We are proud to introduce our tenth voice in our “16 Voices in 16 Days” Campaign against gender-based violence!
Edward Jacobs is an incredible volunteer at The Justice Desk's Ntsika yeThemba project for boys without positive male role models, an activist and a writer for 'Boys will be Joys' that provides research-based tools targeted at men and the masculinities that they embody.
The Justice Desk believes in the power of the everyday person, especially in their ability to create lasting, impactful and effective change in their communities! Through this campaign, we hope to both raise awareness to #GBV, but also to unite and inspire others in order to take action within their own spaces. Ending GBV is not the fight of some, but of us all!
Let us never forget to recognise the incredible power that we as South Africans have, when we come together, to make a change.
By amplifying these 16 remarkable changemakers, we hope to inspire YOU in contributing YOUR own thoughts and voice, as we unite in solidarity in the important fight against gender-based violence.
"Throughout my childhood, our family has always been quite closely knit. We would have family gatherings for every birthday (not just your 16th and 21st) and everyone, from our elderly grandma to the newest born baby, would be present - singing, laughing, playing dominoes and, of course, eating. These gatherings would always have the same script: We all arrive, each family armed with Tupperware filled to the brim with quintessentially coloured dishes, and we'd kickstart proceedings with a jovial song or two after which an uncle would "open the gathering in prayer." The birthday person would then be lavished with birthday wishes, gifts, compliments and "stay as sweet as you are's."
After a speech from the person of the moment and a passionate rendition of the Happy Birthday song by the family, another uncle would pray for the food, giving us the license to tuck into the vast array of dishes made by my aunties. The process would always be the same, first the elders would dish food for themselves and then the ravenous youngsters would swoop in to devour the remains. Curiously though, I would always notice a few of my aunties (not all of them, but enough for me to notice) would then proceed to fix a plate of food (or dish up) for their husbands prior to dishing up for themselves.
I always found this to be a bit odd - I mean, he is a whole entire grown man, surely he can dish for himself? But then I realised that I was complicit in this whole 'dishing up' saga as my mom would routinely fix me a plate as a young boy - which seemed completely normal at the time. And while, theoretically, there is nothing wrong with a wife fixing a plate for her husband or a mother fixing a plate for her young son, it got me thinking about how boys are raised and the possible differences with how girls are raised.
I firmly believe that the way we are raising our children is a major contributing factor to the crisis of gender-based violence (GBV) that we are experiencing today. There’s an enduring idea that girls are ‘naturally’ more mature and can take care of themselves from an early age. This results in a situation where young girls are expected to be "more advanced" or "more responsible" while we simultaneously allow their male counterparts to just ... be. Perhaps that’s why adolescent girls are often expected to get on with domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of siblings, while sons are 'babied' to a greater extent – often having things done for them.
I'm sure many of you come from homes (or at least know of homes) where the women, including young girls, have to cook for and pick up after their brothers and fathers while they lounge around the house and watch sport. We would all like to think that this is an obsolete vestige of the 1950s, but it is still a reality in many households today.
This is obviously not the case for all boys (calm down, Susan, you're not a bad mother), yet there's no escaping the fact that much more is often expected from young girls than from young boys, especially when it comes to the family setting. We protect men from a very young age, allowing them to live a prepubescent life devoid of all duty and accountability, justifying this with the belief that ‘boys will be boys.’ Whereas young women are shackled with responsibility simply because ‘they should know better.’
Once these young boys are finally pried away from their mother's bosom and leave the house, they grow up to be men who believe that they deserve special treatment; needing a woman to tend to their every need. This belief proliferates into male entitlement, becoming a catalyst for many of the societal ills that we experience today, including GBV.
This male entitlement is indicative of ‘patriarchal masculinities,’ which is a term used to describe those ideas about and practices of masculinity that emphasise the superiority of masculinity over femininity and the authority of men over women.
Patriarchal masculinities are about power over - the power of men over women, and the power of men over other men. The ideas and practices that are central to patriarchal masculinities in a given society make it seem natural and normal that men should have more political, economic, and social power than women, and that some men should have greater social status than other men - we get taught that this is just ‘the way things are.’
What does this have to do with GBV? Well, violence against girls and women is maintained by ideas about and practices of patriarchal masculinities. Violence is used, mostly by men but sometimes by other women, to keep girls and women ‘in their place’ - in other words, to maintain the patriarchal order of things. This is why women are often ostracised and attacked when they try to assert their claims to power, for example when they speak up about feminism or simply tell their husbands to dish up food for themselves.
Nevertheless, we can take comfort in the fact that these strict ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman are not natural, biological, or god-given. Rather, we learn these roles, behaviours, and attributes as we grow up. This gives us hope that it is possible to shift these norms towards something more positive; to teach and amplify roles, behaviours and attributes that emphasise relations of equality and respect between all genders.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to examine the way in which we raise our kids, as we might be contributing to cycles of abuse and pain. We must be vigilant and ensure that we do not destroy our children, their potential and developing selves by unconsciously parenting according to outdated stereotypes. All children deserve to be well nurtured, given room to grow and develop into who they are."
TJD Volunteer & Activist