New Internationalist

Raw Free Writing

Visualizing lesbian rape. Lesbian rape as a spectacle – push against sex, market of queer, queering of violence. What kind of mobility is available to queer bodies? Black public body – the photography of public lesbian rape and murder.

The media have a need to articulate violence through visual imagery. Consolation of victims of violence. Multiple spectacles presenting the photographic black body as a projection of violence, of victimhood, of undesirability.

‘Sexually stained bodies’ become historical memories of violence projected through imagery. Faces become ‘life lines of suffering’.  What is lost in these images of death is their lives. Lovers, daughters, sisters, friends, activists, birth-givers. The images are devoid of joy and childhood. We cannot see beyond the suffering lines of death. The life lines of joy, just regular living are forever invisible in these public spaces. We cannot celebrate a life which is presented as one of suffering. 

What does citizenship mean for Black lesbians? How have they been included, except as targets? Maybe we should begin to speak about the perpetrators, the harmers, the policy-makers, the judges, the police who are silent. There are no photos of the rapists – only the raped. No photos of police who close their eyes. It’s not our rape – it’s THEIR RAPE. They own it, own the violence. The sisters become double victims – in life and in death. The rapists become anonymous men, the invisibles. Should we humanize the rapists? Men, Women, rapists, raped – we are all square-framed spectacles.

‘Corrective’ rape is presented as uncomplicated within an Africa that is constantly framed as problematic. ‘Corrective’ rape is now a product to be chewed and regurgitated by media. African lesbians cast as instruments of media to be consumed. Written in large capitals, on the one hand the lesbian victim in suffering silence, and on the other the hyper-aggressive black male who is only visible as an invisible rapist. We never hear or see them, and we know of their existence only through their victims. It’s a dangerous game of slogans and cheap titillating headlines.

It’s not the writing, the showing, the photos that is a problem, but rather how you show and how you write – what you write is often determined by who is doing the writing. Take this post on ‘Corrective Rape’ and my response below. The ‘orient’ has always been presented as ‘a site of excess violence’. Sexual cruelty – fear, witches, strange happenings – so it’s fine to present the body of a Black woman with the words Rape carved into her skin.

‘Ok this is my call out moment – Another article on ‘corrective rape’ in South Africa. Another single story. Another story that tells me I am part of a tribe whilst you are part of a nation and worse, we fight amongst ourselves something your nations of course don’t do and in doing so we have lost our humanity, something other people and nations don’t do even though they are responsible for the rape and death of hundreds of thousands every year.

Can we please have stories that tell at least 3/4 of the story if not the whole one. Can we have these stories told with some context – context of how people engage in resistance: community organizing and advocacy, activism through art, through sport, through working in communities and engaging with human rights institutions and movement building.

The women in the films and stories are not just faces scarred with violence, they are survivors, creators of their own agency, their own cultures and sub cultures. Can we please tell that story as well. Lesbians and GTBI people wherever we are face daily struggles and yes, there are some countries which are far more hostile than others, but I am sick of hearing only half of my story being told here in the west. And speaking of the west, no one ever tells the story of being Queer and Black, or being Queer Black and Muslim or being part of other POC immigrant communities! Can people not write as if everything over here [the west] is so perfect that when I get up and go out in the morning I don’t have to protect myself in some way!

Like if you are Black GENDER QUEER from an immigrant community in a low paid job traveling around on the bus or metro and feeling those crazy stares because I don’t look like you or what you want me to look like.’

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