Note: This is a mad jumble of thoughts. I needed to vent. It might be a bit of mess.
Last week I wrote a rough draft about the #WhenIWas hashtag I found on Twitter.The tweets moved me, shocked me, angered me. I ventured, ever so carefully, into the Twitter waters with my own When I Was account, and within 2 minutes had men questioning me. But that is not what this post is about. It’s bigger than that.
About the same time, I stumbled upon an anonymous letter, written by a survivor of sexual assault (scroll down to read.)
And of course, the Rhodes Protests happened, the #RUReferenceList, the shock and horror and how dare women actually stand up and protest for their right to safety.
(EDIT: And then, as if it wasn’t enough for one week already, Cell C’s CEO dropped his Bitch Switch comment. Read more about that here and here. The Twitter Backlash. An Open Letter to the CEO.)
I was not going to write about any of this, but I’m just tired. I’m so fucking tired.
Tired of seeing all the negativity surrounding the protest, the injustice of the List itself, having to explain why I support the protests (in spirit, if not in flesh.) I’m tired of all the tone policing, and above all, the people who actually try to justify why rapists rape.
You know, that thing we call Rape Culture? It’s not myth. Just because you don’t experience something personally, doesn’t mean that it is not happening to someone else.
Rhodes & Rape Culture:
So, before we dive into the tweets, and the letter and the stuff I actually tried writing about earlier this week, let’s get this out of the way first.
- You can read about the Rhodes Protest here and here, also here, here and here. And many more places too. Here is very good account of somebody who joined the protests.
- Before we go any further, acknowledge that Rape Culture exists. It’s not a made up phrase to make men look bad or to make it seem like rape is something that happens far more often than it actually does. It’s evident when:
- women are told “You dressed like that/you are beautiful, what did you expect?”
- women are told “You are ugly/fat/unfuckable, be glad you got the attention.”
- women are told “Do you really want to go through with this? You’ll ruin his reputation.”
- men are told “Real mean can’t be raped.” Or told they’re pussies for allowing it.
It’s rape jokes, those who tell them and those who defend them. It’s victim blaming/shaming (the examples above,) it’s sexual objectification and slut shaming and a whole heap of other stuff I don’t want to get into now. It’s everything listed here.
Newsflash, people! This is not right! It’s not a joke! This is serious! This is not how we are supposed to live! And then people want to know why we are angry. No, it’s not PMS. It’s anger. We are fucking angry, we’ve had enough.
How is it, that in 2016, we are still protesting about it? We are still facing discrimination. Why are students arrested when they protest again rape (yes, arrested) while rapists get off scot-free?
Everyday Sexism, a twitter account dedicated to “documenting experiences of sexism, harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is” started the #WhenIWas Hashtag. Go read the tweets, some of them harrowing. Mind the trolls, though.
Open Letters That Matter:
This article was written by an anonymous writer and submitted to OLTM
If you’re an artist/poet/writer or you have an inspiring story to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message Open Letters That Matter
When I was six years old, I gave my first blowjob.
“It’s a game”, said He. “Don’t you want to play?”
It was too big, and I threw up on him.
He said I’d do better the next time.
When I was seven years old, I watched a group of fellow second graders cheer as a boy in my class tried to kiss me. He hugged me from behind, giggling all the while.
I threw sand in his eyes, and was sent to the Principal.
When I was eight years old, I had an elderly teacher ask me to stay behind in class. He carried me on his shoulders, and called me pretty.
“Teacher’s Pet!” my friends declared, the envy visible on their faces.
They ignored me at lunch that day.
When I was nine years old, an older girl on the school bus would ask me to lift my skirt up for her. She was pretty and kind, and told me that I could only be her friend if I did what she said.
I wanted to be her friend.
When I was ten years old, a relative demanded that he get a kiss on the cheek every time we met. He was large and loud, and I proceeded to hide under my bed whenever I learnt that he was visiting.
I was known as a rude child.
When I was eleven, my auto-man told me that we would only leave if I gave him a hug every day.
He smelled like cheap soap and cigarettes.
When I was twelve years old, I watched as a man on the street touched my mother’s breast as he passed us. She slapped him amidst the shouts of onlookers telling her to calm down.
She didn’t calm down.
When I was thirteen years old, I exited a restaurant only to see a man visibly m*sturb*ting as he walked towards me. As he passed, he winked lasciviously.
My friends and I shifted our gazes down, aghast.
When I was fourteen, a young man in an expensive car followed me home as I walked back from an evening class. I ignored his offer to give me a ride, and I panicked when he got out, only to buy me a box of chocolate that I refused. He parked at the end of my road, and didn’t go away for an hour.
“It turns me on to see you so scared.”
When I was fifteen, I was groped on a bus. It was with a heart full of shame that I confided in a friend, only to be met with his anger and disappointment that I had not shouted at the molester at the time when it happened. My soft protests of being afraid and alone were drowned out as he berated my inaction. To him, my passiveness and silence were the reasons why things like this continue to happen.
He did not wait for my response.
When I was sixteen, I discovered that Facebook had a section of inbox messages named ‘others’, which contained those mails received from strangers, automatically stored as spam. Curious, I opened it to find numerous messages from men I had never seen before. I was propositioned, called s*xy, asked for n*des, and insulted.
When I was seventeen, I called for help as a drunken man tried to s*xually harass me in a crowded street.
The people around me seemed to walk by quicker.
At eighteen, I was told that sexism doesn’t exist in modern society.
I was told that harassment couldn’t be as bad as us women make it out to be.
That I should watch what I wear.
Never mind you were six, never mind you were wearing pink pyjamas.
That I should be louder.
But not too loud, a lady must be polite.
That I should always ask for help.
But stop overreacting, there’s a difference.
That I should stay in at night, because it isn’t safe.
You can’t get harassed in broad daylight.
That I should always travel with no less than two boys with me.
You need to be protected.
That it can’t be that hard to be a girl.
I am now nineteen years old.
I am now tired.
I’m done. We need change.