The circumstances around the death of Reeva Steenkamp are shot thru with bitter irony: she was known, amongst other things for her staunch opposition to violence against women and an advocate for self-empowerment. Shortly before her tragic demise, she Tweeted:
“WEAR BLACK THIS FRIDAY IN SUPPORT AGAINST #RAPE”
In response to South African public outrage over the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old: “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA (South Africa). RIP Anene Booysen #rape #crime #sayNO.”
On St Valentine’s Day morning Steenkamp had been scheduled to give a motivational speech to school students in Johannesburg. “It was about empowerment and inspiration and what inspires you and how to follow your dreams,” a day that “…should be a day of love for everyone.”
For her, the ‘day of love’, and her life, ended around 4am when she was shot and fatally wounded in a home that, as it turned out wasn’t so ‘happy and safe’. As tragic as that is, the overarching tragedy is that many thousands more incidents of domestic violence, many fatal, never make the news. Despite being an accomplished and respected career woman in her own right, in death she is in danger of being reduced to an appendix to her partner, and killer, Oscar Pistorius. In human terms, his and her ‘celebrity’ changes nothing: a death is a death. But some deaths are more ‘newsworthy’ than others, a fact reflected by the byzantine speculations around cause and effect in the media:
”Roid rage’: why does our desire to triumph blind us to the dangerous side-effects of synthetic androgens?
South African gun culture and the racial divide: why is it “… inconceivable that a hero to so many millions of people would do such a thing.”
And most ludicrous of all, ‘sportsman’s instinct’ (though one can scarcely blame Pistorius‘ father in his attempt to come to terms with the family tragedy)
The simpler explanation is in danger – as so often the case – of getting lost in the mix: Oscar Pistorius is a man. The sad and terrible truth is that we, men, are responsible for the vast majority of crimes, especially crimes of violence. This is not to dismiss the possible significance of Pistorius‘ alleged-steroid use, or of gun-culture; rather to state that whether one is considering the privileged socialization of males, or a much-mooted biological predispostion towards violence, his sex/gender is undoubtedly a factor. Women do employ violence – a fact I can vouch for, having been on the receiving end – but inarguably less frequently towards men, and rarely with such ‘extreme predjudice’. Male violence is such a given, it’s rarely considered remarkable. We rape, we murder, we prosecute wars…
Stories like Savile, and Singh-Pandey, picked up and carried around the world via Twitter remind us that every victim matters, and the public cry of outrage over the latter is heartening: every death, every rape, every beating is deserving of this level of protest. It rarely happens. And in the meantime, the bloodbath continues…
The ‘y’ chromosome.
The elephant in the room.