The national and international outrage following the viral distribution of a cellphone video made during the alleged rape of a 17-year-old, possibly mentally handicapped girl in Soweto by seven boys and men raises some serious questions about patriarchy in our communities.
It is said, “It takes a village to raise a child”, an adage referring to the collective responsibility required to raise a balanced individual who will be a credit to society. But then the same “village” must be responsible for the spawning of the sociopaths among us. How does this happen, why does it continue and even seem to be on the increase, despite the general outrage?
The hysteria, evidenced by the endless expression of horror on all media platforms throughout the world since the story broke, could make one believe that this is a rare and unheard-of occurrence in our society.
But a similar case occurred at Jules High School, where children filmed a rape in progress not too long ago, another happened at St David’s boys, a school for the privileged where boys filmed each other simulating a rape act in a bus. Khayelitsha, Guguletu and Mitchells Plain made the headlines before that when images of similar rape scenes went viral.
The “corrective rape” phenomenon has become commonplace in many South African townships. Many other similar, unknown episodes are taking place. Please don’t get me wrong. The outrage is appropriate and in fact should be greater, given the very well-documented facts regarding the existence of rape and violence against women in our country.
South Africa is considered the “rape capital” of the world. It is said that every 26 seconds a rape takes place somewhere in South Africa. So by the time you will have finished reading this article, four to five women will have been raped.
It is also said that 1 out of 10 men in South Africa has witnessed or partaken in a rape or some sort of sexual violence or impropriety against women in his lifetime. Now, take a look at your son, husband, father, boyfriend, not the stranger “out there”, yes brother, take a look at yourself and ask: “Have I…?”
The repression and almost systematic decimation of the female principle by men, even in themselves, is undeniable. Most men have been socialised to believe that to acknowledge and, worse still, encourage those aspects in their personalities which may be understood to be feminine is weak and therefore undesirable. Untold psychological and identity crises are directly connected to this denialism.
One may even argue that the increase in the number of rapes is a recent development as a result of the proliferation of violent movies and pornography. But what about the approximately three to five million women believed to have been killed during the Roman Catholic Church’s holy inquisition, the brutalisation of Boer women in the concentration camps in South Africa’s Anglo-Boer war, the mail-order brides of China sold C.O.D. to men in other nations, the rape and debasing of Jewish women by their Nazi captors during the Holocaust? These happened way before the invention of violent and pornographic movies.
The practice of rape in South Africa is the consequence of endemic, deeply entrenched patriarchy. It is a worldview based on the illusory male-ego principle, which hinges on brute physical strength and dominance over all of creation but particularly over the feminine principle. It is a worldview, an attitude that has developed over millennia, creating philosophies, social systems and structures. This philosophy has brainwashed men – and women – to develop belief systems that are fundamentally flawed in that they deny the inextricable interconnectedness and basic equality of duality, the equality of the male and female principle.
The ancient custom of female genital mutilation in many Eastern and African communities, the deliberate brutal removal of sexual organs denying women their natural passions and putting them in mortal danger during childbirth, is usually administered and overseen by other women – usually the elder women in the villages. The custom of ukuthwala, where young women are abducted and sometimes raped to “tame” them for much older men, is still widely practised and fiercely defended by some women in South Africa to this day. The practice of ilobolo (the bride-price or dowry), whose original customary purpose has been perverted by modern commercialism resulting in the objectifying and commoditisation of many African women, is still regarded as a distinct honour by many women.
These unfortunate belief systems inform people’s values and pervert gender relations by making men believe they are superior to women, that women are created for the pleasure of men and therefore men are entitled to treat them as they please. The scary thing is that many women, especially older women in society, have come to identify deeply with these notions largely because they grew up under these patriarchal systems and “they turned out ok”. These older women are threatened by the freedoms of younger women, their independence and achievements and regard this as perverse. They then legitimise the patriarchy and deepen its resolve.
Recently, men and traditional women, “the village”, defended the groping and sexual assault of two young girls who were attacked by up to 60 taxi drivers and marshals at Noord-street taxi rank, a second such episode in as many years at the same place. They said, “These girls were skimpily dressed and therefore were behaving inappropriately, so they had it coming and in fact deserved it .”The absurd logic is absurdity is mind-boggling but indicative of the irrationality of those who want to defend the “order” of patriarchy.
The emancipation of women by progressive laws, their rise in education, in influence and power is beginning to loosen the ancient grip of patriarchy on the general psyche of the world. However, as this takes place it confuses people whose identity and value systems are deeply rooted in patriarchal notions. There is a sense of the “end of the world as we know it” a great panic, closely followed by anger, an anger that is intensified by a sense of righteousness, a crusade to save the world from the rise of “evil women who do not want to listen to their mothers”.
That’s why these crimes are increasingly done in groups and there seems not to be a voice of reason in gangs when these acts of violence against women are committed. They somehow visualise themselves as soldiers, selfless, even brave, operatives as they wage this holy war against unrighteousness. In their crusades they target the weakest and most vulnerable as a warning shot to those women who may want to venture in to the “lawlessness” of this strange idea of equality.
It is in this environment that young men whose position of superiority as men is threatened, compounded by the frustration of ever diminishing economic prospects and historical political repression, they lash out in a way that seeks to reaffirm their masculinity. It is this defence of patriarchy that enables rapists to believe that what they are doing is their contribution to the “struggle” against the “unholy rise of women”. This is the “village’s” contribution to the violence against women that we are witnessing. This is our complicity as a community.
Patriarchy, violence against women in any form is wrong and evil. It must be condemned with all that is within us. We are witnessing the inevitable death of patriarchy, but we must expedite this process by vocalising our disassociation with it – particularly us men. DM
Aubrey Masango was born in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria. Educated at St Johns College in Johannesburg and later went to the University of Pretoria to study to be a teacher. He was bored. He decided to get out of the corporate rat-race in 2009 because he did not like the person he was becoming in the BEE scene, seeing it as pretentious and unsustainable. These days, Aubrey is a talk show host on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape talk. His regular show “Talk with Aubrey” is on a Sunday evening at 23h00 to Monday morning at 01h00.
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall