Not ourselves, surely. We are upright, do-good citizens, right? We do our parts for ourselves and for others and the problem is theirs, not ours. Government should do something about it… and so it goes…
Yesterday, it was reported that a girl from Mitchell’s Plain in Grade R was raped by two boys in Grade 2. I was 5 in Grade R (then called pre-primary) and 7 in Grade 2 (Sub-B). Read about that here and another disheartening case also reported this week here. [I wrote an article last year for Good Men Project which mentions Mitchell’s Plain and my own distant understanding of the area as a child, and dealing with trauma “out there”. Read that here.]
If you read this and feel a sense of shame, then good. We need that. If you read this and start going on a blame rampage, stop. Do not even think about it. This happened on our watch. Just like I’ve said before, we might as well say “fuck the children” if we continue this way. That would be more honest, and fair. At least they’ll know what to expect. At least we wont be pretending to give a damn.
As I was walking and thinking yesterday, I was going to write about children and supposedly “bad” role models. I met a political leader who I think is an actual role model, yet he remained humble and wondered why he should be considered one when he is simply doing what is expected of him. I’ve written about the hypocrisy of celeb role models before (this time it was going to be about Beyoncé and her latest sexual incarnation, and the way in which Bill O Reilly has been criticising her), and I maintain that we cannot blame pop stars and media coverage alone. My main argument remains – we can blame pop stars all we want, but at what point do we turn that lens back on ourselves for our own failures and realize that blaming is a simply a tool of deflection and procrastination.
Let me tell you a little something about my sexual awakening.
I was under ten years old – I think 7 or 8. It could have been a year or two younger, but I don’t think older. I was young. I was watching a film that probably had a PG rating, possibly PG 13. There was nothing explicit about it. In a scene, there is a male stripper. Something happened in me that day. I’m often asked when I knew I was gay. That’s a pretty dumb question (and those same people are dumbfounded when I ask “So when did you know you were straight?”) and shows how ignorant we are about othering.
The point is, I saw something and experienced something that was not a “normal” part of my development. At an age where I did not understand what was happening sexually, I also had to contend with the issue of orientation. This would only become a social issue later in life, but it was still something to think about as I knew that something was different.
I had strict parents. I did not know this until I saw the level of freedom that others had. I look back now and, while I still wish that they had loosened the reigns ever so slightly, I am also grateful. My point with the sexualisation of pop stars and the issue of role models is that it absolutely cannot exist in a vacuum. This is true with most things, however with children it is a different issue because we are dealing with lives – blank slates that need guidance and shaping.
My 5 year old nephew was watching TV with me and there was a promo for an award show. There was the briefest glimpse of naked Miley Cyrus on that wrecking ball and he gasped, looked at me and said “That lady was naked”. He had a smile that seemed like a cross between incredulity and embarrassment for both he and Miley. We had a surprisingly mature discussion about it and reached the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. I hope that I drilled it into him that what she, and anyone else, does should in no way have an effect on his life, or the way he treats others.
My own sexual journey was relatively tame, with a personality and the temerity to not feel the need to act out. As immature as I was, and can be, I’m glad that I understood the implications of my actions.
These kids are not old enough to understand. Who or what were they emulating? Where was their mature and frank conversation with an elder? Where was the uncle/brother/father/mother/aunt to explain to these boys that what they did to that girl is not ok? Who is going to be there for her for the rest of her life (besides professional counselling) to guide her out of the confusing feelings she might experience?
I am sick of these problems being issues that are “out there” and not our problem to deal with. If you are a human being, this story should move you, and make you angry and want to do something about it, whether it is speaking out on the still sickeningly high levels of patriarchal arrogance on an everyday basis, or attending a protest. Something has to change.
If you are on this planet, then what happened is your fault. It is my fault. We have not done enough to change our world.
Those boys did not know any better. Their lives will never be the same again. That girl did not know what was happening to her. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. Lives have been changed, and it happened while we were living. We have to live with ourselves, knowing that this never should have happened.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>