Reforming your own humanity first, is key solution

In the wake of Uyinene Mrwetyana's killing, the conversations around the issues of gender-based violence have been predictably disappointing, particularly on the part of men and non-queer people the writer says.
In the wake of Uyinene Mrwetyana's killing, the conversations around the issues of gender-based violence have been predictably disappointing, particularly on the part of men and non-queer people the writer says.
Image: SUPPLIED

The death of Uyinene Mrwetyana last week shifted the South African collective consciousness.

Through their mourning, predominantly black women and queer people started a revolution, not only on social media, but also in the streets, demanding an end to gender-based violence and its foundations in toxic masculinity.

Close to 10,000 names of men and women, queer and non-queer, were revealed as rapists and abusers through anonymous Twitter accounts, some of which have been suspended.

The week has taken its toll - physically, psychologically and emotionally and we are still going through it. The conversations around the issues of gender-based violence have been predictably disappointing, particularly on the part of men and non-queer people.

The commitment to tunnel vision and territoriality over trauma is telling of a bigger South African problem: essentialism.

There seems to be a misconception that our struggles against colonialism and imperialism were waged along a single axis of race.

When speaking to many disenfranchised South Africans, you get the sense that apartheid is remembered only as a system of racial subjugation. This form of political amnesia proves dangerous when we see how it mutates to dominate our current struggle politics.

Our realities are not only informed by the legacy of racial subjugation, but also that of gender, sexuality, class and ability.

Though these are distinct axes of difference, they are so closely intertwined that hankering to solutions that don't work to solve them simultaneously will always disappoint us.

We are desperately in need of solutions, but without holistic analysis our solutions will only manage to chop off one tentacle of a very cunning system of oppression.

Intersectionality, which allows us to understand the interrelations between oppressions, offers us an opportunity to formulate much complex solutions that seek not only to treat the symptoms, but also the causes.

Intersectionality allows us to see how we are not wholly oppressed nor wholly oppressive, meaning that when we consider our position in the system, we must realise how certain privileges such as ability and class impact on our experiences gender oppression, as one example.

What do we achieve when we speak racial oppression, but exclude queerness from blackness?

How do we seek solutions for gender-based violence without recognising that class privilege offers certain protection to those on the upper end of the scale, while evading those on the ground?

How can we speak about toxic masculinity without discussing the terror it has unleashed upon queer men, while acknowledging how queer misogyny contributes to the oppression of women?

To many, these questions seem to complicate already difficult issues and some have even called it a dilution.

Intersectionality does not ask for any one issue to fall by the wayside to make space for another, but implores us all to see the full scope of humanity implicated in the systems of oppression we have created.

If we are to achieve true equality, we must first recognise ourselves as the oppressors we seek to defeat. We must see them in our friends and family before we hurry to take down the system. We too, are the system.

Intersectionality is an invitation to lift our eyes above the self-righteousness of saviourism and to look inwards first before projecting outwards.

Reforming your own humanity first, is key.

*Jamil F Khan is a PhD critical diversity studies candidate.

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