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I am not wearing black today

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.

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    • masello motana

      lovely article! thank you.

    • Tofolux

      why are you over analysing and over-intellectualising a cause that calls for a simple show of solidarity? All this philosophising will get us no where and will just be mindless talk. We overcame apartheid didnt we? Did we over-intellectualise it? NO. So please put your money where your mouth is and MAKE A DIFFERENCE, TODAY!

    • Steve Goodrick

      And neither is saying that men must stop raping the solution, as if this is a problem for all men only. Men that don’t rape can’t stop men that do from doing so, any more than you or other women can; rapists don’t give a damn about what they or you say. Society must act by changing the laws: cut off their balls, or hang them. And spare me the bull about it being a ‘complex problem’ (simply means “I can’t be bothered doing anything about it”), or about our wonderful constitution (wonderfully inappropriate for the barbaric society we are, yes).

    • Brendon

      I hate this defeatist attitude. You just can’t win. Wear black and it’s pointless, don’t wear black and you don’t care. Honestly no wonder there is no real solution because of those who constantly just want to be difficult to be difficult.

    • bernpm

      @Tofolux: “We overcame apartheid didnt we?”

      NO, we did not!! It is still rife and practiced from both sides of the colour line. The legalised apartheid system had been ended after the falling of the Berlin wall had made apartheid superfluous. The West had no need for it as a cushion against Russian infiltration of Africa, promoting communism.

      Zuma said yesterday “SA is a violent society”. In the same breath he blamed “apartheid” which the ANC is continuing in its various regulations.

      Rape is an act of violence, so is murder, so is robbery……20 years after apartheid was “legally” finished, they still exist in increasing numbers.

    • Mahlo Maku

      Dear Lize Hartley,

      I’m wearing black today. I am taking a stand. I know that someone that suffers in silence will see me and one billion others in black and realise that people care.

      Wearing black might not affect policies or stop men from commiting rape, but it might, just might inspire someone who has been victimised to speak out and bring her offender to conviction and society will be free of atleast one rapist.

      Take a step back and think of the consequences of your comment on the potential rapists and the abused who suffer in silence. The no effort is good enough undertone of this comment is a risk to the mitigation of the crisis that the global community is trying to curb. Divert your resources and opportunities towards the fight not to hinder the efforts of ordinary people.

    • Jens Bierbrauer

      A very long time ago I read that the goths (not, emos, mind you, this was long before that) wear black as a sign of mourning for our destruction of the world and all that is beautiful in it. They wear the black every day as an admission of their powerlessness in the face of all that is ugly and hateful about who we, as a species, are.

      It seems that the goths were ahead of their time. Pity they were called Satanists at the time.

    • amandzing

      So what are you doing then? Have you joined a community policing forum? Or volunteer at POWA? What is it exactly you’re doing, other than putting down efforts by others to try and make a difference?

    • Charlotte

      @ Steve Goodrick … “Society must act by changing the laws: …. our wonderful constitution (wonderfully inappropriate for the barbaric society we are) …
      But it is not only rape that is out of-control. As with Anine Booysen (raped, brutally disembowelled and left for dead), the daily occurrence of depraved, cold-blooded murders calls for another look at how we punish these abominations.
      Why are crimes like these deserving of rehabilitation? The dead victim has no chance of rehabilitation – or anything … ever! Life was taken away by killers for whom – in return for their terrifying brutality, are given food, shelter, clothing and the preservation of their lives – ( for which the taxpayer again has to pay.)
      Recent crimes of the most horrific savagery have been perpetrated by people out on bail – or released from jail (as was the case afterJacob Zuma unthinkably declared amnesty for prisoners.)

      Why not a nationwide referendum calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty; and the implementation of hard labour for heinous crimes?
      Why not a nationwide petition requesting that the constitution be changed to allow for the death penalty when (proven beyond any doubt) a horrendous crime warrants it?
      Why not, at the very least, ‘hard labour’ for rape?

      Let the punishment fit the crime. Society needs to be protected from human vermin –not protect them.

    • Trevor

      Got to say I agree with the article.

    • Momma Cyndi

      so what SHOULD we do? Sit back and play the victim song on our tiny little violins whilst expecting someone else to do something about it? Break out the tires and matches? What is your suggestion as to what we DO?

      I wore black for the exact same reason that I go to the gay pride parade every year – to show support. Maybe if enough people stand together then raping will be seen as an aberration and not the ‘norm’ that it has become. Maybe our young boys will see that there are an awful lot of people who believe that a ‘no’ really does mean ‘no’ and that men and women can stand together with the same message.

    • David

      I think you have missed the point – wearing black simply raises awareness. I know this has been a headline case but there are many people out there whom have no idea this happened or even the details surrounding it. If even one person asks :”whay are all these people wearing black” the event has done good.

    • Ninavanibos

      Some people seem to have missed your point. Completely. Unlike our (seemingly futile) attempt at raising funds to end the poaching of Rhinos, we cannot start buying bracelets and such to financially support putting an end to rape. What exactly would this money be used for? In the comments some people were asking “What can be done?” This I think is already a more useful effort than wearing black. By all means, be aware, show your awareness, but don’t leave it at that, wear black, but to what end? The statistics of rape in SA are beyond shocking. Perhaps the law could use some fine-tuning in terms of the consequences rapists face. I don’t know, I won’t cast the first stone, but it makes me sick, that even though we can’t seem to prevent it, the bastards get off so easy. Bail? A couple of years in jail IF they are even convicted?

    • Eldi du Bluel

      Rape is one of the most disgusting actions that are undertaken by humans. Although rape is erroneously attributed only to men, its factually correct that most rapes are indeed male dominated. Unfortunately, contradicting the submission by Charlotte, worldwide research has proven ad nauseam that the death penalty is not a deterrent to rape or murder. Hard labour is though. But with a codicil. By definition for success, hard labour should mean hard labour. Psychology tests have set the bottom limits of such deterrent to mean real and effective deep impressions of dread on the subconscious mind. The minimum basic sentence needs to unequivocally instill no doubt or misunderstanding that murder and rape shall result in permanent removal from society, and promise a seriously distasteful future. This included: life sentence without parole – meaning without parole (included was medical/age), bright pink overalls with anti rape slogan(s), daily physical (hard) labour seven days per week, shifts to commence at 6am to 6pm with lunch and tea breaks, no privileges of any kind – no smoking allowed 24/7, washing (no ironing) own clothes in free time, no interaction with other inmates, slip on shoes, no medical allowances (unsure of the definition hereof), all constitutional citizen rights removed, sustainable meals with menu repeated 7 days per week – for life. Hard labour should include extreme measures, such as digging holes – solo – without inmates, and refilling these holes. More ……

    • http://N/A Lefentse

      Well said!! I couldn’t have said it better myself.. Society needds to breed and grow a new type of man, rApe is committed by men and only focusing on empowering a woman really doees no full justice to the problem at hand!! Men who rapes, men who molests their family members, men who engage in incest, men who are paedophileS!! It is Men who commit all this ugly crimes. The problem is with Men for sho, women don’t commit all this unto themselves. @Tofolux, how does wearing black assist a child who is being repetatively raped by their uncle? a granny who is raped by teenage boys? A wife raped by her husband?..Apartheid was not overcome by wearing Red for the bloodshed of our people, but by applying relevant &practical actions. Has your wearing black stopped some men out there from raping this past 2days? I don’t think so!

    • ConCision

      Men Without Manhood
      Ah men
      Ah warriors
      Protectors of pride and honour
      Whose strength was meant
      To safeguard and defend
      Women and children

      What do you say to the way
      You succumb to an infinitesimal virus
      Without eradicating or abrogating it?

      What must we say to the way
      You now choose to conquer
      Women and children and infants
      And condemn them
      To the life sentence of a death sentence?

      Proud of your masculine strength
      Proud of your virile penile length.
      You take them. You subjugate them into submission.
      You plough your assiduous, lethal seed
      Into the underbelly of your nation
      You decimate the fate of your own people
      You desecrate your own history
      You degenerate your own children

      Ah Men,
      Assigned protectors and defenders
      Meant to lead us. Meant to shield us.
      Ah Men.

    • Refilwe

      I wore black last Friday. Admittedly it was more about my early morning meeting than putting an end to rape, but it did make me stop and think. Lize is right – wearing black alone will not make South Africa a safer place for women. Nor apparently has the law, the high number of female MPs, public statements about Anene Booysen etc. As important as these are, lasting change will only come when ordinary South Africans are able to recognize and fight against the toxic elements of patriarchy that we have been fed at the breakfast table, in the playground, in the boardroom, at the braai stand etc. Jokes and comments analyzing female politicians’ hairdos and bodies instead of their stance on political issues; telling little boys to “toughen up” instead of express how they feel, teaching little girls to be sweet and nice instead of expressing what they think, . Our everyday actions can make a huge difference to the scary statistics.

    • Sally

      Wearing black raises AWARENESS. Many men and women do not realize they have been abused, or that they are engaging in abusive behavior. After listening to 702 all day on Friday 7th where several brave people called in; a man included who realised, I think, his older brother had sexually abused him years before; makes me aware that so many people in our country are abused and they need to know it is NOT OK. They can get help and support. I know. I have been there.

    • Lulu

      I understand where you’re coming from. Very little can be done by just wearing black but why don’t we start with the solidarity bit. Because it seems that people are still not aware and if they are, they don’t really understand the extent of the problem. i say that any move towards the right direction is a good one. Yes, you’re right but keep in mind that writing articles about it doesn’t do much either but someone will read it and be encouraged to do more. Some people are in a position to do a lot more about rape. People run centres where rape victims can come for help but not all of us are in that place but please let us all be enraged!! Let us not look down on “small” efforts to fight this. We a re all in this together.

    • Charlotte

      Back to common sense and justifable punishment

      We need a nationwide referendum for the reinstatement of the death penalty for cold/blooded murder and/or rape-and-murder cases.
      We need a nationwide petition requesting that the constitution be changed to allow for the death penalty when (proven beyond any doubt) it is warranted by horrendous and barbaric crime.

    • Akona

      Well done Lize of summarising so well what I have long thought. It is now time to do. Make a difference. I appreciate these efforts to raise awareness, but truly and honestly, change will come when we act. Wearing black only goes so far and that is no where near far enough to stop the crises we are in.

      Well done on this piece. Very nicely written and honest.

    • Lorraine

      Whether you think it is futile or not. It has certainly got you commenting. So the question is how do we move from making comments/dialogue to identify proactive steps to be taken and the impetus to do this?

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