By Lize Hartley
Let me start by saying that wearing black today is an act with good intentions. It comes from a good place, and I am not pointing fingers at those who have chosen to wear black. But I won’t be wearing black today.
To start with, wearing black is not “taking a stand” against rape. Wearing black is wearing black. It may show that you feel strongly about the issue. It may show that today those victims are in your heart, your thoughts, your prayers. But as for taking a stand — this act is not that.
My second opinion on what has been dubbed Black Friday is a stronger one. And that is that women “taking a stand”, whatever that means, is not the solution to South Africa’s rape crisis.
When a woman struggles, screams, tries to claw out her rapist’s eyes while he is raping her, she is taking a stand. When a woman says no, she is taking a stand. When a woman cries and begs her rapist to stop, she is trying to take a stand. But rape happens anyway. The problem is not that women aren’t taking a stand. The problem is that men are raping them.
I am told that the problem with my argument is that it suggests that all of the power is in the hands of our rapists. Unfortunately, it is. Otherwise we would not get raped.
Anene Booysen did not get raped because you did not take a stand against rape, or because I did not take a stand against rape, or because Anene did not take a stand against rape. Anene Booysen did not get raped because I am not wearing black today. Anene Booysen was raped because men raped her. She was killed because men sliced her open, ripped out her guts, lodged a broken bottle in her, and left her for dead. Anene Booysen is not dead, an ID photo on every major news website across South Africa, and a statistic telling South Africa’s tragic story because she did not take a stand against rape. And the countless other women across South Africa, the one billion women across the globe who have been victims of sexual crimes? They did not become victims because they, because we, did not take a stand.
It is good to see so many people, men and women, enraged about the issue. Rage is better than empathy, a characteristic of which my generation is labelled guilty. Standing together, shouting, knowing something must be done is a step in the right direction. But as for wearing black, changing your profile picture, or updating your status: that will do little more than make you feel like you did something, and give someone something to write about. The solution does not lie in women “taking a stand” against rape. The solution lies in men not raping.
Lize Hartley is a writer and presenter.