Giving children a voice in the media

16 Days: ‘Boys are taught they have more power and authority than girls’

Almost every day, some form of abuse takes place and is never reported on or ever spoken about after that moment.

Between November 25 and December 10 we marked the 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children. During this time and beyond, we must really think about the behaviour of young boys towards girls that encourage abuse in our country.

Our society teaches boys to be the providers of the house and that they must be independent and not rely on women. So boys learn that they have more power and authority and grow up learning to control women and children. We certainly grow up with knowing that this is the “right way” to do things. We are taught to never have a soft heart. And that sometimes some women can be really “too comfortable” and start disrespecting you as a man and if such scenarios come up, the only thing to “keep her in line” is to “beat her up” and never feel pity.

In our surroundings women are seen as punching bags, personal domestic workers or sexual beings, which is a huge problem.

As the modern youth we also love pop and hip-hop music and some people would say that listening to it is just part of growing up as a child but it seems as if no one bothers to think about what is said in the lyrics of the songs that we listen to and how what we also see in the music videos that we watch gets sucked in our way of thinking like water in a sponge.

We are taught that women behave like what we see in music videos – often nude or locked in chains like dogs. It is also not hard to find sexist lyrics from popular songs like Aston Martin where famous rapper Drake says things like “I hate calling the women b****es, but the b*****es love it”, implying that women enjoy being disrespected. When we listen to music like hip-hop and kwaito, we learn certain abusive behaviours because the music industry doesn’t promote gender equality.

What we learn in society, we also tend to act on at school.

The way it happens is usually fast and quick and leaves the girl with no opportunity or evidence to report this to a teacher.

As boys we usually like standing around in the morning and whenever a girl passes by, a boy will first whistle to show that they like what they see, then the “cool guy” of the group will go up to her and spank her behind. The group will then praise him because only the “cool guy” can do that, and get away with it.

Boys tend to tease and make fun of certain girls that they are not attracted to and also behave in a violent manner towards them. My friends and I often see this and act like nothing has happened, as if this is normal. If a girl for instance also rejects a guy, he will have no problem forcing himself towards the girl.

Boys also do not have role models to show them how to treat women with dignity and respect. There are various examples of some of our peers who have seen gender-based violence at a young age including one who witnessed a relative beating up his wife and raping her in front of his six-year-old son while high on cocaine.

A lot of things will start happening as he grows up to be a man and there is a high chance that the boy might actually imitate the father’s actions.

The 16 days of activism should teach us to respect girls and women and treat them as we want our sisters to be treated. As boys, we need to stand up against violence inflicted on women and girls at an early age. Society, schools and the government need to extend 16 days of activism to everyday practice to highlight that sexual and physical abuse is not acceptable.

*This article was first published by City Press. 

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