Pinky Khoabane

Poverty is a real, serious issue which cannot be dealt with by a few so-called celebrities showing off their beautiful and perhaps not so beautiful bodies, writes Pinky Khoabane.


Johannesburg - There aren’t too many things in the world that are more shameful and yet carry clout and glory in the way that this beast called charity does. Over the years, we’ve seen how the big money-makers pour a percentage or so of their profits into charity in return for which, in some countries, they get tax breaks and newspaper headlines all at the same time.

But when are these paragons of virtue going to deal with the real questions of poverty?

In keeping with the quickest way of grabbing headlines in the name of very difficult issues of poverty, the crux of which comes down to landlessness and food insecurity, magazine Marie Claire got a bunch of so-called celebrities to bare it all.

You’ve got to give it to the magazine for pulling off a successful PR stunt while managing to raise sexual objectification to dizzying heights. It also managed to hoodwink feminists into absolute silence in the process.

While the campaign is supposedly in aid of charity, the only big talk about this “worthy” campaign was the booty of one Boity. Forget the other 20-something naked bodies that made it on to the pages of the glossy magazine, it is apparently only Boity who bared her entire behind, hence the public’s pre-occupation with it.

Boity essentially became a sex object this week, with men downloading her bottom and boasting about downloading it for use as a wallpaper on their cellphones and many other uses. It is all fine really. It is for a good cause after all. “Boity’s booty goes viral,” a headline screamed.

Where men would salivate quietly about a woman’s body, the good cause which Boity’s behind is in aid of, has given men the licence to openly and unashamedly lust after her bottom. The message is simple: lust and desire as much as you like, it is for charity.

In a radio interview with a male presenter who was unashamedly drooling over her bum, Boity said she didn’t have a problem with the fixation on her behind. “As long as a portion of that (pre-occupation) goes towards the charity… I did it for a good cause.”

Somewhere in the discussion she mentioned that although she had always wanted to be part of the naked campaign, she had given consideration to the boost it would do to her career.

And therein crept in the real motive. “It is an honour to have been asked,” she kept saying. It was staggering that neither Boity nor a fellow participant in the naked campaign mentioned the charity for which they were doing this.

The interviewer didn’t ask them about the charity nor did the unsurprisingly all-male callers. The issue was about Boity’s bum and what the men had been dreaming about or were about to do with it.

In all the days that the bum became the topic of the social media and traditional media world, the charity was hardly if ever mentioned at all.

It was simply astounding and lent credibility to the assertion that this campaign had little to do with the charity itself, but the benefits that would be accrued by the participants.

The ease with which the perving over Boity’s body was being discussed and her acceptance of it all not only indicates the levels to which the sexual objectification of women is ingrained in our society, but the dangerous ground on which we can tread in the name of charity.

To my surprise, I read somewhere that South African feminists distinguished between other forms of sexual objectification and that of Boity’s. “It’s tastefully done,” the explanation goes. And here I was thinking that feminists decried the presentation of women for the pleasure of men, period.

In fact, just days earlier, feminists – led by one Lindiwe Mazibuko of the DA – were outraged at the treatment meted out to ANC MP Thandile Sunduza’s fashion sense at the State of the Nation address.

“When will women’s bodies stop being playgrounds for the hatred, pettiness and low self-esteem of rank misogynists,” Mazibuko fumed on Twitter over the derision of Sunduza.

The public outcry among feminists had to do with men’s response to the MP. And yet a similar response, albeit that Boity was viewed as positive in some circles, elicits almost nothing from the same people.

Ah, but then it is for charity you see. And she is beautiful and her bum looks good, and… and all the hogwash that goes with the farce that is charity and feminists’ double standards.

It would seem feminists only care if the degradation of a woman’s body elicits negative comments, but couldn’t give a toss one way or the other if it is heaped with praise. For as long as the woman looks good and the men are happy with her, so too are the sisters.

This approach certainly explains the deafening silence in this country over the stereotypical presentation of women in general. Has anybody asked if there are fuller-bodied women in this naked issue and, if not, why not? Would the fuller women not want to do something for this particular charity?

Charity has become too easy an option to dealing with the real issues of the world. Take a few clothes off, enhance your career and sell the magazine and call it charity. A quick question on social media about the beneficiaries of the Marie Claire campaign came up with a variety of responses, which tells you that the campaign did not achieve its aim – supposedly to raise awareness for the charity.

That aside, poverty is a real, serious issue which cannot be dealt with by a few so-called celebrities showing off their beautiful and perhaps not so beautiful bodies.

Marie Claire and its celebrities would do better to get involved in issues of landlessness and food insecurity, the real reason why the poor of the world cannot feed themselves. The history of this country is one of years of colonisation, apartheid and capitalism which have forcefully displaced people from their land.

Those are the issues with which Marie Claire’s participants must accustom themselves before even thinking of baring their naked bodies to the world.

Here’s the problem with charity. It is done largely for selfish reasons. Instead of building the blocks to uplift people from poverty through skilling them and giving them land, it throws a few pennies at the problem. But when it also gives a licence for women’s bodies to be ogled, it becomes more shameful.


* Khoabane is an author, writer and columnist.

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

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