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Men urged to speak against patriarchy

Date Released: Wed, 24 July 2013 16:59 +0200

Government and Media Relations Manager for the Sonke Gender Justice Network, Mr Mbuyisile Botha, urged men to challenge patriarchy in South Africa in an emotive address delivered on the third day of the “Rape Crisis” teach-in series.

Calling the way in which men are raised and the effect of patriarchy on how men view women “the elephant in the room”, he said that we will be unsuccessful if the role of men in the fight against violence is not addressed.

He argued that the way in which our societies socialise boys to understand what it means to be a “man” continues to ensure the on-going denigration and oppression of women.

Within this matrix, he situated rape as something which takes place because women are considered inferior and men feel the need to assert their dominance or control. It is made possible by a culture of male dominance grounded in an assumption of female inferiority.

Both Mr Botha and discussant for the teach-in series, Ms Michelle Solomon, emphasised that it is problematic to deal with rape by policing women, highlighting particularly the often humiliating and inappropriate questions asked of women who are raped. They argued that such questions entrench the idea that we live in a man’s world where women do not have equal rights of freedom.

“We ask why she was at the shebeen, in those clothes, or out late at night, but we do not ask why she was violated and humiliated,” he said, adding that this reveals a culture which takes men to have certain entitlements that women are not seen to have.

Within this culture that Botha described as sinister and discriminatory, rape comes to be accepted. He asked the audience why it is that the violation of a single woman does not bring universities to a standstill, with students refusing to eat or learn until it is dealt with.

“The truth is that the majority of us remain unmoved. We think this is the way of things. But one rape is one too many,” he said.

He further argued that patriarchy oppresses men by never allowing them to admit their own vulnerability and making it difficult for individuals to take a stand against the status quo.

According to Mr Botha it is necessary to challenge the construction of what it means to be a man and spoke about Sonke’s “One Man Can” campaign which seeks to do this by saying each man can make a difference.

“We need to speak truth to a system which says some are superior and that that is the order of things,” he said. “One Man Can says that we have as opportunity as men to challenge that patriarchy.”

The task, however, is not a simple one. “It will not be easy to challenge a system which has always been taken to be correct,” he said, but added that he believes it is possible. “There is much you can do,” he said, urging the men particularly to speak up against rape amongst one another.

“Your voice is critical,” he said. “Keeping quiet is one of the major things that perpetuates rape.”

By Kyla Hazell