Between the 15th and the 20th of December 2012, many South African music lovers will flock to see Chris Brown, the R&B star and the man who assaulted pop superstar Rihanna in 2009. Rihanna was also his girlfriend at the time. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, you know a few vivid details about that assault. You may have seen pictures of Rihanna’s bruised face, read about blood in her mouth as he continued to beat, strangle and threaten her while driving. Both pictures and details of the charge sheet made their rounds through mainstream media outlets and went viral on social media. For a quick summary, you can read this. Or you can just google the whole ugly saga.
Since then, we have also been subjected to constant suggestions that Rihanna may have taken Chris Brown back as boyfriend/lover/friend after forgiving him. She has recently been on Oprah and there was widely circulated news that even her father feels warmth and sympathy for Brown. We have even been told of how Brown grew up in a violent home himself and, therefore, that his own violence is explained by this past. After all, violated children also sometimes turn into violent people, right?
This means that Brown’s South African fans are supporting him with full knowledge of his record. Indeed, many who are quite vocal about their support of the call to end gender based violence in South Africa will buy tickets to his concerts as part of the general partying that characterises the “festive season”. It will not matter that they have previously expressed concern that the international annual campaign of 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children should really be 365 days. South Africans are not renowned for a healthy sense of irony. Nor do we hold violent men accountable. We simply like to march against violence against women, but we are generally loathe to intervene and condemn it when it actually happens. We don’t really like to denounce men who beat and/or rape women. We do often judge and badmouth abused women. So much commentary has focused on what Rihanna and her family feel or do not feel. If I had a rand for every time I heard “but women are their worst enemies in such cases”, I would be a rich woman.
Feminists, gender activists and people opposed to violence elsewhere in the world have not found this such a complicated issue. In Guyana, several women’s rights activists made it very clear that Brown was not welcome in Georgetown to perform on the 26th of December 2012. The Code Red for Gender Justice website outlined that although there was disagreement over the Guyanese government’s decision to welcome Brown to Guyana in order to boost tourism to the Caribbean country, those critical of Brown’s tour and the Guyanese government’s insensitivity did not mince their words. It quoted Guyanese feminist columnist, Stella Ramsaroop saying that the “decision to bring Chris Brown to entertain Guyana is a slap in the face to every single victim of domestic violence in the country”. Sukree Boodram of the Caribbean American Domestic Violence Awareness (CADVA) said “as the grim situation on domestic violence has become a staple part of Guyana’s everyday life and landscape, I believe that having a known abuser perform, gives credit to him and sends an unspoken message that it is okay to beat up on your wife or girlfriend and still stay popular and famous”.
Vidyaratha Kisson wrote a much publicised letter in which he suggested what what he saw as more useful options to the Brown tour. His solution is similar to that proposed by Nicole Cole from the Guyanese Women and Gender Equality Commission here.
I am not convinced that there is a good way in which a woman beater can be supported. We simply cannot have it both ways: claim we want to end violence against women at the same time that we swoon over men who violate women. We should make Chris Brown unwelcome in South Africa if we are serious about ending the siege under which women live. I share Sukree Boodram’s stance, where she says “The fact that we are allowing a publicly known abuser to enter our country is blatant disregard and disrespect to our people and the cause we claim to want to eradicate. That cause is domestic violence. What kind of signal does this send? It says that ‘bringing wealth into Guyana’ is more important than the safety of the nation’s women. It says that talking out of both sides of your mouth concerning violence against women is justified so long as everyone can dance.” (emphasis added)
And, although there have been suggestions that Brown and his team did not cancel the Guyanese concert because of the outrage from women’s rights activists, there is no convincing alternative explanation. South African feminists would do well to emulate our Caribbean feminist counterparts in telling Chris Brown that he is not welcome here. If we succeed in keeping him from performing, or even cut his trip short, it does not matter who gets the credit.
Guyanese feminists and gender activists told Chris Brown in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome in Georgetown. So he had to cancel his boxing day concert in that city. Irish hiphop group Original Rudeboys turned down the huge cash and publicity benefits of opening for Brown at the O2 arena in Dublin saying they don’t want to be associated with Brown after his assault of Rihanna and did not want to create the slightest impression that they thought beating women up was anything but vile. None of these groups thought what Rihanna may or may not do with him again should colour how we respond to gender based violence. The same Chris Brown is scheduled to perform in three South African cities between the 15th and 20th December. No irony there, South Africa. We will have wrapped up the 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children and will be back to business as usual: glorifying violent men.
Guyanese feminist, Sukree Boodram, captures exactly what I feel when she says: “The fact that we are allowing a publicly known abuser to enter our country is blatant disregard and disrespect to our people and the cause we claim to want to eradicate. That cause is domestic violence. What kind of signal does this send? It says that ‘bringing wealth into Guyana’ is more important than the safety of the nation’s women. It says that talking out of both sides of your mouth concerning violence against women is justified so long as everyone can dance.” (emphasis added)
Entertainment is more important than consistency. Our obsession with all things “international” trumps what we claim to stand for.
SMS Campaign: Speak out! Stand out! Commit to preventing Violence
against Women Join us to Speak Out, Stand Out, and Commit to
preventing Violence against Women during the 16 Days of Activism
Against Gender Violence
With your participation, WOUGNET in collaboration with Womensnet,
South Africa and APC-Africa-Women (AAW), will be conducting an
SMS-based campaign. The idea is to send out an SMS on each of the
Days of Activism that will allow individuals and organisations to
Speak Out, Stand Out, and Commit to preventing Violence against
We would like you to send your slogan/message which highlights your
resistance to violence against women. You can participate in any or
all of the following ways:
1. Contribute a short message or slogan on the theme of the
campaign. If your slogan is chosen, it will be sent out via SMS with
you/your organisation credited as the source of the message. It will
also feature on the Take Back the Tech campaign website at:
2. Send us news on your activities and events for the 16 Days of
Activism 3. Register your mobile number to receive the SMSs that
sent out during the 16 Days of Activism
For more information and/or to participate, please send a note to
In addition, WOUGNET in partnership with Overcoming Gender Based
Violence (Overcoming GBV) – Oxfam GB, is making a number of
materials available to WOUGNET members and partners to mark the
16 Days of Activism. Stop by the WOUGNET Office, Plot 53 Kira Road
Kamwokya, to collect purple ribbons that you can wear to Stand Out!
and posters to pin-up. E-cards and e-posters are also available online
TAKE BACK THE TECH:
16 DAYS OF RECLAIMING TECHNOLOGY
IN ACTIVISM TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
//In Uganda, a SMS campaign called Speak out! Stand Out! is organised
by WOUGNET to collect messages against VAW//
//In Quebec, feminists and communication rights activists are creating
short video clips and comic postcards on VAW.//
//In Malaysia, Burmese refugees are creating audiocasts on issues
related to VAW and women’s rights together with Centre for
>From 25 November to 10 December, get ready to pull out the mouse,
>flex your SMS fingers and engage full energy in activism to end violence
against women (VAW). APC Women’s Programme (APC WNSP) calls
on users of the radio, television, internet, emails, mobile phones and all
kinds of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to Take
Back The Tech!
What is the campaign about?
Take Back The Tech is a collaborative campaign by ICT users,
advocates, collectives and organisations that take issue with the
prevalence of VAW in our diverse realities. Initiated by APC WNSP in
2006, the campaign is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-based Violence initiative.
It is our right to shape, define, participate, use & share knowledge,
information & technology, and to create digital spaces that protects
everyone’s right to interact freely without harassment or threat to
safety. Take Back The Tech aims for this & calls all user of ICTs –
especially grrls & women – to take control of technology and
consciously use it to change unequal power relations.
How can you Take Back The Tech?
**16 daily actions**
Simple daily actions throughout the 16 days that uses ICTs
strategically to counter VAW. From sending SMS, making digital
postcards, snapping pictures, playing with radio to remembering
forgotten names in the history of ICT development, you can take action
with the tools and platforms that you have access to.
Explore and thicken the knowledge around ICTs & VAW by joining the
days blogathon. New to blogging? This is the perfect reason to start
your own, or at least, click that ‘comment’ button to have your say.
Daily topics will be posted on the campaign site to stir conversation,
as well as instructions on how to set up a blog.
Start your own Take Back The Tech campaign. As seen above,
independent and creative initiatives to Take Back The Tech are taking
off in different parts of the world, translating content and action to
address local needs and priorities. Use the campaign website to
highlight your action, or find information and resources. There are tech
tools & tips, articles & links, portable applications, images & graphics,
and if you don’t have an online publishing space, you can have your own
page on the site. Email us to let us know how we can support your
**Digital stories, audiocasts & more**
Learn by listening to the experience and stories of women and men
affected by VAW. The campaign website will feature created digital
stories, audiocasts, video clips and postcards. If you have something
you would like to share, just log on to the campaign site and submit
**Suggest an action**
Help shape the campaign by sharing your experience & ideas. If you
have thoughts, email us or log on to the site, and make it part of the
Check http://www.takebackthetech.net daily from 25 November to 10
December, and take action. Reclaim technology to end violence against
For more information: send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or
“Take Back the Tech” is an initiative of the APC Women’s Networking
Support Programme (APC WNSP), a global network of women who
support women networking for social change and women’s
empowerment, through the use of information and communication
technologies (ICTs) especially internet, founded in 1993. The APC
WNSP is part of the Association for Progressive Communications
(APC). http://www.apcwomen.org/about/ http://www.apc.org
I did not want to hear who the ANCWL’s presidential candidate was when the evening news bulletins kept announcing over and over again that the League’s deliberations were ongoing. However, this morning I could not keep my head buried in the sand for much longer because as I listened to Redi Direko on Radio 702 on my way from a meeting to the office, I almost cried. Yes, I love Redi Direko’s show. But my feelings had little to do with what she said this morning. She asked her usual unwaveringly insightful stuff. No, it wasn’t that the ANCWL chose Jacob Zuma as their candidate when they should have chosen Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma instead. I suspected that they would choose him which is why I did not want to hear before bedtime that yet another supposedly progressive structure had chosen a man like that as someone they think can and should be a leader. I had been ashamed in anticipation about how the most powerful grouping of women in my country would not come out blatantly in support of a presidential candidate I can be proud of. This the stuff of nationalism, isn’t it? Even though I declare repeatedly that I am not a nationalist, these decisions matter to me at a level I cannot always explain intellectually or politically. Shame is such a South African cliche, after all; yet, ashamed of the ANCWL I most definitely am today.
What is utterly depressing to me is that I listened to Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the president of the ANCWL defend the position of the League she presides over. I have never heard her sound less convinced of what she was saying. Perhaps I am projecting because I neither know her personally, nor attended the ANCWL meeting yesterday. All I know is that this morning as I listened to a woman who usually makes sense even when I disagree with what she says, I heard a woman I read as feminist go around in circles. Perhaps I was projecting because I wanted to believe that she could not have voted for Jacob Zuma in the presidency. Perhaps because my heart bleeds often for the handful of feminists in the ANCWL surrounded by a gangrenous sea of MaMKhizes, I needed to feel more than shame, so I chose empathy for Mapisa-Nqakula. Maybe I am in the middle of a romantic feminist moment. Maybe something even more sinister is going on.
This is a woman who usually sounds like nothing can phase her in public, whose voice sounds like it does what she wants it to do. Today, her voice shook. She repeated herself and became increasingly inarticulate. She made a few arguments that sounded slightly off and each time she said “we, in the Women’s League” there was a suppressed sigh in her voice. I felt like I was witnessing a woman speaking under duress.
Now, I am not saying she is anybody’s victim. She is not. She is also not a superwoman – but a human being. Whatever happened at those lengthy deliberations held by the ANCWL well into last night sounds scary to me.
So, why the title of my blog entry today? The ANCWL sucks because the last thing South African women need is a powerful women’s organisation saying that Jacob Zuma is acceptable as presidential hopeful. The ANCWL sucks because in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism against women and child abuse, we have to spend time thinking about Jacob Zuma in very unpleasant gendered ways. We have barely survived last year’s brutalisation by this man at the same time of year. The ANCWL sucks because it ingrains itself into our feelings even though we should all look away like we do with the other ANC League whose leadership is filled with babbling misogynists. The ANCWL sucks because it has those handful of feminists who appear to be fighting a losing battle, but because of them we keep looking and listening. The ANCWL sucks because it frightens the hell out of me to think about the extent to which patriarchal women will go to defend their man. The ANCWL sucks because it has a more interesting herstory than it is living up to.