Editorial: What to make of Women’s Month

It’s already August, and, although we weren’t trying to make a big deal about Women’s Month, it just sort of happened.

The department of arts and culture kicked it off by asking people to #wearadoek and snap a selfie, and we just couldn’t wrap our scarves heads around what they were trying to achieve.

Headscarves of various description can be cultural, religious or personal touchstones. But what they have to do with gender equality or the challenges facing women in South Africa was beyond us, and our writers were quick to say so.

That was before the blackface incident and its “performed stereotypes of the female black body”, and the body-shaming of the woman who stripped down to commune with the statue of Nelson Mandela in Sandton, but after the KZN health department decided it might be a good idea to force birth control on female students headed on an exchange.

In the last week we also published guest blogs from young South Africans keen to sound off about their struggles with sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Sports reporter Firdose Moonda wrote about being harassed online and being sent threatening messages and videos for criticising a sports player.

One of the contributors to UCT Survivor Support, an anonymous Twitter account, wrote about the casual victim-blaming, sexist remarks and rape jokes endured on campus nearly every day, and about the perceived failure of the institution to directly address harassment and assault.

Rhodes University student Stuart Thembisile Lewis wrote about the Silent Protest and the organisers’ attempts to create a safe space where victims of sexual violence could “talk about what has happened to them without being disbelieved” and where healing can happen.

We haven’t even gotten to the judgement in the case concerning the killing of Reeva Steenkamp, which may or may not have been the result of a domestic dispute, and I’m already tired.

I’m tired of the empty gestures from government, misguided campaigns and poor excuses for allowing sexism, discrimination and violence against women to exist in society.

So if you resolve to do one thing this month, let it be the decision to make your voice heard in the fight against violence and discrimination, to speak for yourself and for those who are too scared, traumatised or disheartened to speak for themselves.


Speak out. Tell us your stories, get a whiteboard and send us your #sexistSA photos, or contact our reporters.