If you’re straight, there’s a great likelihood you’ve only read this far because your eyes took in more than just the title that may have otherwise put you off.
Queer things are, you might believe, for and about queer people who queerly go on and on about how marginalized and victimized they are. And on some level you might want to say “Boohoo” but it’s not PC since we’ve all suddenly woken up to tolerance and non-discrimination and all this namby-pamby inclusivity stuff.
Well, I am very pleased to tell you that “they” and “us” is an illusion. If all the oxygen on this planet evaporated out of our atmosphere, the disaster wouldn’t befall just “us” and leave “them.” We would all be in trouble.
A queer perspective on society is on exactly the same group of people that comprises and holds together them and us. It’s about stuff that’s happening in your backyard.
What we call “corrective rape” makes it way in and out of public discourse whenever the media highlights a particularly gruesome case. Wow. They raped her because she was lesbian. That’s awful. Then we move on, as we feel we can, because it only affected that isolated group of people there, namely, women who have sexual and romantic relationships with other women.
If August is to be Women’s Month in any meaningful way, we, and not just some government departments, need to talk, as society, about why corrective rape happens. On National Women’s Day, we commemorate the march of 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in 1956 to petition against pass laws. After we observe that day, scores of women will continue in relationships with scores of men who, at one fight or break-up, will circulate naked pictures of their bodies on social media, or beat them – or worse.
And the people who knew them will take sides and say things like, “He is such a reasonable boyfriend and has given her everything a woman could have asked for, so she must have done something to bring this on herself.”
We do not say it in so many words. But we think it.
The scandal with our society is that as a collective, we have decided we would rather have a woman in an abusive relationship with a man who still has work to do on his character, than have her in no relationship or in a same-sex relationship.
That’s why “corrective” rape happens: women’s rights over their bodies are contested all the way beyond even the boundaries of heterosexuality. Women belong to men: she may choose which man she belongs to – see? she has rights! – but she cannot choose not to belong to one if, as a visual and sexual commodity, she is deemed desirable enough.
The prettier and more desirable women are as potential trophy wife material, the less capable they must be of, well, doing anything on their own, right? Good femininity is prettiness, and prettiness is objectifiability. Every woman belongs to a man and it is each man’s responsibility to protect the woman who belongs to him. The prettier she is, the more of a man he must be. And this all gives him near-total power over her body. Yay.
We call it corrective rape because the norm, the default, is a woman who has no rights except in and through that man. And when she assumes any right, any self-determination outside of a relationship with that man who is to be her protection and her “head,” she is corrected.
We call it corrective rape because it reveals the true status quo. Everything else (including Women’s Month) is a holiday from the way things really are.
That’s my queer perspective on Woman’s Month.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.
Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.