AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence

Let me start by saying that I feel very ambivalent about causing two workers to lose their source of income. It makes me uncomfortable to have deprived anyone of a wage in this time of crisis. ‘Getting someone fired’, more than a victory, makes me feel miserable, concerned, confused.

There are a number of other things contributing to my current lack of emotional wellbeing – my anxiety, nausea, vulnerability, unhappiness; a feeling of being overwhelmingly incapable of working or writing or any of the daily activities necessary for my survival. Many of the feelings I am describing are those associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and relate in part to my own past experiences of violent men. While the medicalisation of trauma and ‘post-trauma’ is too complex a discussion for this text, for the sake of brevity I will use this term to refer to the way I have been affected, and am constantly affected, by particular traumas. My PTSD was triggered, that is my feelings of helplessness, victimhood, pain; the feelings of fear associated with sexual violence; trauma, when a friend of mine sent me an email with screenshots of a Facebook thread starting with a status by Max Barashenkov. In her email she asked me to please say or do something about it since she was too scared of the men concerned to do it herself.

The status reads:

I propose correctional rape and sterilization for any white person who twerks.

Immediately two woman friends object to Max’s light, joking reference to correctional rape. Correctional rape is a term used to describe the practice of raping someone (usually a woman) in order to ‘cure’ them of their homosexuality. This is a common practice in South Africa particularly in South African townships.

Max and his friend and former co-writer at For Him Magazine (FHM) South Africa, Montle Moorosi immediately attacked and bullied them:

Montle:

i think rape can be quite fun if executed in a romantic manner. like saying “i love you” before you slip a roofie into her Earl Grey tea.

When challenged on this, Max writes:

i myself, was a victim of correctional rape, so I can make jokes about it

No, Max, you weren’t. Seeing as you are a heterosexual white man, it is also very unlikely that you ever will be. This, clearly, is in fact why you can make jokes about it.

The thread continues. In particular one woman, Kyla Phil, continuously tries to object to Max and Montle’s trivializing of rape and violence, however she is continuously bullied, talked down to, ignored.

Each comment made me feel more sick, more angry, more out of control. I understood why my friend was scared of these men: It is not just the cultural capital that they wield against anyone who challenges them that makes them an object of fear; it is that what they are saying is genuinely terrifying and threatening:

Montle:

in all honesty, im just a ignorant selfish fuck who choses not to care unless something affects me personally… as big pun said “respect crime but not when it respects mine”… big pun used to beat his wife

I tweeted the screen shots of the conversation. People all over the country were horrified. People retweeted at FHM. Eventually editor, Brendan Cooper, was pressurized into suspending the two writers. Cooper is quoted in City Press as saying: “They’re actually nice boys. But having these comments linked to my brand (has) me absolutely furious.”

Nice boys, he says.

Max and Montle then issued an aggressive non-apology in which they accuse South Africans of embarking on a ‘witch hunt’ (way to instrumentalise the abuse and murder of tens of thousands of women to defend men making jokes about abusing women) based on ‘blind hate’ for the two writers, writing: ‘We find honesty in the unfiltered horror of life, not in politically and socially correct reportage which trivializes the real issues. It is our hope now that the newspapers and the social media mobs will react as strongly and as violently to more important matters in our country.’

Max and Montle’s continued trivializing of their comments, and of rape culture, the continued aggression and dismissal of many others, the vapid Daily Maverick post that says the real problem here is people getting angry, insensitively claiming ‘outrage porn’. The “Thought Leader” blog crying because ‘Two people were suspended. Just like that. People who, from what I can tell, were respected enough and presumably liked among their peers’ and calling me a vindictive killjoy who single handedly ruined Mandela’s birthday. The comments on the blogs about evil twitter feminists, the pointed personal comments on blogs that are clearly by people who know me. The rape threats. The hatred. The patronizing, mansplaining assumption that we are idiots who don’t understand the joke. Every single person who feels like it is more important to critique the media outcry about violent hate speech than it is to think about what this hate speech actually means, what it does, is one more person telling me that these boys’ lives are more important than mine, than ours.

Every singe tweet, every defense, every ‘angry twitter feminist’ accusation, makes me more scared when I walk home alone, less capable of being in any kind of emotional relationship with men, less sure of my capacity for serious writing, Every single attack makes me less of myself, because I know that you care more about the welfare, about the wages, the reputation of two violent men than you do about the pain of women; because my life is worth so much less to you. Every single attack, however stupid, however badly written, however much I laugh it off, is a knife on the edge of my throat again.

This piece, of course, is not ‘serious writing’. I know that by writing this I am opening up myself further to more hurt, more trauma, more abuse; of course I am lacerating myself to the point where the immediate response can only be well that’s your subjective emotional unreasonable hysterical feminine response, you can’t blame us for that. Well, firstly, I can and will. Secondly it is not just my position. The position of traumatized subject is shared in its infinite horrifying variants by countless women (and men) in South Africa and elsewhere. It might be useful to remember that it is estimated that 40% of South African women are raped in their lifetimes and that only one in nine rapes are likely to be reported. A much higher percentage have experienced some kind of sexual violence or attempted sexual violence, and I would argue that near to every single woman and girl in South Africa has experienced some kind of sexual harassment.

We have suffered, we suffer, we are suffering. And your violence, your defense of violence, your disregard for real victims, your aggression, your silencing, your abuse is making us suffer more. I did not call out these men because they made jokes about violence; I called them out because their jokes are violent, and because they cause real and serious damage to me, to survivors, to us.

I wish I could take away Max and Montle’s violence. I wish that I could stop them from hating me, from hurting me and my sisters. But, I don’t know how to do that, how to take the violence from men (this testimony is a way of trying, but it rarely works). What I did, what I will continue to do, is to stop them from writing, from having a voice, from having influence, from being that joke in a room full of drunk boys and a girl passed out on the couch, that joke that says hey lets fuck her, lets film it, lets show everyone, hey I hear she’s gay she deserves it hey lets destroy her lets cut her maybe lets kill her no but that’s too far it wouldn’t be that kind of rape right it would just be the kind where she’s my girlfriend and it was romantic and no means yes right and this is all really funny anyway and lets just slip it in her just this once it will be hilarious …

Or maybe it will be the kind of rape Max himself fantasizes about in one of his published texts for (surprise!) Vice titled ‘THE JOURNALIST’S GUIDE TO ECO-FRIENDLY PEDOPHILIA’:

Admittedly the only reason to actually come here, unless bound by journalistic duty, is to get ass. The tent next door is crammed full of virgin, eight of them, though the number fluctuates. Doing some quick math, that puts anywhere between thirty and sixty-four semen receptacles within a fifteen meter radius of our sleeping grounds. Hunting in the daisy fields is much like hunting in the savannah: locate the weak one in the herd – usually swaying a little too much to whatever crap band is playing; approach and begin lying – how much you love this band, how you know them personally, how you were actually in the band at some stage; flash your media pass and, if you work for One Small Seed, drag the meat back to your magazine’s snazzy tent, club it into submission with pumping house music and have your way. Clean up. Repeat. Glorious.

Max and Montle, I am not in any way sorry for what is happening to you. Do not be misled – I am not misdirecting my anger, I am not ‘more angry’ with you than a man who rapes a woman, I do not hate men or even either of you. But, I do hate rape and abuse and male violence and the structural sexism and misogyny that allow fear to govern our lives. I hate what you said and how you spoke and how you continue to speak. I am angry with you. I am furious. And however much you continue to hurt us, to hate us, to try and destroy us, as best as I can I am going to stand square in the middle of your fucking way…

* Image by Zanele Muholi.

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Linda Stupart

Linda Stupart is an artist, writer and educator from Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Art Practice at Goldsmiths College engaged in issues of objectification. http://www.lindastupart.com/

98 thoughts on “On the Pain of Violent Men, or, Why I’m not Sorry about Max and Montle

  1. Loud and bold trivial commentary painted as intelligence that’s justified in anti-anti-conundrums, order to attain and further yawls middle class social media popularity goals. Trivializing issues does not make the purpose of your comments invisible, the purpose of your comments is obvious and has everything to do with your facebook-egos and being the anti-trend-trendsters that yawll are. Knowing a few big words and writing a few sentences in the hip-anti-hip world that you wish to be kings of- does not make you intelligent in the least. Common sense will always override your wannabe fringe-anti-fringe social games, yawll like to think yawll smarter than the rest of your middle class contemporeez by painting quick-on-the-draw-confusion-mouth-offs as intelligence- you fuckheads are only bamboozling yourselves, yawlls populist reactionary yaps of “lets say something pseudo funny and trivial” clearly shows that yawll are the fashionable-fence-sitters who like to think that yawll are a bunch of penthrifts- when yawll actually have fuckall skills, writing is not a skill, nor is wearing your hat, jackets, jeans and takkies in a style. You fuckheads are empty, and when after you read this and go “he said we empty, yeah we are empty, empty is rad” you will just continue your moronic middle class ego manifestations, and in the end be packed in very minimalist or maximalist trendy-anti-trend designer embossed box packaging amongst the other very smart and weak artists.

    Your apology was not an apology, although you have furthered your popular crowd goals, but those who are actually intelligent will see write through yawll, for the fools that yawll are- once again the fool is not hip, even if you try and make it hip, time to grow up boys

  2. Allow me to succinctly summarise the author’s diatribe

    Author was raped. Author has borderline personality disorder. Author has PTSD. Author gives a fuck when it’s not her turn to give a fuck. Author loves the sound of her keys tapping the keyboard. Author has nothing better to do with her time than to harp on and on about a dead issue.

    If we translate her logic…. I was hijacked. I have PTSD from being hijacked. No one in this country is allowed to make any jokes about hijacking and violence because its something that has affected me.

    Welcome to South Africa. Where we have no sense of humour, unless it counts Trevor Noah saying, “Poo,” at the Steve Hofmeyer Comedy Central Roast.

    Pathetic.

    • I suppose this movement in backward thinking, has something to do with the stat. that in South Africa girls are more likely to be raped than to learn how to read. Good for you, though… at least you are brave enough to present thorough stupidity with out the inclination to …………..mask it as intelligence?

      • I always struggle to understand the “lack of humor” argument in cases like this – Louis C.K once told a fellow comedian (Daniel Tosh) whom once made a rape joke…

        “… She yelled out from the audience, “Actually, rape is never funny.” Tosh said something to the effect of “Wouldn’t if be funny if she were raped by five guys right now?” (There’s dispute over the wording, but he later publicly apologized.)”

        … in bad taste – the joke made fun of the person being raped, and not the rapist, nor the act of raping… Louis said that if ever he apologised to another heckler again for his jokes, that he (Louis C.K), would have to rape him as punishment.

        See what he did there? Not? *Sigh* Okay… So Tosh’s joke was making fun of the victim – this is BAD! – Louis C.K’s joke made fun of how ridiculous it was to jump to the conclusion of using rape, even as a joke, to punish someone. See, he’s making fun of Tosh (the guy who wants to make light of rape) and rape too, by using his “joke” against him.

        Now that’s a funny rape joke – you stupid fucking ass-bag.

  3. What I find unbelievable is the amount of people defending these two guys and the apparent normalisation of rape jokes and the belittling of women here in SA and perhaps in general across the globe.

    I do not make racist jokes because I am not racist, neither do I laugh at them and the same is true for other unsavoury ‘jokes’. Having a daughter of seventeen and a wife who was abused by her uncle at a young age, I understand the pain that these types of people can cause and by their actions and words, allowing rape to become trivialised and accepted as par for the course of women.

    Sad that so many people see them as saints who have been unfairly treated.

  4. OK. I think your anger is correct, but a little misdirected at these two. In the sense that – they are not rapists. I believe your anger is directed at rapists, right? Correct in the sense that these two were joking about something that isn’t actually funny. I think in South Africa we joke all the time about hardship here – it’s just a way of dealing with a Life in Africa, which isn’t always so easy. Wasn’t easy for me – I am a victim of a gang rape. But it’s not what defines me, nor my outlook on other people. I forgive these two for their naivety – I wish I still had it. Let’s rather focus on taking out the bad guys, not the normal guys who don’t know better…

  5. Dear Linda

    Thanks for your piece – I think men do not even begin to comprehend the fear women live in on a daily basis.

    This is to the men out there: Man the fuck up and start protecting the women in your lives – your sisters and your mothers and your daughters. The people you care about. This is not a battle to be fought only by women, you men need to do your part as well. Sexual abuse and violence against women is a crime against humanity akin to slavery and needs to end now. Stop fucking around.

    As for Max and Montle, since they don’t have jobs any more they’ll probably have to move back in with ‘semen receptacle’ mothers.

  6. Excellent. Often, such remarks are said without ‘real’ consequences. They deserved to lose their jobs! Maybe, they can find a way to make a joke out of it seeing as they have a knack for making serious issues comic.

  7. Just dropping by to say there’s another man out here who’s cheering you on, Linda. I also hate seeing anyone losing their jobs, but in this case, it’s hard to imagine anything else driving home to them what they’ve done. Though I fear that the subtext of the firing was probably, ‘we’d love to keep you guys on, but the bad publicity is more than we can deal with.’ There’s no way these characters are an aberration within FHM – they must be representative of it, even if at an extreme. I hope the rag goes under.

  8. Ignore idiots, stay strong. The ‘fired’ themselves by making such stupid comments and having the idiocy to actually try and defend it. You called them on it and rightly so. Believe that the momentum is slowly shifting with every battle that is won. Well done!

  9. Hi Linda and thanks for your post.

    I wanted to say that after reading your post the first time, as a white male I was somewhat put off by the overwhelming sense of victimization surrounding a courageous act. I read it again and really tried to listen and understand your perspective with an open heart. I think you’re right to do what you did. I don’t feel sorry for M/M and I think that rape culture needs to change not only in South Africa, but in most parts of the world.

    But this is what leadership really looks like. You’ve stepped out and exposed yourself and become the voice of a viewpoint and perspective that is supported by some and reviled by others. You’ve put an uncomfortable issue in front of people and many are going to attack, threaten, and oppose you for it, much in the same way that you represent a threat and an attack to those who share Max and Montle’s view.

    Leading on this issue is not easy. It’s dangerous, and scary, and is likely to require a great deal of pain and sacrifice on your part. But you’re not a martyr, and standing tall in the face of such violence and pain is not the mark of a victim. It’s the mark of a fighter.

    You write that “every single attack makes me less of myself”. I hope that perhaps the opposite is true and every single attack you face reveals more of your strength and character.

    Best of luck with everything.

    • Much kudos to you for your own strength of character in reading the piece again and making a real effort to overcome your initial reaction of discomfort so you could properly appreciate what was being said. Men like you make me hopeful about the prospect of change.

  10. I’m not sure if you guys heard. But Mark Zuckerberg made this awesome new feature on Facebook that allows you to delete a friend! It’s amazing! I’ve deleted hundreds of oversensitive fools like Miss Stupid without ANY of them having to be fired. Try it!

  11. Just one question: what makes you describe Max as a “heterosexual white man”? Has he published the sexual orientation with which he identifies somewhere, has he told you this, or is it an assumption?

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