Today I am wearing black in the scorching heat of a South African summer in order to show solidarity with ‘Thursdays in Black – Towards a world without rape and violence’.
South Africans have risen up in outrage in the weeks since Anene Booysen was raped and murdered and I wonder whether her case would have been as widely reported (and reacted to) had it not been for the young woman in India who died as a result of her horrific injuries following her brutal rape in Dec 2012 – her case created a media fire-storm Perhaps as a society we have just had enough. The rape statistics are staggering. A woman is more likely to be raped in SA than she is to receive an education. Say what?!!
Last week I read an outstanding article by Pierre De Vos (click here) on the ‘limitations of outrage‘ when it comes to rape and gender violence. I encourage you to read it and to share it. It challenged me to think about my role in society and in particular my community.
I realised that I do not need to assert my power. I am powerful because I choose to be powerful. I do not need to prove my worth to anyone nor do I need to prove a point. I can stand alongside men largely because I was brought up to believe I am no more, no less than any other human being. Of course I am well aware of my colour and my privilege and I am aware that this is not true of everyone. I have not been raped. I have not been assaulted. I know that I am lucky that my upbringing did not influence me into thinking I have to be subservient to anyone based purely on their gender. This does not mean that I don’t have a role to play in helping those who have not been as fortunate, nor does it mean I must flaunt my privilege.
The seminary has committed to wearing black on Thursdays for at least the period of Lent and I will wear black to remind me not only of my worth but the worth of all people. I will not belittle or demonise men. I will not make men in general feel guilty just by virtue of their sex. I will continue to affirm women and to work with men in understanding how our patriarchal societies contribute to gender violence, injustice and inequality. Adding to existing power struggles is not helpful, at least not in my community.
I will try at all times to speak the truth in love. I will remember that my life and my attitude affects my world and I will, by all means possible, try to work for peace, reconciliation and healing. When I wear black I will remember that darkness cannot overcome darkness and I will stand with my sisters and my brothers and quietly and confidently affirm them both, just as I have been affirmed. Together we can work for change.