Response to Wellington Musapenda’s Sexist cartoon


After Wellington Musapenda published his cartoon in the Chronicle we sent it out to some of our readers for their comments as there was much outrage on social media and here were some of their responses. You can read the article here

This is very divisive and amounts to possible tribalism.It is also very patriarchal and exposes the vices of capitalism owed to the modern buildings in the back ground. It also suggests unemployability of Ndebele women. There are no men in the picture so it implies women are the ones that drive prostitution. Says Ndebele women are immoral and Shona women are not. Its an attack on a certain age bracket of Ndebele women. One of the dresses has a slit right up the thigh that in general Zimbabwe dress culture, is too revealing besides, the cartoonist is Shona. His suspension is justified given boiling ethnic temperatures and the editor should be suspended as well. If what he posits is true he does not address its root causes.He proposes no solutions either which presents a situation of cultural superiority of the Shona over the Ndebele.

I hope the production of this cartoon leads to a debate where matters are addressed; ie why do Matabeleland kids fail..? And if it holds true that the rest of Zimbabwe kids pass.What about Ndebele kids at school in Shona areas? What about matters of family structure and discipline. Funding of schools. If I were a policy maker I would want answers. Hermeneutics – each person bringing their own baggage from their own experience or cultural perspective, from your audience reception you will get different results. The author is the only one who can enlighten us on the intended context. Its only from there we one can find out if ones reading of that text is hegemonic i.e as intended, negotiated i.e not quite as the author intended or oppositional i.e way off the mark.

The truth of the matter is; education has long lost its value in Zimbabwe’s society. The younger generation has grown up with unemployed uncles, unemployed sisters and brothers who have degrees & straight A report cards. This cartoon doesn’t just potray Matebeleland but Zimbabwe as a whole. Our parents still STRONGLY believe in the education system. We (born free adolecence) have lost faith in it, because we haven’t seen the fruits promised to us. Musapenda does not need to apologise to anyone for Zimbabwe’s growing social-decay. Education hasn’t lost its value, due to corruption and massive unemployment.

First thoughts — nothing outrageous. But you have to take into account an artists job is to stir emotion. So my presumption is that this is done purely in context. Results versus the benefits, vs being pretty and the benefits. What it does though is blanket the midlands and Matebeleland as a whole including males because it does not identify gender in the results so a man and woman would have been appropriate characters. This makes the cartoon sexist in nature at some level. If this is the reason women don’t do well what about men? Art is up to interpretation and I guess artists have to have that in mind.

These ladies maybe teachers in those provinces and want to comfort themselves about how badly they performed, trying to bring out that exam pass rates aren’t sufficient or adequate to bring out what schools can do. There are other extra curriculum activities like sports, choirs, traditional dances which don’t appear as pass rates. So they are highlighting that the story is one sided. The cartoon may also depict a generation of young persons in those two provinces who don’t take their studies seriously, it looks like they started adult life whilst at school and have an alternative to education. They don’t care anymore about excelling in their studies because they have lost faith in the education system and don’t think their success in life hinges on education. Their dressing shows that they now have faith in the use of their bodies for a living. Its a sign that the two provinces are lacking in either quality education or good motivation to study for school going children their demotivation could be coming from seeing their parents coming home after job loses due to company closures.

In a way they are saying it okay to do prostitution. Its now accepted in society. Any chick that doesn’t do well in school will know what route to take, even by catching a rich older man its also a form of prostitution. I don’t think its sexist, but then again I’m a guy and we rarely scream out sexism. As for tribalism, you might not be from Matebeleland or Midlands if you school there. Then again I’m not from any of those mentioned areas. Us Shona, especially men seem to be insensitive to sexism and tribalism. I get a lot of abuse in Harare about being a Manyika (samaz). But it doesn’t bother me, I like being different.

It’s attacking Midlands State University female students, they are known for their immorality. On the other hand most prostitutes in the avenues or a good number of them are form Matebeleland. It’s all debatable, I must say but I think the cartoonist stretched his humour too far. At the same time it has an element of truth in it. Maybe insensitive to the plight of people who have become victims or been reduced by economic hardships. The subject depicted is a summary of so many things which are true. It’s a good piece from a critical point but society expects such people to be sensitive and not too harsh.

Remember the First Lady said Ndebele men were only good at making babies, then the president said the men were lazy and shunned education only to go to South Afrika and return with bikes. Then he also had the famous ‘it’s the uneducated Kalangas’ reacting to reports that xenophobic attacks in South Afrika were driven by Zimbabweans. My personal take on this cartoon is that the artist was trying to use his artistic freedom and license to show the situation and resignation of the people in the region. Rather than mock the people of Matabeleland.

I think he actually pronounced very eloquently an issue that is contentious in the region and what the highest office and family of the country feels. Those castigating him and suspending him, do not get this obviously. For me it’s like Musapenda with this cartoon is saying “Let them say all they want Thembi, after all they claim we are good at ONE thing only” this one thing being sex – remember the president and first lady’s utterances.

The short dresses. Handbag for work money and them heels. A headline is showing us these women do stuff that doesn’t need academic brains and the artists impression of those women clearly depicts what they are into. If it was something else they would be dressed different and probably have a man there too. Prostitution being mostly a women profession.

Its playing on the whole women don’t need to be educated or academically successful to get ahead. No need to be independently accomplished. You can use your body and snag a man to give you what you cant earn. It offends me. At the same time I know there is a bunch of women out there who live like that and plan their lives like that. Some out of aversion to the work required, some because its just enjoyable and some out of necessity. So I can’t be outraged on behalf of all women. Just myself and out of my personal sensibilities. Makes me think about the sexual politics of modern society and sigh.

How Musapenda manages to be tribalist and gender insensitive in one go is truly astounding. But then again we’ve become a people so low on self confidence & so accustomed to self depreciation that failure & suffering have become the new normal. More & more people find it difficult to expect better for themselves or demand better from their leaders. Musapenda in many ways echoes this & perhaps his suspension is hopefully an important small step towards refusing this hate filled & negative portrayal of who we are as a people.

So he was suspended from work? Tight! I think sits punishment enough, its not an off with his head moment. He does probably need to rethink the sexism and gender a bit  but I think its hypocritical for people to be upset when they sit there proud that their daughters are super pretty and hence can snag a wealthy guy who can take care of him. If we have a problem with that type of thinking then lets have a problem period. Not just when its not inconvenient. How many will refuse money when its waved in your face? Many people in Zimbabwe let their daughters be wooed by married men with money not even undercover. he even brings them groceries buying stuff for the whole family and paying fees for the little siblings

I think this lack of respect, careless talk by our leadership will lead to tribal divisions, attacks. It’s not expected of people of their stature. But then again, ours have stooped so low. And for the cartoonist to be suspended argh man even some decisions are being made at the dinner table! For what? For simply putting into picture what had already been said. Come on!

So this cartoon says these two young ladies didn’t do well at school but they are bragging that they’re good at (judging from their clothes) partying, having a good time out and (I’m assuming) being loose, attracting men etc. Sad choice of images on the cartoonist’s part. But I’d like to have seen the article that ‘inspired’ this coz it would have to be equally offensive I’m sure. For example, does the article mention what the young men of the provinces are also resorting to or what behaviour has led THEM to perform badly in school? For me, the cartoon is a visual interpretation of what is written in the paper and upon seeing the cartoon I am intrigued to find the story its linked with.

How come the cartoonist is suspended when its the editor who gets to decide what goes into the paper and what doesn’t? The whole editorial team needs to be investigated, including the writer of the article linked to this cartoon because yes in isolation the cartoonist looks like THE bad guy, but he didn’t put the newspaper together by himself, did he? I know as a woman and a feminist I should be calling for his head on a platter, but in this case I don’t know if his thoughts were his own.

I tried not to look at this particular one as tribalist though, because Midlands was also mentioned here so its not specifically Ndebeles who are targeted here and it came from the Chronicle – a Matebeleland publication. If it had been done by The Herald then it would be different but sexism is what I picked up immediately, because they didnt say “Girls had the worst results” (unless the article itself also says it).

Generally, some women believe that if education fails they can always thrive through other means. Which, in this case, is their looks. Some won’t even give education a chance, they just dive straight into their looks, hoping that they will open up opportunities. Politically, ZANU PF government is accused of neglecting the Matebeleland region hence the poor academic results.

Cartoonist are just like journalists and they have a way of telling a story. We all know somehow that before a newspaper is released that it has to go through someone for approval. So whose fault is it if his cartoon evokes emotions the truth is talking from a personal point of view. Original statements from cartoonist can be changed to suit the latest story before being published and such changes can be a generic cartoon where you can place any headline for it to become the latest news fresh from the source.

Musapenda is a name we all know from the paper through his signature and he has become a subject because of this. Don’t be fooled Musapenda is just doing his job and he is getting paid to do what they want him to cartoon and sometimes he is free to illustrate any situation as he sees fit.

Hmm is this a stereotype for Ndebele women or all women? Because this seems like its alluding to women’s highest potential as sexualised beings. If we can’t be smart there’s always the vag**a as plan b. Absolutely pathetic. How come women always have their power negotiated with the needs of men? Men are powerful because they are. As women we have to debate about that all the time the pen*s being point of reference of course. So I guess it conveys the girls are not concerned about academics. As they have other “Ass”ets to help them along?

I see two beautiful ladies that look like they are doing well. I think the reason there is a worst pass rate in the case of these ladies. Maybe ladies in these areas have found other ways of making a living other than from getting an education e.g. prostitution, or getting rich men to marry them. Or excelling in other areas may mean trying to beautify themselves as to be attractive to men e.g. the curves, weaves, clothes.

They have handbags, these are probably bags with stuff they move around with i.e. consignments, drugs, or other stuff that brings quick money. And also since they are ladies in the cartoon, and Matebeleland and Midlands are known for beautiful girls, it could mean their excelling is coming from producing beautiful girls in the country.

Oh my God! Who published this?!. Why in 2016 are people still so tribalistic? Aren’t we all suffering the same. Whoever drew this and published it should be arrested. This is hate speech! Im shocked. No wonder there are secessionists. I’d want a separate country too if this was the sort of blatant tribal bulls**t that was being in the media. The editor and cartoonist should be fired, then driven into the street to be tarred and feathered. It’s bulls**t. Maybe even shot for being enemies of the state. His suspension is not enough!

A demeaning sketch about young women and perhaps how they’re broadly viewed in the community. If the editor approved such a sketch, then perhaps there is some truth to it. As a newspaper typically tries to reflect/represent what people are talking/curious about. It’s not funny to me, I would say the artist is reaching. A cartoon needs to be witty and provoke thought, this illustration is lazy and unimaginative.

The artist is emphasizing booty with no brains, they fail in school and make up with looks, in other words their gifts are physical. No I am not offended by it because its just satire, Comedy, Just fun. Artists though make the harshest truth

Well I have some background information on MSU. Some very negative stuff. My views given the information I have about MSU students will differ from the view I’d have without the information. Well MSU female students are notorious for engaging with men that are a lot older than them. These men usually give these girls money in exchange for their services. Many sex videos of MSU students have made their rounds on social media. Given this information, when I looked at the cartoon that you posted, I wasn’t offended or anything.

I simply thought that it’s in line with what these students are known for. Instead of focusing on their education, they choose to focus on the things that I mentioned. Looking at this cartoon from the perspective of someone without this background knowledge, I would actually be quite offended. Women excel with their bodily assets. This is what it’s implying. Yes it’s saying that the girls from Matabeleland are the ones who are like this. Which is rather crazy and narrow minded in my opinion.

Women dressed suggestively in local cartoons usually mean whores so this cartoon implies that kids in those areas excel more in sex

High rate of female student drop outs in tertiary institutions and they are opting to sell their bodies because of poverty. No it doesn’t offend me, It’s stating what the current situation is.

Ahhh why suspend him? Even though I get what message he is trying to send, and perhaps who is trying to attack, I hate that his cartoon undermines women in the process. Couldn’t people use men, undermine men in their examples for a change? I’m tired of all the negative representation of women everywhere as if there is nothing positive women ever do in Africa.

That these women “know” they are not smart and make money from their bodies or that they are beautiful but not smart. I think it is both sexist and tribalist BUT if it is based on a true headline i.e the worst results then the cartoonist may have thought of it differently. Like saying but our women are hot. Clive Chigubu has a joke where he disses Shona women. He calls us ugly but we laugh at it. Isn’t a cartoon supposed to be a joke?

I think the ladies are comforting each other that despite their provinces coming out with bad educational results they’re better at other things like seducing people at offices seeing the way they’re dressed they seem like working class but that uses beauty to get what they want, judging from their dress and grooming. Yes women are dressing like that but you’ll never walk into an office to find a woman at the reception with a boob tube. They’re just too revealing for the office. Yes he didn’t deserve to be suspended, he’s a cartoonist hellooo! I think if people are angry at jokes then there’s as element of truth in it, its just a joke.

He was playing on the stereotype that women from the southern part of the country are beautiful but of loose morals. Hence life goes on despite failing exams.

This cartoonist is insinuating that girls who sell sex for a living are more in Midlands & Matebeleland. It may also be saying girls that care much about sex appeal are in the same province and care less about academics. Though this satire may sound cruel it may be true. However it’s likely to face a storm from feminist and turn into a gender debate. The artist however has been genius in that he didn’t say any of the first things that come to mind so the bearer of the information is given whitespace to draw conclusions. – McPotar

Read the Article The Case of Wellington Musapenda and freedom of expression