Wed Oct 26 09:36:55 SAST 2016

The country - all of us - have failed doughty Banyana

By unknown | Dec 01, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

I was going to write about how the South African Football Association failed Banyana Banyana who on Saturday lost 2-1 in the African Women's Championship final against Equatorial Guinea in Malabo.

I was going to write about how the South African Football Association failed Banyana Banyana who on Saturday lost 2-1 in the African Women's Championship final against Equatorial Guinea in Malabo.

It was a sterling effort. No less because it came against support from head office, with Safa chief executive Raymond Hack admitting they were surprised that the team had gone that far.

But pointing fingers at Safa and perhaps at the SABC for not showing the matches live or "delayed live" would have been an easy exercise.

All of us have failed Banyana. Even Sowetan, which as far as I could tell was one of only two mainstream papers that had the Banyana story, is not guiltless.

Many of us who make the decision about what goes into this paper and what stays out, were unaware that the competition was going on and that the team had fared this well.

Hack last week said there would be no cash incentives for Banyana because pride was more important when playing for your country.

Yesterday, Sunday World reported that their male counterparts stood to make R500000 each if they won the Confederations Cup. One can only wonder why men cannot just play for the same prestige.

I should not have been surprised. Banyana-Banyana are the embodiment of how we treat women in our society.

Like individual women among us, Banyana succeeded in spite of the men and not because of the support they got from us.

If a men's football team had reached the finals of a major tournament we would not have relied on wire copy for stories. We would have sent a reporter.

Earlier this year sponsors fell all over themselves inviting clients and journalists to the Cup of Nations finals in Ghana.

Yet, there was not a murmur about this fine achievement.

You might not call it a patriarchy but the sad truth is that it is still a men's world.

Even as they achieved, there remained constant referrals to how the members of the team looked or about their sexual orientation.

Nobody ever worries about the sexual orientation of Ronaldo or Eto'o. Sure, I know of one or two women who believe Thierry Henry is "to die for", but that is generally left at that.

At any rate, I feel that using "looking like a man" as shorthand for saying someone is ugly is an affront. Who said men were ugly by definition?

The universe, in its infinite wisdom, decreed that Banyana would reach these levels when newspapers and the country have gone gaga over the 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse.

But I am inclined to believe that we are all putting up an act. We are part of this project because it is politically incorrect to be seen not to support it.

We still laugh at "jokes" such as: "What do you say to a woman with two black eyes - nothing, you have already spoken twice."

It is still common to hear men say that iyaphela i16days (the 16 days are coming to an end). Implicit in that is that the "moratorium" on beating up women will be lifted and it is a return to "normalcy".

The idea, as I understood it, was not only that we refrain from physically hurting women and children during these days, but that we remember that women are no less human and therefore deserve the same dignity as any other person. Being polite to them for just over a fortnight of every year does not necessarily translate into understanding this fundamental.

Banyana's success and our failure also remind us of how we still don't have enough women in decision-making positions at newspapers.

The excuse that we don't carry Banyana because nobody cares about them rings hollow. The media plays a big role in determining what is important. If we decided that Banyana were important, then so it would be.

So the sooner we say gender justice is not an optional extra, but a direct dividend of the struggle for freedom, the better.


Login OR Join up TO COMMENT