Watching a screening of a documentary about the self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde recently in Berlin, brought the following quote back into my mind. In her poem A Litany for Survival she wrote:
and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
so it is better to speak remembering
we were never meant to survive “
Shivers ran over my body while listening. These lines made me think of many incidents in my life, being a woman, a critical-thinker, a feminist and since last year a volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust where I was afraid to speak. The fear to speak out loud follows me and the poem resonates within. It does take great courage to share, and the poem is a reminder that society is mostly not and has never been gentle. Violence and fear are a part of too many lives.
Leaving the screening, the poem stayed with me. The words, coupled with the coincidental random post I encountered on a social media platform on my way home made me immediately sit down and write. What I read caused confusion and anger which I had to get out, as words on paper; I suddenly had to mold my thoughts. The social media post was a petition trying to stop the planned seminar by Julien Blanc in Berlin. The heading in big letters stated: ‘No rape promotion in Germany’. I hadn’t heard about Julien Blanc before and tried to find out more.
The workshop organised by this ‘pick up’ artist working for the organisation Real Social Dynamics promotes a strategy on how to convince women to have sex with men. Not only how to convince, rather how to use force “if she is not willing”. Germany, my home country, was one of his multiple destinations. His promotional tour started in Australia and moved from there to Japan where videos have been shared online on how to force Japanese girls to engage in sexual intercourse. Pictures of him holding a young woman by her throat, alongside the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld could be seen online.
Once again women’s right to their sexuality, their desire for sex, the equal ‘game’ is being denied too. It is this pure hunter’s perspective – young women as the trophy- combined with its violence, that made my stomach turn.
Luckily lots of campaigns were initiated and shared on social media to stop these workshops. Activists stood up and raised their voices and as a result Julian Blanc got denied entry into Australia and the UK. I hope they are successful in Germany too. Germany, like South Africa, is a country that espouses human rights for everyone in its constitution, and it should not forget about the right to safety of more than half of their citizens: women.
The courage of women who speak out against injustice inspires me. We need to listen, to hear and to be quiet if needs be and to be creative. If language can’t form itself, we can draw, write, sing, scream, run – anything as long as we do not let it sit alone inside us. There is so much power in speaking out, yet it is a strength that we tend to forget.
So use your voice – in the service of women all around the world, or for yourself. Become a Rape Crisis volunteer, join our writers group, follow us on social media and share your thoughts with us, tell your story to one of our counsellors or donate now.
Cornelia, holds a degree in Sociology and is passionate about gender activism, the support of refugees and the use of art as a tool to overcome social inequality. The topic of intergenerational trauma in Germany and in South Africa is one that she is currently exploring. She is working towards a Phd on the use of art for social change. If she is not in Cape Town, her chosen second home, she can be found in Hamburg, Germany. She is a volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis.