Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Know, Therefore I Am

The murder trial of the killers of Eudy Simalane made me realize a few things. One was that the hatred some people feel for gay and transgender people is alive and well - while a fine and upstanding woman like her is dead because of it - and that up until I read a few articles on her death I never knew that SA even had a national female soccer team - or that she was their captain. While searching through this muddle of emotion and drama in the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, I realize why.

The Patriarchy.

No, I am not blaming her death - nor the deaths or "corrective rapes" of Eudy and others like her on men - at least not on all men - but on the pervasive cultural "norm" if you will, that society, politics and religion is based upon the principle of male dominance and "authority". "But this is the 21st century" I hear some people say, "women have jobs, vote and have full authority over their careers and even their own bodies". Really?

Turn on the TV and whenever you see sport, you will see male athletes and sportsMEN. If you see football, it will be the male soccer team, Bafana Bafana - which has become renowned (or rather infamous) for its dismal performance and embarrassing defeats. You never hear of so-and-so being the proud sponsors of the female equivalent - or that their name is Banyana Banyana. You never hear newsreaders proudly proclaiming news of their sporting victories - or even berating them for their defeats. I honestly don't know what their performance is against international sides - because honestly, as far as the SA news industry is concerned, they really don't seem to even exist.

You see, sport - like the world - is male dominated. And like marriage, it's all about what the man wants - and to use a euphemism, who gets to be on top. Too bad if women want to do anything for themselves or to represent their country in sporting achievements - if it's netball or table tennis then it's ok, because that can be considered "girl sports" which men "aren't interested in anyway" - but just let women try to compete for attention by playing rugby or soccer and suddenly we are invading "their" space. And that is the point where you lose their interest and that now famous glass ceiling slides into place.

I have never heard of some good old South African sports fans having a braai with twenty good friends to watch the women's rugby team take on Australia or New Zealand on DSTV over beers, chops and peanuts. I can't even name one member of the SA women's rugby team - can you? I can however name one member of the Banyana Banyana football - and she is dead.

Notice how whenever people speak about males and females - oops, did you notice that? It seems to be an unwritten convention to list "males" before "females". Him or her, he or she, his and hers - Mr and Mrs.

Religious punters in the political arena also despise the right of women to assume control of their own bodies. Let's take abortion for example. It is men who challenge a woman's right to go through with an unwanted pregnancy or not. They want to ban all forms of abortion - and no, not just those demanded by the stereotypical sluts who sleep around without taking appropriate precautions and get caught out - (let alone taking into account that it takes two to tango) but even those women who were forcibly made pregnant by rapists. They wish to take away a woman's rights and her say over her own body and to compound the inhuman assault on her humanity even after the rapist has had his turn.

Arguments of "it's her body" and it's only a bundle of cells and not a "baby" yet fall on deaf ears with them because "the bible says" blah, blah, blah. What it comes down to here is that a bundle of cells implanted by a monster undeserving of even the air in his lungs is more important to them than the dignity and well being of the true victim - committed if you will, by a "man" - or at least a creature with male genitalia. When women lay rape charges they are grilled on the stands and also become the victims of character assassins who drag their entire sexual history into public scrutiny - as if it has any relevance whatsoever - and the perpetrators still claim she said "no" but meant "yes".

If men could fall pregnant - or be legally raped, or understand the subtle differences between "yes" and "no", I am certain you would soon see them change their tune about abortion and the treatment and trivialization of the suffering of rape victims.

Let's look at another area where women are short changed. Salaries. Did you know that even today in South Africa (where women are supposed to be treated equally), men still get paid more than their female counterparts? No equal pay for equal work. Why? Ask this little question and invariably you will be told it is supposedly because women take maternity leave and men do not. Okay, right - so how about women who have either had children already, or are incapable of doing so - or single women, or women who choose not to have annoying little ankle-biters around? Does a man suffering from a medical condition requiring downtime for example get his salary downgraded for all the time taken off for medical treatment? Do they fit into a separate salary notch? No?

What about the famous example of female actors and singers? Since the start of modern show business and the recording industry, women on average get paid noticeably less than their male counterparts. I am sure that you will see at this point how ridiculous the suggestion about "maternity leave" becomes if you try to apply it in such an industry, with superstars such as Madonna, Britney Spears (love or hate her) or Cher.

Take a desk job for example. Apparently women who do the very same job, be it administration or any other job pushing a pen or clicking a mouse, or on the basis of qualifications or work experience or knowledge - get paid less than a man doing that job. Does the man have some special qualification that he gets such an unreasonable privilege? Or does his qualification reside in his underwear?

Once again, the patriarchy. The Old Boys Network - and that painful reminder of ages past - the glass ceiling.

When it comes to protecting itself, the male ego likes to flex its muscles. How dare women enter the workplace and compete with MEN for work? What do men really think when they are taking instructions from a female supervisor, especially when they are on the red carpet in front of a female superior? "Who the hell does she think she is?" And I am sure there will be that baneful description applied to every women by a man at least once in her life - "bitch". Consider also the plenitude of profane adjectives in English which are applicable to the female gender, versus the scarcity of male equivalents. "Bastard" just doesn't quite cut it, does it - and in any case it certainly does not equal "bitch" as true to form, "bastard" applies to illegitimate offspring of either gender. Interesting, don't you think?

Men seem to have arranged things so that they get it all their own way - no wonder they get so upset
when we start rearranging the furniture.

It has been less than 30 years in this country since women ceased being treated like idiot children, 70 years since women were allowed to operate a motor vehicle, 90 or so years since women won the right to vote, 100 or so since women were allowed to own property, inherit or even rule anything other than the family kitchen. It has been at least a century since women ceased being little more than the property of their husbands or fathers. Talking cattle. In the modern world the rise of women to the point where they can almost consider themselves having equality still makes some males of the species choke on their cornflakes. And that is what irks me - the "almost".

In some of the darker corners of South Africa young girls are still sold to husbands picked for them by their fathers - strangers who come in the night to forcefully carry away these screaming and terrified young unwilling brides into the night. men still trade large sums of money - or herds of cattle to buy their wives from their fathers. And just you take it on in a discussion and it will be vigorously defended in the name of "tradition". How very honorable - very biblical. In other parts of Africa young girls are forcefully and needlessly "circumcised" - code word for what it really means - mutilated. In parts of the middle east, where women are far more oppressed than here, forbidden to even show their faces or to speak. They are deprived of education, freedom, equality and the right to choose anything for themselves. Sometimes they are murdered by male relatives for the unspeakable crime of bringing dishonor upon the family by daring to love somebody other than the husbands that have been chosen for them.

The patriarchy longs for the days when men were "men" and women were oppressed, subservient - and they can see no wrong in it. It justifies its former power and lust to hold on to it - and if possible, to regain it by quoting fundamentalist and radical religion and tradition and calling it "love". Some love. How can oppression and power over another person's life ever be "love"?

To show the fragile heart and ego of the Patriarchy, let us look at the concept of rape. According to South African law, only women can be raped. If a man cries "rape" it is written down as "aggravated assault". Why? Because men cannot be raped? No - because they wish to deny it. Because if a "man" can be raped then all men are supposedly shown to be weak and vulnerable - and that simply would never do. The image of the all-powerful god-like male figure is their idol - and this is the illusion they try to protect. And yet men do get raped - and they suffer as badly as female victims of this heinous crime. They are thought of as being gay because of their ordeal - or because of their failure to defend themselves as all "men" are expected to. Their "manhood" is called into question and after all, gay men are considered to be "lesser men" or "not men at all".

The patriarchy feels threatened when people break down this god-like image they idolize, whether it be feminists who seek to topple them from their illegitimate throne, or gay men who in their view take the role of the physically weaker (and therefore in their view, inferior) gender, or gay women who "steal" their "rightful" position in another woman's life - or worse yet, the transgender person who has no pride of his privileged birth gender and discards it like an old rag to adopt the "inferior" gender.

They see any such challenge to their "authority" as an insult. Some of them even get violent - take for example women-beaters and gay bashers and those who murder their girlfriends in a fit of blind rage or hatred when they learn they used to be male. Or those who see justice in the murder and rape of innocent women - or innocent people - for daring to be different to them and defying their idiotic notions that they have any "authority" - or any right - to stand in judgment of them.

Some other things this episode made me realize. The Patriarchy is still alive and well in South Africa. Seeing idiotic mention of its champions such as Angus Buchan being proudly and regularly plastered all over pro-fundamentalist conservative Media24 rags such as 'Die Burger' reminds me of it. Those who do not subscribe to the infantile and obsolete notions of the Patriarchy, be they liberals, feminists, gays or transgender - they have more in common than they realize. They have a common enemy.

You know what that makes us? Partners.

Who do I think I am? I don't think I am, honey - I know.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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