Why the casual sexism at UCT matters

Dela Gwala

Dela Gwala

By Dela Gwala

“The girls here are all sluts man, is it any better at Rhodes?”. I overheard this question on Jammie plaza last year. The unidentified dudebro essentially ruined my lunch and made me vow to continue hiding out in the postgraduate corners of this institution.  Against my better judgement, I continued to take tea breaks on those pigeon-infested stairs. One day, I came across a poster promoting UCT’s netball team. It was basically a full-blown shot of several pairs of disembodied legs with the catchphrase “UCT netball team revealed”. Strange I thought, whenever I see a poster that concerns the rugby team their legs are attached to the rest of their bodies. A few days later, walking back to the dingy postgrad labs, I noticed another poster. This one was advertising a College House party. In the bottom right corner it said ‘R 20’ and underneath that ‘Puss ‘n Pint.’

I’m not the only one that continuously bumps into UCT’s culture of casual sexism. The First Year’s introduction to life in a campus residence seems to be a training ground for misogyny.  A recent Facebook post that popped up on my timeline spoke of the questionable war cries sang by members of some of the male residences. Apparently, in recent years, the Smuts Hall boys sang that they could go to Fuller House and get some free vagina…And they sang this to the Fuller girls. Also, the Kopano boys had been heard listfully wishing that women’s buttocks were like buns.

Opening up the latest edition of SAX appeal, the editor started his letter with the sentence “Nabeel you’re going to get all the bitches”. It’s satirical social commentary they said. Sian Ferguson, UCT alumnus and current Rhodes student, tweeted “good satire should make the oppressor feel uncomfortable, not the oppressed”. The common denominator in all of the above examples is that a group of people that are often socially, politically and economically marginalised due to their gender are thrown under the bus for the sake of humour.

“When we live in a world where street harassment is just a normal part of life it sets up a culture where even worse things happen behind closed doors.” These were the words attached to a piece of street art whose image made its way around social media a couple of months ago. The same goes for casual sexism. When you create an environment that is accepting of gross objectification of women then you are fuelling a culture that will ignore the violence committed against them. If we’re all just skanks, sluts, hoes and bitches then what happens to us is inconsequential – we had it coming anyway.

I wonder if the unidentified dudebro from the beginning of this article is aware that the language he uses comes straight out of the mouth of a sex offender. Words that demean women because of their sexual past/activities are always the first port of call to rationalise what they’ve done. Policing women’s sexuality allows for a social space where they get blamed for sexual crimes committed against them. If you think our worth or respectability is determined by how much sex we are or aren’t having or the amount of clothing we wear then those will be the first questions that come up when you’re trying to determine whether an act of sexual violence has happened or not.

Being on a campus where judging women’s sexuality is part of everyday conversation means we don’t ask important questions. We don’t ask why we’re not sure of the procedure/policy of reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus. We don’t ask why we don’t know the statistics of how many of these incidents occur on campus. We don’t ask why DISCHO, the body in charge of dealing with these cases, is underfunded and understaffed.  We don’t ask these questions because we’re too busy blaming women for going about their lives the way they see fit. We don’t ask because we don’t really care. When women are only vaguely human – owners of body parts we mock and objectify – then why should we?

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3 thoughts on “Why the casual sexism at UCT matters

  1. Foghorn The IKonoclast says:

    Any man that alludes to women as whore. sluts or any of those terms piss me off. It is sexism at it’s worse and women who use those words are committing the same act of sexism.

    Why does it matter? Is liking asking she asked for ‘it’. We had this debate about 20 years ago when a Miami prostitute was wearing see-through clothes. The rapists said she was asking for ‘it’.

    I called the radio station and claimed that women were and are subject to an “inherent sexual bias”. In effect saying that guys can be whores but that girls really are. Words do matter and young children may begin to repeat the lies.

    Is it any wonder then that we excuse this? Is it any wonder that a rape happens then the rapist is allowed to barter legally and the best a woman can get is a civil suit?

    So, at the end of the day what has changed? Laws look pretty like the “whores” they allege to protect. I use that term for effect since it is the continued and prevailing attitude among males and our system of jurisprudence.

    Look at rape or any other form of abuse and we get laws. Nothing but a cash crop with a bunch of broken women and the harassment associated with just going with the flow.

    This is a good blog because it underscores in sexual terms a kind of free-floating bias against victims.

    Like

  2. ncllzaenby says:

    Yoiu are awesome and this is awesome. Thank you for saying these important things. I feel such rage about it. When I was still on campus they had that gross advert campaign where Axe took over the coffee cups and put a pair of boobs on them. The catchphrase was something like “Got Milk?”. Unaddressed casual sexism excludes females from feeling safe and accepted and valued as equals on campus. UCT needs to have a more jacked up media approval committee for what gets put up on campus. I believe that a gender class should also be compulsory for EVERYONE completing any kind of degree, and you can’t pass uni without passing that course.

    Liked by 1 person

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