Zapiro, stop using our trauma for your metaphor


Staring down the barrel of yet another Zapiro rape cartoon, I have to wonder whether there’s any point in commenting on it. We’ve told him so many times why it’s an awful analogy and he clearly does not give a shit.

It was published on the Daily Maverick. I don’t recommend looking it up.

All right, Jonathan Shapiro: We’ve explained to you why rape analogies foster rape culture in a country where violence against women and sexual violence in general is endemic. We’ve asked you not to use black women’s bodies as the site of state violence. We’ve explained and educated and pleaded, and you’ve given us the finger.

This isn’t ignorance. This is being deliberately obtuse. Lazy. Without imagination.

I’m not going to explain all of those things again. You have Google. So I’m going to try something else. I’m going to tell you what you’re doing to us. Try, for just one moment, not to wear the shoes of a straight, white man. Pretend that being a political cartoonist does not give you the inalienable right to say whatever you want.

(Yes, you have free speech. But being able to say something simply because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean you should be saying it.)

I don’t know why this particular iteration of your cartoon (how many times now?) upset me so much more than the previous versions. Maybe it’s because the political events of the past year or so — here, everywhere — have been deeply traumatising. Just last night I read that Chechnya has begun rounding up gay men in a concentration camp.  

Maybe it’s because this time, you drew a woman who has just been raped, and is about to be raped again. Was that what went through your mind, by the way? That you want to show a woman who is in the middle of being gang-raped?

I am not the only person who felt this like a punch to the stomach. Like a struggle to breathe. Do you know what it means to be triggered?

It’s not just a word thrown around by social justice warriors. It means that you’ve encountered something that brings up past trauma: flashbacks, shivers, uncontrollable weeping. I’ve never been gang-raped, but I’ve been on the receiving end of enough male violence that this image made me feel utterly unmoored. Crying. In despair. Because we tell you and we tell you and we tell you, and here it is again.

So many of my friends are survivors. So many people in your life are survivors too, even if they haven’t told you. You are hurting them. You are hurting us. You are complicit in our pain. Your perpetuation of rape culture makes you complicit in the violence against us.

A friend of mine tweeted this: “What Zapiro is missing is that his fucking ‘strong statement’ isn’t just a strong statement for so many people. It’s memories for some.”

Jonathan, why are you using our pain, making us relive trauma, to make a political point?

Do we matter so little?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 952 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 383 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2081 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 58 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 740 votes