I don’t want a Brenda Fassie for a wife

Date: January 1, 1970
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The story is about an older man complaining about the behaviour of his young wife. He says that his wife who recently signed a recording deal will not have time to take care of their baby since she will be on the road most of the time promoting her album. Further states that he wants his wife and not a nanny to raise their child. The man states that knowing his wife, she is capable of seeing other men behind his back.

This article may be used in training to:
1)      Show an example of gender blind media articles.
2)      How women are often subjects who are not heard in most media products.
3)      How media denies women the right to respond/comment on issues affecting them.
4)      How some media have given men the role of pronouncing women’s ‘space’ in society?
5)      Show how men are often the voice of authority in media.
Trainer’s notes
The story is told from the man’s (Mandla Mthembu) perspective and his wife, Khanyisile Mbau, as she is referred to in the article, is not given the right of response. She is spoken for when she could have been easily sourced for comment. This is a form of gender blind media reporting which allows news to be told by men. This article is just a narration of what the old man said about his wife with no analysis at all.
The story raises fundamental questions about the role of men in raising their children. This comes out in the way that the husband does not seem to realise that he also has a role to take care of his children, a responsibility that he seems to think is solely his wife’s, or another woman’s. He says he wants his wife to raise their baby. The article does not even question what his role is in the whole picture of things.
The man seems to think that raising children is more important that his wife’s musical career because he says the new record deal signed means that she will always be on the road promoting her album thereby neglecting their baby. This article insinuates that Brenda Fassie, a late South African female musician, was not a good woman as Mandla does not want his wife to be like her. This is a subtle form of gender stereotyping that sees successful women artists as immoral and loose.
Discussion Questions:
1)                 How do you think the tone of the article would change if the characters were switched. i.e. an older woman complaining about her younger husband?
2)                 How newsworthy do you think ‘celebrity scandal’ stories like this really are? What purpose do they serve and why do tabloids report so often on them?
Training exercises
1)      Divide the participants into three groups and give them the article to read. Give the three groups a list of questions to consider as they read. Ask a representative from the three groups to present what they think of the article.
a)     How else could the article have been written to make it more meaningful?
b)     What do you understand by the phrase ‘gender blind’?
c)      Do you think it is right for women who have small children to stay out late at night?
d)     What role do you think men should play in the raising of their children?
2)      Divide the participants into small groups and ask them to come up with new angles from which to report this story. Ask them to try looking for an angle that tells the story in a less sensational, less sexist, and more balanced way.
Links to other training resources

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