Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive narration that may trigger one with similar experiences.
The #16DaysNotEnoughCampaign shares the personal experiences of men and women who have gone through or have seen people go through subtle abuses like gaslighting, crazy-making, pathological lying, excuses, and hypocrisy which has been normalised in our societies. ACTIVATE! Supports the fight against gender-based violence. This is the raw experience of a man in his own words.
Writer: Lupi Ngcayisa
Waiting in the queue at the stuffy SARS downtown branch this afternoon. To my left were two ladies in their early thirties. One was visibly pregnant though bereft of the glow and excitement that is synonymous with expectant mothers. Judging from the banter and comfort shared among them, one could arrive to the conclusion that these two ladies were good friends who haven’t been spending much time together. So, this dreaded visit to SARS doubled as a catch up session. I couldn’t help but sticky-beak on their conversation. It was revealed the pregnant one is on child number four,the first three are all girls.
The conversation took a dramatic, dark turn when the pregnant lady unpacked her ordeal. Her in-laws- including her husband- have impressed upon her that if she brings another girl child, the family would have no choice but to ‘repatriate’ her to the village in Limpopo and a new wife who is capable of bearing an heir in the form of a boy would be installed in her home. Tears started trickling down her worn face as she was narrating her predicament to her friend. Trying hard to maintain decorum, her voice grew deeper yet the pain was piercing through. On the surface she projected an impressive image of an independent, well-to-do woman who, I assumed, must be married to a modern man family. So, all of this came as a surprise as one wouldn’t expect this backward thinking from modern, progressive people. Right?
Forget about how biology dictates the sex of the child is determined by the male. She spoke of the physical and emotional abuse that has been part of their relationship even before the birth of her first daughter. Her shoulders tremble as she describes the deliberate neglect and hostility served to her children. Her fear was that with the schools coming to a close for the December holidays, all grandchildren would visit the paternal grandparents but only one of the girls will be allowed to visit. When the friend inquired about the rational behind this one child being allowed to visit. Exasperated, she explained what I summed up as comeuppance for having failed to deliver boy children.In her own words ‘they only take one of my daughters during school holidays to remind me that I should not be comfortable.’
The friend was dead still, throwing in the occasional nod here and there. Her body language gave way that she too was in abusive relationship however this was not the time and place for her to narrate her story. Our numbers were eventually called out by the disembodied voice from the SARS intercom system, we were assigned to different consultants…
This entire ordeal reminded me of how society still remains persistent on placing currency on the boy child. This conduct is one of the root causes us men, abuse and violate women and girl children. The boy child is reared with a separate set of rules which he flouts with no remorse or consequence.
Culture, religion and tradition are all designed in his favour. His entire existence is cushioned in male privilege. He trudges and traipses through the streets with no street sweeper or construction worker hurling insults or making verbal sexual advances at him. He cruises through life with no anxiety or fear of being raped. He is sexually loose with his seed strewn everywhere without being meted with scorn and judgment. His father gleefully takes pride in him being sexually active from a young age with multiple sex partners (yeah my boy is a real ladies man he is not gay). Blithely unaware that he (the father) is encouraging bad behaviour that would see this boy becoming an abuser who has zero regard for the opposite sex. He is often exempted from house chores. He sexually assaults- the parents volunteer to take the cudgels on his behalf.
They will terrorise his victims and pay top legal eagles for his acquittal (mothers often lead in this process). He won’t pay child maintenance or even attend to his children. He is resting in the comfort that his family won’t chastise or rebuke him and society won’t strip him off any of his privileges. He will be abusive towards his wife and other female sexual partners (which the family happily endorses). When the abuse is brought to the attention of the elders for an intervention; appendages such as ‘onke amadoda anjalo’ (all men are like that) would be thrown in, callously.
In the case of the pregnant lady from SARS, the in-laws have declared her useless for having delivered girl children. She has instructed her gynecologist to not reveal the sex of the child she is carrying. There’s an ultimatum: Give us a boy child, or you and your children shall be disposed off. Her entire life hinges on the sex of the child she is expecting. It has to be a boy because the boy child is king.
With the universe being on her side and a boy child gets delivered, there is no doubt that the boy will be spoild and raised in the similar fashion as the ones described above. He will account to no one as he will be the one who has been waited upon.
As we observe 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. Given that all these atrocious acts of abuse and violence are performed by boys and men, we have a question to answer. Who is raising these boys? How are these boys socialized?
When media houses churn headlines of brutal murders and gruesome rape cases, we feign incredulity yet we are active participants in the creation, grooming and nurturing of this monster of a boy who has now grown into an infernal nuisance. An entitled Man-Child. Entitled because from birth, the system grants him a free pass to be callous, reckless and irresponsible. The system, propelled by culture and religion, never cease to affirm his superiority over his female counterpart.
ACTIVATE! is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.
On social media:
Facebook: ACTIVATE! Change Drivers