20th Mar2017

Gender and Sexuality Issues Under the Political Lens

by admin

Gender inequality and discrimination based on sexuality have always been issues that have brought with them pertinent discussions and debates. A lot of “important people” debate and deliver speeches about issues on social media platforms; however, the truth is we have never really seen any of these problems being practically addressed. We live in a country where equality and fairness are always encouraged; the representation of all people is something that is highly emphasised. However, this does not reflect the reality for most people. Please note that this article is based on my own personal views and opinions and I do stand to be corrected.

For years we have been about feminism this and feminism that. And I say “we” because I, myself have been a part of those who have considered themselves a feminist without really taking into account the conditions under which feminism exists in this country. After attending the Feminism Indibano organised by SASCO Wits (credit ought to be given to the speakers) I have come to believe that feminism is not only about our social stance; it is also about how our political institutions have a bigger role in reinforcing what the social institutions preach. The social hierarchy pyramid places us black women at the very bottom, with black men right above us. This means that black women have three privileged groups “oppressing” them. For years, non-feminist have not understood the fuss around being “equal” has been about; and have went on complaining about how black women want to be “equal” to men. The truth is that WE DON’T AND HAVE NEVER WANTED TO BE THE SAME AS, AND EQUAL TO, these other groups. Why be equal to a black man who is oppressed on the basis of his race? Why be equal to a white woman, when her gender disadvantages her? And why be equal to a white man who has the ultimate power over our lives and could oppress us at any given time? However, this is a story for another day.

The main issue at hand is, how are our political institutions addressing sexuality inequality and discrimination? As much as we have a women’s league in South Africa, what has its role been in ensuring that women are well represented in state government? Of all the premiers in the current cabinet only one is female. This brings forth the question about what the state is saying about its faith in women leadership and its stance on the patriarchs who constantly take feminist movements two steps back. The political field as a whole is held by men and is also driven by them. And as long as such issues are not reinforced in the one “field” that practically runs everything issues of such importance will never be adequately addressed.

Coming to the representation of sexuality in our country, well, this has been a dismal fail. This is despite there being a youth league that is supposed to be representing the young people as well as ensuring the problems the youth are encountering are addressed by the national government. We are facing a difficult time of being discriminated against on the grounds of our sexuality. We are facing high rates of unemployment. And as students, we are faced with the challenge of high university fees whilst we are making the call for free decolonised education. How is our youth league attempting to address such? We ought to have a division in the youth league which will be mainly run by people who know the struggles which come with being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (part of the LGBT community). We may all be young people; however, we do not all face the same daily challenges. It is for this reason that I believe that political institutions should be inclusive and regularly address issues related to those of genders/sexuality regardless of economic status. And as much as we would like to mostly focus on women, we cannot ignore the fact that there are “men” who identify as women and “women” who identify as men. Thus, we have to consider the discrimination that comes with that identification. Politics practically run this world, and if issues of such importance cannot be addressed using politics, then clearly equality will never exist.

Please do excuse the lack of academic language in this article, but I do hope it provokes thoughts and questions about what role the political arena is, and should, be playing in creating a gender/sexuality inclusive environment in the country.


01st Aug2012

DC reveals new gay comic-book character

by admin

When publisher DC Comics revealed they’d be replacing some of the less popular New 52 titles such as Hawk and Dove and Men of War with titles such as Dial H, World’s Finest and Earth 2, there was more excitement than disappointment from comic book fans around the world. Excited by the prospect of a comic set in a parallel universe, I hopped right on that train and bought the first issue of Earth 2. A brilliant debut, issue #1 saw a great change in current storylines taking place in the DC Universe, The writing and art were superb and most readers have also decided to stick with the series. Earth 2 is set in a parallel universe, which is to say that it is a universe not unlike our own but where the course of History has been greatly altered. Parallel universes allow comic book writers and readers to explore the “What if’s” – such as “What if Hitler had won World War 2?” or “What if segregational laws were still enforced in countries like America or South Africa?”. Such questions often highlight the great possibilities we have been allowed over the years and how fortunate we really are.

Earth 2’s parallel universe, however, has little to do with the events of our own world but rather results in a climax in which Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman all die within issue #1, whereas in DC’s ‘Earth 1’, they are all very much alive. Their deaths allow for a new group of characters to take up the mantle as ‘superhero’, one of them being Alan Scott. Remember that movie we all saw last year with Ryan Reynolds? It was called Green Lantern? Well, Alan Scott is one of those guys. A popular comic book character since the 1940s, Scott has always been a hetero-sexual favourite amongst fans, married and with a family of his own. He has served as the embodiment of America’s family man. Now, he’s been re-introduced in Earth 2 as someone else entirely: a gay entrepreneur who proposes to his partner in issue #2. This came as a surprise to almost all comic book fans, considering that when DC hinted at outing a popular character, many fans thought that Bruce Wayne was the one who was coming out of the closet. But nobody thought it would be Alan Scott, one of DC’s longest standing ‘family man’ figures.

So, why has DC decided to take a family man who has been around for more than 60 years and turn him into a gay icon? Was there even a need for it? There are many homosexual characters in the comic-book industry, so what point was DC trying to make? Were they trying to match Marvel’s outlandish same-sex wedding special by outing a character in the same month? Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the idea of introducing homosexual comic book characters, but why would DC take a hero who has been around for so long, with an established storyline, only to scrap his entire history and reinvent him as something else entirely? What would Alan Scott’s original creators have to say? And considering that Alan Scott has very little in common with his old self, why couldn’t they just invent a new hero? Of course it’s because it is far more outrageous to re-introduce an already-known character as gay, but then why not opt for a hero who wasn’t originally known to be married with kids? The introduction of Alan Scott as a homosexual in Earth 2 seems to be more of an act of conformity than one of statement on DC’s part. It’s as though DC is compromising the integrity of some of their characters to conform to the pressures of the audience: either they felt as though the audience wanted to see more homosexual superheroes, or they felt as though they could increase their audience and appeal to new members by introducing a popular character as gay. I feel as though it is the latter, as very few comic-book readers saw the purpose of Scott’s revelation. Which really leads me to my question and the purpose of this article: is the media conforming to the audience, or is it there to attract an audience? Because although I’d like to believe they care about what the audience wants, I feel as though they place money first on this one!

Danielle Geyer is a second year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and an active blogger. Find out more about Earth 2 and other comics on her blog: http://www.danigeyer.tumblr.com.


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