A few days ago on Twitter I mentioned briefly that I would love to see young people a lot more politically engaged. Activists as it were. Some mistook that as me saying that young people weren’t already engaged. Being involved in NUS or junior sections of mainstream political parties is all good and well but what I was talking about but was rallying young people to get involved and outspoken on issues that tend to be more local. Given that my work with youth tend to be secondary students this is the target group I am aiming at.
The Dheli Incident
Over the festive season I toyed around with a couple of ideas for activism including crime against the person, identity and self esteem, and the environment looking to see how that would impact young people locally but one that can be tapped into globally. Then the harrowing story of ‘Damini’ the Indian girl who was raped in the presence of her friends and subsequently died as a result of her injuries came to my attention. It reminded me that rape is something that is so endemic in our culture. Men feeling that women can be objectified and abused almost as a norm. The statistics from so many organisations show that recorded sexual assault is so widespread. Owen Jones in his article for the Independent noted that a poll by Amnesty International shows not only do many not realise how many are raped or sexually assaulted each year but many people feel women are to blame as well in some way or the other. This would be my primary focus for activism. Awareness and education around sexual assault.
Starting from scratch
The image at the top of the post was one I found online. It draws on the notion (assumption?) that sexual violence is one that women are scared to talk about. One of my political ambitions is to get people talking about it more. Especially men. Whether former perpetrators or young people who need to know what the boundaries are around acceptable behaviour from a man to a woman. Of course rape is at the extreme end of the spectrum but it forms part of a wider conversation about appropriate language and assumptions. So let me raise some of the angles that I am coming from.
- A woman can never be blamed for rape. Having sex forced on you against your will is never acceptable. No means no.
- It is not acceptable to refer to a woman in a derogatory tone because she has rejected your advances.
- It is important as a male to know the difference between flirting and stalking.
- What value do you place on another human being when you refer to them as a hoe, sket or say you want to tap that?
- It is never acceptable for a man to hit out a woman. Never. Hitting out is not self defence (will discuss this at another juncture)
As a man I also feel a duty of care to make ladies aware of how they are perceived. Heck it doesn’t mean that people should start changing the way they dress, drink, dance, beautify themselves in anyway, but being truly aware of how certain imagery has been perpetuated to make some/many men misread a signal, is a first point in you being able to address that misconception.
In 2013 I will be writing about this more here on this blog, seeking other male advocacy groups who are looking to eradicate and address harmful behaviour towards women and speak out on this too. I cannot be silent anymore. I know in due course I will probably piss a lot of people off too. I can live with that.
I hope in so doing it also inspires a generation of men and women to speak out too because for me, being silent is being complicit.