Thousands of South African women on Friday gathered at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in Sandton to make their voices heard in protest against gender-based violence. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)
We grieve over the cruel deaths of young women, from Uyinene Mrwetyana to the 1-year-olds who have been victims of mindless myths.

We should pause and redefine the assumptions that drive these feral acts of cruelty.

The major cause of friction in the arena of gender discourse lies in androcentric role-assignment.

From birth, we assign irrational categories that relegate females to lower rankings. Dressing a girl-baby in pink does nothing to influence her eventual gravitation to motherhood. Just as blue does nothing for the boys.

These categories should be revisited so that we develop a culture of understanding rather than a crisis of protection. Women are crucial partners in the uncontested need to preserve the species.

Institutions and rituals that underscore this start out badly. On her wedding day, your partner loses her surname. She is expected to leave her family home and a lot more in her new role. It is an unstated assumption that she must now be ready for the urges of the dominant male at all times.

But we forget that healthy cohabitation revolves around a woman’s hormonal tides. Her ebb and flow is crucial to the survival of the species through procreation. It doesn’t follow that she is ever-ready and willing when the male invokes his conjugal rights.

There is a clip of the last remaining sabre-toothed tiger saying, incredulously, to his languid mate: “Here we are at the brink of extinction and you have a headache?”

Our education on how we perceive women should be revisited. Public toilets are awash with free condoms. In primary school, children are taught, with the help of a broomstick, how to fit this prophylactic.

What is the message being sent here? And now there is a national campaign to provide free sanitary towels to young girls, ostensibly to promote and improve cognition.

Sex education is the responsibility of both parents. Pride in your body should be nurtured early in life. Men should be birth partners, not casual sperm donors who dish out cigars as if they spent 270 days growing the baby.

Sensitise, don’t brutalise. Break the myths. Promote transparency, openness and trust. Reaffirm your affection for each other daily.

It starts with mutual appreciation and respect. Revising age-old taboos is going to be difficult. There will be opposition, and rightly so. But we are clearly not able to contain the extant damage. Let’s then educate a new generation, starting today.

We need to make a commitment to keep all women, children and the infirm safe. The pledge initiated by the Argus group is a good place to start. Send the voice message. Listen to yourself making the pledge. It is powerful. It is cleansing. It has impact.

This article is not slipstreaming in a media circus. It was born out of genuine concern.

* Literally Yours is a weekly column from Cape Argus reader Alex Tabisher. He can be contacted on email by [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus