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Femininity, masculinity and violence

In an interview with the NGO Sonke Gender Justice, we explore femininity and masculinity in relation to violence.
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VUSI CEBEKHULU: When you speak of gender based violence, the women experiencing gender based violence, it’s something that is very, very sad. Because it’s something that is happening every day in their daily lives. And to such an extent now, it becomes like it’s a norm to everyone. People end up taking it as something that is normal. And for women who have never experienced any form of violence against them, it’s, like, maybe they’re not women enough. Because every woman has to pass through that experience. Why I’m saying that– I’m saying that Brenda, because you find young women who think that, if their partners beat them it’s the right thing. That’s how their partners show love to them.
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Or let me put it this way, it affects many men. But unfortunately, because of the background where we come from, you as a man, you’re not allowed to express your feelings. And even if you condemn something that maybe you find that it’s wrong. It’s done against a woman, as soon as you express your opinion then you will be regarded as a lesser man. Or is a weaker man. Or a man who try to be opportunist, because maybe you want to gain something from that woman.
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Last week when I was having a training with men in one of the provinces, actually traditional leaders and faith leaders. I shared my personal experience. That I feel bad whenever I walk down the street coming across a woman. A woman starts to be uncomfortable because of my presence as a man. I feel bad when I come into the lift and you find that there’s a woman. And as soon as I come in as a man, she just went to the corner. It really tells that women are no longer free. Women are no longer naturally happy to be around of men. But at the same time, it affects men.
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Because some of the men actually, right now, I can tell you that they are afraid to speak against gender based violence. Because as soon as they speak against gender based violence, they are portrayed as weaker men. They are seen as men who are opportunists. Who are actually looking to benefit something from those women. So that is why you find some men are quiet. But deep down, they are suffering from these gender-based violence. But remember that this gender based violence, it’s not happening somewhere else. It’s happening right here, in our spaces, in our lives. It’s happening to our partners. It’s happening to our relatives. It’s happening to our daughters, to our sisters. So whenever she’s not around, you get worried.
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Where is she, what’s happening, is she safe wherever she is? When she comes crying, or not feeling well, you start to panic. So it affects us, and it’s exhausting.
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But to some men, actually, I think they feel like it’s they are in control. Because I think all this is all about putting women under control. So they feel like they are in control of the situation. So it affects negatively, whether it makes them feel good or bad. But in the end of the day, it affects men negatively.
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I’m a husband. And it once happened that one of my female cousins, she was raped in front of me. I think it was 1997. So that is something that every time when I think of women’s safety, I start actually zooming into my own space. Before thinking about people out there. That what if it happens to my daughter? What if it happens to my sister? What if it happens to my wife? Because I saw this happening. My cousin when she was raped in front of me, and I couldn’t help her. And from that day, I decided that to actually stand against any form of violence.
TRIGGER WARNING: the content in the video discusses rape and sexual violence and may be triggering to some learners. Feel free to skip this video step if this may affect you.

You will watch an interview with Vusi Cebekhulu, training coordinator at the South African NGO Sonke Gender justice. Through this interview you explore violence and gender inequality in Zimbabwe. You will get insight into how this is shaped by perspectives on femininity and masculinity.

In watching the interview you can note down your thoughts on the following questions:

  • How is the idea of what a good woman is shaped by the normalization of violence in female / male relationships?
  • What does Vusi explain about the double (paradoxical) experiences and roles that men have in relation to Gender Based Violence?
  • How is Vusi’s motivation to challenge and transform gender inequality and gender based violence shaped by his own experiences?
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