the bad samaritan

as i was driving away from the gym this evening, a waif of a woman – older, well-dressed, bejewelled (she said her name is jan, she’s from a dance-background, will be 60 in december, lives on a plot the other side of edenvale) frantically tapped on my window and stopped me in traffic, asking for a ride. she spun me a story about her car being towed and costing R2000 and how her card was maxed out and she now needed R150 for cab-fare back to edenvale or could i drop her at the gautrain.
as south africans we are so used to people trying to do us in/rob us, that i immediately was wary. it smelled like just another con. especially when she started talking about how she still needs to get pre-paid electricity and cat-food. long story short – i was holding up traffic and my front-seat was full, so i told her to hop in the back and that i would drive out of my way to drop her off on empire road where she said she could catch a mini-bus taxi if i would give her the money for it. which is what i did. she asked if i could draw R150 for her and she’d leave her ID with me so she could come back and repay me, but leary of the con, i told i couldn’t do that and instead gave her R20.
with the sky grey above us, and another jozi storm imminent, i dropped her off just shy of empire road and she gave me a hug before getting out and we went our different ways.
and as i drove away i felt so guilty. i felt like the antithesis of the good samaritan and part of me wanted to turn around and find her and at least give her R100 so she could find her way home. but i didn’t. and now i can’t stop thinking about that waif of a woman who told me that she was “gedaan”, somewhere on the side of the road. and i hope she’s ok and finds her way. and i feel like, even if it was a con, i should have given her the money. and i feel that somehow, as a human being, today, i failed.

update: i also posted this on fb and a friend commented – She sounds suspiciously like a woman that was hanging around the petrol station on Oxford with the same story… so maybe my instincts were right. but still…

everything is not ok

if i weren’t like the cat with 9 lives or the phoenix always rising from the ashes, i would be dead right now, because the last week has slain me.

the news, the incessant news of another woman victimized, disregarded, disdained… this time she actually has a name, something more than just another statistic.

anene booysen.

only 17 and discarded on a pile of rubble like so much rubbish. RIP anene. you deserved so much more.

i have been taking a mental health break from my accidental activism, but this makes it impossible to stay silent. and like i said on twitter this evening, every time i talk about rape on my time-line, i suspect that people go, “oh, there she goes again”. well i don’t care. i didn’t choose to be the poster-child for rape survivors. i don’t create the news. i don’t rape. but i sure as hell can not keep quiet about the horrors happening all around us. like prime-media’s campaign the other day, setting off a ping every 4 minutes… ping….ping….ping….ping….ping. ad nauseum. infinitum.

i’m angry and i’m sad and i’m outraged. maybe this will get people galvanized enough to start changing things.

maybe.

this is a poem i wrote the last few days.

“everything is not ok.”
 
i’m a survivor
 
a survivor who after silence
has found her voice
do the things i say
make you flinch
make you uncomfortable
no apologies
because rape      is       uncomfortable
imagine the discomfort of being ripped apart 
 
it is     not     comfortable
it is not        ok
 
it’s an outrage
 
and when i read about 
a little baby in a back room
a grandmother in a shack
yet another girl on a bus
a girl treated like just so much rubble on a construction site
 
violated yet again
by men who think
that our secrets are theirs to flay open
that  what  we are 
are theirs to claim and maim and scar and discard
another statistic 
in an endless mobius strip of numbers
looping escher-like
into infinity
 
it makes me want to scream 
and rage 
and yell that something must be done.
so i am using my voice 
i am the alarm going off next door
the screeching siren that says
the windows of someone’s soul have been shattered
a holy portal broken into
the doors broken down
another temple violated
 
this is not okay
 
and i’m going to say so
i’m going to keep saying it 
i’m going to keep up the clarion call to rise up 
to stand together to ward off this nightmare
to do     something
to make a change
i’m going to shout about this
till everybody listens
 
and i’m not going to shut up

my slutwalk jhb speech

this was my speech for slutwalk jhb, september 24th, addressing the crowd before the march.

because other speakers were dealing with the controversy around the name and with statistics, i kept what i spoke about pretty personal, seeing that i started this initiative out of a passionate need to “do something”. i did this not because of  some intellectual understanding (that too), but more out of the knowledge of what it means to be a survivor and wanting to find a way to create a world where, idealistic as it may be, there will be no more of us.  

Welcome to Slutwalk JHB – it’s been months in the planning and I can’t tell you have happy I am that today has finally arrived .

Though I have to say – I wish we didn’t have to be here. I wish we didn’t need a Slutwalk Jhb, I wish we didn’t need marches protesting sexual violence, marches that need to point out that there’s never an excuse, that no one by definition ever deserves or asks to be raped. That rapists rape people, not outfits.

When I first heard about that ignorant comment that women should not dress like sluts so that they don’t get victimized, I had a visceral reaction. I happen to know from experience that what one wears has absolutely nothing to do with getting assaulted.

What I’m wearing is the closest approximation I could find of what I was wearing when I got raped. Does this outfit really scream, “Rape me?” the reality is that rape is about violence  – and a short skirt, or too many drinks at the bar, or a checkered sexual history, or choosing a same-sex partner is never an excuse for assault. The statistics are staggering – I won’t get into them as Jenn Thorpe will be talking about them later, but I will say that there are too many of us. You might see numbers on a page, but behind every number is a face and a name and a shattering experience that takes years and a strength you cannot imagine to overcome. I call us survivors the society of the secret handshake – the handshake that says, I know you. I am you. And there are way too many of us.

When we first started organizing slutwalk jhb I felt that reclaiming the word slut was not necessarily relevant to us here in South Africa. Addressing the issues of sexual violence that permeate the very heritage of our land seemed much more important. However, words are important. Words are powerful things. We can wield them to wound or we can rally them to right age old wrongs. And just recently I remembered  something that made me rethink the reclaiming of the word slut.

When I lived in the states, I hadn’t been home in a long time and  I landed up in Malta where I met a south African pilot. I was so excited to meet up with someone from home and to feel a connection with Africa – but then one day as we encountered each other, he said, “Daar’s die klonkie!” Now for those of you who don’t know, Klonkie is a derogatory term used for someone classified Colored. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard and I was outraged. I didn’t say anything in the moment, but I wrote him a letter and left it at the hotel desk, so he’d know just how offended I was.

However when I moved back to South Africa, and I had to name my company, I remembered that  encounter and I wound up calling my company “Klonkie Made Media” – because some people might think that someone who looks like me should be the klonkie maid in the kitchen, but look at what this klonkie can do, just look at what this klonkie has made, and can make possible. And so I reclaimed what was a thoughtless insult and used it in a way that I felt validated me. Now I still might not necessarily want to call myself a slut, but it has made me rethink the value of reclaiming the word. Just think of the word queer. Or nerd.

And just what is a slut in any case? My first reaction when I heard that stupid statement was, “Hell no, I aint no slut!”, but if you follow the logic of that statement., “women shouldn’t dress like sluts so they’re not victimized”, – I was raped, so therefore, I must be a slut. Now, ironically I felt lucky that I was wearing my baby blue pj’s and was in my own bed in the middle of the night when I got raped, because it made it absolutely clear that I was not at fault.

moment captured by angel conradie

moment captured by angel conradie

 However, what if I wasn’t wearing my baby blues? What if I was wearing this instead? (and this is where I took off my pj’s and put on my outrageous red tutu and revealed a much more skin-baring outfit).

pic by wonderwoman, jeanette verster

Would this outfit make it my fault? Because you know, there are times when I dress like this? Would the logic of that statement make it ok for someone to violate me?
We live in an age of media and advertising. We all want to look good, to feel confident, to know that  we can turn heads. However, our society seems to be at a point where the necessary education and guidance isn’t happening at home or at school. Our children are not being taught essential lessons about respect and consent . when I used to go to the burning man festival in the Nevada desert , the only rule in that temporary society was , whatever you do that involves someone else, ask them first. First get their consent. Maybe that’s a lesson that we need to carry over into the larger society – whatever you do involving someone else, first get their consent.

Maybe then, we wouldn’t need a Slutwalk in jhb. Maybe then my short skirt can be about the fabulous weather and not an unspoken invitation to unimagined horrors. I initiated Slutwalk jhb because I’ve been a firm advocate for survivor’s rights and for the need to break the silence, to realize that the survivor is never at fault, but I sincerely hope that there will come a time that Slutwalks and protest marches are obsolete. A time when consent is queen and yes means yes, and real men and women, honorable people, the kind we like to believe we are, can respect that no means no.

My dress is not a “Yes!” I’ll see you out there on the march!

pic by jeanette verster

slutwalk jhb thank you’s

about 4 months ago i came across a link to something talking about a slutwalk in toronto  and  i tweeted it.

my friend @angelsmind and i struck up a conversation and during a couple of exchanges during which she asked whether there’d be one here in south africa, she planted the seed that led to the email i sent to the organizers of slutwalk toronto on may 8th, asking if i could organize a slutwalk in johannesburg. so really, indirectly, angel conradie is responsible for the slutwalk that happened right here in johannesburg today. and she has supported this initiative from day one, blogging and tweeting and re-tweeting and i regret that when i was doing the thank you’s today, i did not point out that fact. so angel, here publicly, i would like to thank you – both for planting this crazy idea and for your support all the way. thank you, thank you, thank you!

ok, maybe if i’d known what i was letting myself in for, i might not have taken on what turned out to be a gargantuan task which is probably going to leave me with a major deficit in my bank account, seeing that we had no sponsors and credit cards were the only way to cover the costs. however, for me, this initiative was not optional. it had to be done and once undertaken, the only way out was through.

along the way i co-opted some amazing help. i could not have done this alone,  especially not without nadia assimacopoulos who became a confidant and sounding board and my go-t0 person, gina jacobson (@gnat_j) who was amazing at getting stuff done, sam beckbessinger (@greenham_sam) who did our website, media maven walter pike (@walterpike) who probably didn’t know what he was  letting himself in for the day he tweeted to find out whether there was a slutwalk happening in jhb, and blogger and ad exec akona ndungane (@akona1) with whom i conceived isaidno, a resource for survivors where they can tell their stories anonymously or otherwise (please spread the word).

we had amazing speakers, film-maker@gillianschutte, feminist writer @jen_thorpe, journalist @fionasnyckers and @akona1 and crimon organized the collection of rape survivor handbags which will be distributed via the jes foord foundation. andre van tonder of jmpd was an immeasurable source of help and information in getting the right permissions for our event and went beyond the call of duty to help us make it happen. and then without paul/stranger and the other amazing marshals from think bike, our event would not have been nearly as safe and successful as it turned out.

thank you. thank you. thank you.

i think we achieved our aim of turning up the volume on the conversation around sexual violence and victim-blaming. i think we engendered much debate,though this is but the beginning. i might have initiated this event in jhb, but it belongs to all of us and  i think we need to find our own ways to make a difference. how can you help change the prevailing mind-set? how can you educate someone else about the importance of respect and consent? it’s up to us. we have to make a difference. even though right now i’m exhausted and i want to forget about being an activist for just a nano-second, really, this is just the beginning of a long journey towards building a better world for us all to live in.

and though this might be very long-winded, i just wanted to make sure that i acknowledge the amazing people who made today possible, including everyone who dressed up and came out in icy weather to show their support. thank you to the people who donated, to the marshals who were amazing, to my friends who responded to my frantic calls and showed up to assist. and to the various women who came up to me, identified as survivors and thanked me for what i’m doing, thank you. i’m doing this for us.


the chermans are coming…

i start shooting a movie today for the first time since i moved back here from the states. a german movie. and no, not porn, as some of my snarky friends, remarked. pffft!

in the midst of my life being overtaken by all things slutwalk and finishing a huge emotional story-line on the soap, i got an audition for this movie.

the way things usually work, i’m never available to go for auditions because i’m shooting. turns out i was available. the call-back was the next day, a saturday. which meant that i was free to go. the director spent about 45 minutes with me doing scenes forward and backward, in english, in afrikaans, crying, angry, etc.

then i heard not a word from them for 3 entire weeks during which i decided that if it was meant to be, it would. finally they got back to me with an offer and the dates they’d be shooting and unbelievably, it’s at a time when my character is out of the story on the soap which is my day-job!

obviously this is meant to be. so i’m off to the magaliesberg to go and sob next to a graveside. the movie is for now, called “lion girl”. and it’s bizarre – the german  cast speaks german, the south african cast speak english or afrikaans and then we get dubbed. i’m going to try the impossible, and do my dialogue in german. if my german 101 doesn’t forsake me.

so, look out for the lion girl, coming soon to a german tv screen – very far from you! 😉

x marks the spot

ok, i did it! got my ass into the voting line (except there wasn’t one!) and cast my vote. time from my car and back – 7 minutes!  i know there’s been a bit of controversy about choosing not to vote also being a valid choice, but my vote is precious to me. i waited long enough before i had the right to make my X and yet i’ve only had the opportunity to vote twice before now. once in 1994 when i lived in l.a., after which i lost my vote – yet again. then i got to vote again in our last elections here in johannesburg.

so, i went and i made my vote count. i hope you did too.

p.s. unless you want to walk around with a black stripe down your nail for the next month, do what i did – put on some clear nail polish and some remover will take it right off!

20110518-030931.jpg

isn’t it ironic?

how’s this for ironic?

i’ve been eligible and waiting for an upgrade to an iphone 4 from vodacom since it’s south african launch in september. every few weeks i’d call to find out if there was an eta on stock.

nothing.

my precioussss!

finally, after 4 months and growing exasperation with my 3G running, more like crawling, IOS4, i caved and after some misdirection, finally bought one off gumtree (the south african version of craig’s list).

imagine my chagrin when, barely an hour later, i went to buy my microsim from the vodacom store – R105 thank you (damn, they really know how to make money off of one!) – and had the assistant inform me that they had just gotten their stock that morning!

well, actually i might have been chagrined if i hadn’t already decided that an almost R4500 pay-in only to be tied to another 2 yr contract when i have no idea where i might be 24 months from now, wasn’t worth it.

but still. isn’t it ironic? don’t you think?