A Year Later
Today a year has passed since a man decided to hide a camera in a locked storage room at my place of work to watch me express breastmilk for my baby boy. I laid charges. He was fired. And eventually found guilty and sentenced.
I truly believe my white privilege and social capital enabled me to find justice and to continue on a positive path to healing. I’m one of a very few lucky ones. In the last year, I’ve come to learn exactly how lucky. Women and girls in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world face the threat of gender-based violence in every space – at home, school, on public transport, in public spaces, our places of work and worship.
Many women and men from different countries and backgrounds have taken positive #MeToo and #TimesUp steps in the last few months. They powered through fear. Spoke up. Called out.
Reading and listening about and to them have saddened and inspired me – especially in the months leading up to the court hearing in February. I’ve had many, many moments of self doubt, fear and thinking of giving up. And I can honestly say that the courage and words of these women, who I know have experienced much worse than I, have helped me power through.
Taking stock of what seems to (hopefully) be a global shift, I agree with Barbara Kingslover when she writes that #MeToo isn’t enough:
Let’s be clear: no woman asks to live in a rape culture: we all want it over, yesterday. Mixed signals about female autonomy won’t help bring it down, and neither will asking nicely. Nothing changes until truly powerful offenders start to fall. Feminine instincts for sweetness and apology have no skin in this game. It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real, or that we like it actually, or are cute when we’re mad. Anger has to go somewhere – if not out then inward, in a psychic thermodynamics that can turn a nation of women into pressure cookers. Watching the election of a predator-in-chief seems to have popped the lid off the can. We’ve found a voice, and now is a good time to use it, in a tone that will not be mistaken for flirtation.
So today I urge you to speak up. For yourself, your sisters, mothers, daughters and friends. If you feel unsafe to do so or unsure of how to do so, reach out to me (I’ll do everything in my power to get you help) or one of the organisations at the bottom of this post.
If you have any social capital to spend, try and support those speaking up around you. Hold the managers, faith leaders, politicians, policy makers and patriarchs accountable.
Educate yourself and the men in your life about rape culture and feminism. If you’re white, remember that black women and those from LGBTQIA+ communities around the world face an even steeper uphill battle. Support them in any way you can.
If you want to help the cause as a whole and have some actual money to donate, join me in donating to the Women’s Legal Centre (or any of the organisations at the end of this post.)
A group of phenomenal women are organising a #Totalshutdown march on 1 August – the first day of Women’s Month:
We have nothing to celebrate. Every week we receive multiple reports of women who have been brutally murdered, kidnapped, or abused and there is no sense of urgency from our leaders to find ways in which society can tackle this violence.
Women, children, gender non-conforming people (GNC) and the LGBTQIA+ keep dying at the hands of men in South Africa and something needs to be done.
This is a national crisis. We call on all women to stay away from work and join the protest on the 1st of August 2018 in their respective provinces, Universities, and colleges.
If you can, join your local march on 1 August and become part of the incessant roaring. You can read more on their official Twitter page and participate in ways detailed on there.
It’s time to rumble, to speak up and demand change.