Strike a rock, don't objectify it

A great aunt of mine used to say there are two kinds of women in the world: those who do things because men like them done that way, and those who do things right. She was quite the feminist, which was rare for a woman of her generation. I believe she could have taught a lot of women a few things about the conduct of a lady.

On the same day that Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi released a statement saying government did not have enough funds to meet the demand of its striking employees, striking workers at the Natalspruit Hospital in Thokoza were hard at work demonstrating their frustrations to a repertoire of old struggle songs.

The M&G‘s multimedia crew had gone there for what would have been a non-event: striking workers toyi-toying their way to better wages.
This was until a female demonstrator literally sprung in front of the camera, and after having started off doing what looks like indlamu (a Zulu traditional dance) proceeded to gyrate suggestively in the direction of the camera, much to the excitement of her colleagues who ululated and whistled in rhythm with her movements.

A look at a Nehawu striker showing off her moves outside the Natalspruit hospital in Thokoza.

One voice in particular, of a man, can be heard in the background, urging her on. It was at this point that my jaw dropped in a mixed feeling of disgust and humiliation.

If I had been called into the multimedia office to watch a video of someone dancing, I presume I would have been somewhat OK with the rest of what I watched. Instead I had walked in to make an inquiry on a project only to find three of my colleagues, one of them male, watching the video. When I exclaimed in surprise at what I saw, one of them said: “wait ... there’s more ... it gets worse”, and indeed it did.

“That is probably somebody’s mother!” I screamed, much to the amusement of everyone in the room. “She shouldn’t be doing that.”

In the midst of the giggling of my colleagues I was hit by a realisation—the only reason we’re all laughing and rejoicing at the monstrosity before us is that the object is ... yes, a woman.

When I saw the reaction on my colleagues faces, I knew I had struck a chord, and decided to write about it.

“No man would subject himself to that,” I said. “And oh, that is not to say they are too clever to do that either. It’s almost like a hierarchical concept in society: if, and only if there are no women around to do it, would a man be stupid enough to bother.”

Of course, a man may act this way in a party context—but not at a strike, was my point.

It’s not questionable that this woman was a willing player in this game of sexual connotation—which was thrown into an exhibition of disgruntlement at a government that does not fully acknowledge its most important asset—its human resources. She chose, when she realised she was being filmed, to act as she did. Why then do I call it objectification? Part of me wondered if it seemed only appropriate—almost natural—to male onlookers that a woman would spiral so far out of control in an act of copulation-orientated activity.

Of course most men will love it. Of course they will not stop it when it transpires right in front of their eyes. In any case, because she is a woman, she must be doing it with the sole intention of pleasing them.

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