For far too long, the obituaries of South African women and girls have been brushed over and piled onto the general murder stats in our country. But over the last few weeks the murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana has given rise to anger and retaliation against gender-based violence in South Africa with #EnoughisEnough.
But among the cries for action against femicide, one voice was far too faint – the one of South African men.
The #RealMenDont campaign is about the coming together of South African men, asking them to raise their voices to protect the women and children of our country. The black and white images represent a ‘no grey area’. “It’s either black or white, you protect us or you don’t and there is no in-between,” says Nuriyah Gallow, the initiator of #RealMenDont.
Gallow, an ad-operations manager at 24.com and a mother of three says the events leading up to the national outcry against gender-based violence and the absence of men standing up against them urged her to start the initiative. She explains that real men don’t kill, rape or abuse and it puts the responsibility on them - not women.
In their official statement to condemn violence against women, the South African government made this all too familiar mistake of putting gender-based violence in the hands of women. The original tweet has since been removed but an edited version reads as follows.
In response to the above statement, 27-year-old Ben Liebenberg says he realises that men need to take responsibility and be more accountable for their statements and actions. “We shouldn’t be telling our daughters to be careful, we should be raising our sons to be accountable, understand consent, understand boundaries and respect people - especially women,” he says. “We say ‘rape needs to stop’ forgetting that someone actually has to do something - that someone being men.”
But why have men been so passive against this cause? Bongani Mtlhavani argues that men are traditionalists in their approach to issues around women abuse. “In the villages where I come from, for example, women are seen as submissive to the men they are married to, that filters down to our townships and cities alike.”
Not shying away that this is a problem, Mtlhavani believes that mindsets need to change, and campaigns like #RealMenDont are needed to educate people about this scourge so that over time perceptions and attitudes around women abuse will change.
“Instead of condemning feminism, take a second to learn about it and understand it,” Liebenberg says. “When women talk about their experience, listen with intent to understand and learn. Beyond that, simply respect and protect women instead of raping and abusing them.”
From calling out and addressing misogynistic behaviour to reporting harassment and sexism in the workplace, there are plenty of simple ways that men can actively stand up against gender-based violence.
Real men aren’t passive bystanders to a societal problem that they are responsible for. Stand up against violence against women by sharing your #RealMenDont statement.