By Craig Nudelman
Wow, what a terrible driver, she must be a woman!
Jeez, my boss just wouldn’t give me a break today, what a b***h!
She must on her period…
She’s so temperamental — you know how women are so emotional…
That woman only got where she is because of her looks!
If these sentences made you angry or upset, good! They should! If you replaced any of them with another gender or ethnic group, it would be hate-speech and a societal uproar would follow swiftly. While misogyny is a form of hate speech in South Africa, it’s telling what little comments we let slip by. According to the Women’s Legal Centre, South Africa remains a deeply unequal society in which “womxn bear the brunt in respect of much of the inequality and discrimination.”
In a previous column I wrote about gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide, and how this is still commonplace in this country and globally. However, the reason that I’m writing about respecting women is because of what I just went through — a truly life-altering experience. I was in hospital for over a month in preparation for epilepsy resection surgery (which went extremely well — thanks all for your thoughts and prayers!). If it were not for the women and girls in my life and around me, I wouldn’t have survived that immensely long time in the hospital itself. My mother, my daughters, my mother-in-law, my sister, my sister-in-law, the sisters and nurses at the hospital, the anaesthesiologist, and my women colleague and friends, and, especially my wife Gabi who was and is a rock, deserve all the praise I can give, and more.
I have been on the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Network Leadership Seminar, and November’s topic was on toxic leadership and toxic masculinity. It was a challenging session, but I came out of it realising that I have a voice to demonstrate that not all males are toxic. Through forums like this column, I can use my voice to encourage those around me to give praise and thanks to the women in their lives, be they romantic, personal, familial, or collegial. No more ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘locker-room talk’. We need to move on and become better men and boys for the sake of humanity — not just for women. It’s up to us to be partners to women in the fight against misogyny and GBV.
What can you do to be a partner?
Be mindful of your speech and actions. If someone says something sexist, hold them accountable. Don’t demonstrate toxic behaviour to your children. There were numerous times when I was still teaching that I heard young boys at school behaving awfully towards their girl classmates. Toxic masculinity at school can manifest verbally, physically, or mentally. Too often I heard the word ‘girly’ being said in a derogatory way, especially towards other boys who were being bullied. This has to stop and it is our duty as parents and teachers to ensure this does not happen in our sacred spaces.
How do we justify these acts of misogyny and violence, in all forms, to our children? Why do our leaders in all phases and places in our lives perpetuate the cycle of abuse? It is not just in broader society that it happens — we Jews are not perfect! We are also guilty of this in many scenarios globally. Just consider the case of Israel’s President Moshe Katsav, who was imprisoned for seven years for rape and sexual harassment.
The women and girls in my life are all amazing individuals who deserve the utmost respect and their dignity upheld. I do not want my daughters growing up in a society where they have to fear their superiors if they want a promotion, or be afraid to walk alone in a shopping centre. I want to keep on promoting gender equality and ensuring that we have a sustainable future for our women, which is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, if you look at the SDGs, all of them can be related to gender equality, such as equal education (girls should have equal access to STEM subjects), good health and well-being (reproductive rights are the keystone of healthy girls and women — something which our peers in the United States don’t understand), and sustainable economic development (women must be included in the economy to ensure a country and region can grow). Women make up 51% of the world – they must be included in everything, without prejudice.
So be a part of the solution — be a mensch. Speak well of these important individuals who give life
to the planet and feed us with hope and light.
Craig is a writer, Jewish professional, and tour guide extraordinaire. His deep bass voice has graced stages, synagogues and studios. He is an obedient husband, father to two spectacular daughters, and is known for dad jokes and trivia.
• Published in the December 2022/January 2023 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.
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