For interest’s sake, every now and again, we need to reflect on and examine the instrumental roles we play in society, especially when we occupy positions of power and assume a portfolio of one of the most crucial and undeniably influential offices in a given context.
It is worth noting that outside of this context, our social, political and legal institutions all play vital roles in either perpetuating insidious and serious harm, or forge ahead newer, healthier and progressive accountability mechanisms to re-imagine inclusive and affirming environments.
In Namibia, you would imagine that with profoundly radical leaders and activists at the forefront and helm of fundamental civil rights, and socio-economic and political issues, these individuals who occupy large and critical positions for social and legal influence would inevitably and committedly unlearn ingrained systemic behaviour, attitudes and views that undermine their own activism as well as undoubtedly fuel the many structural and social violence that permeates every nook and cranny in our communities. But alas, we get proven wrong every single time.
Misogyny is one of the foremost ingredients needed to pretty much influence and reinforce cyclical and destructive forms of violence, which often is meted out against girls, women and gender non-conforming individuals.
It is not so much in the definition itself, which is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are females, but in the behaviour. Socially, misogyny will be internalised, because it is so pervasive that women may internalise an ingrained behaviour perpetuated and protected by men to benefit politically and economically from this phenomenon – but historically, this cultural attitude has disenfranchised, erased, oppressed and reduced mostly and undeniably the value of women to be viewed as nothing more than second-class citizens.
It is in the way men talk to women, about women or refer to women – whether or not they know there’s an actual term ‘misogyny’ that exists; it is in how they isolate women’s issues from mainstream political and economic discourse as if the two are mutually exclusive.
You may not know the vocabulary, but you definitely know how and when to use it: how to be a misogynist.
One individual at the helm of a crucial influential position and who stands out as a transformative radical activist is our very own City of Windhoek mayor Dr Job Shipululo Amupanda, whose own misogyny continues to leak out every now and again in his divisive comments of, rebuttals to or confrontations with or towards women.
Two years ago, Dr Amupanda made inflammatory comments that alluded once again to women’s supposed moral responsibility in society when he tweeted, ‘...just see the head and body trend where they are posting their faces and underwear and nothing substantive. Salutation to women of substance’.
Just recently, (and I am sure many times in between than we can all count), in a Facebook post, the mayor retaliated to a criminal defamation case against him by calling a former IPC councillor a corrupt ‘Slay Queen’, including using ableist rhetoric in which she would be perceived as ‘unstable’ and ‘mentally unfit’.
These were all comments that were gendered; all comments that are meant to starkly cause harm socially, politically and would gravely impact the economic status of not only these women but of so many women already affected by these attitudes for which the system reinforces.
One wonders then, if you are so ‘radical’, enlightened and deeply moved by so many issues in the country, how come it’s still so easy to be so misogynistic? Isn’t activism a form of purging from and forging for reformed systems and attitudes that would ultimately improve the socio-political lives of communities?
Isn’t your radicalism for improved service delivery founded also on advancing women’s rights often denied because of misogynistic attitudes? Is the mayor’s consistent, unmissable exposure of his misogyny also an imbued cultural practice in the positions of power he occupies?
Is this the same mayor who co-published a paper, critically and cogently analysing Swapo’s 50/50 policy in Namibia’s National Assembling, citing, ‘...we argued, as other scholars have done, that patriarchy cannot coexist with democracy. When the founders of the Namibian constitution resolved that Namibia will be a constitutional democracy at independence, it meant that anti-democratic tendencies such as patriarchy would no longer have a place in a democratic dispensation.’? This Job?
Why can’t women exist without being morally policed for how they should dress, which by the way fuels the rape and SGBV statistics? Why can’t women exist with substance without being undermined by how we choose to express ourselves sexually (and in many ways asserts us politically)? Women from all walks of life, globally, exist in societies that control and police their bodies to an extent where they are coerced into reproduction because men prefer that they give birth to boys because of, once again, this cultural patriarchal contempt they have against females.
If your intent is to do and cause serious reputational and potentially economic and social harm to a woman especially, then gendered insults would be the easiest low-hanging fruit to pick. Not because it is so easy to use misogyny, but because of how easy it is to be a misogynist in a society/country that appoints rapists to think tanks; which allows homo-misogynistic hate speech to run amok; whose safety of women and girls is not guaranteed; whose mayor feels so comfortable to be an outright misogynist – it reproduces itself independent of someone perpetuating it.
This is why men who fight against structural injustices, gaining enormous social and political responsibility, should not be packaged as someone who understands all kinds of injustices (against women). They use women’s voices to spark revolutions, only to silence us with... misogyny.