#FailFailFail: A Women's Day letter to the President

Dear Cyril (I’d call you Mr President, but respect has to be earned):

I wonder, I really do, if you actually care about women.

You looked good coming after your predecessor. But then a bale of straw would have looked good compared to JZ, whose reputation as a "sex pest" (one of those harmless terms we use for dangerous predators) had been known for decades before he stepped into the No 1 position. His attitudes to women lie somewhere between the Cretaceous Period and Noah's ark, so you really didn't have to do much to give 52% of the citizens of the country you've governed since February this year a smidgeon of hope.

But it's been one gender-rights face-plant after another. Look, it's clearly an entrenched Presidential tradition to pick the Minister of Women on the basis of utter incompetence. But the vile Bathabile, on your watch? WTF, Cyril? You must have seen all the Twitter jokes about how she has to have nudie pics of you stashed somewhere. I mean, the ONLY candidate I can think of who'd be worse would have been the monstrous Qedani Mahlangu. And although the latter has the blood of 144 utterly helpless innocents on her hands (and I cannot think of a more slow and agonising death than the starvation and cold to which she condemned those vulnerable people), I suspect that Bathabile's strenuous efforts to run away with the milch cow, er, control the payments of SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants, if successful, would have caused even more deprivation, suffering and deaths, especially in the rural areas where troublesome journalists and watchdog organizations like Section 27 might be less likely to notice. (An aside, Cyril: why the flying frying-pan is Qedani still a free woman? You and I both know she belongs in jail for the rest of her natural life, and yet she just got re-elected to the ANC’s provincial executive committee. You're the President not just of SA, but the ANC, Cyril. Surely you could have put your foot down? Made a call or two?)

But now here we are in poxy Women's Month, and on the first day of this month, thousands of brave women in major centres and small villages organised and marched against gender-based violence. Like their historical role models, many showed up at the Union Buildings to present you with a memorandum. They were addressing a HUGE problem, with courage and determination, practicing the kind of activism that was revered in the struggle against apartheid.

I am not going to bother to present you with the stats on just how dangerous it is to be a woman, ANY woman, but especially a poor black woman in South Africa. (And goddess help you if you're a poor black queer woman or trans person -- there's practically a bounty on your head.) Because you bloody well ought to know those figures by now, we've only been screaming them from the rooftops for decades. If you DON'T know the stratospherically high rates of intimate violence, wife-battering, rape, femicide and homophobic brutality and murder in this country, then not only are you not paying attention, you have no interest in paying attention. Don’t stand there saying “a number of women have been violated, abused, assaulted...” It's not "a number of". It is hundreds upon thousands of us. At least acknowledge the staggering magnitude of these figures.

Anyway, these women marched along to present you with their extremely reasonable demands (like could the men of South Africa please stop beating, raping and murdering us for five whole minutes and allow us to enjoy just a sniff of our constitutionally guaranteed freedom and equality). Just as the women of 1956 marched on the Union Buildings to protest the apartheid pass laws. You know our history, Cyril, and you had a golden opportunity to rewrite it. You should have been waiting for those women with a red carpet and a marching band, eager to thank them for their zeal and determination. You should have acknowledged them as the freedom fighters they are.

So what happened instead? You had armed police waiting with guns and barricades. Against a bunch of unarmed women enacting their constitutional (and in this country, noble) right to assemble and to protest. Cyril, WTAF? You of all people, after the literal bloodbath of Marikana, know what disaster can unfold when a bunch of trigger-happy cops hopped up on adrenalin and entitlement start waving guns around. What were you thinking? Why have heads not rolled? Those police should have formed a guard of honour for those women: surely they were all on the same side? "Gee, we mop up assault and battery and rape and homicide and murder at off-the-charts levels all the time, and these women want to stop it, just like us, so let's give them a mighty AMEN."

But noooooooo. Violence isn't taken seriously in this country, but least so if the adjective "gender-based" appears in front of it. So you let the cops push these women around and menace them and treat them like criminals. They were teargassed, Cyril. TEARGASSED. The Nats couldn't have done better. You kept them waiting for hours. You had said you’d show up to meet them at 2pm. You kept them waiting, in the cold and dark, until AFTER 8PM, long after their permit deadline had expired, their childcare and transport plans had been derailed.

When you finally oozed out to meet them, you said some very pretty words. I especially like the bit about hanging your head in shame (and so you ought). But you dropped some clangers that could have won prizes for tone-deafness. For starters, PLEASE stop asking SA men to respect us because because we are “mothers [who] bring life into the world”. (This goes for ALL politicians and public bleaters.) First, any female mammal can gestate a zygote; and second, it takes a woman AND a man to create a life (not that you’d think so to judge from the amount of deadbeat dads in which this country is knee-deep). Our rights as equal citizens should NOT in any way be linked to the ability to implant an embryo in the uterine wall. How about respecting women because we are human beings with full human rights?

Much, much worse, you said that "as women who are the victims of gender-based violence‚ you are the ones who have the solutions." HOLY HELL, Cyril, how often do we have to explain? This is like asking cancer patients to cut out their own tumours. For the zillionth time, WE. ARE. NOT. THE. PROBLEM. We're not the ones raping babies and grannies and our fellow students and neighbours and colleagues and friends, murdering lovers who dare reject us, beating our partners to pulp on a grand scale. Sure, we're no angels, and we can be violent, too. But it's the MEN, Cyril, the MEN of this country who need to come to their senses and learn to control their hasty fists. Oh, and don't get all pious about how hard they have it. Women who are hungry and unemployed and mired in all the ills of poverty might make some bad decisions, often through no fault of their own, but it's funny how often they start food gardens or creches instead. OR MARCH ON PARLIAMENT DEMANDING CHANGE. They tend not to violate children and then stuff their broken bodies in bin bags, or murder and burn their ex-lovers, or gang-rape lesbians to death.

So we're disappointed. Again. You wasted an opportunity to show willingness to take GBV seriously, at the very least to turn the march into a wonderful PR exercise (there's an election coming, Cyril, had you forgotten?). You could have made all those whose teeth are set on edge by the rampant hypocrisy of Women's Month feel that at least we were being heard instead of patronised.

And then, blow me down, next thing, the organisers of the march were being charged with “public violence”. Because YOU showed up over six hours late. WHAAAAT? Fortunately, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole shut that one down, but I’d like answers: whose insane idea was this? The march co-ordinators who were told to "hand themselves over to the police", the women who marched, all the women of the country: we are owed a GROVELLING apology. Do it yourself; invite those insulted this way to tea at the Union Buildings and acknowledge that it was an appalling blunder, and promise it will never happen again.

Go on, Cyril. Do the right thing. The women of South African have the vote. And we'd like to see more than the saccharine lip service (it's barely even that) that gets rolled out by government on Women's Day, and in Women's Month. We're waiting. We're watching.


Helen Moffett
Dear Client, you owe me money

Dear Big Client [in my case, usually a publisher, university, parastatal or government department]:


You owe me money. I sent you an invoice over a month ago, and it was promptly processed by the relevant in-house editor. More than thirty days have passed, and you still haven’t paid me the money you owe me (get used to this phrase, I’m going to be using it a lot), even though you knew from the invoice that my terms are 14 days (and that’s a concession I offer monoliths like you in spite of the fact that equally monolithic clients are able to pay me within 48 hours).

Today I was told that because someone in your finance department didn’t process my invoice in time, it’s being held over for payment until the end of next month. Yes, I have to wait for another payment cycle for you to pay me the money you owe me. For a project I worked on for three months, starting over four months ago.

I swore the next time a client pulled this one on me, I’d write a public blog about it. At this stage of my career, by the mercy of all the gods, I no longer have to chase after work. I also have grown-up resources like credit cards and an overdraft, so I’m not going to starve while you take your sweet time about paying me the money you owe me. But you and your ilk do this all the time to struggling freelancers who don’t dare complain, and someone needs to hold you accountable.

There are parallels with the phenomenon uncovered by the #MeToo movement; the reliance on a culture of fear to silence people often desperate for work and afraid to be seen as troublemakers or boat-rockers in the industry. This is the reason I am publishing this: I am old and established enough to make a noise – not a luxury available to many freelancers. It should be obvious that tardy payments disproportionately affect women (who make up the majority of writing/publishing freelancers) and make it even harder for young black freelancers sans financial safety nets to break into the industry, thanks to your casual assumption that we all have the kind of capital resources that make it possible for us to suck it up when you’re late paying us the money you owe us. Unreliable payments also make it impossible to service debt, so that rules out recent graduates paying off burdensome student loans. Congratulations: you’ve set it up so only the independently wealthy, privileged or those with other financial support sources can afford to work for you. So much for “transformation”.

Here are the reasons why when big companies delay paying the money they owe, it stinks. It’s unethical, it’s a form of bullying, it’s unprofessional (it undermines the ability of your staff to do their jobs), and in the final analysis, it hurts your bottom line (I’ll get to how that works in a minute).

Remember, I have heard it all: “This is how the system/computer programme/ accounts department works, our systems are designed for maximum efficiency in big companies,” and so forth. I told this to a lawyer who specialises in bankruptcy, and he’s still laughing. He says there is only ONE reason companies take 30 days to settle accounts (the maximum legal period before the creditor is entitled to start charging interest – not that I have ever received interest on late payments): it improves their cash flow. 

So it seems you feel entitled to withhold money you owe me to improve your cash flow, but my cash flow needs are irrelevant.

Let’s consider the ethics of this, shall we? First of all: YOU OWE ME MONEY. I performed a highly skilled service, at your request, to impeccable standards. Over a month later, you have still not paid me for this service. Now, we all live with debt. But most of us consider ourselves not only legally but morally obliged to settle those debts. I make certain that the ONLY entities to which I owe money for more than a few days are big, faceless and in absolutely no way financially inconvenienced, much less imperilled, by my debt to them. Which I always pay within 30 days, in any case. (In other words, banks, and – well, that’s it, really. Even my electricity is paid up-front.) If I employ or commission a service from anyone with a face, I pay them immediately, or within 48 hours, even when this hurts my cash flow. This is because I OWE THEM THAT MONEY. This goes for the computer techie, the plumber, my accountant, the freelancers who work for me. Tomorrow I will pick up my car from my mechanic and pay him a vast sum for repairs. On the spot. I will not airily tell him that because of my “in-house accounting system”, I’ll only be able to pay him in five or six weeks’ time. If it’s more money than I have, I’ll put it on my credit card and wince at the interest. That’s because I owe him the money, you see.

Companies like you need to understand that when you owe us money, it’s not your prerogative, but ours, to set the terms on which you settle your debt. Have you stopped to think about the arrogance involved in telling an individual to whom you owe money that because someone at your company “made an admin error”, you are going to delay paying them the money you owe

Exactly the same thing happened the last time I presented you with an invoice – it took almost two months to settle because “someone in finance forgot to process it”. I’m going to be charitable and assume this is pure coincidence (my bankruptcy lawyer friend is now laughing his head off). Seriously, though; shouldn’t the appropriate response be strenuous efforts to pay the money you owe as soon as humanly possible?

And now for the more subtle, but no less ugly side of this practice: the way you shelter behind the skirts of the often lovely in-house staff your subcontractors/ freelancers work with. You bank on our affection and respect for these people, our unwillingness to make trouble for them, our desire to be re-employed by them, to keep us quiet. This is a particularly insidious form of emotional blackmail.

When companies pull this kind of stunt, they undermine the abilities of good staff members to do their jobs, as well as their authority. Your employees should not have to worry about whether their freelancers are getting paid on time, or chase after the in-house finance department, or write apologetic emails to their suppliers. They have better things to do with their energy and time. Worse, your conduct makes it awkward, and sometimes impossible, for your employees to continue working with us, even though we might both benefit from an ongoing professional relationship. And one of the sadder things about your delaying paying the money you owe is that it often brings a sour note to an otherwise rewarding work experience. 

At my most cynical, I might assume that you have no concern for the ethics of your behaviour, and are untroubled even by undermining your own staff, and hampering their capacity to do their jobs. So let me turn to something that might penetrate: this kind of behaviour hurts your bottom line. 

First off, I always do the job to the very best of my ability, and (there is no modest way to say this) my best ability is damn near legendary in this industry. I never rush, skimp or edit mechanically. I work with passion, total commitment, meticulous attention to detail, and three decades of experience under my belt. So you’re getting a top-quality service when I work for you. Maximum bang for your buck, and it shows in the final product.

Okay, maybe you don’t care about the quality of the edit, or the expertise and experience I’m able to bring to projects. But there’s something else I have a reputation for as a freelancer: I meet deadlines, sometimes impossible ones (go ahead, ask around) without compromising quality. As part of project management, I anticipate problems and revise schedules accordingly, even when this means weeks of working into the small hours. 

I know exactly what effect schedule slippage has on YOUR bottom line. And no one who employs me ever has to worry about this on projects I work on, at least not on my account. Consider the ironies of this: I bust myself making sure I won’t be even an hour late – much less a day, MUCH less any longer – in delivering a prepared manuscript and all supporting materials – for the benefit of your bottom line. You, however, have no trouble making me wait well past the legally mandated period to get paid – my bottom line is irrelevant. A little reciprocity would be nice, don’t you think?

This lack of two-way respect (if I honour your deadlines, I expect you to honour mine) will make me hesitate the next time one of your employees offers me a job tailor-made for me. And that’s one more extremely skilled and specialist freelancer, one who can be absolutely relied on to meet super-tight deadlines, potentially lost from the pool available to your in-house staff.

I’m not inflexible: I’ll sometimes agree – IF this is negotiated upfront – to a tiny independent press or NPO taking time to settle my invoices because I know they are literally waiting for funds to flow into their accounts, or because the sole proprietor needs to pay their mortgage first. Big clients, however, do not fall into this category. Many of them (including publishers, NPOs and think-tanks) pay me within days (four to five maximum, some within 48 hours) of being invoiced. There is no (legitimate) reason the rest of you can’t do the same.

And another thing: do not EVER send me an email saying you “can’t” pay me the overdue money you owe me just yet because of your systems, or your admin error, or [insert excuse here] and then add: “apologies for the inconvenience”. Bouncing stop orders, being unable to pay the bond or rent, driving a suddenly uninsured car or losing medical cover: these are not “inconveniences”: they can be catastrophic. 

One last #MeToo-inspired thought: why are we the ones made to feel shame for insisting that you pay us the money you owe us? You’re the ones squarely in the wrong, morally and often legally. Yet we’re somehow grubby and greedy for making a fuss, we’re being “difficult” and should sweat it out in silence, and – this has always made me hop with rage – after we’ve had to do the chasing and the begging, we’re expected to be grateful when you eventually pay us the money you owe us. I’ve lost count of the times finance departments have behaved as if they’re doing me the most enormous favour by paying me MONEY I AM OWED. Let’s put the shame back where it belongs, shall we? In. Your. Corner.

I’ll leave you with a hadith to consider: “Pay the labourer [their] wages before [their] sweat dries.”

Helen Moffett
Women's Day Must Fall

Saccharine rhetoric and pink pampering offers for the ladies? It must be August! This year my brain started bubbling like lava before Women’s Month even started, what with the Marie Claire #InHerShoes debacle (the silver lining: these fab takedowns by Pearl Boshomane and Louise Ferreira) and a myriad other WTF moments, including the Department of Women’s high-heeled-foot-in-mouth Tweet “What is to be done with women who withdraw charges [against men who assault them]?”

What’s changed since I first lost my cool about Women’s Day in 2012? Way too little. The Department of Women no longer bundles together vaginas, minors and people with disabilities, but it’s moved under the sheltering wing of the Presidency. Whahahaaaa! WAIT, THAT’S FOR REAL? SERIAAS?

In 2012, I raged “Our rape stats are a global disgrace, black lesbians have ‘carve me up and smash my brains in’ signs stamped on their backs, rural women and children live in relentless, grinding misery and poverty…. We are failing, no, betraying, no, ABUSING children by callously pissing away their only shot at an education, a form of abuse that will affect girls worse than boys; we’re losing ground in terms of infant and maternal mortality; women without cash are being denied C-sections at state hospitals and giving birth to stillborn babies on the floor.”

There’s no doubt that to solve systemic problems like these, WE NEED STATE SUPPORT. Instead what we get is the same old system of patriarchal patronage, the same cynical gauging which side of the gender divide the icing is spread. Lulu the Useless has been replaced by Susan the Shameless, whose main contributions so far have involved buttering up traditional leaders with gender attitudes apparently dating from the 1700s, and the novel idea of reinventing the wheel AGAIN: “We will be going on a nationwide campaign to understand the society we are living in and find out what makes men become so brutal and evil.”

It would be so easy to rant about this kind of GIBBERWITTERY. For starters, men are NOT brutal and evil. I could publish an entire essay on how this “monster” narrative of rapists demonises black and poor men and exculpates white and middle-class men, while masking a rape culture reinforced by a deeply hierarchical and patriarchal society, in which most of us are complicit. OH WAIT, I ALREADY DID. BACK IN 2001. Yes, FOURTEEN FUCKING YEARS AGO.

As for the “nationwide campaign to understand the society we’re living in”, THIS WORK HAS BEEN DONE. By a brace of tireless scholars, researchers, writers, activists and journalists: not only veterans like Nomboniso Gasa, Lisa Vetten, Mmatshilo Motsei (who paid a high price for telling home truths in her book The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court), Carol Bower, Sam Waterhouse, Elaine Salo, Jane Bennett, Makhosazana Xaba, Sindiwe Magona, Mary Hames, Farieda Khan, Pregs Govender, Desiree Lewis, Kopano Ratele and many more; but also a new generation of brilliant, social-media-savvy voices such as Karabo KgolengDanai MupotsaMilisuthando BongelaSisonke MsimangMichelle SolomonT.O. MolefeZethu Matebeni and all the voices I’ve linked in this piece.

Meanwhile, there’s enough noodle-brained patriarchal bullshit in headlines and everyday life to dislocate my jaw. I expect to keel over with a rage-induced thrombosis around 2019, by which time the renamed Department of Ladies, Girl-Children and Self-Congratulation will probably be marking Women’s Day with free virginity testing and apron-stitching competitions. (See Rebecca Davis’s very funny and razor-sharp account of our Women’s Month as explained to a Martian here; also this poignant blog by Jen Thorpe for an account of how for too many women, the workplace is still a sexist timewarp.)

But I give up – for now. It’s no good trying to shame or swear the state into action. As sincere efforts at structural change seem about as likely as the rapture, let’s look at ways we can support the sheroes and heroes who battle the odds to provide practical support to those ravaged by patriarchal violence, whether the kind administered by fists and penises, or the socio-economic kind.

Which means I’d like a little word with South African businesses. WHAT THE FLYING FUCK ARE YOU DOING, OFFERING US DISCOUNTED TEA PARTIES AND SPA DAYS? You already get Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day to patronise us girlies and sell us crap chocolate and plastic shit from China.

I understand that there’s a recession and you need to make a living. I get that marketing is crass by definition. I realise advertising companies hitch their bandwagons to all our public holidays – I keep expecting to see “Come dressed as Hector Pieterson and get a free burger!” offers on Youth Day.

It’s the sickly sentimentality, the reverent hush as you grab at the coattails of that brave march by 20 000 women in 1956 that makes me nauseous. If you’re going to reference that iconic moment in South African history, could you not at least support the organizations which seem to be the ONLY structures trying to improve the lives of SA women?

Instead of offering us a discount, a free glass of plonk, a pink cupcake, ask us if we’d like to add R10 to our bill for Rape Crisis – and THEN MATCH IT. Instead of a half-price facial, ask us to donate sanitary pads for girls for whom menstruation means missing 20% of their schooling. And don’t even think of offering us some sort of fluffy pink deal unless you (a) employ women (b) pay them exactly the same as your male workers and (c) treat them all as human beings.

Finally, is there good news? Yes. Read the fresh voices I’ve listed here (there are many others), look at the multiple ways they suggest we tackle gender oppression (which affects everybody), and you’ll feel flickers of hope. Plus I hear an increasing clamour from men, both straight and gay: what can we do, how can we change this horribly broken system?

So this month, I’m going to focus on the practical stuff. For starters, I’d like for Rape Crisis to get enough funding donated this month to cover their operational costs for a year. Please give generously here. And go pounce on every business you see offering “Women’s Month Specials” and encourage them to donate, if not to Rape Crisis, to a local NGO/NPO offering support to women and/or gender-based violence survivors. In fact, to form ongoing funding relationships with them.

For my part, I’m going to give a fundraising party for Rape Crisis (I’d MUCH rather take the mega-mountains of cash sloshing shadily around the nuclear and fracking deals, and spend them on things like, oh I dunno, functional schools and libraries and decent reproductive health care and poverty alleviation, but I have to start somewhere).

And once a week this month, I’m going to write a blog about practical things we can all do to rid this country of the scourge of gender-based violence. Coming up next: what men can actually do about rape, and a shout-out to Pumla Dineo Gqola for writing one of the most important books you’ll ever read (and you ARE all going to read it, right?): Rape: A South African Nightmare.

Do you have good gender news? Ideas for practical, positive change? Please share them (but no harking back to patriarchal “utopias” or conservative religious and traditional frameworks). Let’s all roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.

Nick Mulgrew
Fuck Women’s Day. FUCK IT.*

Don’t ask me to celebrate Women’s Day. Don’t offer me ten per cent off beauty products or a free glass of cheap bubbly. Don’t even ask me to commemorate the historic women’s march on the Union buildings – a milestone event whose noble essence has been sold down the river by leaders who are eager to claim some sort of retrospective credit for it, but don’t even pretend to honour its values.

Last year, I was in an epic rage. This year, I’m in despair.

Because the front page headlines the last few days have been about baby rape – AGAIN.

Because yesterday’s headline was “W. Cape cop ‘murdered wife’”.

Because Reeva’s Steenkamp’s death by shooting underlined what Lisa Vetten has been pointing out for years – South African women are more likely to die at the hands of their partner or spouse than through any other form of violence – including car crashes. What happened to Reeva reminded us that no amount of money, beauty, celebrity or middle-class comfort renders women exempt from this risk.

Because Lulu the Utterly Useless is still in charge of the Department of Everybody Except Able-bodied Men (henceforth known as the Department of Utter Uselessness).

Because the Department of Utter Uselessness still exists, feeding off the public purse like some ginormous swollen horror-movie leech. As Verashni Pillay says, “The … money would better be spent on funding existing researchers and activists. You know, the sort who work on issues related to ‘women, children and people with disabilities’ 12 months a year – not just in August.”

Because Mad Bob Mugabe referred to a senior female South African diplomat as a “street woman”, and our government chastised HER.

Because Vavi (a man I used to admire) can’t keep his pants zipped, not even when his wife is about to give birth to twins.

Because Vavi-gate means we learned absolutely nothing from the Zuma rape trial (what Margie Orford calls a case of deja Zuma).

Because Rape Crisis is now subsisting on the charity of individual donors in spite of the fact that (let me say it one more time) IT IS DOING THE WORK OF THE STATE.

Because a friend of Sarah Lotz’s was [allegedly] raped in the police cells of a small Cape town in 2008 (this was the impetus behind Sarah’s novel, Exhibit A), and the case hasn’t even come to trial yet. FIVE FUCKING YEARS LATER.

Because even when we KNOW that we (or a family member or friend) have been raped, we have to use the word “allegedly” when speaking about it publicly unless we belong to the 1% of rape survivors who see their attackers go to trial and get convicted.

Because this grinds into us that we are inherently untrustworthy and unreliable, that something that still gives us nightmares “didn’t maybe really happen” – or, as a man once said to me, “When a woman tells me she’s been raped, it means some guy grabbed her boob, right?”

Because there are so many men (and some women) who think that rape is a terrible thing, and Something Must Be Done – but on closer inspection, they still believe it’s something that only poor, ignorant, crazed, barbaric, drug-addled men do to poor, ignorant, downtrodden women.

Because so many men (and some women) are terribly angry about rape, and call for the death penalty and castration – but they’re thinking of an armed stranger breaking into their house and attacking their family, not about all the “regular, ordinary” blokes they know who have raped women… because that’s not real rape. Hey, the girl was coming on to him, she was drinking, it’s not like he used a knife or a gun…

Because unless about fifty women I know are psychotic, delusional, hardened and consistent liars, there are at least fifty rapists walking around doing things like playing golf and drinking beer, having got off absolutely scot-free.

Because so many men (and some women) have NO IDEA that non-consensual sex is rape. (Most of the women I know above fell into this category at the time they were raped. Many didn’t even know you could report men you actually worked, played or studied with, or had dated, or once had consensual sex with, or lived with.)

Because there is only one thing worse than being raped: being raped and then having to report it to the cops. Wait, there’s something even worse: being raped, reporting it, and then going to trial. I’ve been a witness in a criminal trial twice: appalling ordeals I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. To be the principal witness in a rape trial? I don’t know how any woman, man or child has the courage.

Because the reason so many men (and some women) have no idea that non-consensual sex is rape is because we’re absolutely marinated in rape culture.

Because Yale University, in its recent investigation into sexual violence on campus, redefined rape as “non-consensual sex” (see above) and recommended “written warnings” for offenders.

Because sometimes the same people who get all hot under the collar about rape also defend the “freedom of speech” of internet trolls who make rape threats.

Because so few of those who are rightly appalled by the rape of children grasp that it’s the extreme end of a continuum of rape culture – which can be summed up as the increasingly explicit patriarchal message that women are either objects for consumption or objects of contempt.

Because there is literally nowhere to go to escape rape culture. In that supposed bastion of civilisation (ha), the UK, a 13-year-old girl was described as sexually predatory not just by the defence lawyer, but the prosecution and the judge – and the 41-year-old man who molested her got probation.

Because I have nieces who are fourteen and thirteen (also a nephew of almost fifteen), and when they were born, I really believed that by the time they reached young adulthood, we would have this patriarchal shit thrashing on the mat. Or at least MORALLY defeated.

Because I want the world to be a safe and EQUAL place for them, and we’re running out of time.

So fuck Women’s Day, and fuck Women’s Month. Instead, as a gesture of grief, rage and general gatvol-ness, please join me in making a donation to Rape Crisis: http://rapecrisis.org.za/support-us/donate/.

*I was going to issue my usual swearing and shouting warning, but I think the post title is a giveaway.

Nick Mulgrew
Take your Women’s Day and shove it*
Women's Day march.jpg

[Warning: this post contains a lot of bad language and shouting. My parents should stop reading now.]

Dear Government (big, small, national and local),

Here’s an idea. Take your pathetic, meaningless, mind-blowingly expensive and stomach-churningly patronising Women’s Day and cancel it. Cancel the entire idea of “women’s month”. Tell me, what is the FUCKING point?

Trash that ridiculous, pointless, bloated Dept of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (how’s that for neatly categorising us little ladies – not only does possession of a vagina constitute a disability, but vagina-owners are as powerless and lacking in agency as children). It’s no more than a particularly sanctimonious event-planning agency. The departmental mission? “Ooh, women and children are getting raped and abused, they bear the brunt of criminally lousy education and brutal poverty: LET THEM EAT CUPCAKES! Plus we’ll throw in some glossy leaflets, and send someone in a designer suit to pat heads and make a speech full of platitudes before we jet off for another shopping trip er international conference.”

So ditch the pointless sodding public holiday (estimated cost to the economy: SEVEN BILLION). Stop bleating about the month of women. It’s PATHETIC, considering it’s open season on South African women 24/7, year in, year out. Our rape stats are a global disgrace (Goddess, how many times do I have to FUCKING say this, the WORST in the world for a country not at war – the scale is unimaginable, the suffering ditto), black lesbians have “carve me up and smash my brains in” signs stamped on their backs, rural women and children live in relentless, grinding misery and poverty HUGELY exacerbated by patriarchal strictures, which are of course absolutely sacred (and the fact that the Traditional Courts Bill, which would render these women even more helpless and wretched, is actually allowed to pollute national airtime is a bloody disgrace). We are failing, no, betraying, no, ABUSING children by callously pissing away their only shot at an education, their ONLY chance of a life of decent employment, a form of abuse that will affect girls worse than boys; we’re losing ground in terms of infant and maternal mortality; women without cash are being denied C-sections at state hospitals and giving birth to stillborn babies on the floor as a result. SO DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT FUCKING WOMEN’S DAY YOU BOZOS.

Here’s a better idea. Instead of the jamborees and a long weekend of more boozing and beatings and rapes, take the money – the obscene piles and piles of it you intend to waste – and use it to fund Rape Crisis, which is having to CLOSE ITS FUCKING DOORS because you don’t think it’s worth supporting, never mind that it does priceless work, not just in enabling women and their families to pick up their lives after they’ve been blown apart, but in taking an enormous burden off both the public health and criminal justice systems. Fund the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, which is literally having bake sales to keep running. All those NGOs that have lost their overseas funding because of the economic crisis – how about funding them, the hundreds that work with the poorest of the poor (which, SURPRISE! equates women and children), which do invaluable work for women with TB or Aids, which support women who are raising grandchildren, running crèches, soup kitchens, micro-employment schemes, food gardens, hospices and all the heroic things that South African women do to keep this country running, NO FUCKING THANKS TO YOU.

Stop whining about the Lotto (an additional tax on the poor) and big business, and how “they need to come to the party”. International funders have been warning for South African NGOs for years, you’re not a baby democracy any more, YOUR government needs to start picking up the tab for this. And so you bloody well ought. What’s next, asking the Lotto or big business to supply the state with ambulances?

So grow the fuck up. Cancel the froth and bubbles. What you have reduced the 1956 Women’s March to is a travesty. That was an occasion of extraordinary dignity and power, and we’d like to remember and honour it without having to use sickbags, please. Lilian Ngoyi and Albertina Sisulu and the thousands of brave women who took part that day are squirming in their graves at your appalling, ongoing, almost CASUAL abandonment of this country’s women, especially the poorest ones. The public spectacle of hypocrisy that is Women’s Day is just rubbing salt into their wounds.

*Never post in a rage. But sometimes rage is appropriate.

Update, Friday, 3pm: I’m stunned that this has gone viral. Thanks to all for the support and interest. If this has touched a nerve then PLEASE copy, post and tweet Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape, as follows: @HelenZille Rape Crisis is shutting down during Women’s Month. Insane! Fund it now! #SaveRapeCrisis

Nick Mulgrew