Victim-blaming, slut-shaming in a time of crime

2014-11-02 15:00

The murder of Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa has thrown up long-held ideas about victimhood and morality.

To understand the seemingly unending violence, we have largely internalised the idea that we can avoid crime. So we blame victims of crime when they encounter it because they should have known better.

It is, therefore, unsurprising to hear “If Senzo had been with his wife he would still be alive...” and “He died chasing a woman”, which conveniently uses morality to explain crime in a country where avoiding crime is almost down to luck and the ability to pay for private security.

A country where even the “best behaved” eventually have their luck run out when they are shot, raped or robbed despite ticking all the boxes of “being safe”.

The scary truth is there is no way to guarantee complete safety in South Africa. What we can do is enjoy a degree of safety, a degree of separation from our encounter, but to be “safe” would mean never to encounter a criminal, which is near impossible at the moment.

We also continue our tradition of misogyny and slut-shaming. We have a particular history of slut- shaming Kelly Khumalo.

In 2007, when Khumalo performed wearing no underwear, she was called a slut and a whore. We’ve done this before. The slut remains the enemy of control and order and morality, and this week it’s Khumalo.

The slur is usually reserved for girls and women who cannot prevent themselves from being raped despite all the “good” advice they are given, or the domestic worker Kenilworth resident Tim Osrin assumed he could assault because he thought she was a sex worker.

Marriage remains the distinguisher between women who are good and those who are bad.

We blame “side chicks” for destroying marriages into which they are allowed by the people they choose to have relations with, who know they are married. We hate “sluts” so much it is almost immoral to feel sympathy towards Kelly, who Meyiwa chose to love and father a child with, because she is the other woman and it is wrong to recognise her humanity by recognising her grief.

And these ideas of careless victims and sluts provide a fertile ground for crime.

Perhaps it’s easier to create careless victims who should have known better and to blame survivors of crime than to acknowledge that our experiences with crime are down to chance and privilege, if we are lucky to have it.

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