Guest post by Gen, Uppity Ingrate.
It started with an article by Sisonke Msimang, which I will excerpt rather than quote in full.
I read an article on Thursday morning. It said: “The victim had been sliced open from her stomach to her genitals and dumped.” The radio is full of this story. Full of politicians and posers, trying to outdo one another. Like funeral criers. But it will end, the show. And there will be marches and petitions. There will be statements and rage. But it will happen again. Until we are inured to shock. It will happen again. Until our bones are worn into dust and our teeth crushed into the sand. It will happen and happen. Until we invent a way to stop being women. Until we find a way for our blood to no longer bleed between our legs. As long as we exist, we will be raped.
So, no, I will not march. I don’t believe my marching will stop this war. I will cry, as I have been already this morning. And maybe, I will begin to feel my way out of the lurching, heavy knowing after I have spoken with others. With the mothers and the sisters, the brothers and fathers – those like me, who have girls.
There is only this: a dead, hollow knowing that has always been knocking at my heart. From the minute she was born, it fell in step with the rhythm of my breath: to raise a girl in this world, to raise her strong and healthy and proud, to ensure that she survives and then to insist ferociously that she laugh and dance and think and dream, is to choose the most heartbreaking and joyous path. It is to tempt fate every single day, it is to fear that her breath will be strangled by a stranger. It is to live with the horrible possibility that this could be your child.
Anene was raped and mutilated because she was a girl. It was her vagina and her breasts that they wanted to destroy. It was her walk and her talk. It was her girl-ness. These parts of her were broken and sliced and pulled apart, not by monsters, but by friends. Each of her 10 fingers were broken.
When the president of your country (who was re-elected for a second term!) is acquitted of rape because the victim, despite clearly not wanting to have sex, “didn’t say no” and said victim is then hounded and threatened until she had to fled South Africa and seek asylum in the Netherlands and things just go back to their poisonous levels of normal afterwards with no harm no foul kind of attitutes, then yes, I do think that politicizing the issue and forcing the government to take a stance and start seriously implementing strategies (as opposed to just talking about it and making empty promises) may be the first step, in addition to the work done by grassroots activists.
It’s weird, here in South Africa, and really hard to explain. According to many of the important measures, we’re doing really well against sexism. On paper. We have gender equality enshrined as absolute in the constitution and have the third highest female government representation in the world. We have drives for education all children, for helping encouraging girls to get into STEM fields, and women have traditionally been part of the work force (albeit in low-paying, low-status jobs, but still). When we struggled for suffrage for all South Africans, regardless of race, colour or creed, we included women in that catagory *by default*. Women fill many positions of power, and even the backlash against feminism we see so clearly is not present (or at least not so VOCAL) that I’ve experienced here in South Africa.
Yet the prevailing culture (and I do not mean “culture” as a euphemism for ‘black’ or ‘indigenous’ or the other racist shit people often like to sneak in when they say “culture”, I mean the literal overarching country culture that runs the same shit through all peoples and subcultures of South Africa) is still demonstrably and DEEPLY toxic against women. (On my darker days, I sometimes feel that the reason the MRA and backlash is not so loud here in ZA because their ideals and ‘ideas’ are already mostly realized on a cultural, societal level, here.)
When you add to that the legacy and normalization of violence that’s been woven into the fabric of the country without any noticeable non-violent periods since even before the institutionalization of Apartheid (in fact, since just about the time the Dutch first came to the Cape and colonized…) and the current socio-economic crisis which is actually more of a collapse, where unemployment and EXTREME poverty affects the majority of the country…
Well. I’m not sure how to even *begin* thinking about addressing these problems, which all feed on each other and amplify each other and form a vicious cycle that gets louder and louder and worse and worse every year (it feels like) in a sustainable manner.