Tag Archives: feminism

Three women, three countries, three generations

14 Jun

A few weeks ago I was a little taken aback to see an argument play out on Twitter which resulted in the posting of a nude picture of a young woman by her ex boyfriend. Whilst she was no shrinking violet, she was clearly shocked to find her private self exposed to the entire world.

What struck me about this drama were the obvious intergenerational differences in what was considered ‘normal’ behaviour by the various players. Join us over the next few weeks as we dig deeper into this issue and sit down with three women spanning three generations and from three very different countries to find out what binds them together and what sets them apart.

Quote of the week – I’ve learned in life

2 May


I’ve learned in life that you don’t have to know the answers to everything. Sometimes it’s enough simply to sit back and watch the drama of your life play out before you. To step in too soon would be to prevent new opportunities taking shape.

Sani Dowa

Are all African men promiscuous?

25 Apr


By Bekithemba Mhlanga


Way before Tiger Woods and the golf club incident; he was referred to by some female sections as the whitest black man on earth. Fast-forward a few years and the slight came – what could you expect, the black African genes in him had to come to the fore. He simply could not stop his eye wandering and keep his pants zipped, it’s in the genes!

The promiscuous African male has been an urban legend for years. Nothing stirs gender wars more fervently than the question of who is more promiscuous male or female. One then adds fuel to the fire by throwing race into the equation – and dares suggest that most African males are promiscuous. The assumption being that they are more promiscuous than their Caucasian, Arabic or Oriental counterparts.

This assumption is a toxic as suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists just because some terrorists happen to be Muslim!

The fact is no one knows if African males are more promiscuous than males in other parts of the world. The evidence put forward can at best be said to be circumstantial mainly on the basis of the research from HIV / AIDS infection rates in Africa. Take for instance the UN report entitled ‘Women and HIV / Aids – Confronting the Crisis’ which noted that almost universally in Africa, cultural expectations have encouraged men to have multiple partners while women are expected to abstain or be faithful. How valid this is in a continent with over 2000 tribal traditions, and many varieties of Christian and Islamic communities, is open to debate.

To test the validity of this assumption, I did a little research and asked African males whether they are more promiscuous than other people. The biggest reaction was that it’s not a question of promiscuity of African males just that they are serial polygamists while white males are serial monogamists. The argument being that both have a natural tendency to mate with as many females as possible just that African men want to have them all at once. The question is why?

There’s a huge difference between explaining behaviour and excusing it. Explaining it assumes a logical reason for going down a certain path while the latter seeking to atone for the behaviour pattern. My own observation is that in the ‘explaining’ class are cultural, biological and economic factors. In the ‘excuse’ corner are what I’ve classed as the ‘because I can’, ‘lack of sexual satisfaction from one partner’, and ‘peer pressure’ factors. Whilst African males cannot be said to have a monopoly of these factors – I’ve only looked at them from the African male perspective for the purpose of this column.

The unmarried African males I spoke to argued that their promiscuity is to be expected since single people tend to have more sexual partners than married ones (at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be). They point out there is no cultural obligation to have one partner, in fact quite the opposite. For this group it would appear then that promiscuity is some sort of entitlement and a rite of passage. It’s part of our rich African culture – whatever that means.

Controversy emerged when I moved on to the married African male. Surely if it’s a question of having sex on tap then the married African male should not be promiscuous. But then the cultural shield is held up again. It’s always been accepted that the African male can take on more than one wife or have a mistress as all this is for the good of the family. How this is so, I have no idea. Surprisingly, none of my interviewees quoted the bible or the Koran to go forth and multiply.

It’s the biological explanation that seems to be the bastion of the promiscuous male though. One chap put it to me that it’s simply a fact that males tend to think about sex more often than females. And there’s no shortage of statistics to back this up. I was pointed to one research paper that suggested males think of sex six times in an hour while women do so four times in an hour. Admittedly the research said nothing about whether this was with one partner or multiple partners

We all know Africa is a super patriarchal society and the effects of this patriarchy are manifested in the economic power imbalance between males and females. An unintended consequence of this is that African women are vulnerable to wily African males who exploit this for their own benefit. In fact some see this as passport to go out and sow their wild oats with total abandon. I recall a discussion with a colleague who kept a harem of women in Soweto South Africa. On quizzing him about how he got his way with so many women – his response was that Soweto girls are easy – quarter chicken and chips from KFC does the trick. The pattern repeats itself regardless of economic status – for the chap on low income it may be the KFC meal, for the middle income it’s that dress and hairdo and for the super-rich it’s the car and the house.

What of the second category – the ‘excuse’ class? It was clear from my research that there’re some African males who generally believe they can be promiscuous – whether married or not – just because they can. For this group, if they can mate with as many partners as they can they will and they don’t need to explain it. A second factor with this group is the argument that at some point the fun and action fades with the one partner, to them variety is the spice of life. This herd tends to hunt for the opposite sex of similar minds. There is a residue of the promiscuous African male who find themselves in this group simply because their friends are doing it. Whether this is a manifestation of some dormant promiscuity driver is for the concerned to explain.

To ask whether there’s anything that African females can do to change this behaviour is tantamount to asking them to solve a problem they did not create – unfair and pointless. The onus is on the males themselves. It’s up to the guilty males to realise that being monogamous, whether serial or otherwise – is not being a mug. It’s about valuing your self-worth, upholding morals and values that are not only good for the individual but also show respect for your partner. It’s about setting an example to your children and shaping how your daughters will be treated tomorrow.

Many will say, it is easier said than done. Granted! But the truth of the matter is the greater majority of African males are faithful and it’s the minority few who give the rest of us a bad name. This is exactly what the bell shaped curve reveals – that we all live in mediokristan – not in the extrimistan world of the promiscuous African male.

Quote of the Week – Women rule the world

20 Apr

women rule the world

Women really do rule the world. They just haven’t figured it out yet. When they do, and they will, we’re all in big big trouble.

Doctor Leon

Five things African women can learn from Margaret Thatcher

9 Apr


From world leaders to the man on the street, it seems everyone has an opinion of the late former British PM Margaret Thatcher who died on Monday following a stroke.

True to form her death has divided the public with reactions ranging from tears to outright jubilation.

Thatcher’s 11 years in office make her the longest-serving prime minister of 20th century Britain. She was also the first and only female to occupy that role.

Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath appointed her Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 Thatcher defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and became the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

Love her or loathe her, you can’t deny her legacy as one of the most influential political figures of the 20th Century, with her radical and sometimes confrontational approach that defined her 11-year reign at No 10.

Whilst she famously declared that she did not owe the women’s liberation movement anything, here are five things that African women can learn from Margaret Thatcher …in quotes.

 1. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and to fight for your convictions even when no one else agrees with you

“To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catch phrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to… the lady’s not for turning.”

 “I am not a consensus politician. I’m a conviction politician.”

“Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.”

2. Understand your strength as a woman and use the special skills that you bring to the table because you are a woman

“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”

“I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.”

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

3. Be ambitious and understand that success takes hard work

 “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”

 “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge doing nothing, it’s when you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

4. Sometimes you have to be a bitch to get things done. Don’t be afraid to stamp your authority, change often requires a rattling of the cage

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing.”

“I don’t mind how much my ministers talk, as long as they do what I say.”

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

5. We are the sum of our upbringing, our parents’ values and our life experiences. Understand how your own upbringing has shaped and influenced who you are so that you can choose what values you pass on to your children

 “I just owe almost everything to my father and it’s passionately interesting for me that the things that I learned in a small town, in a very modest home, are just the things that I believe have won the election.”

“My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with.”

“If I had my time again, I wouldn’t go into politics because of what it does to your family.”

This doesn’t happen to people like me

3 Mar

when a man loves you

Two weeks ago, I sat down for a transatlantic Skype interview with Alice* who got in touch with us to share her personal experience of an abusive relationship. Being South African herself, the recent headlines on the violence in her home country  prompted her introspection and she felt she had an important message for other African women. This is her story:

EAW: Thank you for getting in touch with us to share your story Alice, it was very brave of you.

Not at all, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I’ve never known how to do it anonymously because I’m not proud of it.

 EAW: I was struck by the fact you said an abusive relationship doesn’t happen to people like you, what did you mean?

I was brought up in a normal family in South Africa, went to a good school and had some strong female role models in my life. I consider myself smart, street wise and independent and in my mind I didn’t fit the profile of the sort of woman to be in an abusive relationship. I’m still trying to work out how it happened and why I put up with it for so long.

EAW: Tell me about the first time it happened.

I’d just come out of a relationship with yet another player when I met Tom. He was the sweetest, most attentive man I’d ever met. He was so romantic and unlike the other guys I’d dated he wanted to spend all his time with me and I very quickly became his whole world. On hindsight that should have been a warning sign.

The first time he hit me was in public, at a party with lots of people around. We’d gone out with a group of friends and as the evening progressed he became more and more moody and standoffish. I was talking and dancing with a couple of my girlfriends when he suddenly marched over, pulled me and said we were going. I told him I wasn’t ready to go when he slapped me in the face and pulled me out of the party. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do, it was in public. I screamed but nobody came to help. He bundled me into a taxi, I was screaming and the taxi driver did nothing. When we got to his place I was still crying and trying to get away, the security guard at his building just looked at me and did nothing.

When we got upstairs he suddenly burst into tears and started apologising and telling me how much he loved me. I remember feeling this deep shame; I was humiliated and couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I think I just wanted to put it behind me and forget it ever happened.

The next morning one of my friends came to his place to check up on me. I took the opportunity to walk down with her and ran off to my aunt’s house nearby. My aunt was furious when I told her what had happened. She’d been in an abusive marriage which had left her with permanent injuries. She took me down to the local police station and insisted I make a report against Tom, which I did.

The next day the police asked me to drop by and told me they had called him into the police station and how remorseful he was. They said they dealt with lots of domestic cases and they’d never seen such a remorseful guy. He’d cried and apologised and assured them it wouldn’t happen again. Suddenly he was this angel and even the police were asking me to give him a second chance.

EAW: So did it end there? Was that the last time he hit you?

Of course not, if anything it became more frequent after that. Each time he hit me he’d break down and apologise and tell me I was his life and he couldn’t live without me. I stayed so I must have felt flattered by this sick love.

My dad had recently died and I guess I was feeling vulnerable and enjoying the attention to the point I was willing to overlook the abuse. He also had a way of turning my friends and family against me so that I would always end up as the bad guy and he was this wonderful man who loved me to bits. The more isolated I became the more the beatings escalated and almost always in public.

He was extremely jealous and possessive and didn’t want me paying attention to anyone else. The funny thing is it was never about me talking to other men; he was jealous of my female friendships and just didn’t want to see me happy or having friendships or a life outside him.

 EAW: You went ahead and accepted his marriage proposal despite the beatings?

Foolishly yes, he’d been asking me to marry him from the word go and I finally agreed. I’m just glad I refused to have his baby, something he’d been begging me to do for ages. I look back now and think the day he paid Lobola for me was the day I became a child in the relationship and all the gloves came off, excuse the pun. My family loved him and thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. My auntie warned me that abusive men never change but I went ahead anyway. Perhaps I wanted to be married more than I hated being beaten up.

EAW: So how did you finally leave him?

The last time he hit me he started choking me and that was the final straw. It had always been slapping before but this time he was choking me and tearing off my clothes. This time I fought back, I thought he was going to kill me. I told him I was leaving him and he choked me some more. I managed to bite his hand hard and ran out of the house. I called the police from the street but they didn’t turn up. He ran down after me crying and apologising but I knew I was done. I stopped a taxi and went to my aunt’s house. She was furious and yelled at me to wake up because the man would end up killing me.

EAW: What did Tom do when you moved in with your aunt?

He called my uncle, who had handled the Lobola, as usual trying to make me look like the bad guy. My uncle phoned me begging me to go back to him, that all marriages had their problems and I was embarrassing the family. Tom was very good at spotting the weak links in my family and working on them to put pressure on me. I felt trapped and was getting a lot of pressure from my family to go back to him.

I’d been thinking of leaving the country for a while and then one day I came home and my aunt handed me a bundle of money and said I should go and buy an air ticket and leave the country. She could see the pressure I was under from everyone and felt I wasn’t going to hold out much longer, she was probably right.

So while Tom and my family were calling me begging me to go back to him, I quietly bought an air ticket and slipped out of the country. The next time I spoke to him I was in the UK and he was shocked. He begged me to let him join me and promised he would change but I was through making excuses for him. It’s taken me two years to get my life back together and regain my self esteem but I’ve not looked back.

EAW: You’re very calm and matter of fact about your experience, what did you take out of it?

The biggest learning for me was that the first time someone lays a hand on you walk away, they’ll never stop. It sounds like a cliché but it’s so true. There’s a reason a man lifts his hand to a woman and it has nothing to do with you. Tom obviously had psychological issues that had nothing to do with me, I took those problems and made them mine and lost my own self esteem in the process.

I’ve also learnt to make my own decisions and not involve my family too much, especially my uncles and extended family. Everyone has their own agendas and they are not necessarily aligned to yours. I found out later that Tom had been buying my uncle stuff so no wonder he was on his side. Next time I’ll take the time to get to know and love the man on my own without introducing him to my family. Once Tom had a relationship with my extended family it was easy for him to manipulate them and isolate me. My family are also quite traditional and probably felt that it wasn’t a big deal that he was beating me because all African women are beaten.

I think ultimately we are responsible for our own well being and I should have acted sooner.

 EAW: Alice thank you again for taking the time to talk to us and we wish you all the best with your future.

It was a pleasure.

*name has been changed to protect her identity

Quote of the Week – Be yourself

1 Mar

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

Let’s talk about Oscar Pristorious

23 Feb

fistula pic
I must admit I was glad to see the back of Oscar Pristorious, at least for now, so I can finally get some sleep!

After three sleepless nights following live court updates from a time zone nine hours ahead, not to mention the lively debates on Facebook, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and waited in weary anticipation for the big decision.

While the decision to grant bail was a disappointment to many of us, the magistrate gave a well reasoned judgement that was devoid of the emotions the world had become caught up in. In the heat of the moment we all forgot a bail hearing is not about determination of guilt, that’s for the trial.

And so, as we eagerly await what’s sure to be an explosive trial, the spotlight now shines on an issue that’s often swept under the carpet in African societies – violence against women.

Personally, I think the man did it and his story has all the markings of a narcissistic, controlling man who blows his top when he’s not able to control the object of his obsessive affection. The global adulation he’s received recently had no doubt created an air of invincibility.

Under the light walk the key characters that illuminate the complex nature of this discussion:
1.The alleged perpetrator who challenges society’s beliefs of what an abusive person looks like.
2.The Magistrate representing a justice system that often gives unequal treatment to victims and perpetrators.
3.The bumbling ‘African’police who are easily corruptible and undoubtedly swayed by a defendant’s race, wealth and social status.
4.The legal eagle who’s been described as a ‘legal gun for hire’ and represents the best ‘getaway card’ that money can buy.
5.The victim whom many wonder if she stayed too long in the relationship and ignored warning signs.
6.Society, whose opinion holds great sway but is rarely supportive of the victims.

Over the next few weeks we’ll focus on violence against women within the African culture. Please get in touch if you have personal experience and even if you don’t, join the discussions!

Next week an interview with Alice*, ‘This doesn’t happen to people like me.’

*Name has been changed to protect her identity

Quote of the week – if a man wants you

14 Feb

man love 3
If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away.
If he doesn’t, nothing can make him stay.


On mothers, boyfriends, toddlers and sex

10 Feb

toddlers 2The naked woman straddles the man whose bare legs are stretched out lazily in front of him. She’s lost in the moment as she works hard to extract what little pleasure she can from his small, limp penis.

A small, face appears behind her, a boy, perhaps two and a half, not quite three years old. He watches this scene for a second then calls out “mama”, no response. Maybe they didn’t hear so he tries louder “mama’, again no response, his mother’s attention is elsewhere. The little boy, looking trapped, raises his left arm and pulls at his ear in discomfort. Too young to understand exactly what’s going on he intuitively feels he shouldn’t be seeing this.

Speaking in Ndebele, the man says, “Sengiphos’ukuqeda” [I’m about to finish].

She stops briefly and asks “Uthi kunjani?” [What did you say?].

Ngithi kanti wena awuqedi? Sengiphosa ukuqeda” [I said are you not ready to finish? I’m about to finish], he repeats.

A few seconds later, the man puts his hand on her hip and the woman gets off his lap. “Mhh, angiqedanga mina” [Mhh, I didn’t finish] she says in disappointment.

“Uzabuya usuqeda” [You’ll finish later] he reassures her. She walks off the screen and the video ends.

Except the story doesn’t end there! Someone posts the video on the internet and so begins a global hunt to “name and shame” the woman.

She’s since been identified as a 24 year old Zimbabwean who lives in South Africa. She recently issued a statement to say the man in the video is the father of her son and the video must have been leaked by mobile phone repair workers when she took her phone for repairs.

An extract of her statement reads:

“The man who shot the video is my only lover and is father to my son. I was not coerced into making this video, we did it for fun. In fact, my boyfriend took the video using my cell phone. Soon after he gave it back to me and how it went viral is my sole responsibility. However, I remember at some stage I had problems with the cell phone and then took it to a cell phone repair shop. I believe it is where the video was stolen and then circulated.”

About her  son watching she says:

“I really don’t know why on earth I did not stop. I regret everything. Its now like I don’t love my son, I love him so much, nothing on earth surpasses my love for him.”

“I am now even scared going back to Zimbabwe. How am I gonna face my grandmother in Mzilikazi? I am being insulted and abused every day by strangers on my phone. There is no single day that passes without any abuse. I accept I made a terrible mistake but I want to assure all those who are concerned that such a thing won’t happen again.”

She goes on to say that the video has led to the father of her son resigning from work.

“He had taken me to his work place, unfortunately some people had seen the video and managed to identify me. It was so devastating, so my boyfriend had to resign from work because of that. Now you can see how we have suffered because of this. We are being tormented every day and night.”

This incident raises issues on so many levels, about parental responsibility, child abuse, African culture’s attitude towards women having sex, privacy and issues around bad sex and whether women should speak up when their needs are not met. Do you feel it matters whether the man is her only lover or the father of her child?, what about the man, why was there no campaign to name and shame him? Is it ever a good idea to let anyone make a sex tape of you?

This one’s up for general discussion.Tell us your thoughts!