“CORRECTIVE RAPE”


Two days ago I met with two Swedish researchers for a discussion about their research. Their research is about “corrective rape”, thus the rape of lesbian women because they are gay. The focus of their research is on how therapists and caregivers do hope in the absence of safety and any guarantee that the rape survivors will not have to endure again such violence against.

Sarah and Calle wanted to speak to me about how South Africans understand sexuality, sex and sexual violence. During our discussion I had a profound realisation which I want to share with you.

Ever since I heard the term “corrective rape” it made me extremely uncomfortable. At first I thought it was about the incredible injustice of this violent act, but soon realised it was not only about that. There was more to my discomfort and anger with this term. In my conversation with Sarah and Calle it dawned on me what my discomfort was about.

It was about the term “corrective” rape. This term implied that there was something to be “corrected”. Men rape lesbian women to punish and to “correct” them. Such perpetrators believe that being lesbian is a choice and therefore it can be change. “They just need to have a real man, and then these gay women will change.” Thinking about this made me realise that if we continue to use the term “corrective rape” we are using the language of the perpetrator and therefore give credibility to this mindset. We should reject the term “corrective rape” outright. This kind of rape is not about “correcting” but intends to humiliate, violating and harm another human being. There is nothing “corrective” about this.

I came to the conclusion that this kind of rape is not only about supposedly “correction.” I believe that this kind of rape is rooted in fear and the indignant anger which results from patriarchal discourse. How could a woman even think of rejecting a man by wanting to be with another man? How can a women challenge the system of what is “acceptable” – thus that a women would want to be with a man?

I then thought about what other term could be used. The term needs to portray what this rape is actually about. I thought about the term “unjust rape”, but all rapes are unjust! It left me with the question: “Why do men rape lesbians?” It was not only about power: there is more to it – it is specifically because they are lesbian. It is because lesbians women are judged and find “guilty”. Maybe one should speak of judgmental rape, but this again might imply that there is something to judge. The same goes for discriminating rape.

Maybe we need to use the term homophobic rape, because that is what it is. A hideous and repulsive act of violence based on an irrational phobia of gay people!

We need to be aware that language is powerful. Words can give legitimacy to and even rationalise horrific acts. In future, when you hear the term “corrective rape” you have a choice, you can just accept it, or you can challenge it.

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Not tonight honey


Two weeks ago a male colleague of mine shared a “joke” with me. It was about the very old and boring joke of the husband giving his wife two paracetamol tablets after having dinner, to which the wife responds: ‘I don’t have a headache’, leaving him with a smirk on his face and the words, ‘Good, then you have no excuse’. I was instantly irritated by this “joke” and my aggravation did not dissipate as the days rolled on. At first I thought it must be because I regularly heard a very different story during couple’s sessions in my practice, as it is often the man and not the woman who is avoiding sex in a marriage or longstanding relationships. However, my uneasiness continued and this “joke” kept forcing its presence into my thoughts.

After two weeks I eventually decided to deconstruct my discomfort and agitation about this joke. It then dawn on me why this “joke” alarmed me to such an extent. It is because this joke is based on the general discourse that, firstly, most men have a higher libido than women, secondly, that sex is something that it done TO women and not WITH women and thirdly, that sex is often only seen in terms of penile penetration with the sole purpose of a male climax. I realized that neither the teller of this joke or the listeners thereof, asked, if ever, why do women often refuse sex or try and find “excuses” not to have sex. It then immediately left me with the undignified question: Why should a woman present an excuse not to have sex? Underlying to the ‘having to give an excuse’ is the mindset that women are supposed to give sex as it is their duty and what they are made for! In other words women are there for men’s sexual pleasure and not that men and women are equal partners who should enjoy sex with each other for both partners benefit.

Moreover, why do especially men not respond to this “joke” with the question: Why is it that women supposedly often do not want to have sex with her husband or partner? Does it not say more about him as a lover and how he engages in sexual play than about her libido? Furthermore, is it not because of the way in which he treats his wife/partner? May it be that due to how we understand and live gender roles in our homes and relationships that women are often totally overworked and just do not have the energy for sex, especially late at night? Anyway, who would like to be intimate or share pleasure with someone who treats you as being less than him or expects you to do the majority of the work around the house?

A smile slowly spread over my face as I realised this joke was actually on men. However, very few men will actually think this far or ask themselves what this joke is about. Maybe it is also not only indicative of many men’s short-sightedness but also of women internalisation of the idea that she is a sexual commodity. This joke is not only a dig towards women, but actually also towards some men and their inability or unwillingness to treat women as equals. By treating their wives and partners as inferior to them, they do not get to enjoy WITH their wives and partners the joys of the intimacy and the pleasures of the flesh!

This joke is not an impeachment against sexual unwilling wives, but about the unimaginative, boring, predictable, monotonous, inexperience, selfish, dismissive and unexciting clumsy sexual approaches and love play of men who don’t get it! They do not get it because they don’t get it on a physical, emotional or gender equality level!

Empty nest syndrome


Recently our youngest child flew the nest. Towards the end of last year I started to prepare myself for this event, as many people warned me about the empty nest syndrome. I also reminded my husband to prepare himself for this new phase in our lives, but he felt that I was putting the cart before the horse and that there was no need to run ahead of ourselves. Even so, I decided to visualise what our lives would be like and what I needed to do to embrace all that might come with the impending empty nest.

During this process of preparation I went through a period where I felt a sense of loss, but also a sense of achievement and excitement. I was excited about my daughter having the ability and opportunity to study at a university. I experienced a sense of accomplishment as we were able to guide and support towards her dreams, as we did for our eldest, her brother. She achieved her own goals and is now on her way to prepare herself for her adult life and an independent economic future. I realized that the home would be much quieter, but after twenty one years of sharing my space, being mom’s taxi, and organising my days in such a way that I would be available to my home and my family, whilst juggling post graduate studies and a practice, I was looking forward to the freedom that the empty nest would bring to my daily routine.

The big day arrived and we helped our daughter settle in her new living space. On our way home, both my husband and I experienced sadness, some anxiousness but also excitement about her prospects and the future ahead of her.

The next day I continued with my life and though I missed my daughter dearly, I really enjoyed and cherished the arrival of this new phase of my life. For the first time in twenty one years it was just my husband and I in our home. Our couple-hood had the opportunity to take centre stage, without interruptions or competition for shared energy and time or the needs of our children. BLISS! I could honestly exclaim: ‘Empty nest syndrome, what empty nest syndrome?’

About a week after our daughter’s departure, my husband started to really struggle. I often found him in our daughter’s room, stroking her cat, staring into space with tears in his eyes. Eventually he shared: ‘This is so much harder than what I ever thought it would be. I miss them terribly and feel without direction and purpose’. My husband has always been a very involved dad and used to do things like the kids’ breakfast, packing their lunch boxes and helping with other chores. Suddenly he came home with no one to engage with but me, who was quite happy with the void, I must add.

His sense of usefulness diminished and he felt without purpose. After two weeks of tears and deep sadness, he engaged with me in a long discussion about his experiences. He shared that for so many years his sole purpose (to his mind) was to provide financially. As a white South African Christian man he was indoctrinated from a very early age that he was supposed to be the primary breadwinner, he needed to take care of and protect his family. Suddenly this purpose seemed fulfilled and what now? The children were on their way to independence … what was his purpose now?

Was his response due to a midlife crises or indicative of the patriarchal society we life in? Why did everyone expected me to experience the empty nest syndrome but not my husband?

Often so much emphasis is placed on men’s role as the financial provider, that providing on other levels are ignored. My husband did so much more than just provided financially, yet he could not see this. He was unable to see that he will continue to provide in many other ways in our children’s and their children’s lives!

You might wonder in what other ways did my husband provide. He provided and supported on an emotional level in terms of co-parenting by co-creating an environment in which the following could thrive: stability and safety, encouragement, companionship, wisdom, emotional comfort and physical presence. He was also the handy man, fixing stuff and the one who knew how to do things. He gave hugs, read bedtime stories, had dad and son talks, dad and daughter talks. He contributed by loving me as the mother of our children. They saw him treating his wife with respect and equality, creating positive ways-of-being, living with integrity and honouring his personal moral compass.

Looking at the multiple ways in which my husband provided made me wonder why it is so difficult for men to see beyond their contributions other than just financial provider? Did patriarchal ideas become so internalized that men (and women) are unable to see their own worth in terms of their contributions to their families? Why do men (and women) buy into the discourse that the most important function in a family is that of breadwinner? Did the church, with its rigid gender role prescriptions regarding the man as breadwinner and the woman as caretaker and nurturer, create a society which values financial contribution of a man more than emotional and spiritual partnership? Did these patriarchal ideas, as often promoted by churches, contributed to a materialistic mindset which undermines men’s constructions of themselves as fathers and husbands and even as human beings? Did this turn men into walking purses with no apparent other function?

 

Conversation on Liberation Theology – Why do we need feminist theology?


For my readers who understand Afrikaans: I participated in a radio programme on liberation theology, on Sunday, 18 March at 19:00. You can download this conversation at: http://www.rsg.co.za/images/upload/sound/klanke/20120318_KRUIS_EN_DWARS.mp3

For my English speaking readers – a summary of my ideas regarding feminist theology and  the relevance of it in the South African society follows:

WHY DO WE NEED FEMINIST THEOLOGY?

For centuries the church was (and still is) steeped in patriarchy. The church mostly speaks with a male voice, which often excludes women’s experiences. One needs to understand that when one deals with religious scriptures and traditions, context becomes of the utmost importance. In Biblical times men had absolute dominance over women as women were seen are possessions. Women had no access to education and only a few educated men determined what would be seen as scriptural and what not. Throughout the centuries this tradition continued, often to the detriment of women. This mindset continued in the South African society and was especially apparent in the structures of the Apartheid regime.

Within the South African context, the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) played a major constituting role and was used to further the Apartheid ideology. White males were positioned as the rightful rulers over women and all other races within South Africa society. Women’s voices were absent in most power structures, especially in the church. It was only as recently as 1982 that women were allowed to the office of deacon, and that of elder and ordained minister since 1990 within the DRC. Gender role definitions and prescriptions were at the heart of female subordination and formed the basis of arguments for women’s exclusion from ordained ministry. Although the DRC recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of women in ordained ministry, at present there are only 68 women who work in congregations as DRC ministers, thus only 4,13% of the total number of ordained ministers in the DRC (DRC Yearbook 2011).

However, feminist theology is not only needed to ensure that more women are allowed to fully participate as ordained ministers. In South Africa more than half of all congregants are female, yet the male voice continues to prescribe, determine and enforce the way how women are allowed to participate. It is time that Christians move away from this patriarchal status quo in order to give women a voice which will enable them to participate and set their agenda with regards to their spiritual needs and insights. Moreover feminist theology is about inviting women to contribute to a social consciousness with which they will be able to identify.

Many patriarchs might ask, why should women participate and seen as equals. I answers with the words of Denise Ackermann ‘it is the right to human dignity that offers women in the church a powerful tool with which to challenge the church.’ In other words the fact that ‘human dignity and the idea that all humanity is created in God’s image, go hand in hand’, and therefore each and every human being, including women, should be able to participate in spiritual structures in ways that is unique and authentic to them.

However, feminist theology is not only about equal participation and giving women the space and a voice to engage in spiritual structures. It is also about addressing the social ills and injustice which the church has created with its prescriptions of very specific and rigid gender roles. I am in agreement with Denise Ackermann, who asserts that feminist theology should focus on firstly what is happening to women in their marriages and homes in the South African society; and secondly the widespread degradation of our environment.

If one look at the statistics of violence against women in South Africa, one can only but agree with Ackermann: ‘A war is being waged against the bodies of women and children in [South Africa] country. This is both a theological and a pastoral issue – one on which the church’s silence is obscene’. This is a vast subject and therefore I shall only briefly focus on how prescribed gender roles, which many churches still promote, contribute to the subordination of women and ultimately to the abuse of women on an economical, physical, verbal and sexual level.

Most patriarchal church societies focus on the creation story as portrayed in Gen. 2:18, which is interpreted that woman was created from a man, for a man and named by a man. Then this disobedient woman challenged the all male God and caused the Fall. Therefore women are seen as inferior to men and need to controlled by men, which rationalize the subjugation of women to the will and power of men.

From this mindset flows the idea that women are men’s possession to make with them as men please, especially once married. The most extreme outcome of this sexism and gender inequality is violence against women.

Feminist theologians believe that specific theological discourses continue to contribute towards violence against women and enforce the silence about this social ill. Many Christians see a husband’s authority as ordained by God and therefore it cannot be challenged, even if he is abusive. Good Christian wives are portrayed as obedient to and in service of their husbands. A pious woman is supposedly a silent woman who makes sacrifices on behalf of her family. This is linked to the suffering of Jesus and therefore many Christian women believe that to suffer in silence is to be Christ-like. Furthermore, Christian values of love and forgiveness help to maintain relationships of domination, as women should not challenge the behaviour of their husbands and they need to forgive seventy times seven. Feminist theology challenge these gender based ideas which continue to subjugate women in the name of God and the Bible and this is why the world is in desperate need of feminist theology.

To live is to risk and to risk is to live


This past week I attended the Woordfees in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Woordfees (Festival of Words) is a yearly event, which takes place over a week where new publications and plays are presented. There are also many panel discussions regarding current issues in the spheres of politics, literature, socio-economics, languages, cultural diversity and religion.

Many of these discussions included participants who hold very different views. The outcome of such discussions were highly stimulating, challenging and sometimes controversial dialogue. As I listened to many of these discussions, especially regarding religion and spirituality and the expression thereof, it affirmed my awareness of risk. To take a stand on a issue often will position you as the “other” – distinct to those who might believe or understand differently than you. One risk being seen as the opposition or in the worst case scenario, being completely misunderstood.

My awareness of risk was heightened during the several theatre productions which I attended. One such production dealt with a mother’s agony and desperation as she tries to convince her daughter not to commit suicide (Good night mom – Nag Ma). The heart-wrenching story is not just about hopelessness, but rather about the daughter’s decision to take control of her life and therefore decides how she can or cannot live in it and how she would end it. From here I moved to a play in which a middle-aged woman shares her journey of lost love, youth, betrayal, divorce and the re-defining of her life (Just desert, dear – Dit is koue kos skat). And lastly, I watched Vaselientjie, the story of a white girl who grew up with a coloured family in South-Africa. She was removed from this loving and nurturing family due to the Apartheid policies and placed in a orphanage. We see how she has to fight for her own survival and well-being. In this orphanage each child had their own story of abuse, survival and who to make meaning of the cards which they were dealt in life. It was an inspirational story, deeply sad and tragic at times but also funny, uplifting and encouraging.

All these experiences made me reflect on the concept of risk. There are so many story lines about risk, but the most compelling one for me is what I define as: To live is to risk and to risk is to live. One can stay within ones comfort zones and never challenge your ways of believing, understanding and meaning-making. Or one can move outside that which you hold as the known and your safe space: emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, culturally and relationally – to discover and explore new story lines and new meanings of the taken-for-granted knowledges and unchallenged “truths”. It invites us to engage in an ever-changing “reality”, to move beyond and outside that which is safe: to experienced in different ways.

Reflecting on the concept of risk, made me ask the question: What is safe or safety? The answer I came to (for the moment) is that safety is a state of mind. You can feel safe in the most unsafe situations when you allow yourself to let go of that which you believe is the only way, in order to create space to allow other voices and ways of understanding in your space. The “other” is then no longer the enemy, but rather just another way of making meaning, which not necessarily means that you have to negate your understanding. It allows for many different “realities” and which can co-exist in the presence of tolerance and co-diversity in an ever-changing discourse.

English site: Just desert, dear http://www.kosie.biz/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=item&item_id=4&Itemid=198

http://nb.bookslive.co.za/blog/2010/05/03/nuwe-marita-van-der-vyver-dis-koue-kos-skat/

http://bookslive.co.za/bookfinder/ean/9780624048862

Vaselientjie http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%22I+am+becoming+someone+completely+different+…%22%3A+the+utilisation+of…-a0164254753

http://www.volksblad.com/Vermaak/Nuus/Sandra-Prinsloo-skitter-in-Nag-Ma-20110713

Die Woordfees (Festival of Words) – http://www.woordfees.co.za/)

PRIDE 2012 – Celebration of the wonderful LGBT diversity in South Africa’s Mother City!


Last week-end I participated in the Cape Town Pride walk. The first question that might spring to most heterosexual minds is: What is PRIDE?

Pride is a yearly event that is celebrated all over the world when LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-, trans- and inter) sexual orientations are honored and celebrated. It is important to understand the history behind this walk of activism. In the late 1960’s, gay men and women used to be terrorized by the police, often beat, jailed, raped and victimized in every possibly way. Gay people congregated in “safe” places to socialized, but these places were often raided and police brutality was in the order of the day. In 1969, after yet one such incident of police brutality, the LGBTI community responded with the Stonewall riots, which in turn led to a yearly protest march against the discrimination towards LGBTI people. It also became a walk of pride, thus being proud (and not ashamed) of their sexual orientation. And yes, sometimes gay people do flaunt their sexuality in these marches in order to say to the world :THERE, SEE MY SEXUALITY, RAW, EXPLICIT AND IN YOUR FACE, DEAL WITH IT, I WILL NO LONGER HIDE! Sadly, It is often only these images that are portrayed in the media in order to create sensationalism, which in turn perpetuate many of the negative stereotypes regarding gay sexuality. However, it is my experience that the vast majority of participants are average men and women who walk with joy and tolerance without being “over the top” or extremist.  (http://gaylife.about.com/od/stonewall/a/stonewallhistory.htm)

The second question you might have, is possibly: Why do I, as a heterosexual person, participate in this walk? Well, for me personally there are many reasons. However, I will only share one of these with you, namely that I choose to celebrate the wonderful sexual diversity with which we are created and I stand and walk in solidarity with like-minded people.

In South Africa the gay “issue” has always been a highly contentious, especially within our faith communities, but also within the secular community. Gay people have been demonized and vilified and were (and still are) often labelled / judged as sinful, unnatural, perverse and even abnormal.

As Kinsley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale), I too believe that sexual orientation is found on a scale, thus on the one end we have heterosexuality and the other end homosexuality. In between these two positions we have millions of variations of sexual orientation. Too illustrate: I know very effeminate heterosexual men and I know very masculine gay men. This speaks of the enormous variety and diversity with which we were created and how we express our sexuality. Interestingly, this variety is also found within the animal world and the higher in development (closer to humans) the species are, the higher the incidence of homosexuality.

After all, sexology is one of the youngest sciences and was only founded en developed in the 1960’s. It is also only recently, since MRI brain scan technology, that we get a glimpse of how our brain work. Sexuality is seated within our brain and not in our pants as was previously believed.

Our sexuality is part of our being – it is not something that we can separate out of the rest of our psyche. I therefore find it extremely offensive when some churches prescribe: “you may be gay, but just not be a “practicing” gay, thus you have to live celibate”. It is as good as saying you may be a human, but just not a practicing human. In other words, you may be alive, but please do not live as a human (In Afrikaans: jy mag lewe, maar jy mag nie menswees nie). Part of being human is to make social connections, to love, to express our feelings, to seek intimacy and to engage in relationships. To expect of people to live without such connection and intimacy, is inhumane!

I believe that many people find have an issue with gay people because they sexualize the person. In other words, they do not see being gay as the essence of a person, but rather equate being gay to having sex with a person of the same sex. Being gay become for them just about same-sex sex and the person is dehumanized in the process. Sexual orientation is not just about sex, it is about each and every fibre of a person’s being and consciousnesses.

I celebrate our sexual diversity and urge each and every person to be very careful with judgments, intolerance and condemnation of those people who are not heterosexual. Let us be mindful of the complexity with which we are created and let us respect diversity instead of judging that which we do not understand or that which we fear.

_____________________________

For my Afrikaans speaking readers, please listen to Dr Dave Pepler’s talk  on Homoseksualiteit in die diereryk:  http://www.rsg.co.za/images/upload/sound/klanke/20120307_TJAILA_Dink_Groen.mp3

Our fixation with classification: The root of most social injustice?


Have you ever thought about the human race’s obsession with classification? We tend to classify every possible and impossible concept: race, sex, social status, sexual orientation, mental state, physical state, financial state, spiritual state and the list goes on and on and on.

Most of the time we pit these dualities as binaries. Binaries seen as one against the other. One is thus right and the other wrong. Why do we feel the need to hold on to these classifications?

Believer versus non-believer       sane versus insane     male versus female

heterosexuality versus homosexuality                 rich versus poor

I have come to believe that these binaries allow for injustices to breed, as we exclude or include with it by default. Who decides which of these so called “states” should be the norm? Why is it that we still use  heteronormative and often patriarchal measuring sticks? I believe that when we prescribe to a specific group and then tell each other how right we are, we are busy with a mass masturbation session! It is not about honoring other people or the appreciations of others, but about making ourselves feel secure and justified. Our way become the “right” way and those who understand or believe differently, becomes the “other”, the wrong and the enemy!

I believe that the only way how we can address this is, to move beyond classifications. Let us see a PERSON instead of a black or a white, man or a woman, a gay or a straight, a poor or a rich! We are at all times firstly a person when then happens to be male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, church goer or non-church goer or whatever other classification might spring to mind. The classification should not define personhood but rather the fact that we share one commonality, namely we are human beings – we are all firstly a PERSON!