Media reveal their double standards on women: iLIVE
On February 17, I joined hundreds of mini-skirt clad women and (some) men in the Johannesburg CBD for the ANC Women's League march against sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
The march was sparked by a story which appeared in early January about two young women who were sexually harassed and humiliated by a group of men at the Noord Street taxi rank because they wore revealing clothes. One of the women was dressed in leggings while the other wore a mini-skirt.
The women have since laid charges, while the CCTV-captured incident is under police scrutiny. Naturally, the country went into overdrive about the incident - with the police, social commentators, politicians and the media correctly lambasting the actions of the men who allegedly abused the two women.
Newspaper editorials dedicated acres of space to condemning the thugs, and calling for their immediate arrest. However, despite the criticism from the media, it was the same media which, a few weeks down the line, became perpetrators of sexual harassment, albeit indirectly.
Featuring the photograph of a prominent Gauteng politician sitting with children during an official visit to a primary school in Johannesburg on its gossip pages, a major Sunday tabloid captioned the picture as "Teachin' old tricks".
In its comment, the paper complained that this particular politician was "always on a thigh-display crusade. Even when she is in the company of innocent souls, there she is working it for no reason".
This was not the first time this particular tabloid found fault with politicians wearing short dresses or mini-skirts.
A year or so back, politicians such as former first lady Zanele Mbeki and Lumka Yengeni also bore the ire of the paper for their "revealing" attire.
What is sad is that it is women journalists, on the whole, who are spewing this bile.
The double standards are amazing, considering how the very same newspaper did not even raise an eyebrow about the photographs of US first lady Michelle Obama and her short dress when she visited former president Nelson Mandela last year.
Several questions arise from this hypocrisy: how different is the newspaper's article about the politician's dress to what the thugs at the Noord Street taxi rank did to these two young women?
Are the taxi drivers not taking the cue from their more enlightened misogynists hiding behind PCs in newsrooms? Why is there no outcry from the public about this behaviour? Is it because the media sees no wrong in coming to a conclusion about a woman's worth based simply on her dress sense - and the length of her skirt?
It is important that the media understands its role in perpetuating stereotypes, whether they are racial, sexual or of any form of prejudice. To continue to talk about women on the basis of their dress - when they are not models - is to further entrench the age-old stereotypes about where women belong and how they should look.
Surely that is not the type of Gauteng and South Africa we wish to build for our children. Let us fight abuse everywhere we see it; in our homes, our schools and our newsrooms.