Serrie’s sexist "jokes" are harmful and not funny

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

The SAPS’s crime statistics recorded 32 161 reported cases of rape between April – December 2016.

This equates to one person being raped every 13 minutes. And that is just the reported cases.

In light of the shocking number of sexual violence incidences suffered by South African women and children, an anti-rape protest took place by the University of Pretoria’s female students on Tuesday, and a silent march, #NotInMyName, is due to take place in Pretoria tomorrow to raise awareness of woman abuse.

On the complete other end of the spectrum, Tuks started their annual Serrie event this week and a different picture was painted. The university’s website describes it as “girls [who] go and perform their Serrie [serenade] at all the men’s residences. This is reciprocated by visits from the men’s' residences the following night.” (sic)

Here’s a short video highlighting last year’s event:

On the surface, it purely seems like innocent fun, something that first-year students should experience. However, after Facebook user Fez the Photographer posted images of the preliminary rounds, showing male students holding up horribly sexist posters, reactions quickly turned to disbelief and outrage.

Here’s what a few (of several) of the slogans by the guys in the hall said *Warning: Explicit content.

“May I make you a Momma?”
 “Persoonlikheid kry jou net so ver daarna moet jy sluk [personality gets you only so far, thereafter you have to swallow.”
“Nice thigh gap, can I fill it?”
Ek is ‘n gentleman, sal jou eerste laat kom [I am a gentleman, I’ll let you come first]”.
“Smile if you are horny.”
“I’m not Asian but I’ll eat your cat.”
“I like it when you hold my trunk.”
“Spit or swallow?”
Wys my jou tiete [show me your tits].”
“Come my way.”
“68… you blow me and I owe you.”
“I hope you can like it in the gat [anus] ne?”
“Show us your tits!”
“There’s better uses for that mouth!!”
“Asterhoe [referring to the female’s residence, Asterhof].”

You get the picture. Rekord East reports that the event has been cancelled due to the negative publicity and News24 reports that the male students are facing suspension.

Karabo Mokoena, Courtney Pieters, Franziska Blöchliger – surely their names should ring a bell? Why are people consistently ignoring the link between harmful, disrespective language and sexual violence.

Are we that ignorant to the rape culture that exists in South Africa? Women are helpless in the face of all the violence and these men are making a mockery of our reality.

This backward thinking is not harmless, innocent and certainly not “just a joke”, as two Facebook users commented on the post. Another guy even went as far as to say (replying to a comment): “Sir, I don’t think you know what Serrie is about.”

So Serrie is about sexually humiliating women? If that is the case, it should be stopped. 

 “It’s actually really innocent and funny,” one commentator said. Excuse me whilst I take an eternity to get the joke. To the woman that said that comments made were a two-way thing, that female residences also put up signs whenever male students performed and that “the signs aren’t meant to victimise anyone but more to try to distract the dancing group,”

Really? Surely other methods of distraction that do not normalise and perpetuate rape culture and involves the objectification of women could’ve been employed?

The lines between fun and harm are too easily blurred. Scoff all you want, but if you aren’t recognising the seriousness of the matter please take a minute to read a brief extract from Laurie Pennie’s piece in The Independent:

"As a culture, we still refuse collectively to accept that most rapes are committed by ordinary men, men who have friends and families, men who may even have done great or admirable things with their lives. We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often. Part of the reason we haven't accepted it is that it's a painful thing to contemplate – far easier to keep on believing that only evil men rape, only violent, psychotic men lurking in alleyways with pantomime-villain mustaches and knives, than to consider that rape might be something that ordinary men do. Men who might be our friends or colleagues or people we look up to." explains how a world where men feel comfortable giving unsolicited sexual advances to women they don't know in public is the same world where men feel comfortable with rape. Will conversations around rape ever cease to centre on preventative behaviour? 

I’m told what not to do, what not to wear, or when not to go out. If I dress provocatively, I’m really just the same as the homeowners who don’t lock their doors at night. The notion of asking women to be responsible for preventing their own rape is wholly problematic.

I do believe that not all #MenAreTrash, but I am afraid that so many are overtly sexist and can easily joke about such a sensitive subject.

While one of the students apologised for his behavior, another shared a Facebook video post to his profile just last night. The video trivialises rape, rape culture and gender-based violence, as it depicts a Tuks student taking the #MenArentTrash #MenGetTrashed challenge by literally having a drum of trash thrown on him. 

Why, instead of mocking survivors and disrespecting women, do young men not rather try to understand women’s reality?

We live in constant fear of being attacked, and it’s not because we’re paranoid, it’s because the stats speak for themselves.  

“The whistling at women… is where our trash begins,” writes Kabelo Chabalala in a column for IOL.

"So, to the men, laaities, rather, who feel like this is blowing out of proportion because you were simply having fun – please don’t be part of the problem. Your words are reinforcing the lack of power that allows a sexist culture to thrive, and it’s time you see it, take responsibility for your actions and prevent it from occurring ever again."

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on W24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of W24.

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