/ 31 August 2012

Take heart, sisters, spring has arrived

The views of US Senate ­candidate Todd Akin on rape are enough to make any self-respecting woman cringe.
The views of US Senate ­candidate Todd Akin on rape are enough to make any self-respecting woman cringe.

Okay, so we have only had three humiliations so far, but I think we can safely say we have set the bar pretty high for future generations. Or is that low?

I tried to resist doing a round-up of all the moments that made this such a terrible Women's Month. Really, I did. I had already written my bit when the farce that is usually Women's Month kicked off and I did not want to be a drag. But the list has penned itself. Herewith Women's Month 2012, as brought to you by brain-dead celebrities, powerful ­politicians and, of course, the requisite missing-the-point entirely pastor.

No more, please, Khanyi
Much has been said about the new autobiography of the hollow and ridiculous Khanyi Mbau, South Africa's so-called Paris Hilton wannabe. But no one has said the obvious, which is that whoever printed it should perform harakiri using the paper-thin premise of Mbau's story to slit their belly.

Referring to her relationships with older men, who gave her money in exchange for owning her, she boasted that she "was tearing down walls. Breaking taboos. Because of me, younger girls now have the confidence to walk around holding hands publicly with their sugar daddies. They're inspired by my story."

Insert a sarcastic statement here. Any will do when you are working with this sort of material.

Errors Naidoo
You know when something is doubly awful because it was done by one of your own? Errol Naidoo is Christian. And Indian. Thank goodness his surname is not Pillay. Naidoo is the conservative local pastor who made the bizarre link between the Marikana massacre and feminism, claiming that "abortion on demand" created a "culture of death" in South Africa.

People like Naidoo make me so angry. They conveniently forget an important message of the Bible, which speaks of caring for the poor and fighting for social justice. Instead they obsess about the private actions of individuals.

If Naidoo wanted to make an impact as a Christian, he should have gone to Marikana and seen how he could help the affected communities.

Achingly stupid Akin
Then there was United States Senate hopeful Todd Akin confidently telling the world that a women's body apparently knows how to shut down conception during a "legitimate rape". Like Naidoo, he should have won an award for silencing feminists instantly – most did not know where to begin with their statements. (Okay, so this one was an American act of stupidity, whereas Women's Month is a South African thing, but it still sucked.)

Jacob 'single ladies' Zuma
Next we heard President Jacob Zuma opine that it was wrong for women to be single and that having children was "extra training" for a woman.

It was sad and disturbing to see that the leader of our nation so fundamentally misunderstands the issues facing women and families. In a country and continent plagued by absent fathers, he chose to lecture women about motherhood. In a culture where rape, abuse and violence against women is just another fact of life, he told women that it is not good to be single. Suck it up and stay in a relationship. The alternative is not cool.

There is so much more. What cruel irony it is to hear Helen Moffett tell us this month that a stalwart organisation such as Rape Crisis is close to shutting its doors after 35 years of helping the desperate women our systems have failed. But it was told to "get in line" by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille when it asked for help to keep going.

How awful to listen to female journalists covering the Marikana massacre relate how the miners told them to stay away before the shootings, threatening to do "unspeakable things" to them and even to kill them, accordingly to Eyewitness News reporter Gia Nicolaides.

It goes on and here is the scariest part: we only notice it because it is Women's Month when, you know, we are supposed to behave and not say what we are thinking.

I cannot wait for September. It speaks of spring, new life and new beginnings.

I pray that the tide will turn and  in future we can celebrate Women's Month knowing we are delivering real victories to the most vulnerable women in our country, instead of the casual betrayals and insults that have, frighteningly, become our norm.

Verashni Pillay is the deputy editor of the M&G Online. Follow her on Twitter: @Verashni