Dept of education spokesperson (sort of) apologises for trying to ‘make reading sexy’

A picture tweeted by department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga as part of a #ReadToLead campaign, 13 August 2019. Picture: Screenshot.

A picture tweeted by department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga as part of a #ReadToLead campaign, 13 August 2019. Picture: Screenshot.

A series of pics of scantily clad women with books, which formed part of a campaign to promote reading, was met with a backlash.

Spokesperson for the department of basic education Elijah Mhlanga has reacted on Twitter to the backlash that followed his posting of various images of scantily clad women in an attempt to promote reading by making it “sexy”.

Mhlanga posted the images on Saturday as part of a campaign by the department called “Read to Lead”.

While he apologised to those who were offended by the images, he also said he’d posted similar pics before without backlash and that by doing so he’d “started a discourse on reading”.

“On Saturday, I posted a series of tweets about the department’s Read to Lead Campaign aimed at promoting reading amongst young adults and people of school going age and society in general,” he said.

“I have noted that one image in particular may have offended sensitive viewers. This, however, was not the intention and we strongly reject any view to that effect. To those I disappointed and indeed those of you who are offended by the use of the images I apologise.

“I have previously promoted this reading campaign on Twitter using the same images in 2016, 2017 and 2018. However, there was no discontent or discomfort raised at the time. In fact it started a discourse on reading.

“Contemporary audiences that consume media tend to be open about sex and sexuality. I therefore have a full understanding of representation and metaphoric content, and in this context, I pushed the boundary slightly in order to play around with meaning, and push a narrative about reading as an activity that can be done for fun and leisure.

“We hope this issue will heighten interest in and sustain a conversation about the importance of reading and its significance in human development,” he said, before concluding his Twitter statement with a thank you emoji and the greeting: “Yours in reading.”

Not everyone accepted Mhlanga’s attempt at apologising, with a column in the Daily Vox arguing that his reaction showed he “clearly does not understand how he objectified women” with his tweets.

This view was shared by several users.

Others expressed disbelief that it was a real campaign and that Mhlanga was serious about promoting it, with some users even calling for him to be fired.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)

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