RIP Khwezi: An opportunity to reflect on patriarchy

2016-10-12 00:52

President Jacob Zuma and the ANCWL can go to hell for now. They’ve received more airtime than they deserve on this matter since the news broke. I do not intend to discuss them in this article. I want to take the opportunity of Khwezi’s death to reflect on the rape and patriarchal crisis facing society overall. I am sure that is what she would like all of us to do. Therefore, I invite critical debate from my readers in that spirit.

Inspired and influenced by the recent works of Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, I want to argue that rape is always blamed on the victim especially when it is an adult that is raped. One often hear comments such as “what was the victim wearing, why was she walking alone at night and what did she do to seduce the rapist”. As a result, these kind of questions seek to put the blame and shame solely on the victim. The rapist who orchestrated the entire violence gets acquitted from all responsibility. I challenge you to consider putting all blame and shame on the rapist for it is the rapist that thinks, plans and executes rape.

Rape is an extreme level of violence targeted towards feminine people – females, children, old people, gay people etc. It does not happen in isolated individual cases like how the media reports it – such as the raping of Khwezi by Jacob Zuma. Instead, rape is a social superstructure. It is a language pattern that enforces submission and punishes defiance. It is registered in the sociology and psychology of society in the sense that its acts get repeated often and responses to it are predictable and recyclable. Rape as a social superstructure is able to subconsciously inform society that men are entitled to the appearance, opinions, attention, conversation, time, and decision-making of females.

In this white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal world that we live in, men that are powerful, famous and popular are deemed to have women readily available to sleep with them. They are considered to have a large pool of willing, available and obligation-free sex. Consequently, the question always gets asked: “if he can have whoever he wants, why would he force you of all people”? Nobody wins against a male idol in a capitalist and patriarchal society.

The judiciary is usually the point of reference when some want to make passive arguments about rape. I argue that the judiciary is not innocent. The judiciary is as patriarchal as the society it operates in. The judiciary exposes rape survivors to more risk instead of relief. In a court of law during a rape trial, the sex history of a female gets questioned in order to determine whether she has previous instances of “looking for sex”. The sex history of the male never gets the same scrutiny.

Such a process is patriarchal because its language is so flawed. Its language is that of putting sex and rape on the same category. Rape is not sex. Rape is not sex gone wrong. Rape is not violent sex. Rape is simply violence. Rape is violence because it is force intended to hurt, damage, dehumanize, kill someone. Rape is violence used to establish and maintain power and control over another person. Rape is violence used to reflect an imbalance of power between the victim and the abuser.

Rape has a history. Rape occupied the center of colonialism and slavery. This is shown in the form of objectification and sexualization of a black female body. Do you remember Sarah Bartmaan? Her genitalia were auctioned in public as a form of sexual entertainment and pleasure. The white man saw a black woman as something to exploit sexually whilst he saw a white woman as a feminine flower to take care of, marry, love, make beautiful and make motherhood of.

This is still the case in mainstream media today whereby the value of the black female body is placed on the size of its genitalia. Before society listens to a black female body, it firsts looks at the size and shape of her buttocks and breasts. The value and beauty of a black female body is reduced to the shape and size of her buttocks and breasts. Switch on any Hip-Hop or House music video online today and see which race of women is sexualized. Go to an ordinary Instagram page of a young black female and see how the patriarchal society has taught them how to use the size and shape of their buttocks and breasts as the definition of value and beauty.

One often hears words such as “not all men are rapists – some have been found not guilty”. This narrative plays into the usual of isolating and individualizing cases of rape instead of seeing it as a social superstructure, a language pattern that enforces submission and punishes defiance. Furthermore, the one uttering such words usually seeks to distance himself or herself from the scourge of rape and indirectly asks it to be entertained by others far away from his or her space. These are all attempts to silence and belittle the struggle against rape as something that has been delegitimized before through an individual not found guilty and therefore anyone advocating for it should prepare for disappointment. It cannot be in 2016.

Masculinity assumes that when a female says no, she is actually playing hard to get and therefore the male must continuously push her. Masculinity assumes that “women cannot say what they mean and they don’t mean what they say”.

Masculinity instills fear on a female of being “always alert” because she can be attacked anytime. Therefore, a female must be small, quiet and invisible in order to avoid attacks. This makes her not enjoy other benefits of citizenship such as walking at night freely or walking through a taxi rank spontaneously because masculinity is present in those spaces ready to strip her off her citizenship and thus a status of being a normal human being.

Child rape is considered worse than the rape of a female adult. This is because there is no way around the fact that a baby, unlike Khwezi, could have given consent or “asked for it” in any way. The so-called horrific question that people would ask is “how can an old man be aroused by a 8-month old baby? How do you ejaculate inside a 8-month old baby?” Since these questions sound horrific on the ear, society begins to be shocked by the raping of children and not shocked by the raping of female adults. I argue that there is a need for society to stop being shocked by some rapes but not by others. All instances of rape regardless of their circumstances, perpetrators or victims should horrify all of us. All rape is violence.

To conclude, I argue that there is a need for a psychological liberation of people from masculinity. There’s a need for an elevation to a different level of consciousness particularly amongst males. We must be aware of our male bodies and the space they obstruct in society. Let us pay attention and listen to the things we say. There is a need to challenge popular narratives by changing how society thinks about rape, it must be defined differently, many more must be educated and get elevated to a different consciousness about it in order to structurally create a society that has no rape. Rape can be fought and it can be made hard to rape.

Rest In Peace Fezekile ‘Khwezi’ Kuzwayo

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