Thursday, 14 March 2013

Exposing young Cape Town boys

I was scrolling through my status update feed yesterday when I came across a bit of a rant from one of my friends about a page that had been created called ‘exposing young Cape Town girls’ (I only use the full name now because the page was removed yesterday evening). Curiosity got the better of me; I navigated towards the page. What popped up was a profile picture of a young lady in a very compromising position, completely naked. Her face was not the only thing clearly visible, and the timeline was filled with other young women in similar positions.

Of course I was surprised to find this kind of content on an openly accessible site, but my surprise quickly turned to indignation, and then anger. Who would do such a thing to young women? I thought of the parents, the siblings, the partners. I thought of their futures of professionalism and perhaps motherhood… Why would someone punish them so disproportionately for a moment of vulnerability? It seems unlikely they were adult entertainment professionals; were these women coerced, under-age, intoxicated, mentally or emotionally compromised? There is an entire litany of reasons they could have had; which the sadistic, malicious ‘exposers’ may or may not have been privy to. The point is that it was wrong. And I took to my own status update to vent my feelings on the matter.

Many people agreed with me, but I found some nasty jibes coming through as well. ‘They are probably druggies’, ‘they deserved what they got’, ‘they have no integrity’, ‘they must learn the lesson’, ‘just exposing a spade as a spade’, and one or two other scornful comments hissed through the general collective outrage. Of course, these holier-than-thou, let’s-throw-stones arguments are quite easily rubbished in the context of such time-tested principles such as proportionality, non-prejudice and empathy. But I think these poisonous opinions are symptomatic of two larger societal issues we face, and these issues are at the forefront of preventing our advancement.

Issue number one: we still have a destructive tendency to blame the victim. Make no mistake; these women are victims of slander, libel, defamation, malice, jealousy, spite, cowardice and inhumanity. Yet we will blame them without any real knowledge. After all, we like blaming the victim, whether it is in the case of domestic violence, drug addiction or sexual crimes; we are far too willing to look at how the victim should have behaved to prevent the misfortune. Perhaps she shouldn’t have complained so much, she needed to be put on her place, he tried too hard to be cool, she shouldn’t have worn such tight clothes. While preventative measures are well-advised in general, to shift blame from the criminal to the victim is absurd. As if we should all just curtail our legally sanctioned liberties because bullies and criminals can’t control themselves, we cannot be held hostage. We have just emerged from an extensive campaign to stop sexual violence against women and children. Yet it feels like we have taken a huge step back.

Issue number two: double standards on decency. I would love to know why women are expected to maintain a higher standard of integrity than men, and if they don’t, they are bullied by both men and other women. Why do the crimes against decency perpetrated by women deserve to be ‘exposed’, when equal or worse crimes perpetrated by men go unpunished, sometimes applauded? Are we na├»ve enough to believe that those pictures were not in some way solicited? By emotional blackmail, reciprocation, lies? I think a much more extensive page would result if one scornful woman decided to populate it under the title ‘exposing young men in Cape Town’. A few years ago there was a spate of local sex videos doing the rounds. The reputations of many women were irreparably ruined, yet the men remained anonymous. They were often behind the camera, they were often one half of the act, they were often the instigators. Yet their reputations remained intact.

I hear the familiar ‘that’s just how it is’, and I cannot accept that. That is what the Germans accepted as millions of Jews were slaughtered in WWII. That is what many people of colour accepted as the Apartheid regime withheld their basic human rights. That is what we are accepting now as our society drowns in oppressive patriarchy and abuse of our women and children. We have to show zero tolerance to these misogynistic chauvinists. It is not okay to degrade the dignity of another person. We must stop going backwards in our humanity. Expose the real criminals.

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