Voices

Time to shut slut-shaming factory down

2015-09-23 09:00

In Rape: A South African Nightmare, Professor Pumla Gqola speaks about the female fear factory. As the phrase suggests, the fear refers to how heteropatriarchal societies (such as South Africa) manufacture the fear of violence in women. The fear dominates more than the violence creating that fear.

Rape culture uses the constant threat of rape and violence. Gqola explains how, like a real factory, the female fear factory “takes up physical space, requires many bodies and different components”.

South Africa’s well-oiled and highly functional female fear factory kicked into high gear recently after a blog post by Ntombezinhle “DJ Zinhle” Jiyane resulted in media personality Bonang “Queen B” Matheba being labelled a home wrecker and a slut by members of the public for her alleged affair with Kiernan “AKA” Forbes.

What followed was a terrifying and spectacular display of South African misogyny, which sometimes pretends to be hidden, but really lives just below the surface, waiting for a reason to reveal itself.

We’ve seen it in action before with Kelly Khumalo, Simphiwe Dana and Khwezi (the alias of President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser, who is still in hiding).

One only had to follow the trending #BonangMafeba (feba meaning promiscuous) hashtag to see how dangerous slut shaming is. Men and women alike used the opportunity to threaten sexual violence against Bonang or demand “their turn” with her, which they suddenly believed was their due. Some even justified the physical violence Matheba says she suffered in a previous relationship.

The endless churning of the female fear factory has implications far greater than Matheba’s brand being tarnished (another element of the female fear factory that teaches young women to be petrified of being “that girl” and “ruined”).

While we would like to pretend that misogyny and sexism have no real consequences, this fear that society continually tells women to have validates the very violence visited upon them because “they should have known/done/been better”.

A society as misogynistic as South Africa’s doesn’t need a reason to be hateful towards its women. It is simply the order of the day to label women “sluts” to denigrate them and continually perpetuate the fear factory.

It is all connected, and until we make the connections between our words and the violence against women, we continue to be complicit in a society that’s literally killing them.

Follow me on Twitter @GugsM 

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