August is Women’s Month.

Typically those would be words that usher in some kind of celebration.

But as a man, i cannot celebrate Women’s Month. Because we have let woman down! And we continue to every single day.

There is a war against women. In South Africa, and around the world.

A War against Women

Many men would very likely rubbish that statement because they are just so completely oblivious. But like being unaware of race stuff that is so obvious to everyone facing it every single day, it might be true, but it should impossible that it is true.

How do you possibly live in South Africa and believe that there is not a major difference between how men and women experience day to day life. How do you not keep any kind of track on the news in South Africa and not hear the regularity of tragedies that occur in our communities? How do you spend time on social media and somehow skip another poster of another woman who has gone missing or the disturbing news about how she was found?

Just as we can ask the question with race and know that if anyone answers honestly, the answers will all be the same: Who of you would choose to live as a woman in this country for a year?

  • Would you choose to be a woman in business where your salary for doing the same job is likely lower, where you are ignored or interrupted in business meetings and on those rare occasions when you get to answer have a man follow you and explain your answer to everyone at the table?
  • Would you choose to be a woman in sport where you are paid less and have less focus and investment and advertising and coverage?
  • Would you choose to be a woman in the church and some other faith institutions where you are seen as a secondary citizen who is only capable of pouring the drinks or looking after the children and when men have conferences on prophetic imagining and leadership you have to make do with self-esteem, how to look good for your husband and baked goods? Where, even if you do get to preach on occasion the word has to be changed to ‘speak’ or ‘talk’ or ‘share’ because of how that word is reserved for the mens?
  • Would you choose to be a woman walking the streets of South Africa where you will be ogled and called out to and have comments about your body or looks flying at you or be propositioned?
  • Would you choose to be a woman having a drink alone in a bar and being harrassed by ‘friendly, nice’ men who just can’t seem to hear your ‘No!’ or refuse to take it seriously. And if they do hear it will likely call you a ‘stuck-up bitch!’ or worse in front of their friends.

‘South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world and on average, 3 women are killed daily by an intimate partner. The Department of Justice estimates that 1 out of every 4 South African women are survivors of domestic violence. In 2014/2015, it is estimated that 563 841 sexual offences occurred but only 62 649 sexual offences were reported. 8 174 of these sexual offences cases went to court, and only 1% of these cases resulted in a conviction.’ []

Women's Month

In Lieu of Celebration Some Recognition and Acknowledgement

So if we don’t celebrate Women’s Month month, what DO we do?

Here are some thoughts i wrote earlier today:

It’s Women’s month which is a reminder to us that women are not treated equally in this country [or generally around the world] and we need to have a month to remind us of what should be our go-to D.N.A. – to treat women better…

My challenge for all the men on my page, starting with me, is to stand in front of the mirror and consider how you treat women. Both those you know and love and those you randomly encounter at work or in the street or in a bar.

A while back i compiled a list of 40 ideas that might help us be better men and i would encourage you, even if you think you know these things, to read through them again with me [or perhaps for the first time] and ask yourself how you are doing with each one.

For any women reading this, if you find it helpful in any way please feel free to share in your spaces and invite the men in and around your lives to engage…

The first five are in this post and relate to:

[1] Respect a woman’s “No!”

– Always. Every time. If you think she is joking. If it feels flirty to you. If you don’t think it’s a big deal. Hear the “No!” and respond to is by stop doing what you are doing. No absolutely means no. And start to recognise other ways that this “No!” might be said or shown to you.

[2] Be aware of the threat your presence suggests.

This can be absolutely unintentional and is not a challenge on your motives and largely a call to be more aware and considerate. If you are approaching a woman walking by herself on the pavement and you think it might feel even the smallest bit threatening to her, simply cross the street and remove yourself as a potential threat.

[3] Speak to the women in your life. And really listen.

i imagine that if the women you know can see you are genuinely wanting to understand the war zone their daily lives often are, that they will be open to you gently asking how they experience the world as a woman when it comes to men. And you will likely be more than horrified!

[4] Deal with that fragility.

As Jonathan Cohen put it so briefly and so well:

“There is no war on men.”

     He added this:

 ‘For my own sanity and mental well-being, I have turned notifications off for this post. I can’t argue anymore. I can’t face the men who place campaigning for their own egos over the safety of South African women anymore, today.’

‘There is a Doctor Who episode where a creepy monster hides in the shadows. The Doctor explains – not all shadows, but any shadows. This is how it is for women. We know that not all men, but it is so prevalent that we have to assume that any men could be violent.’ [Crystal Warren]

[5] Do the work.

We have to commit to doing the work of dismantling a broken and messed up system that hurts and abuses women on a daily basis and this means having hard conversations about these things with mates and sharing posts like this and inviting mates to step in and reading up and making a commitment to interrupt toxic man’ness when you see it in ‘jokes’ and actions and words and thoughts and behaviour and attitude.

There is a war on women in the world and has been for the longest time, and we need to be very sure which side we are on.

What are you doing for this Women’s Month?

[For a post on a short visit to the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, click here]

Women's month