Exxaro's employees march against gender-based violence at Centurion. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
Exxaro's employees march against gender-based violence at Centurion. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

We can all play a part in fighting gender-based violence

By KEVIN RITCHIE Time of article published Nov 30, 2019

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There's something particularly obscene about the sheer scope and depth of the depravity of violence that seems to be wrought against women and children, particularly between November 25 and December 10 every year.

But actually, it’s going on all year round behind closed doors, perpetrated normally by those nearest and dearest, not perfect strangers in long coats and white vans, with furtive eyes and a packet of boiled sweets.

The horror of the death - and the hell of those who don’t die but suffer for life - is surpassed only by the vacuous virtue signalling that in typically millennial mode means nothing; dressing up a profile pic with a white ribbon or posting of a trending hashtag.

One that does work though is this newspaper’s #DontLookAway, a brilliant all-encompassing campaign that gets to the heart of the issue and gets better each year. Contrast this with #AllMenAreTrash: a sweeping statement that at first appears profound but is facile, empirical facts used to create a reductionist statement like all rapists are men, ergo all men are rapists.

At a certain level, it’s understandable; not all men

are trash but even the best of us certainly have the potential to be,

as with rape.

The problem, though, is the creation of moral equivalency, a get-out-jail card for those who are abusers, because it removes any incentive to change.

It’s like the race card: not all white people are racist, but most racists are white because of privilege and power.

But if we keep blindly hammering on that only whites are racist, we run the risk of blinding ourselves to other perpetrators of racism - especially when we default to our much-beloved “whataboutism”. The danger is of letting the white racists off the hook, because by generalising the problem we normalise it.

Racism, sexism, patriarchy

and misogyny are all way stations on an ultimate one-way trip that morphs into abuse, violence and ultimately death.

Resolving that will take more than a hashtag and certainly more than an opportune selfie or a signature on a public petition on a public wall.

What we need is the courage to stand against the herd and call it out. Give evidence in court and help the prosecutors secure convictions, #DontLookAway, don’t stand

silently by.

We need to show that there are consequences for these crimes - and not as a 16-day wonder either.

If we are that desperate to be seen to be making a difference by everyone else, we should tattoo the names of every victim on our foreheads and down our backs and our arms and our legs and up across our stomachs and our chests - instead of the beloved banal foreign inscriptions that mean the opposite of what we think they do.

That way we can never neatly package this silent shame that lurks behind the doors and the drawn curtains of our homes only to fashionably bring it out at this time every year.

But then that wouldn’t really be a safe space, would it?

* Kevin Ritchie is a journalist and former newspaper editor.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media

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