It’s been an emotional week in Cape Town, with the discovery of the rape and murder of UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. And with all of the crimes against women and children that have come to light over the past few days. The statistics are shocking…and probably are not completely reflective of the reality, as there are so much that goes unreported.
There is this tangible atmosphere of anger and outrage, and despair; women are fed up and battle ready, and men are divided – some have woken up to the harsh reality that is the rape culture in our country, others are denying that they have contributed in some way to the perpetuation of said culture.
This past weekend, our neighbour sent me a message saying that he will organise a pepper spray for me, and will show me how to use it. My father bought me a taser! I never thought I would see the day where I needed more than my mouth and wits to defend myself. But that is what South Africa has come to.
DISCLAIMER: What is to follow may upset some people. So let me take this opportunity to say this; you do not have to agree with me, in fact, you can openly disagree with me – we all look at life through our own eyes and our thoughts are shaped by our own unique experiences. But. I will not tolerate disrespect. If you are going to become abusive in your comments please close your browser now.
There has been so much dialogue over the past few days about how unsafe women are in what are supposed to be safe spaces. Uyinene was raped and bludgeoned to death in a post office, which, even in the age of emails and courier services, I still use quite often (so you can imagine how freaked out I am). Said post office happens to be situated in between a school and a police station…and somehow, still, those crimes happened. It completely blows my mind that no one heard screams or noticed a commotion, given how busy that road is, even on a Saturday afternoon.
I’ve been listening to all the comments from our men, and I’m really happy to see that some men have realised how something as seemingly small as a cat call or lewd comment has contributed to the rape culture in South Africa. There are a few things though, that have been weighing on me, and I would be willing to bet that I am not the only one with these thoughts…
Firstly, I don’t think that only men should shoulder the blame for this culture. I am a woman, and I need to take responsibility for my part too…for the times I entertained a mysoginistic comment from a man (directed at me or another woman), for the times I agreed with a comment or found it funny, for the times I disagreed with a comment and said nothing, for the times I made such a comment. For all of this, my fellow sisters, I am truly sorry. And I will make a bigger effort to squash this kind of rhetoric, even when it comes up as a joke, and especially when it comes up on public platforms. We need to stop using the internet and social media to bully, ridicule or victimize.
The streets of Cape Town ran black with protests for the past week. Personally, I have never been one for protest in the form of marches and public gatherings. I’m not judging those who do – it is your constitutional right to protest, if that is how you prefer to show your support and solidarity. What keeps me away is the fact that over the past few years, very rarely have protests like these ended peacefully, and they are usually fraught with vandalism and destruction. Emotions are running high over this issue – and rightfully so! If these senseless acts of violence against women and children do not make you angry, are you even human?? I am ANGRY.
But, we’ve been given the ability to reason, and the ability to control the way we express our emotions and the way we react to adversity. How many times have we protested for valid issues? And how many times has the heightened emotions and destructive expressions of people’s anger caused the actual issue to be overlooked? We need to look at other ways of making our point heard. We need to be realistic about what we CAN change, and follow through with ACTION, even if the action is a small one DONE CONSISTENTLY. Otherwise, all we end up doing is paying lip service.
I took this week to ask myself some hard questions, and to answer them as honestly as possible. I am ashamed of the things that I, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously do, to perpetuate the derogatory mindset that exists when it comes to women. And from now on, I will make a much bigger effort to correct my own behaviour and thoughts.
And I know that one person cannot save millions. But if my small effort causes one other person to change their mindset, if it causes one man to think twice before he cat calls a lady or invades a woman’s personal space, if it encourages one woman or one child to speak up where they may have once suffered in silence, if it saves one other woman or child from Nene’s horrific fate, then that effort is well worth it.