Scenes from SlutWalkJhb

28 Sep

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Two years ago, I took part in the first SlutWalkJhb, That was a much bigger event than this one, but the exuberance of the crowd, the diversity of the people there, and the good-natured atmosphere were the same. If anything, there was a bigger proportion of men amongst the marchers.

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I was especially impressed by this marcher, a 50-something white Afrikaner from the West Rand who is an engineer and a nudist, and who has participated in every SlutWalk on principle. He wears a disguise so he will not be recognised because he can’t afford to lose the respect of his community, but he was there, in solidarity.

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Here he is with one of the speakers,Rochelle, who was a victim of gang rape on a Durban beach:

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He painted his toenails while he was in the car.  He brought flat shoes with him, but, lent them to one of the speakers, Janine Shamos, who showed up in these remarkable constructions:

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Later he switched to a slightly less uncomfortable pair and strode valiantly up Jan Smuts Avenue:

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The SlutWalk marchers came from all walks of life. They were male and female, gay and straight,  black and Indian, coloured and white, pale and tanned, fat and thin, lumpy and smooth, young and old.

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Even blind and sighted: this man held his wife’s hand throughout. At one point he felt her leg and said “You’re beautiful today.”

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I am hoping that SlutWalk, which was itself provoked into being by comments by a Toronto police officer, will spark the kind of conversation we need to have in South Africa. As Karmilla Pillay-Siokos, one of the organisers, said to me, SlutWalk isn’t going to stop rape. “For me it’s more about the victims and how society perceives us. Slutwalk is about helping people see that the victim is never to blame. It’s about highlighting the insidiousness of rape culture.”

The last time I did SlutWalk, it reminded me of the kind of society, and city I want to live in: lots of friendliness, everyone comfortable in their own skin (if not their shoes), open to difference, willing to set aside judgment and just enjoy the fantastic spring weather. In a week in which we’ve had bodies in boots, shoot outs with diplomats and escaped hyenas, it was nice to get back to my car – ok, technically my grandmother’s car – and discover a) I’d forgotten to lock it, and b) nothing was missing.

Sometimes you surprise me, Joburg, in the nicest possible ways.

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