Mar 27, 2013

The immorality of the middle finger

Dora Siliya

I really wasn’t going to wade into the issue of former Education minister, Dora Siliya, and her now infamous middle finger gesture in parliament a few weeks ago but I feel compelled to since the issue just won’t die.

Let’s get the facts out as we know them. On March 15, our Justice Minister brought forth a motion to remove the immunity afforded former president, Rupiah Banda. The government alleges that the former president engaged in various acts of corruption during his three year tenure and as a result his immunity needed to be removed for investigations and subsequent prosecution to proceed.

This all played out on national television and parliament radio, and the debate was highly contentious. Members of the opposition, of which Ms Siliya is a part, staged a walk out as they claimed they did not want to be party to a flawed process. On the way out, Ms Siliya was caught on camera flipping her middle finger.

It is not entirely clear who this gesture was directed to but we have all manner of speculation – it was the speaker, the ruling party’s MPs, etc. She has since come out and said she was provoked by a fellow MP on her way out.

So, where do I stand on the issue? Frankly, I think her actions were silly and out of line for someone in her position as an MP. Should she be punished? That is up to parliament on what process they have in place to discipline members for such acts. Is this a big deal? No, there are bigger issues at hand and I don’t see why people have their panties in twist.

Now getting to why I felt compelled to add my voice to this non-troversy. I’m not pleased that the loudest voices on this topic are making this about women and morality. It seems like every time we have an incident involving Dora Siliya or someone else as visible as she, the village mob comes out armed with sticks and pangas ready to burn her at the stake.

Here are some delightful quotes as published in the media.

“The offensive gesture by Ms. Siliya is not only an insult to the dignity and sanctity of Parliament but the people of Zambia whose representatives sit in the House. Ms. Siliya’s insulting behaviour falls short of self respect, dignity and basic tenets of leadership in a person purporting to be a people’s representative…we wonder what sort of morals Ms. Siliya’s behaviour will impart in the young people that watched her gesture in the manner she did.” - Mwansa Kapeya, Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services 
“She behaved in an un-Parliamentarian fashion and uncultured for a woman of her status. And as a woman, also, I would urge her to come out and apologise to her fellow Parliamentarians and to the nation for her gesture.” Joyce Nonde, Federation of Free Trade Unions in Zambia. 
“That behaviour fell short of a calibre of a decent woman in society and we wonder how she behaves in private if she can have the audacity to display that offensive gesture not only in front of cameras but before the Speaker of the august House.” - Southern Province PF political secretary, Brian Hapunda.  
"The finger gesture exhibited by Dora Siliya was not only an affront to the honourable House but to all of us especially women of Zambia. The worst part is to hear that somebody saw nothing wrong in the act and supports her for the insult which was demeaning us women…we now know that she (Siliya) is not a well cultured leader from inception…” - Southern Province PF women chairperson, Anny Nyirenda Tischer.

These statements echo quite loudly because they fall into the repetitive narrative that teaches us that women behaving poorly are uncultured, disgraceful, and morally bankrupt. I can’t help but grimace at the irony of talking about Ms Siliya’s actions being demeaning to women, while they demean her with their choice of words. It’s shameful that this kind of ignorance and carelessness continues to be allowed a public platform and receives support.          

Call a spade a spade. Unhappy with Ms Siliya’s gesture, talk about that. Feel free to call her out by simply stating “I don’t like what you did in parliament.” But cut the crap, and stop degrading women with whom you disagree and/or don't like by using gender-associated slurs. Yes, this also applies to women who are all too eager to join the village mob forgetting tomorrow they may be the ones fighting for their own survival. 


This was very well written. Those last bits just knocked it out of the park and hit home...

Thanks for reading, I also appreciate the feedback.

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