I woke up from surgery last Thursday to an SMS that sent a bullet searing through my soul. By now, the news of African-American film maker Andrew P Jones shooting himself after attempting to murder his South African wife Kubeshni Govender, from whom he had been separated for almost a year, has spread across the country.
Andrew had been updating the Gender Links video, “Making every voice count” during the just ended Gender and Media Summit. Kubeshni was a founding Board Member of Gender Links. Indeed, she is the creative mind that ten years ago rescued me at a low point in my career and said: “Start a new organisation. Call it Gender Links.”
For the last week I have felt at a loss, as a gender activist who has written often, from a distance, on femicide. This is a fairly typical case: man kills or attempts to kill his partner or ex-partner, then kills himself. But when this tragedy hit so close to home it made me think about the harshness with which we often judge the men we do not know, who are unable to find ways of dealing with their emotions.
I knew Andrew as a doting, loving husband and father. We grew together in many ways putting together GL’s first DVD based on our Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) which showed that across Southern Africa women constituted a mere 17% of news sources (19% in South Africa).
We started a simple campaign: If women constitute half the population, they deserve to be heard in equal strength to their numbers, we argued. We also took issue with the way that women are frequently portrayed as mere objects for men’s pleasure, sparking a spirited debate with our “Strip the Back Page” campaign.
A journalist by training, Andrew constantly asked the difficult questions about freedom of expression and the right of those women who choose to market their bodies to do so versus the messages that this sends out about the role of women in society. I argued that if the playing field were equal, women would have many more choices of profession, and their right to sexy male images equally marketed. Every time we saw an image of a woman I would say: “let’s try putting a man in that role and see what the effect would be.”
We made our video; showed it across Southern Africa; and seven years later conducted the Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) showing that across the region the proportion of women sources has gone up by a mere two percent (one percent in South Africa, to 20%). Back pages still abound. In South Africa under President Jacob Zuma, women get married three at time or have food served off their bodies at lavish parties. We don’t have to go to Planet Hollywood for titillating pictures. They are in the next door hotel.
When GL invited expressions of interest for updating the video, I cast my vote for Andrew Jones’ Black Earth Communications because I wanted an intelligent film maker who would go on asking the difficult questions about why, despite all the rhetoric about gender equality, we seem constantly to slip backwards.
Our paths had intersected a few times in the intervening years, for example when Andrew was making a film on care work for a sister organisation. Andrew gave me a present at the time, a book on what Barack Obama’s rise had meant to him as an African American, sub titled “Diary of a Mad Black Voter.”
In that he recalled a time when my Ghanaian husband and I loaned him money (that he faithfully repaid) to get out of jail during a visit to the US when he was incarcerated in some crazy mix up of the sort that only happens to black men in the US. I had forgotten about the incident, but the fact that he thought to write and thank us so many years later spoke of a deep and thoughtful person.
About a year ago, Cochise Jones, 10, hit the headlines when he won an award from the City of Johannesburg for saving his younger brother through mouth to mouth resuscitation after the toddler fell in the swimming pool, using knowledge gleaned from a book on the family coffee table. Cochise is Andrew and Kubeshni’s oldest son.
During a brief interlude at the Summit I commented to Andrew that they must be so proud of Cochise. He responded: “Isn’t it ironic that this divine intervention ripped my family apart; it tore the heart out of my family; nothing has ever been the same.” I remember saying to my husband at the Gender and Media Awards: “Andrew is a broken man.” Little did I know the meaning of these words!
At Andrew’s funeral his long time friend Kenny Walker quoted Maya Angelou: words to the effect that a black man in America would be crazy not to be angry. What she did not say, he reflected, is how anger – like hate – can be such a destructive emotion. Others who spoke at the funeral did not even try to understand what had happened, choosing instead to celebrate the love of a father, husband and son.
I went from the funeral to my laptop to edit more reports. It struck me that if we were doing media monitoring, Andrew’s obituary would be one more male source that would take us little closer to understanding the real workings of patriarchy. I made a mental note that we needed to do much more to reach out to men who are imprisoned by the emotions that society, for whatever reason, has never allowed them to process. And I gave a word of thanks for the life of Andrew Jones.
Colleen Lowe Morna is Executive Director of Gender Links. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news.
caso queriam saber mais acessem o site que é de onde eu retirei este artigo muito triste, e tão cotidiano.