Saturday, 5 May 2012


by Malaika Wa Azania on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 6:49pm ·
The daughter of Sobukwe condemns with utmost contempt, the irresponsible and reckless behaviour of the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) in one of its posters advertising an upcoming car wash event. The poster by the YCL spits in the face of women emancipation struggles and reverses the gains that the National Democratic Revolution, the cornerstone of policy analysis in the Tripartite Alliance, has made thus far in addressing the gender question post-apartheid. The poster is not only degrading of women, it is the very expression of a patriarchal heteronormative matrix, where women are reduced to being servers of a masculine audience that is not visibilised.
The poster that I refer to is plastered all over Facebook and I assume, in print form. It reads: “YCL Presents: Red Car Wash”. On the top left side of the poster, a woman in a skimpy red bikini is shown slightly bent over, revealing her well-oiled buttocks, splashing water on a red automobile. The opposite side of the poster displays two women locked in a very sexual position, bending over a red car, splashing water all over it, with their hair vixen loose.  At the bottom left of the poster, details of the event are provided (The car wash is to take place on the 21st of April 2012 at the Sports Centre Parking. The province where this event is to take place is not indicated). But more troubling, is the image of Argentine-born revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara at the bottom of the poster just beneath the event details, in his famous image taken a few years before his assassination. This glib inclusion of one of the most courageous and globally respected liberation heroes on a poster that displays the objectification and dismemberment of women begs not only for the harshest condemnation from all of us, but it also pleads for a critical analysis on the YCL’s understanding of what “Che” stood for, fought for and ultimately, died for.
In an article found in volume 5 of UMSEBENZI ONLINE, dated 18 October 2006, the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Dr Blade Nzimande, correctly defines the aims of the National Democratic Revolution when he says: “The SACP has always understood and accepted that the very immediate objectives of the NDR - the liberation of Blacks in general and Africans in particular, and the building of a non-racial and non-sexist society - were important objectives in themselves”. I quote this position of the SACP (and indeed the alliance in its entirety) to illustrate how the YCL, a Marxist-Leninist youth wing of the SACP, in designing such a questionable poster, is betraying the very objectives that inform its existence. It is my understanding, vividly expressed in all its induction papers that the YCL stands for:

Non Racism


Equality (EMPHASIS)

The socialisation of the ownership and control of the means of production
The third point mentioned, that of equality, umbrellas equality not only in terms of society’s ownership of the country’s means of production, but also, the relationship between all fractions of the population, meaning men and women. It is an indication that the YCL stands for (or at least ought to) the annihilation of constructs that seek to draw a distinction between human-beings on the basis of gender, of race and of class position. It is a promise to seek a divine balance in a society that has been crippled by centuries of colonialist ideology, which has played a significant role in the normalisation and reinforcement of particular ideas about not just race and class, but gender and sexuality.
The decision of the YCL to use this poster to popularise an event operates from a heteropatriarchal foundation which reproduces human-made binaries of gender and even sexuality. Heteropatriarchy suggests an institutionalised system of male domination over women within a heteronormative society. The danger with this system is how it not only reproduces, but also legitimises the subjugation of women to a point where it is naturalised within cultural, social and economic spaces. It is precisely because of this that the poster that I am speaking of can be found on the Facebook profiles of female comrades, who see nothing wrong with the way women are objectified. To them, the only thing that is of importance is the event that the poster is advertising and the fact that it is hosted by their beloved organisation. Little attention is paid to the glaring distastefulness of the poster and the illustrations that are intended to emphasise the representation of women as hypersexual beings. For some reason that I fail to comprehend, women comrades of the YCL do not seem to realise that this representation of women as hypersexual is neither neutral nor innocent. This poster by the YCL deliberately positions women as performers for a male audience as a spectator. This heterofeminine exhibitionism is an indication of a very painful and disappointing reality: that the YCL, which prides itself on being the youth wing of the vanguard party of the working-class, the party that is tasked with leading the people of Azania on a road to Socialism, has fallen into the trap of women objectification and dismemberment as cemented by the media, religion and the ruling class ideology. It provides an insight, albeit a disturbing one, of how the dynamics of a patriarchal heteronormative society that finds itself engulfed by the constructs of gender, have found a home in an organisation that is tasked with obliterating these very constructs.
Young women who see posters such as the one designed by the YCL cannot help but view those women as a yardstick by which beauty and societal acceptance is measured. For this reason, the YCL must be made to understand that the sexualised portrayal of women has significantly negative outcomes, which affect all women in our society. Studies have shown how women’s objectification has the potential to result in depression, self-surveillance, body shame and disorderly eating tendencies in preadolescent females and those older.
In a country like Azania, where statistics indicate that a woman is raped every 26 minutes, we must never cease to condemn any attempt that contributes to the fostering of an environment in which the selling of women’s bodies, even for what could be defined as revolutionary causes, is seen as acceptable. We must never cease to fight for the annihilation of a system that legitimises the objectification of women, in favour of one where women are human, nothing less. In the words of former president of Burkina Faso, an Afrikanist Marxist and a true humanist, Thomas Isidore Sankara:
“Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them.”

Malaika wa Azania
Azanian Society of the Black, Bored and Broke (ASB3)

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