Slut. Whore. Witch.
Words that are all seemingly okay to use in headlines. Words that will never be used to refer to a man but were recently used by numerous South African publications to refer to a grieving woman.
Before #NotSenzosDad became a thing, South Africa was pre-occupied with crucifying Kelly Khumalo. Her crime? Being one of the many women who unfortunately fell in love with a man that was already married to another woman.
Her celebrity status has made the private details of her life easily accessible. The internet has intensified the magnitude of this accessibility and at the center of it all, a young woman’s life is being torn to shreds by strangers.
A midst all the insults and numerous accusations, what people seem to have forgotten is that Senzo was the married one. He proposed to Mandisa, went through the motions, made vows and built a life with her. Nobody really knows what happened within the confines of their marriage but at the end of it all, Senzo ended up with Kelly.
Apart from the sketchy information available in the media, we will never really know who pursued whom or how Senzo related to both Mandisa and Kelly behind closed doors. So, why is it that Kelly is so easily demonised?
Kelly has also been slut-shamed for the fact that her children have different fathers. She fell in love with one man, had a child with him and they are no longer together. So she tried again. If she has another baby with another man, it still would not make her worthy of any kind of insult.
Khumalo is not the only woman who has suffered society’s wrath for getting involved with a married man. Simphiwe Dana, Monica Lewinsky, Kristen Stewart, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Khanyi Mbau and the girl that has been dubbed “the poster girl for side chicks” by Black Twitter: Karrueche Tran.
I, for one, do not know the names of most of the men linked to the women listed above – despite the fact that one of them is a major Hollywood director and the other is a renowned music producer. Bill Clinton and Chris Brown got away with slaps on their wrists when one considers the vitriol their female counterparts had to face.
If it takes two, why are the Kelly Khumalos of the world dragged to the town square of the information superhighway and stoned with social media posts in the same barbaric nature that society adopted prior to the information age?
Soraya Chemaly’s recent explanation in a discussion on Rape Culture on Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” offers some kind insight to why women are the ones that bear the brunt of everyone’s disapproval. “In the ‘he said’/’she said’ battle, ‘he said’ always has centuries of credibility tied to it,” Chemaly said.
In that same vain, the idea that men are never wrong has become a very pervasive one. Patriarchal ideals dictate that men are “just wired that way.” Various clichéd phrases exist to excuse the behaviour of men simply because they are men. “Boys will be boys.” “He’s a man, that’s what they do.” “A man has needs” and so forth.
As such, we as women are conditioned to accept their misdeeds through continual use of these statements and men have these excuses to fall back on in the event that they make a mistake. But, the minute a woman steps outside the boundaries assigned to her, the minute that she is born, she is branded with the scarlet letter and dragged to the town square.
I really do wish there was some thought-provoking and definitive conclusion that I could end off with. Instead, all I have left is one question: society, why do you still hate women so?
Follow me on Twitter: @Kay_Tatyana