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Helen Moffett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Fuck Women’s Day. FUCK IT.*

Don’t ask me to celebrate Women’s Day. Don’t offer me ten per cent off beauty products or a free glass of cheap bubbly. Don’t even ask me to commemorate the historic women’s march on the Union buildings – a milestone event whose noble essence has been sold down the river by leaders who are eager to claim some sort of retrospective credit for it, but don’t even pretend to honour its values.

Last year, I was in an epic rage. This year, I’m in despair.

Because the front page headlines the last few days have been about baby rape – AGAIN.

Because yesterday’s headline was “W. Cape cop ‘murdered wife’”.

Because Reeva’s Steenkamp’s death by shooting underlined what Lisa Vetten has been pointing out for years – South African women are more likely to die at the hands of their partner or spouse than through any other form of violence – including car crashes. What happened to Reeva reminded us that no amount of money, beauty, celebrity or middle-class comfort renders women exempt from this risk.

Because Lulu the Utterly Useless is still in charge of the Department of Everybody Except Able-bodied Men (henceforth known as the Department of Utter Uselessness).

Because the Department of Utter Uselessness still exists, feeding off the public purse like some ginormous swollen horror-movie leech. As Verashni Pillay says, “The … money would better be spent on funding existing researchers and activists. You know, the sort who work on issues related to ‘women, children and people with disabilities’ 12 months a year – not just in August.”

Because Mad Bob Mugabe referred to a senior female South African diplomat as a “street woman”, and our government chastised HER.

Because Vavi (a man I used to admire) can’t keep his pants zipped, not even when his wife is about to give birth to twins.

Because Vavi-gate means we learned absolutely nothing from the Zuma rape trial (what Margie Orford calls a case of deja Zuma).

Because Rape Crisis is now subsisting on the charity of individual donors in spite of the fact that (let me say it one more time) IT IS DOING THE WORK OF THE STATE.

Because a friend of Sarah Lotz’s was [allegedly] raped in the police cells of a small Cape town in 2008 (this was the impetus behind Sarah’s novel, Exhibit A), and the case hasn’t even come to trial yet. FIVE FUCKING YEARS LATER.

Because even when we KNOW that we (or a family member or friend) have been raped, we have to use the word “allegedly” when speaking about it publicly unless we belong to the 1% of rape survivors who see their attackers go to trial and get convicted.

Because this grinds into us that we are inherently untrustworthy and unreliable, that something that still gives us nightmares “didn’t maybe really happen” – or, as a man once said to me, “When a woman tells me she’s been raped, it means some guy grabbed her boob, right?”

Because there are so many men (and some women) who think that rape is a terrible thing, and Something Must Be Done – but on closer inspection, they still believe it’s something that only poor, ignorant, crazed, barbaric, drug-addled men do to poor, ignorant, downtrodden women.

Because so many men (and some women) are terribly angry about rape, and call for the death penalty and castration – but they’re thinking of an armed stranger breaking into their house and attacking their family, not about all the “regular, ordinary” blokes they know who have raped women… because that’s not real rape. Hey, the girl was coming on to him, she was drinking, it’s not like he used a knife or a gun…

Because unless about fifty women I know are psychotic, delusional, hardened and consistent liars, there are at least fifty rapists walking around doing things like playing golf and drinking beer, having got off absolutely scot-free.

Because so many men (and some women) have NO IDEA that non-consensual sex is rape. (Most of the women I know above fell into this category at the time they were raped. Many didn’t even know you could report men you actually worked, played or studied with, or had dated, or once had consensual sex with, or lived with.)

Because there is only one thing worse than being raped: being raped and then having to report it to the cops. Wait, there’s something even worse: being raped, reporting it, and then going to trial. I’ve been a witness in a criminal trial twice: appalling ordeals I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. To be the principal witness in a rape trial? I don’t know how any woman, man or child has the courage.

Because the reason so many men (and some women) have no idea that non-consensual sex is rape is because we’re absolutely marinated in rape culture.

Because Yale University, in its recent investigation into sexual violence on campus, redefined rape as “non-consensual sex” (see above) and recommended “written warnings” for offenders.

Because sometimes the same people who get all hot under the collar about rape also defend the “freedom of speech” of internet trolls who make rape threats.

Because so few of those who are rightly appalled by the rape of children grasp that it’s the extreme end of a continuum of rape culture – which can be summed up as the increasingly explicit patriarchal message that women are either objects for consumption or objects of contempt.

Because there is literally nowhere to go to escape rape culture. In that supposed bastion of civilisation (ha), the UK, a 13-year-old girl was described as sexually predatory not just by the defence lawyer, but the prosecution and the judge – and the 41-year-old man who molested her got probation.

Because I have nieces who are fourteen and thirteen (also a nephew of almost fifteen), and when they were born, I really believed that by the time they reached young adulthood, we would have this patriarchal shit thrashing on the mat. Or at least MORALLY defeated.

Because I want the world to be a safe and EQUAL place for them, and we’re running out of time.

So fuck Women’s Day, and fuck Women’s Month. Instead, as a gesture of grief, rage and general gatvol-ness, please join me in making a donation to Rape Crisis:

*I was going to issue my usual swearing and shouting warning, but I think the post title is a giveaway.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    August 8th, 2013 @12:16 #

    Nothing to add, other than a thanks for still writing.

    Exhausting and frustrating to have to continuously repeat something that should be obvious and easy to grasp.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    August 8th, 2013 @14:38 #

    A very sobering thought on Women's Day.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Maya</a>
    August 8th, 2013 @20:35 #

    I said it last year, and I'm saying it again: Viva Helen, viva. Take a look at my freshly posted blog ...

  • Gaiafrique@bookslive
    August 8th, 2013 @21:16 #

    the struggle continues - the struggle is long
    women (and children) continue to be crushed by ignorance
    continue to be ignored by crushers
    nothing will change until we bring up a generation of children who respect themselves as well as others
    nothing will change as long as the balance of power is in the hands of those who choose to abuse it
    Thank you Helen for continuing to raise your voice
    Thank you all who share these thoughts and this rage

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 9th, 2013 @11:53 #

    Update: looks like I will be on etv at 5 pm today, trying to talk about Women's Day without swearing -- and calling for folk to donate to Rape Crisis:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    August 9th, 2013 @17:14 #

    Watched your piece, Helen - nice work!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 9th, 2013 @20:08 #

    Thanks, Ben, talking over the delayed feedback loop in my ear was rough, but fantastic news just in from Rape Crisis -- the donations are rolling in! KEEP 'EM COMING, everyone!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
    August 13th, 2013 @18:10 #

    Thanks for this Helen. You got me off my backside and I have signed up to give a monthly donation to Rape Crisis. And I have shared it, and I hope more people are so moved. Thank you.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    August 14th, 2013 @11:25 #

    Thanks, Sacco. Regular donations like yours are lifelines to NGOs. Meanwhile, the piece has jumped the fence (adorned with a star or two) to other news platforms, so hopefully there'll be more donations to Rape Crisis:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">grantday</a>
    August 14th, 2013 @13:14 #

    This saying says it perfectly "You men are not our protectors... If you were, who would there be to protect us from?" Mary Edwards Walker

  • willie
    August 17th, 2013 @11:38 #

    Helen, will you please stand for president?


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