THE inability of judges to award best actress in national film awards last weekend has provoked a Wits academic to question their value if they are only to “penis-whip patriarchal achievements”.

Judges removed the category of  best actress in a feature film from this year’s South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) as it would be “meaningless” to award it as the shortlisted films were “male driven”.

Wits School of Arts deputy head of drama Tshepo Mamatu said he did not take the Saftas seriously.

“The fact remains that the erasure of the female voice, and in particular of the black female voice, remains a sore point for most of us. Perhaps even more troubling is that the administrators of these awards do not realise what this travesty means, that years into our democracy, the female voice remains an aberration, which can easily be pardoned by rhetoric.

“At the heart of this absence, we should be asking ourselves, what worth are these awards if their task is to penis-whip patriarchal achievements?” said Mamatu.

The judges said they removed the category because the 10 films that made the awards shortlist were predominantly male-driven stories.

Only two actresses were listed for the award, one of whom was not eligible for a Safta as she is not South African.

Sociology Feminist lecturer, Lisa Banjul Brown said it was sad that actresses had been excluded from the awards.

“Although there have been huge strides women’s equality in South Africa, there is still a pervading idea or myth of male superiority: men are supposed to be the breadwinners, the leaders, the instigators etc. Of course real life contradicts this, but the South African film industry doesn’t seem to have caught up, which is a shame,” she said.

The judges said: “This is a far from desirable situation and the panel urges writers and production companies to bear in mind that as an industry we need to be telling more stories that provide a platform for the luminous female thespian [actor] talent our country has to offer.”