Images of the “sexist” posters emerged on Wednesday, sparking anger, disbelief, disgust, humiliation and disappointment from social media commentators across the country.
The posters were held up by students during the Serrie residence competition’s preliminary event on Tuesday night.
“Show us your tits”, “Blow me”, “I’m not an Asian but I’ll eat your cat”, “Nice thigh gap, can I fill it”, “Can I make you a momma”, read some of the posters slogans. They were meant to distract the female performers.
Some students dismissed it as “res culture”, saying men in their residences “made fun” of women all the time. “If anyone speaks up against it they are told to find other accommodation,” a student told the Pretoria News.
Horrified students, parents and others took to social media, reacting with shock to the posters, with others calling for the Serrie finals, scheduled for Friday night, to be cancelled.
Commentators questioned the morals of students on the campus and, together with students, agreed that the culture of sexualising women had become normalised during an age when transformation was key.
“Disgusting, and the culprits think it is a joke. Says a lot of their upbringing. No respect for others. They should be banned from UP,” Johann van Eck commented on Facebook.
Maliviwe Brian Matyila said: “Why are comrades still endorsing and entertaining Serrie?”
But Claire Norton wrote that comments made were a two-way thing. Female residences also put up signs whenever male students performed. “The signs aren’t meant to victimise anyone but more to try to distract the dancing group.”
The event took place just hours after bare-breasted female students staged a protest against rape culture and sexual violence, saying they needed men to stop abusing them, and for the institution to provide security.
Former SRC head of residences Michael Reinders said as much as it was a norm that a certain group would try to distract the other, it had gone too far this time.
“Normally, groups would try to distract one another by smiling at them or probably writing something funny, but what was seen yesterday was nothing funny, it was abusive content,” he said.
He said that was res behaviour. “Res is a toxic space and these are things that happen in residences all the time,” he said.
Reinders said a campaign called #AreWeSafe, meant to raise awareness of the rape crises and the lack of respect and safety on campus last year, made no difference.
The condemnation of the posters received the attention of the DA’s Phumzile van Damme, and her comments drew participation of commentators from near and far.
She wrote: “Dear @UPTuks, in what world is it okay for men on your campus to display such brazenly vile banners on women? Sies.”
She and others asked if the institution and students understood that they were allowing a perpetuation of rape culture and sexism by turning a blind eye to the “res culture” phenomenon.
Department of Higher Education and Training chief director of communications, Madikwe Mabotha, said any sexual misconduct in higher learning institutions was unacceptable. Institutions were a place of teaching and learning, nothing more, he said.
SRC deputy president Thabo Shingange said what transpired was unacceptable.
University spokesperson Candice Jooste said: “The university is looking into the matter.”