In 1993 the 4 Non Blondes had a huge international hit with their song titled ‘What’s up?’ Linda Perry, the vocalist and songwriter, sings in the first phrase: ‘I realised quickly when I knew I should that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man for whatever that means…” The song’s chorus furthers asks the pivotal question:
what’s going on? The question is obviously rhetorical but moreover a statement of discontent.
Linda Perry became a songwriter mostly after her band split up and she was the person behind Christina Aguilera’s hit song ‘Beautiful’ which in its music video had the theme of self-acceptance and portrayed the two gay men kissing and the transvestite. The conclusion is obvious – acceptance of the fringe, acceptance of the ‘other’.
I fear that in terms of acceptance we are starting to take one giant leap backwards. And by ‘we’ I mean the so-called men’s movement.
There seems to be a phenomenon rearing its evil head. All around the world men lead by other self-appointed preachers and moral leaders are revolting against feminism and claiming back their god ordained place in society as head of the house et cetera all under the auspices of religious dogma. They call this the so-called men’s movement. Amongst these self-appointed moral leaders are James Dobson in the
USA and Angus Buchan in South Africa.
This resurgence and revolt against feminism is proliferating at a rapid speed and I fear that in terms of human rights we will be back in the dark Middle Ages.
The patriarchy thinks in terms of binary oppositions or dichotomies depending on which nomenclature you prefer: Male versus female or the ‘one’ versus the ‘other’.
I was always flabbergasted when heterosexual people always wanted to know the butch and femme in homosexual relationships. It is just a manifestation of the obsession with dichotomies and the patriarchy’s utter disregard for equality and the notion of the subservience of the female. Certain heterosexuals and of course the patriarchy par excellence continue to impose these constructs upon everyone else to
simplify their lives. This is also known as old-fashioned stereotyping.
As James Dobson was quoted in the New York Times “tolerance and its first cousin diversity is almost always code for homosexual advocacy.” It seems the patriarchy has a huge gripe with tolerance and diversity. It just doesn’t quite fit into their strict dichotomies.
Now more about James Dobson, he is the founder of the Focus on the Family Foundation and has been spitting out conservative drivel since 1977. Note that James Dobson is no reverend/priest/minister or religious scholar but a psychologist with a very clear ulterior motive. Note also that the Focus on the Family Foundation produces ready-to-play radio programmes an almost prêt-à-porter of the broadcast
industry. And also note that the vast majority of South African community radio stations naively broadcast these conservative drivel much to the astonishment of the liberal community.
Our nation is built on tolerance and diversity; our coat of arms says ‘unity in diversity’ after all. Now why do these radio stations propagate division?
James Dobson also went on the most illogical tirade about the innocent and very likable cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. He was widely quoted that said character was a product of the pink agenda (inferring gay mafia connotations) and maintains that SpongeBob SquarePants will pollute the minds of the young and feed them pro-homosexual messages.
The feminists and the LGBT community had a common enemy in the patriarchy and its utter disregard for the rights of the 'other', this 'other' being everyone except the heterosexual male.
I did a simple Google search on 'the evils of the patriarchy' and to my astonishment most results lead to websites that proclaim the evil of feminism and the foundation of their dislike is 'the bible tells us so'.
Ever since the advent of the modern constitutional democracy there has been the vital and clear separation between church and state. Otherwise politically we would be back in the Middle Ages.
The problem with the patriarchy is that it is the basis of many cultures and it is sanctioned by religious texts hence it still being in practice today. The Patriarchy imposes their strict dichotomies on everyone else thus subverting the rights of everyone but the heterosexual male. The Patriarchy also has no tolerance for equality and firmly believes in the subservience of the 'other' (historically the female); they thus also regard women and the LGBT community as lesser persons and would not grant them equal rights.
Then came 20 July 2008 and the Sunday Sun, a Media24 publication, with the now infamous article by Jon Qwelane called ‘Call me names, but Gay is NOT okay...’ In an instant not only the LGBT community was utterly insulted and disgusted but also women in general. The article is the most ignorant factually incorrect drivel that was
printed in a long time. It seems that Jon Qwelane had no respect for historical fact, as he couldn’t even get his facts straight regarding King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
The article is just another manifestation of the patriarchal notions of inequality since in that same article he called for the constitution to be amended so that gay rights would be taken away. That article prompted a massive flood of letters as have never seen before to the Press Ombudsman and the South African Human Rights Commission and countless people are now boycotting Media24 and cancelling subscriptions, and not all of them are gay.
Then there are also the tragic stories of Sizakele Sigasa, Salome Masooa, Zoliswa Nkonyana and Eudy Simelane. They all were brutally murdered, some raped and tortured for no other reason but their sexual orientation. What they have in common is that they were all female homosexuals, thus a double NO from the patriarchy.
Here we have the dichotomy of the ‘one’ versus the ‘other’ again, and obviously the rights of the ‘other’ have fallen by the wayside; moreover the ‘other’ has been the victims of attack as exemplified by the xenophobic attacks of 2008 and the brutal murders of these four women.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Eudy Simelane’s mother at Joburg Pride 2008 at the wall of remembrance. When I tried to console her she said: ‘what can we do?’ Powerful question in itself, and I think also a statement of discontent.
Louise Reardon, activist, writes the following:
“Adam and Eve. Two of our oldest and most intertwined human roots are organised religion and patriarchy. The most evident and convenient way to ensure a man's position in the patriarchal family image was to dictate and confine a woman's sexual behaviour. Thus, man fulfilled his basic biological need – to “invest” in his own children. This control was justified by the suggestion women were inferior, not to mention, sexual temptations designed to corrupt men.
This ‘moral justification’ was – and is – masked and enforced in organised religion, disguising it as sacred and divine laws, stating a woman's proper place is quietly at home, hidden from the “man's world,” out there. These patriarchal, religious structures inevitably spill over into how our societies function today. What has been created is a male-dominant culture biased in its thinking and actions. Thus, such an environment restricts and inhibits the equally important beliefs, roles and contributions of women.
‘Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.’ – 1 Tim. 2:11-14
Should we blame Eve entirely for stepping out in a search for truth, independence, knowledge and free will? And, should Adam be absolved of all wrongdoing because he was a mindless and submissive follower?”
Marilyn Twink, a devout LGBTIQ rights activist writes:
“Isn’t that how religion has always worked? Read the book, obey the book, believe the book, and hit other people over the head with the book if they don’t believe it too? If they don’t believe it, hate them and even kill them? Life by the book, death by the book. Very intelligent indeed.”
Rosemarie Putnam Tong, author of Feminist Thought, writes the following: “Simone de Beauvoir provided an ontological-existential explanation for women’s oppression. In The Second Sex, one of the key theoretical texts of the twentieth century feminism, she argued that woman is oppressed by virtue of her otherness. Woman is the other because she is not-man.”
Tong also further states that: “They claim woman’s otherness enables individual women to stand back and criticise the norms, values, and practices that the dominant male culture (patriarchy) seeks to impose on everyone, particularly those who live on its periphery”
Amelia Jones, author of Feminism, Incorporated. Reading “postfeminism” in an antifeminism age, has the following to say: “The recent resuscitation of this patriarchal fantasy by the right – under the guise of ‘family values’ – is a symptom of the massive anxiety of the patriarchal system, a reaction formation against the threatening incursion of women into the work force and, more recently, the political arena.”
Jones continues: “With the cultural authority of anglo masculinity becoming increasingly bankrupt as gay, feminist, and non-white cultures insistently articulate counter-identities to this imaginary norm, the patriarchal commodity system urgently seeks to reinforce predictable stereotypes of femininity... The properly postfeminist
woman shores up the crumbling infrastructure of conservative American ideology during a time of economic crisis and confirms the ‘rightness’ of Republicanism, with its moralizing intervention in personal relations and the destruction of the civil rights of women, lesbians, gays, blacks, and others.”
Jones then explores the heart of this topic: “The other side of the postfeminist coin is the so-called ‘men’s movement.’ Inspired by Robert Bly’s book Iron John (1990) the men’s movement appropriates and perverts the rhetoric of feminism to urge the contemporary American male to ‘find a voice of [his] own’ as a ‘Wild Man.’ Bly laments the feminization of the American male at the hands of his female caretakers, and calls for the extirpation of this spineless femininity through primitivist histrionics and rituals of male bonding. The “Wild Man” immerses himself in mother nature and beats the appropriated drums of his “primitive” brothers with big sticks to prove to himself that, while he may be a ‘minority’ – as one xenophobic Time article argues, referring to competition for jobs from non-white, non-male workers in ‘Get Set: Here They Come!... White, U.S.-born males are a minority’ – his ability to dominate is intact. As with the frantic declarations of the supposed death of the feminist subject, the fact that masculinity (again, aggressively heterosexual and almost exclusively anglo and upper middle-class) needs to be shored up proves again how intense is the threat the vast numbers of working women of all sexual, racial, and class identities currently pose to the patriarchal system (not to mention the threat posed by the
increasingly powerful identity politics of the non-heterosexual male).”
Just as these excerpts explain the situation in the USA, so these notions have shown up here in South Africa as well. Think of the “Mighty Men” conferences. Sad and immensely frightening and utterly detrimental to the egalitarian society we want to build here.
And lastly, now I want to ask that anthem of a question that Linda Perry asked about fifteen years ago: what’s going on?
Jones, A. (Ed). 2003. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Routledge
Tong, R. P. 1998. Feminist Thought. A more comprehensive introduction. Westview Press
On the 18th December 2008 a declaration supporting the equal human rights of GLBTIQ people was read out at the UN General Assembly in New York. It affirms the principle of universality: that all human beings, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to equal dignity and respect. No-one should be subject to violence, harassment, discrimination or abuse, solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was finally signed and supported by 66 countries around the world. South Africa was NOT one of them.
Instead, South Africa chose to side with despotic disrespectors of human rights such as the Vatican and numerous Muslim theocracies who follow policies which victimize GLBTIQ people and condemn them to death by execution - as well as those blatantly homophobic and fascist African countries such as Uganda - who have taken to outlawing homosexuality and persecuting diversity and the diverse as criminals.
It is rather disconcerting that the only country in Africa to so far show support for equality and human rights for GLBTIQ chose to ignore calls by GLBTIQ groups and the weight of conscience applied by voices from around the civilized world - simply ignored the issue as if it never existed. In fact, aside from some mentions on exclusively non-heterosexual news websites, almost no mention of this event and the SA governments unpardonable lapse in judgment was made in the mainstream media.
It is an affront to South Africans with a clear understanding of issues surrounding equal civil rights in SA that the representatives of the SA Government could in a radio interview today attempt to transfer their complicity in this matter by pointing fingers at other countries and claiming that human rights activists should rather tackle "bigger issues" like the USA's Guatanamo Bay human rights violation allegations, than criticizing SA for "having principles". Such a brass faced statement should make fair minded South Africans wonder what exactly these "principles" are that were being referred to and whether they should start applying for a passport.
While this UN declaration carries no legally binding implications for the governments who ratified it, this choice to not support the international initiative simply adds to the repugnance of the SA government's emerging disdain for its own non-heterosexual citizens. Here they had an ideal opportunity to stand up for justice, equality and all the things that make SA a beacon of light in the dark mass of ignorance and unjust persecution on the continent and to speak as a voice of reason in the face of institutionalized bigotry and despotism. Instead they chose to stand with the human rights abusers and deliver a resounding slap in the face of not only every GLBTIQ citizen of South Africa - but to every GLBTIQ person in the world.
It is therefore a major concern to us which path South Africa will be following after the 2009 elections. Considering the homophobic utterences of Mr Zuma and his cronies, the concerns of GLBTIQ citizens in SA now seem validated, even compounded by this disgrace. The government of the day has therefore - very publicly - shown where its interests lie; and following this incident it certainly does not seem to share our interests as GLBTIQ citizens of South Africa.
We therefore urge all SA voters to ensure they vote according to their consciences in the coming 2009 General Election - and above all not to vote for parties who show no interest in GLBTIQ equality - (or to be precise, those who clearly ignore and even trivialize issues surrounding homophobia, hate crime, heterosexism and persecution) - but instead to vote for any other party who does. Contrary to popular belief there are still a few of those left in SA. - SA GLAAD 2008