The News We All Need To See

 

This morning for two and a half hours, between 6:30 and 9am,  ±80 women stood at a busy intersection in the pouring rain holding the news headlines that society sees, but doesn’t SEE…

Yesterday was Human Rights Day in South Africa, and yesterday, like every other day, 360 women were the victims of abuse. What about the rights of women, the right to safety, the right to dignity, the right to not exist in a state of constant fear and vigilance?

So, armed with a paper (thedailyabuse.co.za) filled with 360 stories of abuse and ±80 women standing in solidarity against this daily abuse, we are calling for an end to these daily headlines. We are calling for human rights to be honoured equally, women’s rights need to be protected.

This was the article I wrote for the newspaper:

The hidden cost of intimate partner and sexual violence against women

Year after year, article after article, report after report we hear about the rampant violence against women in South Africa, but year after year, report after report the stats don’t improve. Taking the emotion out of this topic is seemingly impossible, but it has become necessary because appealing to society’s heart is not provoking the change required to end this behavior. So, perhaps we need to appeal to society’s head and their wallet.

Simply put, this behavior has a ripple effect on many aspects of our country. Violence against women is no longer just unconscionable, it is illogical.

Obviously, the ‘cost’ of violence against women is most profoundly felt by the women themselves, but there is a societal and economic ‘cost’ felt by the country as a whole. According to a report by World Health Organisation released in 2010, this relationship has been recorded around the world in numerous countries.

There is a ‘cost’ associated with the overall burden of disease a country experiences. A study conducted in Victoria, Australia estimated that among women 18-44 years of age, intimate partner violence was associated with 7% of the overall burden of disease (Vos et al., 2006).

Another ‘cost’ is a debt that the next generation will be required to pay, as studies have shown that “children from households where abuse is present may exhibit increased rates of behavioural and emotional problems that can result in increased difficulties with education and employment, often leading to early school drop-out, youth offending and early pregnancy”, (Anda et al.,2001; Dube et al., 2002).

Research has further found that there is a hard ‘cost” associated with intimate partner and sexual violence against women, as it has a significant adverse impact on a country’s economy. In the United Kingdom, one analysis estimated its annual cost to the economy in England and Wales was approximately £22.9 billion (Walby, 2004).

Another causal effect of intimate partner and sexual abuse is it link to increased risk of HIV in victims of abuse. Studies from several countries have found that there is increasing evidence that HIV risk is linked to lifetime exposure to violence in complex ways (Campbell et al., 2008). Violence and gender inequality are more likely to increase HIV risk through indirect pathways, like a woman’s ability to negotiate for contraception use.

We as South Africans need to ask ourselves; “Is this ‘cost’ worth it?”.

This ‘cost’ buys us a society that maintains a patriarchal or male dominated structure. A society where power hierarchies are created which place men as economically and religiously superior, and of higher social status compared to women (Ali & Bustamante-Gavino, 2008). As such men are socialized to believe they are superior to women, that they should dominate their partners and endorse traditional gender roles.

In this society women’s subordination and submission is then considered normal, expected, accepted and even attractive (Russo & Pirlott, 2006). A society where men have economic and decision-making power and women do not. A society where the community in which a woman lives does not sanction intimate partner and sexual violence. In this society women are likely trying to change their status, trying to uplift themselves and trying to be seen as equal to their male counterparts. In this society, this kind of gender transition is viewed as incredibly threatening, redressing the status quo will not be tolerated.  

This is the type of society that that turns a blind eye to violence against women. A society made up of communities that do not protect their women, that seemingly accepts this ‘costly’ behavior. A society where women are starting to fight for a transition in their status, starting to fight for equality, only to be beaten back down.

A society that believes women are inferior and as such men have the right to use violence and sexual abuse to exercise their superiority and power over them. A society that legitimizes intimate partner and sexual abuse.

South Africa we must ask ourselves; ”What type of society do we want to be?”.

And, ”Is this society worth the cost?”.

The World Needs More Fearless Girls

Last November, an article, I wrote, was published in Destiny Magazine and I thought I should share it on my blog. It was written from the point of view of Leigh – the Advertising Professional, but as I am sure most moms can agree, putting my mom hat away isn’t that easy.

So with no further adieu…

“Last year I became a mom and while I was pregnant, the weight of the responsibility about to devolve on me was brought to bear. I was struck by all the fears and anxiety around raising a little human being into a happy, stable, respected and respectful adult. But then I had a girl.

I have been working in advertising for ten years and while the typical portrayal of women in media has often irked me, once I became responsible for the future of a girl in this world this feeling of discomfit became glaringly inescapable. What did the future look like for my little girl? Was she destined to be objectified, belittled and boxed? Would her world be limited to the flawless home executive, the ditsy blonde with a great rack, the bossy insufferable ball buster, the airbrushed bikini model staring temptingly into the camera or the apologetic and flustered personal assistant to Mr. CEO?

I’m not the only one feeling the need to shed light on these stereotypes of women and expand the world of a girl as shown by media. This is a social and cultural shift gaining momentum around the world. Madonna Badger, Chief Creative Officer of Badger & Winters advertising agency in New York City took up the torch for all women and their objectification within advertising. She challenged the norms of how women are portrayed in advertising and the old ad adage of “sex sells”, turning this glib assertion on its head by ultimately questioning “sex sells”, but to who? Definitely not to women, who are roughly 50% of the world’s population, a group that in most countries have incredible buying power and influence. Badger asserts that this shift is not only the right thing but also the smart thing to do.

A particularly noteworthy example that magnifies the deep need for new and different representations of women is the statue of the Fearless Girl that was raised on Wall Street defiantly staring down  Corporate America, a gender inequality stronghold, symbolised by the Wall Street Bull. This little statue has not only become a huge part of America’s social cultural landscape but she has shaped it. And her reach is not limited to the borders of the USA: her impact is felt much further afield. I’d even go as far as calling her a modern-day Statue of Liberty. A shining beacon of hope for all women and their future in the world.

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks this way. There are still those who see this topic as “typical” of attention-seeking, hysterical females. But such shortsightedness will cost these denialists dearly as they fail to remain relevant in a changing world and they fail to future-proof their businesses.

So, if it takes more fearlessly hysterical females to ensure a shift in stereotypes, then let’s all become a little more hysterical and whole lot more fearless. As part of an industry that is a powerful social influencer, my silence and inaction is not only wrong but foolish. But as a mother of a daughter my silence and inaction is not only foolish but unforgivable.”

Destiny Magazine, November, 2017