I once worked with a woman who was so superficial and ill-informed about life around her, that every moment (right or wrong) was an opportunity to jump on the brandwagon in a bid to be trendy. She was my manager – as much as she could manage to get to work on time with her hangovers explained away as tummy aches or lateness explained as having to drop by exclusive books first thing to buy ‘magazines for the offices’. Nobody bought it, we just smiled and nodded.
I also just smiled and nodded when, on the day of a protest at parliament, she wasn’t in the least interested in the actual issue. Rather, it was a flurry of text messages and phone calls when we arrived at the gates of parliament as she tried to find her (also superficial) friends. Of course, there was the obligatory twitter photo taken with a placard she borrowed off someone with many retweets from her followers.
I smiled and nodded. What can you do? The world is full of clueless, shallow people. And, in Cape Town…having a ‘cause’ is very hip, ya’know dahling. Do a little twitter speculation, followed by a quick rant. Make sure you’re heard lending your social media voice to people who are prominent and not completely insane (Ferial Haffajee or Chris Roper are usually a good choice for the hipsters. Their opinions usually lends credence to the hipster’s shallow rant). And then, when it’s all said and done and the cause of the moment has lost its wow factor, we move on. Yesterday’s cause reduced to rubble in the face of something MORE tragic. MORE outrageous. HOW incensed are we today about rhinos, murder, pedophilia, corruption, breast cancer, testicular cancer, brain farting?
Of course, a perennial favourite is the issue of domestic violence and rape. Every year, for 16 whole days, we lose our shit about abuse against women. Wotcha’ boys! We don’t take no shit. As with Breast Cancer Awareness month (aka, an excuse to wear a hot bra and show my tatas off at work), the first 16 days in December have been successful in highlighting the issue of domestic violence using thoughtful opinion pieces, articles, shocking viral images and a host of be-ribboned events. But wait, before you drag me off to the village square for a lambasting, I have no issue with the fact that we highlight these atrocities and seek to understand, solve and stop it from happening. I don’t have an issue with the fact that we use slick advertising and pr to get people to sit up and take note.
What I do have a problem with is the trendiness of it all. Let me explain. We’ve had two shocking cases of violence against women in the last two weeks – Anene Booysen and Reeva Steenkamp. They could not be more different in terms of background, race, socio-economic standing. They do however have a shocking similarity. Both died in violent acts perpetrated against them by people they knew.
Think about that. Someone you know. Someone you’ve been intimate with, laughed and cried with, took your life in the most violent way. And I’m not speculating about the circumstances and why their partner and ex-partner did this. The fact is that they died violently at the hands of men they knew.
So, for the next few weeks, I am bracing myself for a barrage of news reports, blog posts similar to this one (hah), tweets, Facebook statuses and comment on news sites ranting about how violence against women should not be tolerated. The women’s rights and advocacy groups will have their moment in the sun as their stories of women being raped or assaulted is given credence above that of the Rhino or Nkandla.
And then…well, things will taper off. A new cause will be adopted. The cycle will start anew. After all, rape is bad. It should be stopped. We campaigned against it. We wore black on Black Friday (many of us as a fashion statement). Next.
I guess my question is – today is 1 Billion Rising. Yesterday was the shocking and tragic violent death of a high-profile 29-year old woman, a few weeks ago the gratuitously violent gang rape of a young woman in Bredasdorp. In fact, if we were to believe the statistics, 60 000 rapes were reported last year. That’s 5000 a month. Approximately 166 a day. And we choose to lose our minds three or four times a year for a few weeks. Because it’s the flavour of the month?
Are you fucking kidding me? We need to advocate this 166 times a day. Every day. Not as women. Not as men. Or even as South Africans. As human beings.