Cape writer’s viral poem 'Let’s talk about my vagina' addresses GBV pandemic
Cape Town – A Cape Town poet and mother of three has penned her strong feelings about rape on paper and it has everyone talking.
Through the verbally graphic poem, Crystal Johannes, 36, from Rondevlei in Mitchells Plain wanted to send a clear message as South Africa undergoes the annual 16 Days of Activism campaign against violence on women and children.
The 16 days are observed from November 25 to December 10 each year to showcase efforts at eradicating such violence, which has become a serious scourge in South Africa in recent years.
For Johannes, writing is a form of escape from the harsh realities of life and she has been writing poetry from a very young age.
“It started out very cheesy at first. Like the ”123. he doesn't love you, he loves me,“ kind of stuff,” she told the African News Agency (ANA) .
“But, I always knew I loved words and poetry more so, because 10 people can read the same poem, but it can mean 10 different things to each one of them, and that's what I love about poetry,” said Johannes, who enjoys sharing her pieces and also does poetry gigs on request.
Her latest piece, Let’s talk about my vagina, which is based on the August 30, 2019 rape and murder of Jesse Hess is brutal in its portrayal of such assaults.
The case of Hess, a student at the University of the Western Cape, who was murdered with her grandfather in their home, remains open.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. On Monday, the Western Cape’s head of community safety Albert Fritz said the province was deeply affected by gender-based violence and femicide, with recent quarterly crime statistics showing an 81.3 percent increase in attempted sexual offences, while contact sexual offences were up 4.5 percent.
“We have many rapes and killings, but Jesse’s affected me more for some reason,” Johannes told ANA.
“When I saw the picture of the person who is alleged to have murdered her, the coldness in his eyes I thought of her last moments. Those were the eyes she saw last.
“I became angry and sad. So many emotions all at once, and that’s when I started writing this piece.
“I wrote it with her in mind. I pictured it happening to me and I think that’s why the piece was so emotional. I mentioned her name in there too,” the poet added.
Although Johannes wrote the piece a year ago, it has garnered a lot of attention recently after she released a video of herself reciting it, dressed in ripped clothes and with make-up applied to look like a victim of violence with bruises and torn lips.
“Good day sir, can we talk about my vagina?” Johannes begins in the video.
“Too graphic of a word to be used in church? But if it makes you feel better I can call it my... pleasure centre. Still too much? I’ll take it down a notch. What if I called it my flower? This beautiful thing men think they have a right to devour or how about my piece of meat? Because I mean, meat is meat and a man must eat right? Wrong!”
In the powerful recital, with haunting music in the background, Johannes calls on men to pay attention to the cries of women, and to sit their sons down and talk to them about how they do not have automatic rights to women’s bodies.
Johannes feels blessed to have the support of her family and friends for her work, and has also received gratifying messages from other people in response to the video.
Her hope is that this piece of poetry reaches and impacts as many people as possible, especially men.
“My hope is that through this piece, men become brave and normalise the word vagina in their homes,” says Johannes.
“That they have the courage to speak about a woman's vagina to their sons. And that families stop calling it a ’koekie’ or a ’flower’. The word vagina should not be this mystery or so intriguing that boys or men want to violate it.”
A Mitchells Plain mother of three expresses her thoughts through poetry and hopes this poem urges men to speak to their boys about the vagina.Posted by African News Agency on Tuesday, December 1, 2020
African News Agency (ANA)