Young people often get their social cues from celebrities, journalists, DJs, actors and artists, people who they look up to, adore or crush on. Picture: Reuters

This year the focus of Independent Media's annual #dontlookaway campaign during the 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children is #talk2yourboys. The goal is to focus on the male youth, educate and teach boys to become better men and in so doing, break the cycle of gender-based violence. Today we are talking to influencers.

Dear Influencer

  • Do you use language in your writing, and your various public and entertainment platforms that entrench or promote gender stereotypes and prejudices against women? 
  • Do you engage your fans and followers, in any manner, in which you refer to women and their sexuality in a demeaning and insulting context? 
  • Do your conversations and casual chit-chat – public or more privately – make women and female stereotyping the butt of your jokes? 
  • While performing live, or on social media, or in your lyrics and journalism, do you venture into victim blaming in instances of GBV because the victim is disliked, is stigmatised as having a questionable lifestyle, or displays anti-social behaviour, or any similar prejudicial cliche including against the LGBTQI+ community? 
  • Do you shy away from or avoid using your social media profile to stand up against GBV because it doesn’t “fit in” with your image; because you are “only about fun / fashion / music”? 
  • Do your social media posts reinforce negative gender stereotypes such as “women belong to men”, “women are the weaker sex”, “women should know their place”?
  • Do you shy away from calling out other influencers who post content that perpetuates negative gender stereotypes? 
  • Do you post images, jokes, memes or comments that denigrate or humiliate women? 
  • Do you “share” images, jokes, memes or comments that denigrate or humiliate women? Do you “like” or “share” content that glamourises, normalises or makes light of violence towards women?   

Young people spend a great deal of time socialising with friends, whether face-to-face or on social media, and a great part of it is about the music they enjoy, the sports they watch, and the movie and television stars whose lives they follow in every detail. 

They get their social cues from celebrities, journalists, DJs, actors and artists, people who they look up to, adore or crush on. 

Freedom of speech and expression gives these individuals an opportunity to deliver their best and be good role models to young people. 

But they undermine this role when they do and say things that normalise abuse and violence against women, and entrench outdated stereotypes of not only women, but also LGBTQI+ people. 

As an influencer, if you ticked any of the above questions, it is time to take a look in the mirror. #DontLookAway and take the Influencer's Pledge:

To all my readers, fans and followers, I pledge to play my part in making this world a safer place for women and children. 

I make the pledge because I am in a good position to disrupt the toxic thinking and outdated stereotypes that force half of our people to live in fear of gender-based violence every day, whether they are at work, out shopping or out on the town socialising. 

Living your life as you are, being true to yourself, is your right as a woman, and no man has the right to judge a woman or impose his toxic masculinity on women because of their gender. 

I will apply my mind in my creative processes to ensure that I do not add to the problem by thoughtlessly portraying women in a way that is demeaning, stereotyped or harmful. 

I know it takes courage to stand up and speak out, but I promise to try to be brave and call out my friends and peers when they cross the line, whether publicly or in private. 

Because I am fully aware of the influence I have on young people, I take this pledge seriously. 

I hope that in some small way my voice can make a difference in our efforts to end violence against women.  

Signed: Influencer

* GET INVOLVED! Share your thoughts on toxic masculinity and how it affects our society via Whatsapp on 074 557 3535 or join the conversation on social media using using the hashtags #DontLookAway and #talk2yourboys.