By Pinky Khoabane
It’s not the first time that Zapiro has depicted President Jacob Zuma and several men around him about to gang-rape a woman. I haven’t seen his latest offering of what some will feel is satire but I hear it runs along the same lines as the last one, the difference being that it’s a new set of men about to rape.
My initial response upon seeing the original cartoon in 2008 was to close my thighs tightly shut. As a woman, at some point in our lives we experience men’s imposition on us and the institutional entitlement they feel to our bodies. It is dehumanising. It is humiliating. It is sickening.
I have also worked as a volunteer for People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA) and each evening I picked up that phone, there was a woman who had been subjected to sexual, emotional and physical violence on the other side of the line. Some by one man and others by many. Zapiro has no idea what their experiences are. He will never have to find himself in that situation where he’s engulfed by helplessness, self-hate, and fear – not just of the pain inflicted by the rapists but of the possibility of HIV infection which at the time, spelt death.
Unlike Zapiro, who has many choices from which to choose his “metaphor”, they didn’t. Rape survivors and victims still don’t.
I listened to Zapiro justify his creation on radio today. And like last time, he still doesn’t get it.
We speak of rape culture today as a term that depicts the normalisation of rape in society; in the media, in the legal system, in the workplace and in pop culture. Male sexual aggression and violence are supported and encouraged. The lyrics of many of the songs promote sexuality and violence interchangeably. Media, through depictions such as Zapiro’s, allow images of violence against women to be used to denote whatever they want. The legal system continues to promote this entitlement. Women must prove that “they didn’t ask for it” through “wearing short skirts or shorts”. Survivors of rape continue to be harangued at home and in society at large and in the legal system for reporting their rapists.
The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) strongly condemns Zapiro’s latest cartoon depicting a black woman being gang raped by the president and his cronies. One cannot compare the current political and economic challenges to a woman being raped. SA citizens may feel helpless and angry but this is nothing like how women feel when they have been raped. By using the rape imagery Zapiro is appropriating women’s experiences. There are other ways to portray the South African situation.
South Africa has the highest rape statistics in the world, yet the majority of women do not report and this cartoon enforces the stigma and the reasons rape is under reported. Thus, we condemn this cartoon for a number of reasons:
· Zapiro’s cartoon is a form of violence as it triggers real pain for rape survivors.
· It is a form of white entitlement on Zapiro’s part as he is representing black bodies without thought and acknowledgement of white privilege.
·Rape should not be used as metaphor for anything. This kind of representation normalises rape.
· Zapiro is stoking racial animosity by objectifying black women (and men). Black men as hypersexualised rapists — black women’s bodies as always available to be raped. These are malicious stereotypes of black sexuality.
·Lastly and most importantly black women’s bodies do not stand as a representation of the South African nation, or representations for what men fight over.
The greatest pain in this country falls upon the black woman. Zapiro’s cartoon is neither humorous or makes a strong political point. It is insensitive and out of touch with the lived realities of women in South Africa.