When I was a teenager, I clearly remember the day when I stormed out of my friend’s house and stalked down the road, furious at her for admitting that she liked a boy that I liked, even though she knew that I liked him first. In hindsight, it seems silly that I lashed out at her, although I know it was partly to do with my own insecurities and feelings of inferiority. I forgave her that night after listening to Henry Ate’s song Just* on repeat and having a good cry. As the saying goes, “Boys come and go, but friends are forever”. She was my closest friend at the time, and although it seemed like a betrayal, her friendship meant more to me that the boy in question.
However, it wasn’t like that insecurity was misplaced or something we had never experienced before. We weren’t always good people to one another. In fact, girls who were my friends had kissed my boyfriends, had talked behind my back or had “taken away” boys that I liked. Yes, most women I know have been betrayed by a friend. Women have had their boyfriends pursued by other women, been the brunt of mean gossip or had their dirty laundry aired in public behind their backs. The 13-year-old character of Karl in Mark Behr’s book, Embrace, says it best: “…as much as we keep them covered, our private parts are more public than our faces. Our private parts are the most public parts of our bodies.”
No one deserves to be the victim of this kind of behaviour and yet everyone has fallen prey to it. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is when betrayal happens, because the consequences are the same; hurt, emotional distress, further insecurity, loss of confidence, inability to trust. Simply getting through the day can be tough. What completely baffles me is that, having undergone the same pain, women are willing to do it to someone else.
Do we not see that we are undermining one another, that we are letting competition and cruelty control our lives? How are we to expect a woman to lead a happy and fulfilled life, developing and growing in a safe environment, when everyone around her is contributing to her emotional erosion? There are hundreds of examples of women’s groups, or support groups, or solidarity movements which have changed the lives of whole villages or towns, or who have changed legislation, or changed the face of history. When women come together for a cause, the consequences can really change the world. Yet, we remain divided by “nature”, by this inexplicable propensity for gossip and betrayal.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When Jen asked what mark we can make on this world, it’s this: be a best friend. Because a best friend is supportive and understanding; a best friend can keep a secret, she doesn’t flirt with your boyfriend and she stands up for you when you are not there to stand up for yourself. She doesn’t look you up and down when you walk into a party, but lets you know how special you are by her actions. She is honest with you, even at a cost to herself and she forgives as easily as she can be forgiven. Now, times that by three and a half billion people and be a best friend to all women.
- In particular the lines:”No, if I could just understand this, I might then try forgiveness. Know that I will, each time I feel you’ll be by, you’ll be by, you’ll be by my side in the end, we’ll still be friends…”
What is this sexual line that exists between lesbians and straight girls? It’s a whole new sexual revolution, only it’s to see who can clock up the most lays. I am generalising here since there are millions of lesbians and straight girls who choose not to play this game. It really is no different to men hunting women, only its women hunting women. We contextualise society so much, and in particular men, calling them sexist pigs. But, a very similar ball game is happening on the opposite spectrum.
This seduction and the culminating sexual experience happens too – only this time its girl on girl.
I call it straight girl hunting.
The male bed notch no longer exists in isolation. There is an entire culture out there of lesbians who stalk and fuck straight girls at a rate that would put a Ducati Superbike to shame. To quote a personal hero (Dr Seuss):
One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish; Black fish, blue fish, old fish, new fish; And this one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot of fish there are.
Indeed, what a lot of fish there are. There is an entire sub-culture of women-hunting nympharia who are every bit as ruthless and seductive as that of the most charming male lethario. We have become so used to men (after the government) being the epitome of oppression. We look back at hundreds of years of having no voice and brood over male superiority but women are just as bad. Male/ Female, when it comes to notching bedposts the tide has turned and once again women are the targets.
I have watched as friends ruthlessly hunt down and take out their prey. They are charming, suave and so terribly clever in getting ones knickers kicked off the bed.
My point (and I do have one) is that the age of the male lethario has passed and gay love is giving free love a run for its money. Only there is no pride in this, as it is every bit as demeaning as male whoredom. These female letahrios do not respect the prey they feast on, nor do they have any intention of calling them in the future. Society really needs to take a rain check on generalising men as the sexual deviants because sexual deviancy exists across gender and sexuality borders.
Erica Jong wrote about the zipless fuck. Well it is in full in play. Only it is not empowering. It isn’t about a women going out there and breaking the boundaries placed on her by society; it is about using women, about being every bit as depreciating as to the reason feminism first came around. Janis Joplin summarises it best, ‘don’t you know baby you’re nothing more than a one night stand’.
There exists this division between the sexes, comparable to that of socialist and anarchist, reformists and revolutionists-but the question is are the ‘working class’ participating in their liberation or are they being every bit as abusive as the most tyrannical leader? We should be careful to generalise these days.
Women are threatening the principles of their own self-empowerment. So cut the guys some slack. They aren’t all that bad.
 Dr Seuss 1957: One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish
All of us reading this belong to something; a movement, a motivation and a state of living. We belong to this club simply because we define ourselves as women. But what of the other similar, but wholly different, side of humans; the man? I have never heard of a movement called “masculinism”, so I often wonder how it feels to be a man confronted by that rather disconcerting, pain-in-the-ass, bitchy, strong, determined, but oh-so-fluffy, creature called a feminist.
Does he revolt against us secretly, but praise our determination? Is he slightly intimidated by the fact that his bad toilet humour just isn’t going to cut it? Does he wonder if he should open the door for us, in case it gets slammed in his face because it is considered offensive behaviour? Or does this show-down between man and feminist result in him grabbing at the closest thing he knows; asserting his masculinity, striking out with fists clenched, his ideas chauvinistic and confused? I always wonder if feminism will reinforce his patriarchy and whether they really are two sides of the same coin.
There are theories as to why a man will be violent towards a woman. I hope someone can enlighten me better, but as far as I have read, one explanation for the culture of violence in South Africa is that it is a sad, perplexing reaction to Apartheid. I don’t really know what that means, but I can guess. I can guess that the state of the “man”, and his relations to others, has changed so drastically that he is no longer sure of his place in this new world. Having experienced so many years of powerlessness (and here I speak of African men), men are asserting their new freedom, but in a dangerous and asocial way. And this is not an excuse to be violent; but in understanding the disease, one can hope to find the cure.
If this theory contains some truth, then it seems that men no longer understand what it means to be a man, what is expected of them and what role they hold in the new South Africa. They only know how to assert their masculinity, like an animal, which grows larger and more intimidating when its territory is threatened. Through the haze of uncertainty, they act out against women, whose own power continues to grow since the end of Apartheid. Woman becomes the enemy, because she threatens the power of the man. If this is the case, then somewhere along the line the message was mis-communicated, or perhaps misunderstood. When women demanded a better status in the new South Africa, they weren’t demanding a better status than men; they were demanding the same status as men. And therefore, I was wrong; the opposite of feminism is not paternalism, power or patriarchy, but humanism.
So what does masculinism look like? Because I think we need a movement for men. While women are in motion within and towards something big, men are left flailing in the wake, uncertain of how to react. I am not asserting that men need more rights, more opportunities or more freedoms. What men need is a safe place to go when the darkness of our new land engulfs them; they need a safe place to go where they can feel like they belong. They need a movement which will help them to develop a new culture of norms and standards which will help them to deal with this new land. They need a movement which explains what it means to be human.
Masculinism should not be a movement against women, but a movement in parallel to women. We as feminists, who believe in equality of the human state, have the ability and responsibility to encourage this movement. We are the ones who should be determining the rules; we are the ones who should be creating the commandments. No person should rape another person; no person should abuse another person; no person should discriminate against another person. There is a dark wave which is washing through our land and we all need to play a role in extinguishing it.
Who is with me?
By Jen Thorpe
In some strands of feminism you hear a lot about reclaiming – about taking back words or spaces that previously excluded women and making them women-friendly spaces.
One of these spaces is the Ukraine public space. Women’s rights are not big on the agenda in the Ukraine and their prime minister, Mykola Azarov, claimed that an all-male cabinet was justified because “conducting reforms is not women’s business”.
In recent news a Ukrainian women’s rights group called Femen has been using topless protests, and mud-wrestling to campaign against the sex industry. To raise money for their organisation they sell jewellery and t-shirts bearing painted impressions of their breasts. When a University classroom was asked what they knew about feminism, many of them said they knew about Femen. So they are making some impact – they are getting women’s issues into the public consciousness.
But, many feminists in the Ukraine say that what these women are practising is not feminism, instead what they are doing is making it clear that women’s only value lies in their appearance. In short, they’re taking their tops off because that is the only way that their activism will be noticed.
So what do you think? Is toplessness a viable form of protest? Can women use these spaces to make politically relevant messages, or will they only be remembered for their breasts?
After the furore that erupted this week over Edwin Cameron’s statements about homophobia in the film ‘Spud’, and the embittered response by the film’s producer, Ross Garland, I decided to go and watch the film to see for myself.
Now let me confess that I haven’t read the book, and so can’t comment on whether the film was a fair depiction of homophobia in ‘Spud’, the novel. Having spent a year at a private Anglican girl’s high school, I’ve experienced enough of the ass-groping and nun’s fanny/fart jokes by the lower Michaelhouse-types to not want to trawl through another 200 odd pages of these. In addition, one of my closest friends (and an incisive literary critic) described the book as ‘lank unfunny, hey’, while another stopped reading after a few chapters when the unrelenting anxiety of the protagonist (which is portrayed in the film by the protagonist’s overuse of the word ‘terrified’) brought on a bout of mild nausea.
If the film is an accurate depiction of the sanctioning of homophobia in the book, so much the worse. The film itself is unquestionably homophobic and misogynistic. It fails to problematise the bigotry and brutality of its characters, and portrays these as a part of the casual, romping good fun of boarding school life (together with sneaking out for a night swim or howling at the moon). Spud’s art teacher/failed sports coach is a mincing caricature of a gay man, who the viewer is invited to deride and ridicule for his campness as much as his incompetence. The film’s portrayal of women and girls is as crude, although it fails to elicit the viewer’s sympathy in at least one instance. The supposedly ugly girl character, Christine, is obviously gorgeous, despite her mussed hair and the wet, slurping sounds that have been engineered to accompany her graunching of every boy she can lay her hands on. The message here is that the ugly girls are often also the sluts, who must use sex to compensate for their loss of social capital resulting from their wearing of braces (a trite proxy for hideousness).
What intrigued me the most about the press controversy over the film was the rage of producer Garland, who accused Cameron of violating freedom of expression in his critique of the film. This is about as ridiculous as accusing Pregs Govender of misogyny. Cameron has spent decades working as an advocate for greater human rights protections in South Africa, and continues to do so. Garland reported that he was seeking legal advice to ascertain whether Cameron’s comments constitute defamation, with the implication that he may decide to charge him if such a case could be made. It can’t.
Garland is obviously very attached to the book and the film, and has invested a lot of money and professional prowess in the latter. He described the book as ‘the nation’s most beloved novel’, although surely a stronger case could be made for ‘Jock of the Bushveld’, one of Annelie Botes’ novels or even, perhaps, the bible. So what if the film is the best grossing in South African history? This doesn’t give it a shred of value (besides, of course, the monetary). Just because Steve Hofmeyer sells more albums than Thembi Seete doesn’t make his music suck any less.
So don’t watch ‘Spud’. It isn’t worth it. Take your R45 and send it to the Triangle Project or Rape Crisis or Equal Education. All of these organisations conduct workshops to help South Africans to confront sexual violence and the practical harms wrought by callous stereotyping in the media. Garland should attend one, I’m sure a red carpet entrance could be arranged.
Editor’s Note: If you would like to read Spud’s reply to Justice Cameron, you can do so here
By Cobus Fourie
Someone I know quite well alerted me to a (gay) medical doctor and his fascination with all things esoteric including the sickening concept of male rites of passage.
Granted, Mister Medical Doctor is on the wrong side of 40, I am on the wrong side of 25, and I suspect there is also a generation gap between our world views. Aside from the generation gap, one also needs to be mindful of my supposed extreme libertarianism in the anarcho-centre-leftist range.
Maybe I am viewing all of this through my intense disdain for the patriarchy, which would also explain the anarchist tendencies. I see all rites of passage as incongruous to our Zeitgeist. Moreover, I see attempts to grasp the unattainable through mass hysteria and trance-inducing rituals as inappropriate and scary – hence why I avoid certain charismatic congregations and any 12 step programmes like Alcoholics Anonymous.
I’ve exposed the proliferation of the men’s movement in my last post in which Amelia Jones, author of Feminism, Incorporated. Reading “postfeminism” in an antifeminism age dissects the methodology and hysteria of the men’s movement:
The other side of the postfeminist coin is the so-called ‘men’s movement’. Inspired by Robert Bly’s book Iron John (1990) the men’s movement appropriates and perverts the rhetoric of feminism to urge the contemporary American male to ‘find a voice of [his] own’ as a ‘Wild Man’. Bly laments the feminization of the American male at the hands of his female caretakers, and calls for the extirpation of this spineless femininity through primitivist histrionics and rituals of male bonding. The ‘Wild Man’ immerses himself in mother nature and beats the appropriated drums of his ‘primitive’ brothers with big sticks to prove to himself that … his ability to dominate is intact.
Now I know rad-fems can be strident, as exposed in the Mail & Guardian article Lady, tramp, feminist icon. Lady Gaga or Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (as she is known off-stage) must be one of the foremost Pink rights activists of our time. Lady Gaga doesn’t fool around, she asserts herself, and she carries a formidable presence on 15 centimetre heels. However, feminist stalwart Camille Paglia is less impressed and calls Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work” and proclaims that there is an “essential depressiveness and spiritual paralysis” to her. Paglia might be too “old school”. I also wonder what spirituality has to do with equality. It seems both Mister Doctor and Ms Paglia have a penchant for the esoteric.
Via Mister Doctor’s nauseatingly esoteric blog, I came to see a phenomenon called The Mankind Project and it seemingly has a worldwide footprint. I also came across testimony on Facebook of other random gay guys who went on these man-camps only to extol the virtues of the Mankind Project much to my amusement.
My question: why do you feel so insecure and uncomfortable in your own skin that you have to discover your “inner wild animal” in between primitivist histrionics? We do not live in the Stone Age anymore. We do not have to stave off wild beasts for our survival and we need no longer hunt or forage for our food. We have a modern service economy with division of labour and we have transgressed the need for strict characterisation between male and female in terms of behaviour and build.
Imagine if women also laagered around their sole common denominator – their sex/gender. I am horrified by the thought of it. Oh dear, the return of Jong Dames Dinamiek! All the shock, horror, shoulder pads, and big hair of the 80s now conjured up in my mind’s eye scares me to death.
Now my astute perceptiveness tells me there is something more to the Mankind Project than meets the eye and I have thought of joining a camp to experience it for myself. Then again, I am not quite fond of men in general and the “bush” is not really my cup of tea. No, I decided. I shall sit in the comfort of my suburban life, sip on organic vanilla tea and honey bush chai, and contemplate such sociological constructs. I feel no need for a “transition” or rite of passage, but why do so many others have this dire need?
By Cobus Fourie
In 1993, the 4 Non Blondes had a huge international hit with their song titled ‘What’s up?’ Linda Perry, the vocalist and songwriter, sings in the first phrase: ‘I realised quickly when I knew I should that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man for whatever that means…” The song’s chorus furthers asks the pivotal question: what’s going on? The question is obviously rhetorical but moreover a statement of discontent.
Linda Perry became a songwriter mostly after her band split up and she was the person behind Christina Aguilera’s hit song ‘Beautiful’ which in its music video had the theme of self-acceptance and portrayed a gay couple kissing and a transvestite. The conclusion is obvious – acceptance of the fringe, acceptance of the ‘other’.
I fear that in terms of acceptance we are starting to take one giant leap backwards. And by ‘we’ I mean the so-called men’s movement.
There seems to be a phenomenon rearing its evil head. All around the world men lead by other self-appointed preachers and moral leaders are revolting against feminism and claiming back their god ordained place in society as head of the house et cetera all under the auspices of religious dogma. They call this the so-called men’s movement.
This resurgence and revolt against feminism is proliferating at a rapid speed and I fear that in terms of human rights we will be back in the dark Middle Ages.
The patriarchy thinks in terms of binary oppositions or dichotomies depending on which nomenclature you prefer: Male versus female or the ‘one’ versus the ‘other’.
I was always flabbergasted when heterosexual people always wanted to know the butch and femme in homosexual relationships. It is just a manifestation of the obsession with dichotomies and the patriarchy’s utter disregard for equality and the notion of the subservience of the female. Certain heterosexuals and of course the patriarchy, par excellence, continue to impose these constructs upon everyone else to simplify their lives. This is also known as good old-fashioned stereotyping.
As James Dobson was quoted in the New York Times: “tolerance and its first cousin diversity is almost always code for homosexual advocacy.” It seems the patriarchy has a huge gripe with tolerance and diversity. It just doesn’t quite fit into their strict dichotomies.
Now more about James Dobson: he is the founder of the Focus on the Family Foundation and has been spitting out conservative drivel since 1977. Note that James Dobson is no reverend/priest/minister or religious scholar but a psychologist with a very clear ulterior motive. Note also that the Focus on the Family Foundation produces ready-to-play radio programmes, an almost prêt-à-porter of the broadcast industry. Also note that the vast majority of South African community radio stations naively broadcast these conservative drivel much to the astonishment of the progressive community. Our nation is built on tolerance and diversity; our coat of arms says ‘unity in
diversity’ after all. Now why do these radio stations propagate division?
James Dobson also went on the most illogical tirade about the innocent and very likable cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. He was widely quoted that said character was a product of the pink agenda (inferring gay mafia connotations) and maintains that SpongeBob SquarePants will pollute the minds of the young and feed them pro-homosexual messages.
The feminists and the LGBT community have a common enemy in the patriarchy and its utter disregard for the rights of the ‘other’, this ‘other’ being everyone except the heterosexual, cisgender male. I did a simple Google search on ‘the evils of the patriarchy’ and to my astonishment most results lead to websites that proclaim the evil of feminism and the foundation of their dislike is ‘the bible tells us so’. Ever since the advent of the modern constitutional democracy, there has been the vital and clear separation between church and state. Otherwise, politically we would be back in the Middle Ages.
The problem with the patriarchy is that it is the basis of many cultures and it is sanctioned by religious texts hence it still being in practice today. The patriarchy imposes its strict dichotomies on everyone else thus subverting the rights of everyone but the heterosexual, cisgender male. The patriarchy also has no tolerance for equality and firmly believes in the subservience of the ‘other’ (historically the female). The patriarchy regards women and the LGBT community as lesser persons and would not very much like to grant them equal rights.
Rosemarie Putnam Tong, author of Feminist Thought, writes the following: “Simone de Beauvoir provided an ontological-existential explanation for women’s oppression. In The Second Sex, one of the key theoretical texts of the twentieth century feminism, she argued that woman is oppressed by virtue of her otherness. Woman is the other because she is not-man.” Tong also states: “They claim woman’s otherness enables individual women to stand back and criticise the norms, values, and practices that the dominant male culture (patriarchy) seeks to impose on everyone, particularly those who live on its periphery”
Amelia Jones, author of Feminism, Incorporated. Reading “postfeminism” in an antifeminism age, has the following to say: “The recent resuscitation of this patriarchal fantasy by the right – under the guise of ‘family values’ – is a symptom of the massive anxiety of the patriarchal system, a reaction formation against the threatening incursion of women into the work force and, more recently, the political arena.” Jones continues: “With the cultural authority of anglo masculinity becoming increasingly bankrupt as gay, feminist, and non-white cultures insistently articulate counter-identities to this imaginary norm, the patriarchal commodity system urgently seeks to reinforce predictable stereotypes of femininity… The properly postfeminist woman shores up the crumbling infrastructure of conservative American ideology during a time of economic crisis and confirms the ‘rightness’ of Republicanism, with its moralizing intervention in personal relations and the destruction of the civil rights of women, lesbians, gays, blacks, and others.”
Jones then explores the heart of this topic: “The other side of the postfeminist coin is the so-called ‘men’s movement.’ Inspired by Robert Bly’s book Iron John (1990) the men’s movement appropriates and perverts the rhetoric of feminism to urge the contemporary American male to ‘find a voice of [his] own’ as a ‘Wild Man.’ Bly laments the feminization of the American male at the hands of his female caretakers, and calls for the extirpation of this spineless femininity through primitivist histrionics and rituals of male bonding. The “Wild Man” immerses himself in mother nature and beats the appropriated drums of his ‘primitive’ brothers with big sticks to prove to himself that … his ability to dominate is intact. As with the frantic declarations of the supposed death of the feminist subject, the fact that masculinity (again, aggressively heterosexual and almost exclusively anglo and upper middle-class) needs to be shored up proves again how intense is the threat the vast numbers of working women of all sexual, racial, and class identities currently pose to the patriarchal system (not to mention the threat posed by the increasingly powerful identity politics of the non-heterosexual male).”
Just as these excerpts explain the situation in the USA, so these notions have shown up here in South Africa as well. Think of those “Man Camp conferences”. It is sad, immensely frightening, and utterly detrimental to the egalitarian society we want to build here.
Lastly, now I want to ask that anthem of a question that Linda Perry asked about seventeen years ago: what’s going on?
Jones, A. (Ed). 2003. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Routledge
Tong, R. P. 1998. Feminist Thought. A more comprehensive introduction. Westview Press