Did Pulane Lenkoe break SA social media?

2015-03-20 13:51

If you thought I would tag the picture of Pulane, shame on you. The concept of breaking the internet is a developing one, made very popular recently by the butt naked pictures of Kim Kardashian. Many have been asking recently, ‘who is Pulane?’ ‘Have you seen Pulane?’ and the list goes on. The cause of these questions? Some leaked nude picture of Pulane. However, unlike Kim, Pulane had not consented to the publishing of this picture.

When a person leaks a nude picture or any other picture given in confidence and privately, they begin to violate the right to privacy of an individual. When the picture is one ‘in a compromising position’, as Pulane herself labelled it, its leaking is an immediate violation of an individual’s right to dignity. All these are important rights in achieving respect and value for human life and bodily integrity. When such a picture is leaked with malicious intent, even, it becomes a clear case of harassment and cyberbullying. Pulane Lenkoe has suffered all these.

This is not too surprising. South Africa is a misogynistic country. It takes very little to reveal the crudeness at which men view and understand the place of women in society. When this picture of Pulane first appeared, some labelled it as that of Sindisiwe Manqele (arrested for killing Flabba); commenting that even if she has ability to kill, with a body that hot they would still want to get on with her. There are many crude things in such sentiments and many that were made. Firstly, the killing of Flabba is a serious matter. The respect for the rule of law needs for all of us to refrain, even if hard for myself even as I am no saint, from making sneering remarks about the person of Manqele before the trial is over and all issues have been ventilated.

When the error was corrected and the picture correctly attributed to Pulane, with her acknowledgment as well, the attention turned squarely to Pulane’s twitter account. Since then, thousands of people have decided to follow her. Yes, I have seen the picture, there is consensus that Pulane is beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, and many other ‘good’ words used to describe an anatomy that one (whether male or female) finds attractive. However, it was not for me to see that photo without the consent of Pulane. I had no permission to see her nakedness in that way, without her consent. We have seen the (butt) nakedness of Boity Thulo with her consent. She had control over that choice – Pulane did not.

Let me share my view on nude pictures. There is nothing wrong with people taking nude pictures and sharing them with their lovers or people they are flirting with or whatever, as long as the people involved are willing participants. Leaking these like the Zondo video or so-called ‘ashy penis’ of Sandile Zungu, is exactly what is wrong. This act needs an affected person to lay a criminal charge. In the age of social media, cyberbullying is a serious reality. People must learn to solve their problems with other individuals without involving other people who are not party to their problems.

The many people who followed Pulane show a level of stupidity on one hand but on another they reveal the crude attitude society has towards women. Why follow her? Why? Are you thinking she is actually going to post her own naked pics? Is she suddenly some pornstar or freak that posts nude? Is this not some kind of silent violation? What's the use of following her? I had put these questions on my Facebook and a friend, Yolokazi Langeni, replied pointedly, “I was wondering the same thing nam. Mna I would feel super embarrassed with every "follow" because it just confirms the number of people that have seen me exposed. But ke... twitter is where all logic goes to die”.

Indeed social media seems to be the place where logic dies. Some of the people that followed Pulane will tomorrow talk and ‘grace’ Human Rights Day activities with their presence. Some of them in August will speak out against women abuse, women’s societal marginalisation, their harassment and many social ills they face. In November the same followers will jump into the annual bandwagon on 16 Days of Activism. At no stage will they reflect on their participation in the cyberbullying, humiliation and violation of Pulane’s rights. They have not followed Pulane because they like her views, her thoughts and the way she carries herself as an individual, they have followed her because of her nude picture. In an age where society and men in particular are called upon to look at and treat women as equal human beings and not just sexual beings, the action of following Pulane because of her nude picture is crude and an antithesis of the South African society we are currently building.

Having read her comments in the media, Pulane has held her own against a barrage of hostility and being stripped (literally) naked for the whole country to see. There should have been many voices coming to her defence. But no, the violation of a woman in South Africa is a norm. Yet many jump in the bandwagon of #HandsoffSoandSo when some silly, corrupt or incompetent politician is in hot waters. As a society our priorities are misplaced. One can only wish Pulane greater strength and composure in the face of this nationwide harassment she has suffered.

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