Reaction to Lillian Dube's "Short Skirts & G'Strings" comment

Following the sad passing of entertainment industry legend Joe Mafela, his friend and legend in her own right Mme Lillian Dube lambasted the industry for neglecting legends. Dube bemoaned that the industry glorifies "short skirts and g-strings" — I have an issue with that statement. 

I replied to Mrs Dube via my Twitter page but was quickly advised by Florence Masebe and Portia Gumede that my timing to touch on such an issue was inappropriate. I don't generally give in to self censorship but I admire these two women for being fearless and always speaking their mind... so I took down the post. To be honest, upon reflection, I do agree my choice of words were insensitive. 

However, I do believe the conversation needs to happen, that's why I feel now is an opportune time to address the issue. As many of you may have read or watched on television, a few industry veterans took to the podium at Mr Mafela's memorial service to call out the SABC and industry at large for exploiting and neglecting the rights of artists. Rightly so, in part ... but I digress. 

For this post, so not to write a long essay, I will debate Mme Dube's highly publicised comments. In her reported rant, Mme Dube is quoted as having said; 
"There are no such thing as medical aid and pension funds in the industry. When you are no longer popular or needed by the industry you are often left out on your own. The industry does not look after its own," 
"How can the industry celebrate short skirts and g-strings while we have legends like Joe Mafela? The focus is not on the right things. These are people who are pioneers and who have set the trail for many South African artists,"
I wholeheartedly agree with the first part of her statement. However, I take serious issue with the last part. To reduce our young performers to labels that sexualise their craft is unfortunate. Not only is it inappropriate, it is also sexist. 

I can understand Mme Dube's frustration that she is not getting her dues. But let's be honest here; that does not give her the right to demean the talent and hard work of many young women who toil in this industry to get their moment. 

To insinuate that the only way these young women are getting recognition and opportunities is because of their sexuality is wrong. Of course couch-casting exists but that is not the only way women get jobs in this business. Many have proven their worth and have deservedly received accolades and praise.  With all due respect to Mme Dube, someone has to call her out on this. 

Even the issue of neglect has to be looked at from both sides. For industry legends to be part of the growth of this business, they have to be involved. I am sorry to Mme Dube but you dont always have to be invited to a revolution. 

Mr Mafela was called a hero, rightly so for his contribution to the industry in the decades he blessed us with his talent. But let us be honest, where was he when the Generations 15 were fired and needed the voices of people of his stature? Instead Mr Mafela ignored the plight of actors to put the SABC and Morula Pictures under pressure by taking up a job on the new Generations — which by many accounts, was a middle finger to those fired actors and their supporters. 

In contrast, Mr John Kani did not wait for an invitation to speak out against the travesty that was committed against those actors. In fact, he literally invited himself to the press conference that the actors held at the Market Theatre to share their grievances with the public. I was there and remember vividly that he showed up and was asked to address the gallery. He, himself, said it on that podium that he had just heard that the press conference was happening and felt compelled to come in and show his support. 

Forgive me for being glib about this but that is a measure of leadership. If Mme Dube and others want to be seen and honoured as pioneers and heroes of this industry, they can not just sit on the sidelines and wait for invitations to be part of the revolution. Sometimes they will have to inject themselves in the fire. Their voice carry more weight and risking being burned with the rest of us will not only endear them to the younger generation but will solidify their position as industry legends because they would show that; even faced with possibilities of losing a paycheque, they will stand for what is right. 

There are many wrongs being perpetrated against artists in this country. We need the legends' voices, not only at funerals and memorial services but everyday. Legendary musicians are doing a great job at this. I have been to a few musicians forums and have seen bo-Mme Dorothy Masuku, Abigail Kubeka and Sibongile Khumalo, including Mr Don Laka, Blondie Makhene and others in attendance. I have heard them speak bluntly against the wrongs in the music industry. I have yet to hear or read about them reducing the success of young musicians to sexist epithets to make their point.

Mme Lilian Dube has done an amazing job in advancing the debate around women's health issues by being an advocate for breast cancer awareness. Her support for the movement and sharing her own personal fight against the disease has saved lives. She is clearly a caring woman.

I am not taking anything away from any of our acting legends' contribution to the entertainment industry. I acknowledge it. I honour them for it.  I also hope what Mme Dube espoused was a result of being hurt by the passing of her friend and a revered South African and not a view she genuinely holds in her heart because that would be very unfortunate. We need her. We need her voice to help us transform this industry.  

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