I think Jonathan Shapiro is brilliant. I like his politics, his sense of humour and the acerbic social commentary he delivers through his cartoons. I also admire his lack of fear and consequent lack of self-censoring as well as his willingness, no wait, his eagerness, to tackle the most contentious topics and the most untouchable social and political figures.
His ‘info rape’ cartoon, however, left me cold.
As a rude, outspoken (read: whiney) journalist and a woman very disillusioned by her former party the ANC, I’m appalled by the proposed muzzling of media, whistle blowers and the empowering of small local government to wield the right to make public information secret.
But as a woman and a journalist who deals with the reality of rape and sexual assault in South Africa, on an almost daily basis, I am viscerally uncomfortable with anyone using the term ‘rape’ when it refers to anything other than forced sexual acts.
That’s why you’ll never hear me say that “the Bulls raped the Stormers” or vice versa. Or “wow, the Parlotones really raped that song”. Or (seeing that I’m Afrikaans) “Ek lief jou met Kurt Darren het die Afrikaanse taal verkrag.”
I understand glaring symbolism and I get why Zapiro used the very handy and depressingly apt metaphor of Zuma and Gwede Mantashe getting ready to rape free speech, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
Because for many, no most, South African women... rape can never be a metaphor. And if you have been sexually assaulted yourself or spent time with a woman with torn vaginal walls or hugged a gang-raped 4-year-old with decimated reproductive organs... I think you’d agree with me.
Of course I understand that Zapiro didn’t invent the usage of the term rape as something that fucks stuff and of course I can see that Zuma’s dubious sexual history makes it all the more striking. It's still upsetting though to see the metaphor used in our country, with such depressing regularity.
But then, that was probably exactly what Zapiro had planned.