Yesterday in an interview, the ANC Youth League president - a 28 year-old man called Julius Malema, often ribbed about his clearly ignorant and nonsensical statements, once again opened his mouth to let out a glorious clanger.
Julius Malema claimed "hermaphradites" do not exist because there is no word in Sepedi to describe the intersex condition. He also claimed the concept of hermaphroditism was an "imperialist" plot being "forced" onto South Africans.
For me there are three mysteries surrounding this man. The first is, he's twenty-eight years old - how can he STILL be president of the "youth" league? The second, how can he still manage to actually top his previous ignorant statements with something significantly more stupid with each successive blunder? And thirdly, how does he keep getting away with it?
He has been ridiculed, reviled and even dragged to court numerous times for his utterances, and still he doesn't seem to have come away from it any wiser.
Even Opposition political parties have laughingly lauded him as being better publicity for them than any of their adverts for why people shouldn't vote for the governing party! Surely his masters at the ANC grow tired of this man's continual stream of embarrassing gems of stupidity? Or are we to assume that his popularity with the ANC "youth" league will keep him there just as this man's claim that his supporters are willing to "kill for Zuma" and swept him to power? Are they too afraid of his supporters to tell this ass-clown to sit the hell down and shut the f*** up?
Honestly, I can't remember any press statements made by any leaders of any other political party's "youth leagues" - much less their names. Do other political parties in SA have "youth leagues"? I honestly don't know, but almost every single day Julius is on the air, changing feet for public amusement, while narrowly missing the mike stand, never mind the point.
I am astonished every time this man opens his mouth in front of a microphone - and astounded by what comes out of it. What is so baffling is that no matter how big the foot, he actually manages to open his mouth wide enough to fit it in every time.
Does he actually know anything about anything? Doesn't he know he should actually read up on a subject if he doesn't know enough about it to make a public statement about it?
What did he say this time? He was talking about the Caster Semenya saga, among other things, in which he also apparently accused Nedbank of being racist for withdrawing its sponsorship of the ASA. The following paragraphs as quoted on News24 should give you some idea:
"Hermaphrodite, what is that? Somebody tell me, what is hermaphrodite in Pedi? There's no such thing, hermaphrodite, in Pedi. So don't impose your hermaphrodite concepts on us." "You are either a woman or a man. When a child is born you are announcing it's a baby girl or a baby boy. We have never heard in the village a child being projected, 'we are given a hermaphrodite'. There's never been such a thing in a village we come from."
"Why should we be told today our children are hermaphrodites? She's a girl and why should we accept concepts that are imposed on us by the imperialists? We will never agree to that concept. You are either a girl or a boy and that's it."
He claims intersex people are a "concept forced on us" by "imperialists"? What??
What he did here was to echo the bigoted claim that homosexuality is "un-African", just stopping short of spelling out the same ignorant and bigoted claim about intersex people.
This is a country where lesbians are raped by men who are ignorant enough to think a) it is wrong to be gay, b) raping lesbians will somehow "make them straight" c) or "punish" them for being gay and "rejecting" their sexual advances as "men" d) raping women proves what "men" they are. The reasons for murdering them afterwards of course, are plain - hatred, and a hatred fueled by ignorance and misinformation.
One would expect a person in a position of authority to bear things like this in mind before making mindless sweeping statements inciting more intolerance.
Does this man realize the kind of damage his ignorant remarks cause to the intersex community? Now fellow ignoramuses will pick up his tune and perpetuate this ignorant claim that there is no such thing as "hermaphrodites", despite the clear medical evidence that intersex people are not a figment of the imagination -and making life still harder for the intersex and all others who do not identify solely as heterosexual or cis-gender.
Poor Gareth Cliff spends his morning shows on 5fm ripping this moron to shreds daily for the idiocy of his statements, playing sound bytes of his past clangers on air. I really felt for him this morning, actually sensing the discomfort he was trying to disguise in his very professionally conducted live interview. It was easy to see that the interview was not Gareth's idea, but more likely management's - the radio station being part of the SABC - which after much government tampering with the Board, is now so much a part of the Party, you cannot tell where the lips meet the mouthpiece. Malema however, true to form, managed to add yet more insult to the injury already caused - by reinforcing the heterosexist stereotype that telling the gender of a child is "very easy" - you just look between the legs.
Clearly this ignoramus fails to grasp the point that gender isn't solely between the legs - it is in the genes, in the specifics (such as internal organs) and most importantly, between the ears. His ignorance and his propagation of misinformation from a position of political authority reinforces the lie that homosexuality, transgender are invalid "un-African imperialist concepts" being forced on them by racist Westerners - oh, and that people claiming to be intersex are probably just a bunch of lying imperialists who have forgotten that this is Africa.
This man makes it obvious that he knows bugger-all about sexuality, gender identity and the fact that intersex people exist everywhere, even in places where Sepedi is spoken, even if the language doesn't have a word for "hermaphrodite" or "intersex". Worst of all, he ridicules and dismisses the fact that intersex people do exist and goes further to invalidate the right of intersex people to exist.
To top it all off, he used the word "hermaphrodite" which is an inaccurate and outdated term used to describe intersex people and is also largely viewed by intersex people as insulting and derogatory. In modern times medical science refers to those with sexual characteristics of both genders, ambiguous genitalia or chromosomes by using the preferred term "intersex". Sad to say, included in the whole Caster Semenya issue - and reinforced by the ignorant statements of Julius Mayema, is the impression that being born a hermaphrodite - or intersex - is something shameful.
Examples of hermaphrodites in nature include plants, several species of fish, and snails and earthworms, which are simultaneous hermaphrodites. Incidents of species which are "sequencial hermaphrodites" also exist - where a species is born as one gender and naturally transitions to the other and reproduces. The term "hermaphrodite" in the sense which he applies it, refers to the incidence of people who are both completely male and female at the same time - in terms of having both sexual organs, and who may or may not be able to reproduce. Needless to say, this is something which is not only extremely rare in humans, but also very difficult to produce statistics on.
Intersex people of course, fall across a spectrum much broader than just being "both male and female" but which spans the physical characteristics of male, female, neither or both. Thus the term "hermaphrodite" is not only inaccurate and misleading, but also draws misinformed and inaccurate conclusions about intersex people.
Intersex is so far outside the accepted "norms" of our society, which doesn't even give them any recognition as people - that even my Microsoft Word spell checker informs me there is no such word as "intersex". So does the one on Google and Blogger. Even the forms which people have to fill in online or at banks etc. only have two little blocks to tick - "male" or "female". What if you don't fit in either? Should you tick both? Neither? Is there a third little box for the intersex to squeeze into? No? Why not? Likewise, there is no block for "transgender". There isn't even a little box marked "other".
As a transgender woman I most certainly empathize with the plight of the intersex. Is there ever going to be any recognition for intersex people? Will society collapse because people realize the line dividing the genders was imaginary all along and has suddenly vanished? Is the idea that there is more than just a gender binary - more than this simplistic two-gender concept provides, so overpowering? Is there going to be a global panic because people won't know anymore who "should" lie at the bottom and who "belongs" on top?
Far be it for me to contradict the President of the ANC "youth" league, but hermaphrodites do exist - even National Geographic and several reputable scientists who actually know something about the subject, say so. I am sure they will be shocked to discover that they have it all wrong and have been upstaged by this genius who bases his opinion that "hermaphrodites don't exist" on one particular language's lack of a word to describe it. I wonder what the Sepedi word is for "gravity"? I am sure there are people around the world who can testify that it exists *wink*, even if Sepedi doesn't have a word for it. If I were a snail or an earthworm in South Africa, I would be outraged by this man's inferences - and would even consider following the latest trend by going on strike.
Where will Julius go to when he grows up one day? Does he remain President of the Youth League because the ANC don't have a post in real politics for him? How much longer will this man remain President of the ANC "Youth League"? The same period as the ANC will remain in power - "until Jesus comes"? Perhaps. Stranger things have already happened in this lovely country of ours. As for Julius Malema, somebody should inform him that somewhere, a village is missing an idiot. Perhaps he will set off to look for it and make the political landscape a little less exciting, and slightly more credible.
I wonder if there is a word in Sepedi for "idiot"? If there isn't, he should console himself that he still exists.