Generally, I treat columns like Mondli Makahanya’s “Has SA Broken Its Funny Bone,” in today’s City Press (16 August 2015) with as much respect as I treat a News24 comments section.
What person chooses to engage with outdated, tone-deaf howlings? But chalking it up to having seen this on the front page of a national newspaper at 5am buying painkillers; I stumbled, bought the paper, and turned to that exact page.
As he explains, the debacle - or BicGATE as the internet has dubbed it - was fueled by “politcally correct fascists” who “while the rest of us are getting on with life, they are busy looking for opportunities to kill the joy.”
I could spend the rest of this blog explaining the myriad ways in which Makhanya’s wails of woe are wrong. But that would be a waste of my time. Firstly, and as always, Google is full and free, ready to educate him. But beyond that, in the column by Grethe Koen, printed just above his, there’s a very good explanation why this campaign was so wrong.
As one of these “politically correct fascists” I did however find his opinion that the inferiority of this ad rested solely on its bastardisation of the movie “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” curious. One should note that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” was pilloried for its misogynistic messaging. This, of course, is to say nothing of the fact that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” was based off an equally pilloried book by Steve Harvey.
Facts Makhanya seems to know naught about.
Makhanya writes that stereotypes “are the staple of jokes that we tell about and to each other.” He says, “they have been here since time immemorial and no social gathering is complete without them.”
Before writing this, Makhanya opens his column with paragraphs of stereotypes.
I can’t speak for his social circle, but when me and my friends meet, we’re able to joke and laugh without referencing, money-grubbing Jews, duplicitous Xhosas, violent Zulus, Golf GTI loving and cunning Indians, or stupid and alcoholic Coloureds, to reel back some of his examples.
My friends and I don’t rely on these stereotypes to entertain ourselves. In fact, I’d say neither do “mentally healthy societies;” the very societies Makhanya believes are imperiled by “politcally correct facsists” such as me and my friends.
To be fair, it’s not Makhanya’s fault that he thinks ads that say women must be like men or look like girls to be successful are acceptable. That is down to society. That’s what him and the thousands of other South Africans who agree with him have been taught.
But, from gay people being unnatural to women being unfit for the workforce, history is littered with countless stereotypes that society at one time saw as normal, but it today rejects.
Where Makhanya failed is not realising that what he has always thought of as normal and acceptable may not be so. Because he failed to stop and interrogate his views, while listening to the complaints of others, Makhanya turned himself into a tone-deaf howling parody of a News24 comments section. Makhanya’s lack of introspection made him into just yet another old man sorely out of touch and confused by current times and cultural norms.
Instead of worrying that all this politically correct fascism will turn us into a “dull and dour people,” as he writes, I’d caution Makhanya to look at whether, just perhaps, maybe he’s the one who is dull and dour.