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Will men survive the new South Africa?

by Vincent

As part of our occasional series on views of Male Psychology and masculinity around the world, psychology student, Vincent, tells us about men’s wellbeing in South Africa.

South Africans began the millennium full of hope and pride, having avoided a violent clash of cultures in 1994 with the ANC’s rise into political power in a previously white-controlled nation. Many men of all races laid down their arms and put their hatred to bed to accept the new age of peaceful integration under the noble but ageing shadow of Nelson Mandela.

These men fought for, or against, Apartheid, both convinced of the existential threat the other posed to their family’s future. No doubt that leaders, politicians and opportunists made good use of their willingness to die for these causes. The liberal class had spent the ’80s watching South Africa be vilified for its persistent racist policies. The ‘Rubicon’ speech in 1985 crushed the spirit of a mostly liberal nation because it removed hope that change could happen and that it could be peaceful. PW Botha, president at the time, began hopeful, talking about change but ultimately backtracked and denied South Africa an honourable transition to democracy.

As a young white Italian male, I witness the xenophobia endemic in Africa. It still plays a role in our culture. Tracing the origins of the antagonism between tribes, cultures and races in South Africa is a sad and ultimately futile endeavour. It seems to be in the soil. Yes, Apartheid divided us, but before them, it was the British Colonial System. Before that tribalism, and preceding that, it was down to droughts and fertile pastures, causing migration and battles for resources (Burman, 1981).

Here we are in 2021.

In a speech given during hard lockdown, South African men are targeted by the democratically elected leader Cyril Ramaphosa; “a war being waged against the women and children of our country”, he said on live TV. He refers to the sudden increase in Gender-Based Violence and rape, which occurred during the lockdowns.

It seems that to withhold alcohol from families living in poverty with little else to distract them from their suffering was a very bad idea. Regardless of how you argue the causes of violence, the scapegoat is the same: men.

I ask, have men not also borne the brunt of lockdowns? Have men in South Africa not paid the price for this new nation one way or another, only to be vilified by their president during a global pandemic? Is it not the same governing party’s policies that have caused the collapse of labour-related jobs for the majority who are unskilled men, leaving them powerless? (Bernstein, 2016).

Is male violence a cause or a symptom?

It is the goal of incompetent governments to find a scapegoat, to blame someone for their failures. Rather than question the rhetoric which is carefully strategized by the ‘command counsel’ of the ANC, we swallow it all. So, we deepen the crisis by ostracising and vilifying the men who could contribute to our growth. Under the modern ideology of intersectionality, the corrupt ‘struggle’ ANC veterans find common cause under Marxism’s shared banner. The children of anti-Apartheid liberal South Africans are urged to find new scapegoats to relinquish the generational guilt. Religion has been lost to this new generation. The ‘demons’ of yesteryear are now their fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, and husbands.

Are we not eating our own?

My experience with men from all over Africa is that they are deeply wounded by their inability to provide for their families. This helplessness leaves them crushed, leading to violence, crime and, significantly, the catastrophic suicide rate we see; three times higher than the UK.

I would encourage respectful masculinity revived from the proud heritage of a resilient continent. Traditions within Africa have sought to give young men rites of passage to adulthood; we can build on this to grow pride, honour and respect within the dynamics embedded in traditional culture. By addressing the needs of males rather than belittling them, by empowering the young father, by giving them self-respect through jobs, through appreciation, we open new versions of masculinity that have so far been denied the men of Africa.

“The temptation to become the vanguard of purity’ as has happened with Marxists, is very great but should be resisted to ensure our remaining in touch with the realities of ordinary people in their day to day struggles” (Ramphele, 1990).

About the author

Vincent is an adult psychology student in South Africa. He also owns a business for 20 years and is involved with his community. As a passionate creative, Vincent has chosen psychology to find expression for his view of the post-Aparthied South Africa and the problems faced by men in a post-conflict era. For three decades he has reflected his ideas through his art and is now finding a voice through the useful constructs of modern psychology. Vincent is married with no children by choice but is conscientious of the world that adolescents are seeing. You can engage with Vincent on twitter @Vincenz59109253

Bibliography

Burman, S. (1981). Creating a Nation. Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-04639-3_2

Gender Equality in South Africa. (2021). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from http://www.genderindex.org/country/south-africa

PW Botha gives the “Rubicon” Speech in Durban (2005). Retrieved 2 23, 2021, from sahistory.org.za: http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/pw-botha-gives-rubicon-speech-durban

Xenophobia: SA Army deployed in Alexandra, Durban. (2015). Retrieved 2 24, 2021, from http://www.biznews.com/undictated/2015/04/21/xenophobia-sa-army-deployed-in-alexandra-durban/

Bernstein. (2016, April 21). South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis the Worst in the World [Text]. NGO Pulse. http://www.ngopulse.org/article/2016/04/21/south-africas-unemployment-crisis-worst-world

https://www.timeslive.co.za/authors/tanya-farber. (2020). Shocking stats on gender-based violence during lockdown revealed. TimesLIVE. https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-09-01-shocking-stats-on-gender-based-violence-during-lockdown-revealed/

Ramaphosa on gender-based violence: ‘Their killers thought they could silence them but we will speak for them’ (2020). SowetanLIVE. https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/south-africa/2020-06-18-ramaphosa-on-gender-based-violence-their-killers-thought-they-could-silence-them-but-we-will-speak-for-them/

Ramphele, M. (1990). Do Women Help Perpetuate Sexism? A Bird’s Eye View From South Africa. Africa Today, 37(1), 7–17.

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New book: Perspectives in Male Psychology

  • Should we believe everything that we hear about men and masculinity?
  • What role do evolution, biology and culture play in men’s behaviour?
  • Do we tend to blame men for their health problems more than is reasonable?
  • What can be done to reduce male criminality?
  • How can the standard approach to men’s mental health be improved?
  • What does gender equality mean for men?

A new book on male psychology will be available in early 2021, authored by Louise Liddon and Dr John Barry, and published by Wiley.

In around 300 pages this book uses evidence from science to shed light to some of today’s heated issues around men and masculinity. A spectrum of the topics – including education, sport and the workplace – are explored, and questions answered.

You can pre-order the book here.

More information will be available soon. To hear updates on this and other news, sign up to the free newsletter

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How can you help men who are falsely accused of sexual abuse? Notes from the FASO helpline.

by Margaret Gardener

Picture: Margaret delivering a talk at University College London (UCL) on 28th Feb 2019 for the Male Psychology Network.

 

Let me ask you to do a thought experiment:

Have you ever considered the possibility that you could be arrested in your own home in front of your family and friends and neighbours, held in a police cell, interviewed under caution, charged and bailed or remanded to appear in court, when you haven’t actually done anything?

and

That your photograph, name and address, might appear in the local and national press and on TV, insinuating what an evil monster you are?

and

That having been released without charge or with all charges dropped, with your good name and integrity still intact (at least in the eyes of the law) you might be subjected to additional investigation by the social services and other agencies, where you may have no right of representation or comment?

and

That social services could force you to break off contact with your family and children?

and

Without proof, evidence, witnesses, or corroboration you could be convicted and sentenced to several years in prison when you haven’t actually done anything?

Having thought about, how would you feel now if one or more of the above scenarios really happened to you?

 

Empathy is key

When trying to understand the psychology of what the falsely accused feel, you have to firstly put yourself in their position. The first step to helping them is to try to understand how people that seek our support feel.

Some contact FASO regularly; others just occasionally. Some understandably feel they cannot cope and sadly feel suicidal. They tell us that sharing their stories with people who understand what they are going through can be cathartic, and they generally feel better because we know what they are going through.

Families who phone for support for those in this situation feel helpless. They tell us that their loved ones withdraw and won’t speak to anyone. They won’t go out, see a doctor, or take up opportunities for support.  The family member is often scared for the sanity of themselves and their loved ones, including children of course.  Children cry. They can’t understand why they can’t see the accused person. We all feel the huge stress that false accusations bring.

The accused person can experience a huge range of emotions and mental health issues: extreme stress; feeling that no-one will listen despite having to repeat themselves constantly; often having a shaky voice which leads to tears of anger, frustration. Crucially they feel utter disbelief: why would someone make such heinous yet untrue accusations?  Some of the thoughts we hear about are:

  • What made them make an allegation that I am such a monster? Where did such a thought come from?
  • My head is whirling; I feel sick; cannot concentrate; I can’t eat or sleep. I am collapsing and feel suicidal!
  • Where do I go? I won’t go out as friends might believe the allegations. Where/who do I turn to? I am isolated from everyone. I have nowhere to live!
  • My family is destroyed. My partner and children are crying for me as I am for them. 
  • Why is it taking so long to be investigated? How am I to manage in the court – what is it like? I don’t understand what the barrister and solicitor are saying. I can’t even get a lawyer as I can’t afford it. Why can’t all my evidence be used in court – I am told it is not allowed?

 

There is no euphoric feeling if a not guilty vote by the jury is returned

It often takes months/years of heartache, maybe losing the family, costing the earth, losing a job forever with the trauma still within the individual. “No, I cannot get on with life”, they say; “it will never be the same again”.

Note that the above issues are the reactions of those who are newly accused. The reactions of the falsely accused who are in prison is another matter. They have ongoing issues to deal with and more to come when they are released from prison.

FASO has been operating now for 17 years. We are volunteers without any funding. We can offer a sympathetic ear, but we can’t give desperate people the answers or practical support they want or need. We are not lawyers and cannot offer legal or counselling services. We can only perform a “sticking plaster” service of being a friendly, supportive ear and try to signpost people to other services that may be able to help. But those services are in very short supply in a broken criminal justice system. The UK government in 2000 estimated that there were around 120,000 false accusations annually. FASO sees just the tip of this very large iceberg, and the number of people who we cannot help is too overwhelming to contemplate.

 

About the author

Margaret Gardener is the founder of the False Allegations Support Organisation (FASO). Her presentation at UCL on this topic will be on the Male Psychology Youtube channel in early March 2019.

Margaret has a background in voluntary emergency nursing and prior to this a career in the civil service, serving abroad during this time, which helped to improve her communication skills. She was a registered foster carer for special needs teenagers and was catapulted through a family experience, as a volunteer, into the False Allegations Support Organisation in 2001. Her fist role at FASO was Secretarial, she then progressed to the helpline (using her empathy skills, and supporting callers in their distress). As the Director of FASO (UK) she addresses parliament and agencies both criminal and family through the medium of consultations and meetings, whilst liaising with Academia and like-minded groups. She addresses in part the issues of the hidden victims, both children/vulnerable adults and the accused parent/individual on safeguarding issues.

The FASO website, with helpline details, is http://www.false-allegations.org.uk/

Email: support@false-allegations.org.uk

Phone: 0844 335 1992

Monday to Friday, 18:00 to 22:00.

 

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