Sunday, November 29, 2009

16 Days Of Double Standards

While I may commend the now traditional South African institution of the "16 days of activism against women & child abuse" campaign, I still see plenty of duplicity and ambiguity in it.

16 days of activism? I don't know about you folks, but I'm an activist every single day.

It is often said (to loud applause) that "real men" don't commit violence against women or children. This is all fine and well from a certain point of view - a largely traditional and 2-dimensional point of view - but exactly What is a "real" man? Anyone care to guess? A man with nuts and a ding-dong? A man who lusts after women? Does that make a "real" man?

If you castrate a man, does that change his status as a male member of society? Does having a sex change and getting rid of unwanted equipment correct a gender error and make a woman whole, or rather as some people claim - a "mutilated man"? What about an old man? Is he "past it"? Is he a lesser man than a "real" man? Is there an age limit which you pass and cease being "real"? What about those annoying beer ads on TV these days? "Keep it real" indeed.

What is a "real" man? Even in their noble efforts to protect women and children from violent males, these praiseworthy people - these fine, upstanding and obviously cis-gender and heteronormative people - who invented this campaign have committed a faux pax. They have pandered almost exclusively to the archaic gender stereotype. That - and of course, hypocrisy.

I would say a "real" man is a man who wants to be a man. Or who sees meaning or value in being a man. That, and no more. There is simply no honor attached to just being one gender or another - why should there be? I could say for certain that there is definitely honor in who people decide to be, and in how they decide to live.

The "real" man fallacy is what is so often used against gay males, stereotyping them as weaklings and somehow "lesser" men than straight males - and of course lumping them into a group of social "undesirables" along with the wife-beaters, rapists and child molesters, the latter which fits in perfectly with the religious right wing's propaganda ploy which claims that gay men are also more than likely to be everything from serial killers to pedophiles - something which they claim has been "scientifically proven" - and yet which has been consistently dismissed and proved false since bigots started manufacturing such propaganda more than a century ago.

How would one define abuse? How about discrimination? how about equal pay for equal work? Why is there still, after nearly a hundred years of "women's lib", a "glass ceiling" in place preventing women from rising above certain levels, jealously guarded by men - or is that "real men"? I wonder if we will see any mention made of the minor detail that women still do equal or better the work of a male while still being paid less on the same skill level. Why are women still being treated like cheap labor and second-class citizens? Funny, I thought we pink folks were the only ones "whining" about equality? What is wrong with the women in the world today, that they just keep quiet and accept this?

Ironic? You tell me.

During this annual campaign, much ado is made of the violence against women and children, while focusing on violent males, presumably husbands, lovers and fathers, but nothing is ever made of the abuse and prejudice against lesbians, trans-women and gay/trans kids. Nor is there ever any mention of violent women in abusive relationships, both hetero and homo sexual. In all fairness, they do exist.

Are lesbians not also women? Am I as a trans-woman any less female? There are those who claim so, although the first thing they point to is the obvious and rather pedestrian fact that I can't reproduce - while there are many cis-gender women who also cannot reproduce. Are they also "less female"? Is gender between the legs or between the ears? What about the gay and transgender kids out there? Are they not to be recognized? Does being gay or transgender exclude them from recognition as being in danger of abuse and persecution? Are they somehow "lesser" than other children for their nature?

The issue at hand is not gender identity or sexual orientation, or the age of the victims - it is violence and abuse.

I haven't heard any of the government ministers quoted in the press saying anything about the lesbians murdered because of their sexual orientation, or the transwoman who was murdered because of her gender identity. No, everything is just about the stereotype, the cis-gender hetero-normative female who is the "ideal" and darling of the conservative religious right. The devoted mother, the subservient wife, the obedient daughter. No mention of the lesbian or transsexual woman who works 8 to 5 7 days a week, pays her taxes, contributes to the South African economy and is an asset to society, and who faces discrimination and prejudice in the workplace and in the very same society on a daily basis.

"Women are often demeaned and dehumanized through sexually explicit billboards, advertisements and newspaper classifieds that commodify and exploit women as mere sex objects." Says Errol Naidoo, fearless leader of the FPI, in one of his regular Facebook newsletters, in which he whines about human rights infringing on his "God-given" religious right to condemn and discriminate as he sees fit. And who can forget his totally biased attacks on gay rights - and the bane of his existence (the Pink Loerie Mardis gras) and his continued misrepresentation of religious fiction and apparent inability to differentiate between fact and fiction?

Naidoo regularly makes reference to women and children, the bright shining knight in dull, plastic armor, waving his cardboard sword - omitting any mention of his relentless lobbying and attacks against gay people - which include women, trans-women and unavoidably - all those children who happen to be gay, bi, lesbian or transgender. But then, like those bigots in Uganda campaigning for the mass-murder of gay people, he also believes that gay people "recruit" in schools or are victims of "bad parenting" and can be "prayed straight" - and that gay rights are not human rights.

I also notice how expertly he has skirted the issue of intersex by completely ignoring the Caster Semenya issue, despite the fact that she is intersex and at 18, technically also still a child. Was he not concerned about her "protection"? Why not? Did the fact that she is intersex define her in his view as not needing "protection"? Or does addressing the issue of intersex in his mind signify a hot potato - an unwelcome admission that his precious religious scriptures do not hold all the facts, all the answers and that he is in fact not holding all the cards? Is this omission not an admission that not everybody conforms to his staid "biblical" stereotype of the gender binary - and that intersex (and non-hetero-normative sexual orientation and gender identity) is quite natural and as "legitimate" as his "ideal" stereotype? I think it does.

But then, hypocrisy is hardly a new thing when it comes to people like Errol Naidoo and Ray Mc Cauley who regularly drag religion - and the dignity of women and children through the mud by using faith as a blunt instrument to cajole people into seeing things their way and fund their misogyny.

For those who think like this, "protecting women" is all about keeping them in traditional gender roles - at home, popping out babies, "protecting" them from having the freedom enjoyed by males, such as freedom of expression - including sexual freedoms, the freedom of having control over their own bodies, and "protecting" them from having careers or independent, fully equal lives of their own.

To those who think like this, "protecting" children means preventing them from learning how to think for themselves by bombarding them with religious rhetoric from birth and in schools and "protecting" them from "turning gay" because they believe gay people "make a sinful lifestyle choice", are "recruited" and despite the abundant scientific evidence - even the plethora of examples of homosexuality (and even transgender) in the animal kingdom, showing that gay people are born - they stubbornly believe they aren't.

These are people who stubbornly deny logic in the face of fact, who preach the wolves of intolerance and persecution while dressing them up as lambs of "love" and "righteousness" - and then pass around the collection plate to help rob people of their civil rights and equalities. Hallelujah, amen!

Who is going to protect us from people like them?

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