South African women are in a war situation


The woman in this photo are one of the lucky ones – she survived the beating.

A conversation on Facebook yesterday, sparked so much passion and fire in my soul, that I need to blog about it. In my private practice I often hear stories of abuse and maybe this is why the conversation had so a profound effect on me.

A friend of my shared with me an article on honor killings of women in Canada. There was huge outcry in Canada because 12 women were murdered by their fathers or brothers to protect their family’s honor. This is appalling and I do not want to detract to the horror of it. However, it made me think about our situation in South Africa (SA).

In South Africa, every SIX hours a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. EVERY SIX HOURS. Let us do the math: that is four women a day, 28 women a week, 112 women a month, 1456 women a year. One thousand four hundred and fifty six women (daughters and mothers of someone) are killed by their intimate partners! Yet, our government and civil society look the other way. It is not spoken about. There are not daily news casts or paper headlines about this. It is almost as if we just accept this is how it is for women.

I believe that as long as we are silent about this, as long as we tolerate patriachal mindsets, as long as we look the other way, was long as we do not challenge, as long as we accept inequality, that is how long we are complicit to this atrocity – knowingly or unknowingly.

When we accept abuse, in which ever form, we are allowing it to continue unchallenged. Looking at the above mentioned stats convinced me that SA women are in a war, an unspoken war, and often the aggressors are the men who they love. However women have very little support and often no means to defend themselves:

  • By the time of death one out of two women in SA will be raped.
  • One out of three girls are raped or sexually assaulted before the age 18.
  • Women in South Africa have a greater chance to be raped than to learn to read.
  • The threat of “corrective” rape is very real for lesbian women in SA.
  • Every six hours a woman is killed by her intimate partner.

The vast majority of perpetrators of violence against women are their men, often their husbands. Yet our churches continues to prescribe the husband’s role as that of head, leader and priest of the home. Wives are supposed to submit and honor, to be subservient, and to accept the husband as the head of the home.

WHAT ARE WE THINKING? Or maybe I should ask what are we doing? Some call me fanatical, some call me a feminist, some call me a activist. Call me whatever you want but please MEN and women stand with me against this violence and senseless killing. Make people aware of the problem in our society. Start with ‘ant steps’ – i.e. when you receive a sexist e-mail, challenge it, when you hear a joke which demean women (or men) call it out, do whatever you can, but please do not be silent on this matter.

Read a previous post of mine:

https://nickispies.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/cleaning-up-the-mess-after-violence/

Please also look at these links:

http://www.powa.co.za/website/

http://www.hccac.org/abuse/myths.html

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NAKED BODIES: WHAT DOES IT SAY?


 I am in the process of creating a concept for my, soon to be published book, that will deal with how we understand sexuality and the effects thereof. In my discussions with the publisher, I suggested that we consider having an outline of naked bodies for the cover page.

What transpired from this brief was very interesting and telling. It confirmed my understanding of how many people view sexuality and the gender discrepancies that we experience. Most of the examples with body figures that we could find, presented women. I then requested that both the male and female form should be portrayed. This idea transpired in a design in which the naked male outline was so subtle that you could barely see that it was a man next to the very distinct naked female figure.

I realized that I was not conveying the idea in my head with much success. I then decided to ask a young female artist friend of mine to compile my brief visually, in the hope that an illustration of my idea would advance mutual understanding and greater clarity. As my young friend is not that familiar with the naked male body, she did what all young people do – she used Google images to find a realistic image to guide her in her creation. Here’s the thing – she really battled to find naked, non-pornographic male images, whilst the female naked form was plentiful.

This made me think about why this might be so. I am sure that there are many reasons. One could possibly be because of the dominant discourse that women do not sexually respond to visual stimulation and therefore there is no need for such images. This idea circulated for so many decades that people are not even aware of the discrepancy in how the female body and male body are used and exploited in the media. The female body became the marketing tool and is often seen as a commodity. We have become so desensitised to this because it became the dominant discourse.

Professor Bronwyn Davis (1993:153) uses the metaphor of a pane of glass to describe the invisibility of discourses. Discourses take on the qualities of a pane of glass through which one observes the world. It is only when the glass fractures or breaks that one’s attention is drawn to the glass. Discourses are thus usually invisible to people and we have little or no conscious awareness of discourses. This might explains why we continue to accept the use of women and their naked bodies (out of context) as a marketing tool, whilst the use of male bodies are mostly excluded. However, I believe that there might be another coinciding discourse present.

Being naked holds a vulnerability, especially if others can view our naked body. Maybe in our gender indoctrinated minds, this vulnerable position is only reserved for women. Maybe naked images of men are not as available because men are not supposed to be vulnerable, but are portrayed as strong, in control and invincible? Your thoughts on the matter?

Reference:

Davies, B 1993. Shards of glass: Children reading and writing beyond gendered identities. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin.

Cleaning up the bloody mess after violence


Today I listened to an interview on the radio about a book called: Bloedsusters (Blood sisters) by Ilse Salzwedelwhich. It deals with the work of two sisters, who are crime scene clean-up specialists. They are called in after the fact, after the violence: to clean-up the mess.

Sisters, Eileen de Jager and Roelien Schutte from Pretoria, South Africa, see their work as a service to the families of the victims and to society in general. In their book they share that they find emotionally, the most difficult to clean-up violent deaths due to family murders and attacks on farmers. Maybe it is because we are supposed to be safe in our homes and when we are with those we love?

Their work reminded me of my own work as a narrative therapist where I often work with sexual and gender violence. I, as many of my colleagues, are ‘call in’ after the fact. We witness the aftermath of emotional violence. We see the emotional blood and guts that economic, verbal, sexual and physical violence leave. The details of the ‘crime scene’ differ, but there is often a common factor: gender inequality and it leaves a legacy of shattered dreams and lives.

There is one main difference between an actual physical crime scene and that of gender-based emotional violence. A bloody crime scene shock most people and they will properly, if present when the violence is perpetrated, try to intervene. However, each and every day we all see acts of gender-based violence, without intervening. It might be as subtle as a demeaning comment about women, or as violent as a rape – yet we do not intervene or challenge it. Societies continue to turn a blind eye. Men and women continue to laugh at demeaning gender jokes, especially about women. We continue to support structures and products which depict women as less than men. We continue to accept the all too familiar life-denying gender stereotypes about men and women. We should not tolerate any form of gender-based violence whether it is a snide remark, economic abuse or the beating and eventual killing of a wife. By not taking a stand against the most subtle to the most violent gender-based acts, we contribute towards making violence against women and children an acceptable phenomena in societies.

Cleaning up the shocking mess …. this made me think: If all forms of emotional abuse left a physical bloody mess as physical violence do, will we still be so complacent and tolerant of it. If we could see the bloody, smelly horrible mess that gender-based violence cause, would we still need 16 days of no violence against women and children or will every day be a day in which this violence is irradiated from our society?