Why the casual sexism at UCT matters

Dela Gwala
Dela Gwala

By Dela Gwala

“The girls here are all sluts man, is it any better at Rhodes?”. I overheard this question on Jammie plaza last year. The unidentified dudebro essentially ruined my lunch and made me vow to continue hiding out in the postgraduate corners of this institution.  Against my better judgement, I continued to take tea breaks on those pigeon-infested stairs. One day, I came across a poster promoting UCT’s netball team. It was basically a full-blown shot of several pairs of disembodied legs with the catchphrase “UCT netball team revealed”. Strange I thought, whenever I see a poster that concerns the rugby team their legs are attached to the rest of their bodies. A few days later, walking back to the dingy postgrad labs, I noticed another poster. This one was advertising a College House party. In the bottom right corner it said ‘R 20’ and underneath that ‘Puss ‘n Pint.’

I’m not the only one that continuously bumps into UCT’s culture of casual sexism. The First Year’s introduction to life in a campus residence seems to be a training ground for misogyny.  A recent Facebook post that popped up on my timeline spoke of the questionable war cries sang by members of some of the male residences. Apparently, in recent years, the Smuts Hall boys sang that they could go to Fuller House and get some free vagina…And they sang this to the Fuller girls. Also, the Kopano boys had been heard listfully wishing that women’s buttocks were like buns.

Opening up the latest edition of SAX appeal, the editor started his letter with the sentence “Nabeel you’re going to get all the bitches”. It’s satirical social commentary they said. Sian Ferguson, UCT alumnus and current Rhodes student, tweeted “good satire should make the oppressor feel uncomfortable, not the oppressed”. The common denominator in all of the above examples is that a group of people that are often socially, politically and economically marginalised due to their gender are thrown under the bus for the sake of humour.

“When we live in a world where street harassment is just a normal part of life it sets up a culture where even worse things happen behind closed doors.” These were the words attached to a piece of street art whose image made its way around social media a couple of months ago. The same goes for casual sexism. When you create an environment that is accepting of gross objectification of women then you are fuelling a culture that will ignore the violence committed against them. If we’re all just skanks, sluts, hoes and bitches then what happens to us is inconsequential – we had it coming anyway.

I wonder if the unidentified dudebro from the beginning of this article is aware that the language he uses comes straight out of the mouth of a sex offender. Words that demean women because of their sexual past/activities are always the first port of call to rationalise what they’ve done. Policing women’s sexuality allows for a social space where they get blamed for sexual crimes committed against them. If you think our worth or respectability is determined by how much sex we are or aren’t having or the amount of clothing we wear then those will be the first questions that come up when you’re trying to determine whether an act of sexual violence has happened or not.

Being on a campus where judging women’s sexuality is part of everyday conversation means we don’t ask important questions. We don’t ask why we’re not sure of the procedure/policy of reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus. We don’t ask why we don’t know the statistics of how many of these incidents occur on campus. We don’t ask why DISCHO, the body in charge of dealing with these cases, is underfunded and understaffed.  We don’t ask these questions because we’re too busy blaming women for going about their lives the way they see fit. We don’t ask because we don’t really care. When women are only vaguely human – owners of body parts we mock and objectify – then why should we?

Harfield Village: The bold and the befok

Jen Thorpe, feminism, South Africa, feminist
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

I moved to Harfield Village in April last year. For a little village that basically lies between two roads (Imam Haron and Kenilworth Road) this place has a lot of issues.

During the time I’ve lived here I’ve witnessed two domestic violence assaults in the street whilst others walked by. The first, described here, was in June and when I called the police, they didn’t respond. On many occasions since I’ve since seen this couple still walking the streets together, their faces set in grim determination. My heart breaks a little every time.

The second, described briefly in the first, second and last stanzas of this poem, happened in September and resulted in the most drawn out interaction with the Claremont police station a person can ever imagine. Suffice to say: they didn’t have the right documents, didn’t want to take a statement, tried to put her in the back of the van with her abuser, refused to open a case, told her she’d never report, didn’t have a printer to give me a copy of my statement, lost my statement, made me give my statement again at another station, lost that somehow, and never really resolved the issue of the failure to give people copies of their statement several months later. This attack was also witnessed by two builders, less than five metres away from the couple, who did nothing, and then verbally abused me the next day for shouting at them for doing nothing. ‘Who the f**k did I think I was to ask them to stop him from hitting her?’ Um, a human being.

Also during this time I have witnessed an elderly white man set his dog on two young black women walking back from Rosmead Spar one evening. The dog viciously barked at and attacked the screaming women before the old white man gently whistled and it ran into his property. He walked in, no sound at all, while the women were left to recover their wits. When I confronted him about why he had done this and had not apologised to the two ladies, his response was ‘I didn’t see any ladies.’ I called my councillor, Mr Kempthorne, who suggested that I read the animal bylaws to see if the old man had done anything wrong (in general, I think this was probably something he should have known, and also general racism isn’t in the animal bylaws, but anyway). In fact, this angry old white dude had infringed by having a dangerous dog without a leash walking around so I delivered a copy of the bylaws, highlighted, to his mailbox, and Mr Kempthorne also asked his office to send someone to talk to the man. Despite my angry eyeballing of his house whenever I walk past, I have seen no more of this racist white man and his dog. But I’m sure he’s still in there.

Also during this time I have been called to a community meeting to discuss ‘security concerns’ where it was clear some form of collusion between the village association and a major security service provider had happened, and where community protests at the exclusion of smaller service providers were met with shut downs from the Chairman of the HVA (but only after he’d asked us if we wouldn’t mind giving a donation because he’d actually spent quite a lot of our annual fees on hiring the venue and the sound equipment). As those of us who thought this meeting a laughing stock walked out, we were threatened with the idea that ‘if we didn’t do something now crime would only get worse.’ A week later, after making the news for this general circus, the security tender was revised, and somehow they all managed to work together in a non-collusive way to protect us all. For a small monthly fee.

So, if what happens outside the houses of Harfield is anything to go by, it is a pretty complicated place full of racism, security threats, inefficient policing, domestic violence, and a bunch of white dudes making decisions for all of us. If that isn’t bad enough, let’s explore what happens inside the homes of Harfield. The easiest way to do this, is to go online.

A few months after living here I was alerted to the existence of the Harfield Village Association closed Facebook Group. Whilst I thought the assault of Cynthia Joni nearby was enough of an example of the racism, classism and sexism that prevails in this community, I was not fully alerted to the unashamed commitment to these beliefs until I encountered this ill-moderated page. On this page, ostensibly set up so the members of Harfield can talk about the community, build community projects, and share information about great service providers in the area, things only get worse. It appears that in fact, inside their homes, Harfield Villagers (or at least some of them) are even more racist and offensive than they let on outdoors. A summary sentence would be: ‘non-white’ is still a category of person for these people.

Examples include alerting other villagers when there are ‘non-whites’ in the area who are not expected to be there (this of course doesn’t happen if those ‘non-whites’ are gardening, cleaning, taking away rubbish, within strict areas, so you can see which house they belong to, in which instances the village welcomes them) or coming up with creative solutions to homeless people asleep on the pavement (see this post, where a suggestion includes ‘let’s tar over them’). This is also a site to sex-worker spot, and to alert other villagers to the general deterioration of the social fabric as referenced by the presence of women making a living (I saw one having sex in the park! says one resident). When I proposed a community discussion on the topic of sex work, of course the resident who had started the whole complaints process said she wouldn’t come (what if she had to realise they were humans!??!). In addition, when the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce approached the Kenilworth councillor to discuss the issue, he refused to engage citing that ‘sex work is a crime’ and we must bring the full force of the law down on sex workers (as an aside, I don’t know any sex workers who work in areas where there are no demands for their service. But I digress..). If you’re interested in supporting the human rights of sex workers, there is a protest march on the 20th to his office organised by SWEAT (Tuesday 20th January, meet at Wynberg Magistrates court at 9am).

The Harfield Village Association page allows what can only be seen as values antithetical to constitutional ones to flourish, unmoderated and without recourse. It should have a tagline ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’.

At a feminist meeting group the other evening friends and I discussed how the use of social media allows us to curate our realities – we follow people who are often of the same beliefs as us, we google search only things that reinforce our particular world view, we unfriend those Facebook friends who say things we don’t agree with, and essentially what we end up doing is living in a bubble where people are either as liberal or conservative as we are. We begin to believe that most people think like us. This is dangerous because it means we withdraw from spaces where our views are different, and we begin to lose our skill for arguing for the values we hold dear.

The Harfield Village Association page is one place where this appears completely true. As it becomes more an more a site for white middle-class people to voice and echo disdain for anyone other than them, the more liberal members of the area exit, and join the other page ‘The Harfield Youth League.’ This leaves these racist, sexist, awful people to pat each other on the back for a job well done and to continue with their diatribes of exclusion. This leaves them thinking that they are in the majority when they’re inside their homes and this mentality can only spill out onto the streets. I think it’s time for those of us who left the page emotionally scarred and exhausted to take a breath and dive back in (if they’ll accept our request) because there is nothing more true than this quote:

“Silence in the the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor” Ginetta Sagan

20 March – feminist reading list for the morning

read me

1. A guide for foul mouthed feminists – click here

2. Gender angle for premiership race – click here

3. Have you ever used sex to get something that you want – click here

4. Men that rape are our fathers, lovers – click here

5. ANC Women’s League – what have you done for women’s rights lately – click here

6. Will the new Global Development Paradigm do anything to improve the lives of young women? – click here

7. The feminist declaration for the Post 2015 development goals – click here

8. New website on sex, rights and the internet – click here

9. Why we have too few women in leadership – click here

10. On catcalling – no I’m not asking for it, and no it’s not a fucking compliment – click here

Say Yes to the Dress?

Kameel Premhid
Kameel Premhid

By Kameel Premhid

Perhaps it was the decided lack of content or reality displayed by President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last week that allowed for picking on Thandile Sunduza, MP, to become the country’s favourite pastime.

SONA is the high theatre of politics: red carpets, swanky clothes, obscure figures and even more nebulous promises. This year was no different – save in one crucial aspect. South Africans participated in the character assassination of a female MP, who happens to seven months pregnant, with such ferocity that Sunduza landed up in hospital due to the emotional torment she suffered at the hands of internet trolls and serious newspapers alike.

I have seen various arguments attempting to mollify the sheer horrific impact that this has situation had. They have all, in various ways, attempted to justify and underplay what this was: the objectification and denigration of a woman for how she dressed. Had Sunduza not collapsed and had the life of her unborn child not been threatened, I wonder whether the same people would have attempted to blithely justify their mob-mentality in attacking her so. But, for those of us who monitor these things, attacking a female politician for anything other than how she does her job is commonplace in South Africa’s political discourse.

Some of the more amusing arguments I have seen have included: (a) that she was being criticised for her choice of fashion against an objective standard – not that she was female; and (b) that being an MP means she is expected to set an example and her choice, which was an allegedly poor one, made criticising her fair game.

The first argument is flawed on two grounds.

Firstly, the objective standard is hardly objective like all. As I wrote in an article about whiteness and excellence, our understanding of what is acceptable and what isn’t is as a result of socialisation and prevailing dominant cultural attitudes. These cultural attitudes are not value-free: they are as a result of complex power relations which shape our views on things like rights, culture and even fashion. That a ‘fat’ woman should not wear something ‘figure-hugging’ is as a result of the hyper-marketised projection of only people ‘in shape’ being allowed to wear such clothing. That in previous times, women ‘with curves’ were considered as being desirable and encouraged to show off their curves – and tin women were looked down upon – is indicative of how fickle, and thus unreliable, these ‘standards’ are.

This also covers the pithy argument that she must set an example. In any case, if we were going to criticise her for anything, shouldn’t we be focusing on her track-record and performance in Parliament as opposed to whether her dress fit her? If we are trying to set examples, this episode basically tells young women that they must be seen and heard to say and do the right things and they’ll be okay: dare to be different and you’ll be crucified. Imagine how this is viewed in hindsight. On the occasion that the biggest policy speech was being made in our political year, a few months before the election, most people were frothing at the mouth over how a largely-unknown MP looked. So much for wanting to create a new generation of female leaders in South Africa.

Second, the fact that she is a woman cannot be separated from the criticism levelled at her fashion choice. While I loathe essentialisation of this kind, this inseparability comes about in two respects.

On one hand, no man would ever be subjected to this kind of scrutiny. Even if they were, it would be transient at best. Women seem to be in a special class: that we can criticise them for what they wear because women are concerned with fashion and that makes it okay. Actually, women should not mindlessly be associated with fashion. Like with everything, some care and others don’t. Similarly, if we create fashion to be reserve of women, what does it say about a fashionable or fashion conscious man? That he is womanly? Hmm, think not.

On the other hand, the aggressive way in which Sunduza was belittled is representative of the wider societal problem we have with women in South Africa. It is no coincidence that women are the most disempowered and the most brutalised: we live in a society where women are treated as the lesser, inferior beings and where we – as men but also as a society – can treat them as they wish. For all our lip service to the Women’s march of 1955 and 16 days of activism, we spend a lot of time letting women know where they belong: at the bottom of the pile. It may be hyperbolic of me to suggest that Sunduza’s treatment is in the same vein. Perhaps. But it symbolises how even if we don’t hit women physically, we continue to allow them to be broken down in other ways as well. We objectify them in the worst way. 

I hate to take on the role of moraliser-in-chief. But something has to be said about how Sunduza was treated. For the harsh criticism that she was subjected to is not only about her. It is about how we view and treat women in politics and in general. South Africans should take a long hard look at themselves and realise that we have no right nor place to judge. Certainly not in the way that it transpired nor over what we all got worked up over. We deserve better. And so does Sunduza and countless other women.

This article first appeared on News24.com Voices

We Don’t Want Your Moral Outrage

Thorne Godinho
Thorne Godinho

By Thorne Godinho

A recent viral video depicting crude bullying at Höerskool Overkruin in Pretoria certainly ought to have raised some eyebrows. The rof-en-onbeskof pupils’ hair-pulling, smacking, pushing and swearing has been shared by nearly 8000 people on Facebook, and I have been following the conversations streaming from the supposedly apocalyptic vision this video illustrates.

Although the commentary on social media often doesn’t amount to substantive engagement with the topic at hand, it can be a good barometer of public perception overall. When two girls in perfect red uniforms decided to kick, push and bully another girl everyone on Facebook angrily spoke of how “unrespectable” these women were. South Africans spoke about corporal punishment, and the failure of the male pupils to protect the victim. This misplaced moral outrage dominated the social media discourse, pushing the real issues of abuse, violence and victimisation to the curb.

Moral outrage is an effective tool – it breeds further outrage, and allows for emotion to override reason. Moral outrage disturbs debate and engagement in such a manner that the issue is never really addressed – it is only spoken about in hyperbolic fires of upset and anxiety. I witnessed this kind of misplaced unreason two weeks ago as I watched students from the University of Pretoria who were running for SRC “twerk for change”. The outrage expressed on twitter over a small campaign managed to make me cringe, whilst also bruising my ego a bit (I confess: I had convinced the candidates to get students interested in the election by twerking in public). Twerking soon represented an affront to gender relations in the workplace, and the dignity of women everywhere.

Men who commented that women who twerk cannot be taken seriously and thus should not demand to be taken seriously in the workplace, received multiple endorsements from other slacktivists – male and female. The real issues (student politics) and the real debates surrounding the sometimes overtly sexist criticism expressed on social media platforms were ignored. Beyond shifting the goal posts, moral outrage can also serve as a vehicle for sexism and misogyny. In the wake of something disturbing (like bullying) or innocuous but controversial (like twerking), people often reveal their penchant for outdated views of women, femininity and masculinity through criticism and inane commentary.

The more subtle variant of this outrage can be found in the exaggerated suppositions made in support of a common cause such as preventing sexual violence. For example, most people wouldn’t be upset by a car sticker proclaiming that “real men don’t rape!”, but this kind of statement (which is more like an unproven hypothesis) doesn’t actually support the fight against sexual violence. Creating an other (the rapist, who is not a real man because of his crimes) in this instance actually presents an affront to any kind of meaningful debate and action on the issue of rape. When society pretends that the other is the only problem it fails to solve the underlying problems which perpetuate sexual violence, and thus fails to promote the equality and freedom of women.

The only group who benefits from this subtle moral outrage is the ‘real man’ who isn’t a rapist. In other words: men who are not guilty of sexual crimes are absolved of any responsibility for the actions of their peers – who are real men too. The men who are not guilty of rape can pretend that the overwhelming culture of inequality promoted in the home and church do not have any kind of bearing on the fact that real men do rape women. The men who are not guilty of rape can pretend that their cat-calling and displays of machismo and violence do not result in an environment which is hostile to women.

How convenient.

A keyboard and the unpredictable, fast-paced nature of internet content makes it easy for your friends, followers on twitter and the people who hide behind anonymity online to smother debate and engagement through unreasonable hyperbole. Closing off the space for these people to stoke the fires of internet-anger (and sometimes: the accompanying misogyny) is easy: call them out, take them on, and clear out the crowd who refuse to engage in a meaningful way. By pushing moral outrage to the edge we’d be doing a great service to real engagement and discourse, whilst also preventing the perpetuation of sexism and misogyny.

I can feel his tongue lick me. His slimy hands bruise my skin.

Dudumalingani Mqombothi
Dudumalingani Mqombothi

By Dudumalingani Mqombothi

News is horrified of dew. That is a Xhosa idiom– old as time­­– carved on rocks. It simply translates: if there is news, it will be heard. The idiom leans, owing to innocent inferred meaning, towards bad news and not good news. A month ago, I eavesdropped on a heated conversation meant for friends and those participating in that discussion, exposing their own wretched soles. I intended to abandon the conversation at the doors of the train and not retell it because that is theft. But every writer is a thief of conversations, gestures, personality and at times writers steal people in their entirety. People show up in fictional books, in their entirety or in parts. It cannot be me. The writer does not know me. We dismiss ourselves.

From the storyteller, when she says ‘explain to me how does one become horny in such heat’, I extrapolate that the day had been one of those gloriously summer Cape Town days or perhaps a winter day when the sun violently bursts through the clouds. The train– as usual– was crowded with not much space to move. The passengers’ bodies face towards each other and away from each other. The crowding makes it impossible to stay clear of human contact. One’s hips brush against another person’s. The person behind you brushes against your bum and the nostrils breath in the breath of the other person.

According to the storyteller, the woman had been standing in the open space between the two electric doors. She wore a black skirt, black leggings and white blouse. She had stuffed her convenient belongings in the bag she hid underneath her arm. Bags have to be hid underneath arms because criminals gash them open with sharp blades and take out of them what they please. She was beautiful my friend. You could tell she was off to an interview or work. The storyteller says to her friends– to me. It is not clear which station she embarked the train. According to our storyteller, she had been there for some time. The woman was not talking to anyone, she did not know anyone, or wherever she was going lay heavily on her mind. I saw the white marks on her black skirt and I thought its nothing. The storyteller says. As the train commuters empty, people appear in complete full, from head to toe. The woman was still there. It was now three stations before the final destination, Cape Town. An older woman calls her and tells her that she has a white smear on her skirt. She twists her neck to have a look and so does everyone. It was semen. Unbelievable. Someone yells. Men are such horny dogs. Another woman yells. The storyteller continues her story because news is horrified of dew. Clearly the guy was not getting it at home. But did he get his thing out and rubbed it against her? She asks.

Another woman shares her story. She had been standing next to a man. The train is crowded. So it is not like I can move to another place. And then this bastard takes out his penis right inside the train and asks me if I want it. I will grab it and show it to everyone if you do not stop it. She threatens him and he stops. Men are dogs. She completes her story.

A friend of mine had told me that this happens in the train. I did not believe her. It is perverted to understand. Inhumane. I could not in my mind frame up a complete picture of a man who gets aroused by a woman in the train and having an orgasm.

On a separate day, I embark the train in the afternoon. A girl, who looks not older than 20, embarks the train. She wore a mini skirt and a grey top. It looked like a work uniform. She stands by the door and places her bag on her calves and takes out her phone and stares into it. She faces the wall of the train the entire journey. Only peering to look out the window– I assumed for her station. The men around her and farther down the carriage yell greetings and perverted compliments at her. She is in a catch-22 situation. She looks away but she hears them talk about her bum and her thighs. She looks at them and will see their horny eyes fucking her.

Men are always trying to get laid, aren’t they? I say to the woman next to me. She giggles and agrees. Shoo. She adds.

To make sense of this sickness I gather close female friends and asked them. My one friend tells me that she wants to slap men that stare and undress her. Another friend wants to cut their penises off. Another friend tells me, with disgust on her face, I feel naked. I can feel their nude bodies against mine.

Another friend tells me that she can feel their tongues slide up and down her back- soiling her- leaving her skin permanently scarred and their slimy hands violently brushing against her skin- bruising it. She feels her skin itch, as if something is crawling underneath.

After talking to them, I sit by the window and stare at concrete bricks placed such that they form a maze. This is an attempt to evade my friend’s feelings and the stories I heard on the train from those women. My attempt comes to naught. Sorrow consumes me. And it continues to do every time I see a man staring at a woman and every time I notice myself staring at a woman.

Women and housework – get real IOL

By Sarah Haken

kitchenThis article annoys me. Seriously? This is what a staff writer thinks is important to write about? If I want a tidy house, WHY is the connotation IMMEDIATELY a WOMAN to ensure that the house is “tidy”. But this sort of stupidity carries on the mindset that laundry and household chores are clearly a woman’s job and how dare she leave the kitchen to *gasp* be in the office. I mean, get real, we’re in the 21st century.  If anything, my male housemate is probably more inclined to do the dishes, do the laundry and the like as he is generally a tidier person than I am.  That’s the fact of the matter. Personality differences, not our gender.

As an aside, I have to love how the same staff writer makes the comment “If you want a tidy house for the rest of your life, never make a Western Cape woman your wife.” Like making someone your wife is “a thing”.  Erhmmm it’s a two-sided decision, where both parties decide whether they want to be together.

Also, why is it an issue to spend less time doing house work? 174 minutes versus 219? It may not mean that a house is dirtier – how’s about we celebrate that there are more women now entering the job market and staying there (and not see it as a bad thing which this article appears to imply).  That’s a far better headline than “Cape women lousy at housework”.

Get real.

Originally posted at http://shakenbakeblog.com

For another article on this topic, check out Sipho Kings: Women work while men socialise

Only Objects

Joy Niemack
Joy Niemack

By Joy Niemack

I’ve been sitting on this video for a couple of weeks thinking where should I begin? And I wondered why should I say anything when there have been a whole string of criticism around it already. As I begun to reassess even my own views on feminism and sexism I came across this article with regards to a Norwegian citizen, raped and arrested for reporting the rape (read more here). I felt sick to my stomach with anger. How could such stuff still happen in 2013? How is it that there are still such practices in existence? So I come back to this Roxy Pro video and realise it is all part of the reason why females are still treated as the lesser sex.

Roxy Pro has gotten people talking, but for all the wrong reasons. The ASP World Surfing tour posted their 1.47 minute promo video of one of their female surfers getting ready to take on the ways. And when I say ‘getting ready’ I really mean watching her wake up, get dressed and arriving at the beach. It includes all of 20 seconds of surfing. Watch it here

At first I wasn’t quite sure if I had clicked on an ad for a clothing or technology brand or an upcoming swimsuit shoot. It is just panning shots objectifying a female. While I think that people who have fine physiques should be admired for it, I wonder what consequences it has for sports?

I’ve watched my fair share of sports videos and promos from NHL to NFL drafts to rugby, F1 and soccer, most include the actual sport. The promo usual shows why it will be an exciting season, includes action shots of the sport, or the company takes a quirky outlook on it. But there is always the sport. It’s never seems sexualised in the male versions.  So why are women’s sport videos and promos so different? Why not show the epic battles between Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons or the sick moves of Carissa Moore. Why does it have to include panning and lingering shots of specific areas of a female body? Is that the only reason you will watch the competition? I know they spend a majority of their day and career in swimwear and swimsuits and have very admirable physiques, but so do Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith and other male surfers, why should female competitors be treated differently?

Sex sells, but what’s this telling our female athletes? That they are only watched if they are hot? That this is the only reason they exist in the sporting arena and not because of their physical capabilities? This brings up the Marion Bartoli I came across recently. So she doesn’t look like Maria Sharapova, but she plays a mean tennis match.

Yes we admire sports men and women’s incredible physiques but is this what sport has really come to? This is the reason I am going to speak out and will not stop speaking out until people get the picture. Women are people too. We all come in different shapes and sizes yes, but we aren’t just bodies, we have minds too. We aren’t just objects, we can compete too. I don’t want our female competitors only taken note of because of their appearance. Take note!

Watch the parody http://surfeurope.mpora.com/features/news/roxy-pro-parody-quiksilver-pro-france-unofficial-teaser.html

Also read All Sexy, No Surfing http://www.surfermag.com/blogs/opinion/all-sexy-no-surfing/

Don’t Fool Yourself – You Need Feminism

Amy Jephta
Amy Jephta

By Amy Jephta

Hey you, woman reading this. I know you’ve got your girl power anthems and your independent woman mantras and you’ve pretty much convinced yourself you run the world. That’s really great, I admire your confidence, and let me be the first to convince you that you can do anything you set your mind to. But you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, and that makes me sad. Or if you do, you feel like you need to justify it, qualify it, tag on a ‘but’. “I’m a feminist, but not THAT kind of feminist”. “I’m a feminist, but I love men.” Because that word is so extreme, so backwards, smells of man-hating and street-shouting and not-shaving and the 80’s. Women in the 80’s needed feminism, when they were Melanie Griffith in Working Girl and men treated them like children and they had to behave and be ladies. Our grandmothers needed feminism in the 50’s, when they marched to the Union Buildings where there was a real enemy to fight. This is 2013, we have nothing standing in our way – let’s move on already.

But deep down you’re angry, right? You’re angry about the fact that the ideal woman, according to most of the English-speaking world, is thin, white and beautiful. You’re angry about the war being waged daily on women’s bodies: by the media telling us how thin we should be, by men who think they have the right to comment on your ass because you’re walking on the street. You’re angry, aren’t you, about the fact that women are being burned to death in Kenya because they’re suspected to be witches? That in your very country, two men can get off on R200 bail for raping six girls? You’re angry, aren’t you, that most religions, governments, sporting codes, cultural activities and social systems value men, believe that it’s the men who should make the choices, decide the way the world runs, have most of the power, even though the majority of the world consists of women? That men and boys don’t have to keep proving themselves (that they’re good enough, smart enough, physically and mentally strong enough) but you, as a woman, do? That anger makes you a feminist.

And you, sir, fooled by the media into thinking that feminism is a ‘woman’s problem’, that it isn’t your business, that it has nothing to do with you. Here’s a newsflash: it’s ALL about you. Until you stop brushing it aside as something women have to deal with and figure out, nothing will change. Until you stop belittling it by labelling feminism as a woman’s thing, as hysteria, as PMS and overreacting, and start talking about it, the men who need to listen won’t listen. Men listen to other men. Right now, the power scales tip in your favour. Use it to your advantage. Be a feminist.

One more thing: feminism isn’t absolute. There are no rules. You don’t have to subscribe to the academics, believe in all the politics, follow the propaganda, burn your bra, or be angry all the time. You don’t have to hate men, rant every chance you get, or not like pink dresses and lipstick. You can shape feminism into what you need to it be; it’s flexible, you can adopt it and own it and make it yours. All you have to do is keep asking questions. To paraphrase the cliché: feminism is the radical notion that women are people. Believe that. Call yourself a feminist today.

Dear Advertising Agencies – part two

Lizl Morden
Lizl Morden

By Lizl Morden

Hello, advertisers. Me again. It has been almost a year since I wrote voicing my opinion of your opinion of gender and its stereotypes. I thought it would be fun to have a look at your work since then. Well I was wrong; it was not fun at all. It was rather disheartening.  Since this is an article and not a book I’ll just go over the highlights.

I’m just going to point out that these are ads I did not mention last time , so this excludes sexists ads from last year that are still airing. All-new sexism in your lounge. And these are only TV ads, not including print and radio. (Any takers to cover sexism in those media?) Let’s get straight into it:

• Vodacom – Errol. The nagging wife and hen-pecked husband. Does this poor woman not know how to use a lawn mower? I don’t, but if I were married to man who was as reluctant to mow the lawn as Errol is you bet your sweet ass I’d learn. Ain’t nobody got time for ticks. Does Errol not know where the off button on his phone is? (Google it brah. Or ask Siri.) Do the people at this agency have a creative bone in their bodies?

• KFC (you again, hi!) – double down (aside from a heart attack in foil and tasting like a bad 80s action movie from what the ad tells me). Men, real men, eat manly food. Yes, there is such a thing is manly food. #sarcasm. And real men cannot verbally express themselves. They are basically cavemen with bad hairstyles.

• and then we have Spur – Daddy bear. A hungry man is literally an animal! I think I see a trend…

• Lays – Brazilian police officer in a traffic jam. This is plainly sexual harassment! “Aw c’mon”, I hear you protest, “it’s just a little bit of fun”. Try this: if the sexes of the parties involved were switched, I’m pretty sure there would be many complaints. While I do agree that the man is way hot, I do not think that is any reason to feel him up (without his permission and as a person in a position of authority) and steal his chips.

• Paco Rabanne – Lady million. Gender stereotyping. Of course, all woman only want tons of shoes and big diamonds.  Another ad is objectification pure and simple. When the man clicks his fingers the woman does something (strips), plus she ends up as literal golden object.

• Handy Andy – cleaning knight. It’s a cleaning knight! Smile face …. and the knight is a woman. Frowny face. It’s great that the knight is a woman but a male knight doing domestic chores would be even better.

•Vanish – embarrassing for my husband. I did mention this ad last time but now I have video evidence. You know what is embarrassing? This ad. For all humans everywhere.

• CTM – cheapskate husband , easily offended wife, man is offended when he is told his womanly side is coming out. As if only (and all) women have an eye for tiles.

• Shield – Do more. The men do physical things like playing table tennis while the women do physical things like walking down a catwalk. The passivity of women and some male gaze, anyone? Or, at the very least, different levels of physical activity.

But it’s not all bad! Shout out to:
• Toyota for having a woman driving a bakkie in their ad
• Omo for having a girl kick a muddy soccer ball
• Sunfoil: A man is cooking! And he’s not braaing.
• Dettol cream cleaner: Usually in ads for domestic products (omo, knorrox and ariel spring to mind) women are the consumers and men are the scientists. But this dettol ad shows a woman (who is also the consumer) in a lab coat. Progress. I like it.

I included links where I could find them so you could see the sexism I speak of with your own eyes. And I really did not go looking to find ads that offend me. They just appeared on my screen with their offensiveness.

As a somewhat related aside, I would like to challenge beer companies and their advertisers to produce an advert that features women actually enjoying beer. Actually enjoying it of their own volition, not as a guilty pleasure or as a guy thing. Do this and I will figuratively do a song and a dance about it (and maybe even support that brand and its gender-neutral beverage…).

As ever, yours sincerely

Forget the skirt, arrest the fashion police

This post was originally posted on the Mail and Guardian Thoughtleader platform, and has been reproduced here with permission of the authors (detailed at the end of the post)

If Lindiwe Mazibuko and Angie Motshekga appear poles apart politically, there is one reality they have shared socially — being subjected to public sexist insults.

Mazibuko’s case is only the latest in a number of public incidents where women are dismissed on the basis of body, age and dress — that age old language of reminding women that even when we have earned our right to leadership, we are not truly to be taken seriously in the public sphere.

This kind of belittling manifests itself even more aggressively in public spaces outside the plush carpets of Parliament. Too often these scenes play out in our taxi ranks where black women are punished for owning their bodies.

The pattern of crowd subjecting the woman to humiliation is remarkably similar. Like in the taxi rank, the scene had its ring leaders (‘bra Manamela and ‘ta Jeffery), cheering spectators, mostly older women (imbokodo), who watched as the patriarchs disciplined the wayward woman who is, in their eyes, a perpetual minor.

But this letter is not about Mazibuko.

It is about all black women. From the taxi rank to the Parliament women are subjected to sexist insults and are undermined regardless of their position and role as leaders. Respect is now reserved for men, some defended on the basis of their so-called “eldership” rather than political office.

Potso ke hore: tlhompho le thlomphano ke eng? Re botsa hore re utloisise hore na baholo ba reng ha ba re Lindiwe Mazibuko o hloka tlhompho. Tlhompho le tlhomphano tsebong ea rona ke tlama-thata; baholo ba bonts’a tlhompho ho baena hore baena ba tsebe tlhompho ea ho itlhompha le ho ba hlompha.

Ngabe abafazi inhlonipho ayibafanelanga na? Ngoba kutheni thina siyaqhizwa esidlangalaleni?

Kwezinye intsuku kuthiwa sityebe okwee “mvumbu” okanye okwee “ndlovu”. Ngenye sithi sibukele umabonakude sibone iibloomers zabafazi sivezwa esidlangalaleni.

Lusikizi olu.

Nontsizi Mgqwetho rightly proclaimed that “asinak’ukuthula umhlaba ubolile” (we cannot keep quiet while the world is rotting); in this case, we cannot keep silent because the decay is playing itself on our bodies.

Njengo kuba sinibeke pha ePalamente, asinibekelanga ukuba nichithe ixesha ne mali yethu niphikisana ngeempahla zethu bafazi. As former police commissioner Bheki Cele once said — stop playing fashion police, just do your jobs!

Signed by:

Nomalanga Mkhize (lecturer, history, Rhodes University).
Mathe Maema (PhD candidate, computer science, Rhodes University).
Babalwa Magoqwana (lecturer, sociology, Rhodes University).
Siphokazi Magadla (lecturer, politics, Rhodes University).

* We have chosen to write the letter in three languages, English, Sotho and Xhosa. We do so because we believe that as feminists, specifically black feminists, we lose the debate even before we start if we use English. We need to be able to articulate this feminism in our own languages. We also wish to respond in a language that the people involved will understand. Thus we are not willing to translate the message into English. In this country, it should be easy for the English speakers to find someone to translate the bits they do not understand. This is an act that all other South Africans do on a daily basis, translating English into their languages. The reverse should also be possible and not peculiar.

We should all care about sexism

Kameel Premhid
Kameel Premhid

By Kameel Premhid 

If you know much about Twitter, you will know what trolls are. For those that don’t, they are (usually) faceless, anonymous people, hiding behind their Twitter and social media accounts. They spew out the most atrocious opinions parading as public opinion that you will ever see.

A few months ago, these trolls took to defaming Lindiwe Mazibuko, saying the vilest things about her physique. Many people were happy when this distastefulness ceased. Regrettably, Buti Manamela and John Jeffery, both leading ANC MPs, have reduced themselves to the ranks of trolls by attacking Mazibuko along similar lines.

What makes their remarks even less acceptable however, is that Manamela and Jeffery dishonoured the Houses of Parliament by reducing the arena of national discourse to a place where their insults qualify as debate.

Sandy Kalyan MP, the DA’s Deputy Chief Whip, has issued a strong statement condemning the ANC MPs’ behaviour and has called upon the ANC Chief Whip, Dr Mathole Motshekga MP, to bring his colleagues to order. Whether Motshekga will do so will be instructive.

For this is not the first time that the ANC or its acolytes have reduced themselves to engaging in base character assassinations. Not too long ago, it was Mazibuko’s hairstyle that threatened to turn Parliament’s third reading on POSIB into a mud-slinging match. Having watched that debate I would suggest that it did.

Whilst many people will shrug off this latest attack and put it down to unimaginative and unintelligent politicians, it must be identified for what it actually is.

The continuous belittling of Mazibuko and her office, the nasty personalised nature of the attacks against her and the attempts to deride her appearance are a blatant display of the ANC’s chauvinism and misogyny. It stands to reason why: in its 101 year history, the ANC has never had a female leader. Indeed, in the words of the ANCWL, it is not even ready for one.

The attacks against Mazibuko are an illustration of the ANC’s utter contempt for credible female leaders. That Mazibuko is black and a youngster who is not shackled by the ANC’s singular interpretation of history must cause them even more concern. And Mazibuko is not alone. Zille, de Lille and no doubt many other opposition female leaders have had to deal with more than their fair share of criticism.

Tony Leon was detested by some in the ANC and the ANCYL, but the depths to which his opponents sank are lofty heights by comparison.

I have seen some in the media suggest that Mazibuko is an African woman and that explains her curvy-ness. I have even seen some who think that Manamela and Jeffery have a point and that a serious conversation is needed about Mazibuko’s weight. What both fail to realise is that it is none of their business what Mazibuko weighs. Reducing all African woman to having curves is unfair to those that don’t. Those who want to have a serious conversation about obesity in South Africa are holding the wrong person to account (not to mention conveniently ignoring the scores of obese male politicians abound). Mazibuko’s credibility should not be measured by her body mass but rather by her contribution to the development of our country. And if people want something weighty to consider, they should direct themselves to her legacy and nothing else.

Body weight is a personal affair and should be treated as such. It should certainly not be used as proxies for measuring value and worth. Manamela and Jeffery’s latest insults if anything show just how much the ANC has moved away from being the movement it once was. And the ANC is in even greater danger of losing its sense of self if these are the people who are in charge.

Manamela and Jeffery are a sampling of the deeper-set sexism that besets the ANC. All of us, whatever our political beliefs, should be concerned by this. Not only because their sexism against an individual is worthy of opposition, but because their mindset of sexism threatens to fail us all. After all, how do we expect government ministers to tackle poverty and crime (both phenomena which disproportionately detrimentally affect women) when they themselves perpetuate sexist institutional thinking?

Those who came before Manamela, Jeffery and even Zuma staked the ANC’s feminist credentials on the slogan “Wathint‘ Abafazi Wathint‘ imbokodo.” The ANC of today would do well to learn from the ANC of yore.  

This post was originally posted on The Chirp Room 

Dear John

The following letter was submitted anonymously to FeministsSA

Dear John,

It is with sadness that I write this letter to you today following your comments in the Parliamentary debate this week. In case you are uncertain which comments I’m referring to, it’s this one in particular:

 “…while the Hon Mazibuko may be a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable”.

Your comment says so little and yet so much, so I’d like to point a few things out. But first let me say, Dear John, that it’s your stature that is questionable.

Point 1: Attacks of this kind are a very weak form of argument. I’m sure with your justice training that you will be familiar with latin, and understand the term ‘Ad Hominem’  when used in the context of an ‘ad hominem fallacy’. For the uninitiated it goes like this. Person A makes an argument, Person B makes an attack on person A (unrelated to the argument but related to their character, or in this case, body), Person A’s argument is thought false. The reason why an Ad Hominem is a fallacy, and a really bad form of argument, is that the character, circumstance, or actions mentioned don’t have a bearing on the truth/falsity of the original argument. What this indicates, John, is that the best you could do to challenge Ms Mazibuko was to comment on her looks. It says way more about you and your argument, than it does about hers.

Point 2: Verbal attacks of this kind assume, if intended to be insulting  (if you had another intention John, by all means, share it), rest on the assumption that there is an acceptable body type for parliamentarians that would lend them credibility. It assumes that somehow if your body type doesn’t match this ideal, you should be embarrassed, and thus that commenting on someone’s body would be a legitimate criticism of their occupation of a seat in Parliament. I think a quick camera pan around the room would reveal that parliamentarians come in all shapes and sizes, and that a particular body type is thus not relevant to a parliamentary debate, especially not one as critical as the budget debate of Parliament itself.

Point 3: Verbal attacks of this kind are targeted primarily at women. Whilst male MPs are hardly a source of visual splendour it is rare to hear anything about their beer boeps, long hairy ears, or receding hairlines. If comments like this were made, they would immediately be seen as irrelevant. Yet, there are frequent comments about women’s weight, wrinkles, botox, hair styles and voice pitches. These comments are routinely accepted, and indeed in this case, the Deputy Speaker did not rule on whether these comments were un-parliamentary saying she needed to study the record.

This is indicative of a political culture that on the surface invites women to participate (in fact South Africa has incredibly high numbers of women in Parliament) but at the same time rejects women and is a culture that promotes a patriarchal value system where women are valued according to defined standards of beauty, and where these standards are thought to have bearing on their work performance. If a similar attack was made on the credibility of a disabled person, or an attack based on an MPs race, would be immediately identified as un-parliamentary. Yet, when this and other comments are made about women, they are accepted. This was a profoundly gendered comment to make. In fact it was chauvinist. The fact that your party colleagues did not call you out indicates that this type of patriarchal swing at women is accepted. The fact that a broad outcry was not heard in the house is equally worrying.

So in short John, I’m sure you now realise that your comment was profoundly offensive and made you appear as though you are weak and sexist.

If you’re not sexist,

if you’re not a weak man who believes that insulting women based on their bodies is ok in the political arena,

if you recognise that politicians of all shapes and sizes are equally capable of representing the diversity of South Africans out there (including women who make up more than half of the population),

then I hope you apologise not only by saying sorry, but by calling for a debate within the house about the persistence of sexism, and the need to eradicate public support for a patriarchal value system that does so much to harm women and men in South Africa.

If not, well John, as I said, it says more about you than it will ever say about Ms Mazibuko.

Review: Silver Linings Playbook – Bechdel fail

Tanya Pretorius
Tanya Pretorius

by Tanya Pretorius


The love story of Pat and Tiffany is not clichéd, the dialogue is great, the acting is clear, the characters are quirky and real-ly flawed, but… (sigh)

Bechdel Test. You might snort at the mention of the Bechdel Test. It’s really less of a test and more of mental note that helps put you in the right, *cough*, feminist, frame of mind. It goes like this: 1. Are there two named female characters? 2. Do they speak to each other? 3. Do they speak to each other about something other than a man. This test establishes whether the action is about the man or about the woman. And it’s always about the man. I’ve got a mere 31 Bechdel-passers on my list so far – http://www.imdb.com/list/Z_tgoKChVPY/.

Feminist role models. I take my role models where I can get them. Tiffany (yes, that’s her name) is a 3D-character. She doesn’t do the girl-giggling thing. She’s slutty and sloppy and dirty and likes that about herself. She can talk dirty. She’ll indulge Pat’s lesbian fantasies and like it. She doesn’t choose her sex partners by gender. Tiffany doesn’t quite know what she wants from Pat and seems to take anything she can get – she starts off wanting sex, then wants to be friends, then agrees to dinner. She’s grown – she used to get used, now she knows how to check in and be sure she’s getting something back. She doesn’t give a fuck about football, but ‘does her homework’ on football well enough to know when games were played, who played who and what the scores were. Ominous. I’d be nervous if she ‘does her homework’ on me. Pat says Tiffany has poor social skills because she’s direct. All these things add up to a real girl who doesn’t toe the good-girl stereotype. I like her.

Unhealthy matches. The after-therapy, just-released-from-the-mental-hospital Pat deals with stress by becoming manic, Tiffany deals with stress using vodka and sex. Neither Tiffany nor Pat are employed. On which planet is this a healthy match? They establish what they have in common in one of the first conversations they have – the various medications they’ve been on. She chooses this man based on how damaged he is. This is not a good foundation on which to invite a man into your bed, which she promptly does. I still like her, sex is OK.

Sexism. The cynic in me rails against Them sneakily using such a fabulous girl to deliver this sexism to me, because it doesn’t matter how you dish this girl up, it’s still that same old sexist schtick – she’s a carer, a nurse who chooses a broken-wing man. She’s not an actor in her own world but a server in Their world. Retch.

Take-away. The various women in this film paint this picture for you of womanhood – women make lasagna (mother), cry wol…”harassing me!” (Tiffany), lie to you to manipulate you to get what they want (Tiffany), connive with each other behind your back (mother and Tiffany) and want so much stuff that you descend into debt buying the stuff (Tiffany’s sister).

The movie I wanted to see. Swop ’em out. Don’t change ANYTHING, just make Tiffany Pat and Pat Tiffany. I read somewhere that Jodie Foster does this sometimes – she takes the role as written for a man. I kinda like that for this movie. A swop-out might even be a great addition to the Bechdel test. Imagine using it on Pretty Woman. Ha!

Anti-dote. I want to wrestle You’ve Got Mail to the top of Bechdel-passer list. Fainting? You’ve Got Mail is not perfectly feminist, I admit, but it’s got some redeeming features. Both Joe and Kathleen are in ballpark-healthy relationships when they meet. They are employed. They have whole lives outside the contact they have with each other. Their wings are not broken. They are both actor’s in their own lives. They develop a friendship via email, then extend the friendship to real life. They have a basis for investing love in each other because they have experiences together. Hulle deel ‘n sakkie sout saam. Give?

Women politicians in the firing line far more than men

Benedicta Van Minnen
Benedicta Van Minnen

By Benedicta Van Minnen

In death, as in life, Margaret Thatcher was always bound to cause comment. However, much as one disagrees with her politics, one cannot deny the role she played in advancing female political leadership and the ground-breaking work making it easier for women to take up their places in political discourse. Whether this was deliberate on her part is irrelevant, an important part of her legacy has been the increased visibility of female leadership.

With that in mind, it is the actions of some of her detractors with their malicious and gleeful celebration of her death that causes unease and concern. The media shows images of groups of people, far too young to remember anything of the Thatcher years, gathering across Britain to celebrate and “dance on her grave”, whilst social clubs in union strongholds are planning parties for the day of her death. When her political contemporary, and ideological partner, Ronald Reagan, died, the same reaction did not apply, and he was largely treated as an elder statesman.

Other than the fact that common decency would militate against such crass bad manners, these actions should serve to remind society how female politicians face a level of hostility, vilification and personal comment seldom, if ever, experienced by their male counterparts.

Instead of criticising their policies, the criticisms leaved at women politicians often focus on personal attributes and characteristics as a way of undermining their ability and credibility. And this is uniformly applicable across the political spectrum – from Margaret Thatcher to Hillary Clinton. From Helen Zille to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Angela Merkel to Julia Gillard and everyone in between.

How many times is Jacob Zuma described as overweight, or Tony Blair criticised for wearing an ill-fitting suit? Boris Johnson’s hair is seen as endearing rather than being the subject of criticism. When is the vocal delivery of a male politician criticised whilst Thatcher and Gillard face continual derision. Such criticisms of male politicians would be treated with the contempt, but are regular and common place for women in the same position.

This is particularly true of the political left, and all the more worrying for that. It is interesting that the Unions who despised Thatcher’s policies, only elected their first female General Secretary, Francis O’ Grady in 2012, the ANC Women’s League has yet to suggest a female contender for leadership, and Julia Gillard is continually facing down political attacks from within her own Australian Labour Party.

Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report women have gained little ground in political leadership around the world, with men still in about 80 percent of key elected and appointed positions.

The popular slogan “well behaved women seldom make history” takes on a more sinister tone when its true meaning is revealed; not that women who make history are those who break the mold, but that “ well behaved women” are those silenced by society and traditional gender bias and who do not presume to take on public leadership positions.

Given this one can only draw the worrying conclusion that the level of glee being expressed upon the death of Margaret Thatcher has less to do with her flawed policies, but actually serves as a form of gender control and is indicative of a deep political chauvinism that the Left could well take on board as something they must examine within their own soul.

Men as active members of women political organisations

Stefan Frederick
Stefan Frederick

By Stefan Frederick

A patriarchal society has suppressed women’s voices and dominated political and social discourse to the benefit of men at the expense of women. 

Thus for some women it is problematic that I as a male within this patriarchal society want to sign up as a member of the Democratic Alliance Women Network (DAWN).

For the past year I’ve been asking myself the question ‘should men be allowed to become members of female political organizations or could they even lead such organizations’.

Within the feminist movement there is a group who believe that men can be pro-feminism and anti-sexist but not a feminist as such. Those who deny that men can be feminist argue that men can’t exclude themselves from the patriarchal system which is based on their power and privilege in relation to women. They believe that in order to be a feminist one must be a member of the targeted group (women).

Should or could the same logic be followed that men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist but one must be a member of the targeted group in order to become a member of DAWN or ANCWL?

Since the late 17th century, the majority of pro-feminist authors emerged from France who were men. Charles Louis de Montesquieu introduced female characters like Roxana in his work Persian Letters, and subverted patriarchal systems which represented his arguments against despotism. Men have taken part in a significant cultural and political response in the history of feminism. Parker Pillsbury and other abolitionist men held feminist views and openly identified as feminist, using their influence to promote the rights of women and slaves respectively.

It is crucial for men to be part of organizations like DAWN as well as ANCWL. I firmly believe that if feminism is to attain its goal of liberating women, men must be part of the struggle.

In “To Be a Man, or Not to be a Man — That Is the Feminist Question,” in Men Doing Feminism it is maintained that identifying as a feminist is the strongest stand men can take in the struggle against sexism and for liberation. It has been argued that men should be allowed or even encouraged to participate in the feminist rights movement.
One idea supporting men’s inclusion in women political organizations is that excluding men from the organization labels it as solely a female task, which could be argued to be sexist.

It has to be asserted that until men share equal responsibility for struggling and finding solutions to end discrimination against women, women political organizations will reflect the very sexist contradiction it wishes to eradicate. A focus on developing a bridge between women and men, it is an important revolutionary bridge, and we should all take part in building it, to support the struggle against discrimination. Contribute to the development of new techniques of decision-making to ensure equal opportunities for women. So we can encourage and support women in acquiring the skills and knowledge; necessary to enter or to progress in politics and public service.


Complaint regarding Xpanda print and radio adverts

By Rebecca Hodes

Xpanda print advertisement
Xpanda print advertisement with comments “A one-night-stand arrives with a bump and bad news. You should have had an Xpanda”

The media play a vital role in determining social perceptions of
women. They don’t only ‘represent’ reality – they help to construct
and define it. The South African media is saturated with images that
deride women, that market women as objects for sexual consumption.
Magnum ice-creams, Maverick’s cologne, Nandos chicken burgers – these
are among the products that local advertisers have sought to sell by
mimicking sexist stereotypes. Add to this list – security gates.

In ten years of studying the media in post-apartheid South Africa, I
have yet to encounter a company that uses misogyny and racism as
blatantly as Xpanda does in its print and radio advertisements.

That’s why, together with friends working in the media, in public
education and in civil society organisations, I have lodged a
complaint about these adverts with the Advertising Standards Authority
of South Africa. You can see how to do this at their website:

The email address for Xpanda’s MD, Tim Taylor, is
xpanda1@argent.co.za, if you want to write to him about your own
thoughts on his adverts.



22 April 2013

Dear Madam/Sir


Complaint regarding Xpanda print and radio adverts


We are a group of journalists, academics and women’s rights advocates who write in complaint about two advertisements, one print and one radio, issued by Xpanda security company. The details of our complaints are as follows:


  1. The print advert (see below), which appeared in 2012 (publication source unknown), with the text ‘A one night stand arrives with a bump and bad news. You should have had an Xpanda’, is misogynistic. The image used by the advertisement objectifies the woman it features – portraying her as available for sexual consumption by the pre-figured male who is the target consumer for this advertisement. The text conveys that she has had promiscuous and unprotected sex with the male consumer (after a ‘one night stand’, she ‘arrives with a bump and bad news’). The ‘bad news’ is her pregnancy and the responsibility it presents to the father. The solution, and the advertisement’s pitch, is to bar access to paternal support through slamming a security door in the women’s face. The power dynamics presented in the advert are rendered more complex by its iconography – the woman’s imaging as hyper-sexualised and powerless, subjected by her scanty, schoolgirl outfit as well as by the exposure and derision of her pregnancy. Her rejection is not merely a refusal to assume mutual responsibility for her pregnancy, it is a composite of pernicious and degrading stereotypes about women.


  1. The radio advert, transcribed below, is racist – using stereotypes about black South Africans as stupid and thieving. The advertisement is available on the ‘ad showcase’ of Ornico, a subsidiary of bizcommunity.com, at http://www.bizcommunity.com/OrnicoAd.aspx?c=11&ai=1323


The advertisement takes place as a dialogue between two men ostensibly in prison. The dialogue is as follows [ostensibly within a prison cell]:


Man 1: What you inside for boet?


Man 2 (stereotypical accent of a working-class black South African): Eish, I was so hungry, so I walked up to kitchen by the boss’s house and grabbed the roast chicken. The madam, she slammed the Xpanda door in my face. No way out. That is how I ended up in jail, with no chicken. Eish.

The power dynamics implicit in this dialogue – between the ‘boss’ and ‘madam’ and the black worker – are a crude reproduction of apartheid-era social divisions. Tying into stereotypes about greedy blacks who rob their employers, the advertisement conveys that black workers are as stupid as they are venal. The media strategy deployed here – the conferral of character and morality through gross stereotyping of an actor’s accent – is a clear example of racist othering, conflating the identity of working-class black South Africans with criminals.


We submit that both of these advertisements do harm to the South African consumer, and we request that ASASA investigate these complaints further.


According to its website, the Managing Director of Xpanda is Tim Taylor, whose email address is xpanda1@argent.co.za.xpanda1@argent.c.za


Yours sincerely


Sanja Bornman

Rebecca Hodes

Mara Kardas-Nelson

Larissa Klazinga

Andrea Lewis

Lesley Odendal

Abigail Smith

Marion Stevens

Anso Thom

Jen Thorpe