabinet. Senior female politicians (including cabinet ministers) in the ruling party have also been subjected to sexist and misogynist slurs – Lindiwe Sisuslu was branded a “Barbie doll” and Naledi Pandor ridiculed for her accent. The IPU report points to aggravating risk factors for women, such as being a member of an opposition party, being relatively youthful (those under 40 are targeted more frequently), and being a member of a minority group, but it would appear that, generally speaking, all women are at risk.

While sexism and misogyny may be more visible in politics, given the way in which national legislatures function and the general public interest it invites, women leaders outside of public office (whether at grass roots level or executive boardrooms), are not targeted any less.  Recently, Magda Wierzycka, CEO of a major asset management company in South Africa, revealed that she has been the object of death threats and digitally manipulated sexual images circulated via social media. The slur campaign was allegedly accompanied by claims that she created her successful business on the back of sex work in the past. Wierzycka was targeted as she became increasingly vocal against corruption and financial exploitation in the public and private sectors.

One of the most haunting reminders of the extent to which perpetrators will go to expunge non-conformist female voices must be the tragic death of the late Suna Venter during June 2017. At the relatively youthful age of 32, Venter died of a cardiac condition called stress cardiomyopathy – known in layperson’s terms as ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’. She was a member of the so-called “SABC 8”, a group of employees at the public broadcaster who resisted attempts at censorship. Venter suffered sustained threats of violence, victimisation, and harassment. A few months before her death she was shot in the face, on another occasion she was abducted, tied to a tree and the grass around her set alight.    At the time, those close to Suna Venter believed that her illness was, if not caused, certainly aggravated by the periods of prolonged stress and trauma she was subjected to.

Over the years, there have been several instances of LGBTI women maimed and killed for publicly asserting their right to their bodies and for their refusal to deny their sexual orientation. However, it is the death of a young woman, 22-year-old lesbian activist Noluvo Swelindawo[1] in December 2016, which served as a brutal reminder of the extent to which those intent on maintaining the status quo will go to mete out their peculiar level of discipline to ‘wayward’ women. Swelindawo was well-known in her community as an active member of a grassroots organisation creating awareness on gender issues and LGBTI rights. A day after she was assaulted by the man subsequently convicted of her murder, Noluvo Swelindawo was forcefully abducted from her home by a group of men. The court found that Noluvo’s murder was motivated by her sexual orientation. Noluvo’s Swelindawo’s abduction and murder was a deliberate act of pissing on her rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation, to have her dignity and bodily integrity respected and protected, to be free from violence, not to be treated in a cruel, inhuman or degrading manner – all of which are enshrined in our world-renowned Constitution.

BLOODIED AND BUTCHERED: MAKING SENSE

Unfortunately, not all accounts of attempts to censor or obliterate women’s voices make it to the headlines. The stories shared above, whilst a mere fragment of the global picture, share a common thread of vilification, stereotyping, sexual objectification, defamation, denigration, and violence. The motive is to keep women in check, to dissuade them from disrupting the status quo, and to compel compliance.

In her book, Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership, author and academic, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, recounts how women’s voices have historically been suppressed through crude and torturous instruments and modus operandi (think about catcalling and slut shaming, for example). One of the most persistent strategies is the equation of women’s public speech with promiscuity or questionable morals, whereas their silence bears testimony to their modesty or virtue (think about all the maxims and religious scripts about the virtue of a woman’s silence). Variations of this theme plays itself out over time, space and across different cultures, but the message remains essentially the same: a woman should hold her tongue or face the (misogynistic) consequences. Jamieson explains why attempts to silence disruptive female voices are so often underscored by innuendos about their sexuality or morality, as illustrated in the examples discussed above. She makes the case that some men liken the search for power with lust, and therefore intuitively reach for such descriptions when they perceive their own power being threatened or diminished. This theory goes a long way towards an explanation of why distorted sexual images or indictments about women’s morality are the low hanging fruits to distract from their voices in public discourse. Finally, Jamieson challenges the notion of how the public focus on women’s private behaviour has been legitimised through innuendos and accusations about their sexuality – which is not the case for men.

Given the intensity of, and malicious assault on women’s voices, I would argue that such actions represent significantly more than attempts to interrupt or silence, but extend to symbolic acts of lacerating and mutilating the female tongue. The public spectacle of women’s voices being bloodied and butchered continues to this day – albeit in a different guise from the practice of being dunked, bridled or burned at the stake. The crude and discernable customs of yesteryear have just given way to more socially tolerable and camouflaged practices as women are increasingly making their presence felt in former male bastions that have retained their misogynist identities. Newly coined phrases such as ‘catcalling’ and ‘slut shaming’ affirms that this is indeed the case. However, in her book, Jamieson does offer a glimmer of hope that women are able to do what they have done for centuries: challenge and surpass these obstacles, while systematically exposing the deceitful constructs conventionally used against them. Gillard unmasks this eloquently in her response to Abbott: “[…] He could change his behaviour, he could apologise for all his past statements, he could apologise for standing next to signs describing me as a witch and a bitch, terminology that is now objected to by the frontbench of the Opposition. He could change a standard himself if he sought to do so. But we will see none of that from the Leader of the Opposition, because, on these questions, he is incapable of change. Capable of double standards, but incapable of change. His double standards should not rule this Parliament.[…]”

 

References

Collison, C. (2016). Lesbian activist’s murder puts spotlight on hate crime; shocking new statistics. Mail & Guardian. 8 December 2016.

Davis, R. (2017). Parliamentary sexism: when is enough ENOUGH? Daily Maverick. 17 February 2017.

Etheridge, J. (2017). Broken Heart Syndrome kills ‘SABC 8’ journalist Suna Venter. News24. 29 June 2017.

IPU (2016). Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians. Issue Brief. October 2016.

Jamieson, K (1995). Beyond the double bind: women and leadership. Oxford University Press.

Rourke, A. (2012). Julia Gillard’s attack on sexism hailed as a turning point for Australian woman. The Guardian. 12 October 2012.

Sunday Times. Magda Wierzycka’s mission. Sunday Times. 21 January 2018.

Transcript of Julia Gillard’s speech. (2012). The Sidney Morning Herald. 10 October 2012.

UN Economic and Social Council. 2017. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General, E2017/66.

Underhill, G. (2012). Malema and Shivambu to apologies to Zille. Mail & Guardian. 14 June 2012.

 

[1] Collison, C. (2016). Lesbian activist’s murder puts spotlight on hate crime; shocking new statistics. Mail & Guardian. 8 December 2016.

 

Sisonke Msimang’s Always Another Country

Sisonke Msimang’s Always Another Country

Book Review by Joy Watson Sisonke Msimang’s book “Always Another Country” is a memoir, a striking narrative of growing up in exile. The book is a poignant reflection on how we construct identity in different temporal and societal spaces. At a young age, Msimang’s father […]

Slave Woman Under Auction Hammer

Slave Woman Under Auction Hammer

Slave Woman Under Auction by

Joline Young

Advertisement in the Cape Town Gazette 4 July 1820:

A public sale will be held on Saturday morning, the 5th instant at 11 o’clock in front of the old Admiral’s House, of household furniture, …..  also at the same time and place will be sold a slave woman and her four children, she is 27 years of age and a good washerwoman.  J Snell, Auctioneer.

 Who are you, nameless, faceless woman?  I encountered you in an advertisement in the Cape Gazette.  The year was 1820 and you and your four children were advertised as goods for sale at an auction, along with livestock and household furniture.  No mention is given of your name, or the slave name that had been allocated to you, nor is there any mention of where you came from or how old your children were.

The only information that seemed pertinent to the auctioneer, J Snell, was that you were 27 years old and a good washerwoman.  But I wonder about you.  Did you know, on that day, that you and your children were going to be auctioned off? Or were you just called away from your work and taken to the spot in front of the Old Admiral’s House when your number was called?

Was it a quick 5 minute transaction? Was it over before you even realised what was happening?  And your children; were they sold to the same enslavers who bought you or were they sold separately?  If they were sold separately, did they cry to come with you or did they also simply not realise what was happening?  Would you have tried to protest, and if you did, were you whipped and forced away?   If your children were sold off separately, did you ever see each other again?  And if you did not, what were the nightmares that plagued you during the lonely night hours of the night?  Did you have more children after this, and if you did, did you form a comfortable psychological barrier from them, knowing that they too might be taken from you on any day, at any time?

I imagine that at night, you awoke from your sleep only to be haunted by their cries.  Maybe sometimes you woke up in the morning expecting them to be there and then reality would dawn and you would realise that you were in a different environment and they were gone.  If you felt outrage at what had happened, did you keep it to yourself, living as you were in a society where what was happening to you was quite acceptable.  Was it acceptable to YOU?  Did you hate the people who did this to you or was your sense of self so diminished that you accepted any abuse meted out to you?

And sometimes, when even your acceptance got the better of you and you felt that painful yearning that any mother feels when she is parted from her children, no matter whether those children were born of love or forced into your womb by your enslaver’s lust, how did you deaden the pain?  Did you steal some wine to drink to help numb the constant ache in our heart, to help you sleep, to help you forget?

And in the end, did you forget? Did you even forget who you yourself were?  And if you did, what did it matter to the people who enslaved you, as long as the washing was clean?  Even if you sometimes smelt a little bit of alcohol, would they not have just said “these people are all like that, that is why we have to treat them as children, because that is what they are, they have the minds of children. They don’t even have feelings for their own”.

I think about you a lot, nameless, faceless woman.  Standing there, outside the Old Admiral’s house where you were nothing, a mere chattel, a washerwoman, a body to serve and to be abused.  You were not allowed an opinion, you were not allowed to protest, you were not allowed to feel; so whatever you felt was to be hidden deep within the crevices of your tormented soul.  But you did feel, nameless, faceless woman.  I sense your feelings so strong within me now. Your tears cry out to be heard, from beneath these official words, and I catch them in my heart.

So now you know that we are connected, nameless, faceless woman.  So now that we have met each other in this transitory space, you can finally see who I am.  I am the bloodline that exists between the past and the present. I am the inheritor of your broken dreams and the offspring of your pain. But allow me to also be the caretaker of a new dawn where the chains of slavery and despair will be loosened from our minds as well as our bodies.

So now I reach out to you, over centuries past, to you, nameless, faceless woman. You are my past and I, nameless; faceless woman, am your future.

 

 

 

We, the women

We, the women

We the women by Emilie Gambade   “It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips. I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” Maya Angelou   I once wrote In one […]


Launch Piece

Feminism, Aprons and Manicure Sets

Feminism, Aprons and Manicure Sets

Carmine Rustin tell us about the day that feminism morphed into pretty aprons and manicure sets

A few short years into our democracy, when I started as a researcher at the Parliament of South Africa, I supported the then Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women. As a young, black feminist, it was an exciting time to be working as a gender researcher contributing to our constitutional democracy. My role was to support the legislative and oversight work of the Joint Committee. It was a role that was enriched by the fact that an amazing older black feminist woman led the Committee. Yes, old black South African feminists do exist and they have much to share with the young feminists of all colours.

As a gender researcher in this euphoric new democracy, I felt that in a small way, I was making a difference in the lives of many women. I was proud to be part of processes that reported on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. It was gratifying to be part of a body that looked at the impact of HIV and AIDS on women, when the political climate at the time didn’t allow for open and honest engagement on the issue. And then there were all the many other initiatives that were aimed at celebrating and honouring women, which I loved.

But sometimes we got the manner in which we celebrated women wrong. At least I think so, but I may be wrong.

I recall one such event. It was at an event in Parliament to celebrate Women’s Day with women members of staff. A full programme had been arranged with speakers, lunch and gifts. Noble indeed. But then the time for the handing out of the gifts arrived. To my horror, the gifts included an apron – with the picture of leaders of the 1956 women’s march printed on it, together with a manicure set. I was flabbergasted and mad as hell for obvious reasons or so I thought.

The fact that I protested and indicated that this was inappropriate resonated with some women only. For the majority of women, the gifts were great. There was a near-riot to get hold of the aprons and manicure sets.

The question that I was asked is why was this such a big deal? Why had I reacted in the manner that I did? I think that the intention of the organisers was good and the majority of women appreciated the gesture. But I thought that these gifts were casting women in stereotypical roles and reinforced a problematic message about what Women’s Day was about.

Many years later, a male colleague could still recall his first meeting with me, which was the moment where I expressed my indignation at being presented with what was perceived as inappropriate gifts for women. It was also the last time that I participated in a Women’s Day event at the office.

I was puzzled back then – and ten years later it still puzzles me – why women were so excited by these gifts. Perhaps it is because many women are uncritical about the way women are portrayed in society and how these gifts reproduced stereotypical portrayals of women. Perhaps some women are happy with their assigned roles in a patriarchal society. Perhaps the aprons were very nice and practical. And who cannot use a good manicure set?

It is more than a speculation that many of the women were more than happy with the Women’s Day gifts because indignation can be exhausting, some of us are wary of feminism, and many have not had feminist conscientisation. As for men, they are even more scared of feminism, and often anti-feminist. Feminism is a swear word for many women and most men in our society.

In light of the apparent lack of wide appeal of feminism, in the context of a free world led by the misogynist Donald J. Trump, and my country led by patriarch Jacob G Zuma, do we need feminists?

There’s no denying that since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the lives of women, especially for black women, have been so much different from their grandmothers’, mothers’ and aunts’. There have been many opportunities available to women – in education, the workplace and politics. No longer restricted in their aspirations to being married, mothers, nurses, or teachers – important as these positions and careers are for many women and society – women can be happily single, childfree, surgeons, or professors. They can be director-generals in government, chief executives and public representatives. Women can be found in every decision-making position in society. This difference in women’s lives was brought about through the collective struggles of women. It was through groundswell mobilizing that the equality clause, which protects everyone against discrimination based on gender, race, pregnancy and sexual orientation, amongst others, was included in the Constitution of South Africa. What a feat.

But whilst there have been many new opportunities brought about by women’s activism in the post-apartheid dispensation, new challenges have arisen. These challenges include balancing demanding and often competing roles as partners, caregivers and professionals. This can be exhausting.

Then again, it’s clear that some of the old challenges remain. Patriarchal culture and violence against women and girls are two of the main challenges. Even though in South Africa we have constitutional rights and opportunities to aspire to the highest office, our country remains culturally gender unequal, as well as violent. The rates of rape and murder are very high. A 1999 study found that the overall rate of female homicides in South Africa was 24 per 100 000, six times higher than the global rate of 4 per 100 000.[1] Is this not enough reason to continue to be a feminist?

Clearly, we need feminism more than ever before. Feminism is the recognition and the belief that we need to end sexism, the patriarchal oppression of women, we want gender equality and gender justice and to ensure that women and girls enjoy their freedoms unhindered. We need feminism because the struggle is far from over. An intersectional feminism is vital. This feminism should recognise our multiple and often contradictory sites of oppression. A feminism, which recognises our races, cultures, disabilities, classes, and sexualities, is essential. We need an inclusive, dynamic and nasty feminism.

As feminists, we draw strength from our collective stories and actions. Feminists, especially young feminists, need a space to share their everyday ordinary and not so ordinary stories; a space where we celebrate our collective and individual experiences, offer support and encouragement, play, grow and nurture action.

May this space grow into one where our voices and stories are heard and celebrated.

[1] Abrahams, Jewkes, Martin, Mathews, Vetten, Lombard, 2009. Mortality of Women From Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa: A National Epidemiological Study. Violence and Victims, Volume 24, Number 4, 2009.

 


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