Copy of the #TheSafeSpace Column published in the Times Of Swaziland on the 11th of May 2016:
Today I am writing to the men out there, my fellow African brothers on the continent and those flexing out in the Diaspora. Before I go on, allow me to stipulate the ground rules. Today, we are going to be honest and look at things for what they really are. With all this said, I strongly suggest that you read this in a quiet zone that allows you to think rationally and constructively, basically your very own safe space.
For a long time, we have done all sorts of evil things to our women; violence, discrimination and rape are just a few injustices in a very long list. If you are reading this and saying to yourself, ‘but not all men are the same’, shut up and read. It is not enough to just sit and watch things happen then justify it in your head. In order to reverse the way that society looks at and treats women, we need collective action preceded by collective responsibility.
Look around you today, what do you see? Do you see women treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve? Do you see women having smooth and free access to education, economic opportunities and social tranquility? In many instances, I doubt that you do. One thing that you are sure to see and most probably promote is rape culture. This is the culture that allows sexual assault, harassment, rape and violence to be normalized, ignored, trivialized or made into jokes. It’s a culture that takes us backwards as a society and thrives on victimizing the very same women that we have and need in our lives.
As I said in the beginning, we really need to do some serious introspection on this and understand why we need to let our women live their best lives. We need to dig deep and find out what manhood really means to us. We need to think before we decide to pounce on women in dark alleys or university dorms. We need to think before we conclude that she is ‘looking for sex’ when we see her in fishnet stockings. We need to think before we share content on social media that depicts various forms of sexual assault as acceptable or funny. Let me tell you something obvious: there is nothing funny about sexual penetration that you do not want and then getting told that it was due to the length of your clothing. Guys, say it with me slowly, ‘IF I CAN SEE HER THIGHS, IT DOES NOT MEAN SHE IS TEASING ME INTO ACTION’.
Brothers, we need to take a firm stand in our own lives and actively push back against rape culture. It is extremely unfair to expect the survivors of this culture to then conduct their own activism. We need to step up and fix our wrongs. In doing this, there is no action deemed insignificant and there is no such thing as overacting. If you see something on social media that YOU know looks and feels wrong, jump on it and have your say. When you are with your boys and the conversation takes a turn, stand up for our women and make it known that you have no time for conversations that will not add to your growth as a man. If friendships end because you called your boys ‘uninformed misogynist pigs’, remember that it was and always will be a small price to pay.
Feel free to share your comments with me through Twitter (@chr1sfleming), blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org. Until we meet again, goodbye.