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Better, smarter ways to describe shock

Opinion
Often when writing on sport, you find yourself describing one team or an individual’s dominance over their opponents.

I’ve written on the Titans obliterating the Lions, the Proteas hammering Sri Lanka there are all manner of analogies one can draw on, but rape is not one of them. Unfortunately I see it often on social media platforms from fans too giddy at their team’s dominance over a rival -Germany beating Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, was one such occasion when the rape metaphors came out. Memes, jokes, etc. It was all supposedly done in the name of fun - “it’s only banter”. Except, it’s not. Not anywhere, not at any time.

In South Africa we should be more acutely aware of it than anywhere else. According to statistics provided to fact-checking body Africa Check by the South African Police Service, 42596 rapes were reported in 2015/16.

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We’ve almost become numb to the violence visited upon mostly women in this country on a daily basis and it is only extreme cases that make the headlines.

Maybe it’s because we’ve become so desensitised to rape that Jonathan Shapiro felt it was alright to draw a cartoon that this week depicted the country being raped by the man who holds the title as president and some of his cronies.

As vile as I find Jacob Zuma, there is no defence for using rape as a metaphor as Shapiro did.

Of course the “freedom of speech” brigade have been out in full voice defending Shapiro’s right to draw what he wants and make whatever analogy he sees fit. He wanted to shock, he said. But there are better and smarter ways to shock.

I don’t tolerate lazy and downright harmful descriptions of sports victories from journalists with whom I share my beat, and I don’t intend to start when it comes to those commentators that cover the political arena.

Back in 2014 in the aftermath of that World Cup semi-final, when the word rape was being bandied about to describe a sport’s event, Australian columnist Clementine Ford wrote the following: “Asking that people be considerate and thoughtful about their language - particularly when it has the potential to cause very real damage to people with traumatic experience of the subject matter - isn’t a violation of freedom of speech. 

It isn’t ‘political correctness gone mad’ or any of the similarly jingoistic catchphrases that are bandied around to excuse people’s monstrously ignorant behaviour. It’s simply asking that we adhere to a socially codified system of kindness in which we consider how our words and deeds might affect other people. For people who have never experienced sexual violence, it is a luxury to be able to redefine those words to get a cheap laugh on social media. It isn’t a right.”

The same goes for Shapiro’s cartoon.

Pretoria News

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