Cartoons, violence against women


“He was no longer the dignified commander of a company of slave hunters. His instincts had taken control of him. He was a two legged animal bent on copulation…Deeper and harder he drove. Nandzi could not control her sobs. Suddenly, as he plumbed her depths, she felt a surge of pain unlike anything she had ever before experienced. It was as if he had mounted the sharp iron head of his assegai onto the end of his penis. Each time he plunged into her, the pain rose to a crescendo. She screamed in agony but he paid no heed. Once, twice, three times. She summoned up all her strength in a superhuman effort to throw him off, but he was too strong and too heavy. Then she lost consciousness”.

Contemplating on how to conceptualize ‘rape’ as a weapon of warfare in the context of our weekly column, I hit a wall severally as I Manu Herbesteinrealised that there is a dearth in the use of rape in literature, most especially African literature. Maybe the constructions and criminalization of it, is something Africans are yet to come to terms with. In a patriarchal society where women are expected to just be ready to provide sexual pleasure always, criminalizing rape presents a huge conflict. I had consulted an able friend Mary Okeke for suggestions, and thanks to her, Manu Herbestein’s book ‘Ama’ made for a superb reference, as it evokes the exact mortification inherent in rape.
From the excerpt above, I would conclude that the character of ‘Nandzi’ was transformed into ‘Ama’ through an initiating process of rape by Commander ‘Abdulai’. Thereafter a journey that thrust her in a foreign land began; she was passed from owner to owner and eternally stripped of her identity. The remainder of the story captures a life of struggle and resignation of a slave girl.
Symbolically, ‘Ama’s journey represents the reality of many victims of rape, men and women alike. We Picadorcoverare thought of the sacred ownership of certain parts of our body, enshrined in our deepest recess is the knowledge that our sexual purity is definitive. When those sacred places are attacked, the feeling of that violation is etched into one’s judgement of self. If you are unlike Linor Abargil, the brave miss world who found justice, the shame injected into you by that penetrating forceful push will hover for long. It’s like a knife goes through your dignity and self-esteem and slices them apart. Even when you stitch it together, the scars are forever.
Rape scenarios may be different, but the discreet act that transforms the lives of its victims remains the same. What they share in common is the use of force, the violation of the will, the body and a person’s right to choice.  The leftover haunting memories and mental mutilation like Diamonds, will last forever.
You may be asking, why talk about this and where do I situate it in global development? Rape is an rape statsugly word but a common phenomenon, more common than we can comprehend. It screams out there but our silence muffles it. In recent times, many stories of violence are happening between the lovely bones all over the world. In England, we meet Jimmy Saville, and then we travel to the rape land of Congo in Africa. There, guns are not needed for war, rape is.  We can choose to navigate to India for the Rape Fiestas; next destination might be the Japanese rape club. Then we halt at the landmarks in lived experiences of serial rapists and chauvinist killers of America. All of them tell the story of momentary defeats of people’s will that has placed them in a lasting category; ‘RAPED’!
Incidence of war rape in the African continent created frenzy in the media this year, with the rising number of men, women and children reported as victims in Congo. Heavy criticisms from Navi Pillay the UN High commissioner for human right, amongst other institutions decried this act. Hence, Congo towns Gome and Sake became synonymousnavi_pillay with the land of sexual warfare. South Africa and India also took to the stage for the monstrous rape of innocent individuals which in some cases led to death.
Rape is no longer about sex, like guns, it has become a weapon of warfare, It’s more about violence; used to reinforce instability and dominance. It’s about individuals abnormally gaining mental balance through inflicting violence on others. It’s about Power; massaging an ego at the expense of robbing another person of their sexual integrity. The assumption that only evil persons with knives in the dark are rapists has long shifted too. Powerful, rich, upward moral promoters like politicians and imagesreligious leaders have long joined the list.
Many explanations have been given to the rising culture of rape, some blame the promotion of violence by media through movies, pictures, books and cartoon. As in all cases, fiction has a role to play. Cartoons like ‘Rape man’ cannot be excused from the guilt of promoting the rape culture.
11486More so, incidence of rape has been viewed along the gender lines even in literature. In ‘The Colour Purple’ by images (3)Alice Walker, we meet ‘Celie’, the poor black woman whose letters tell the story of abuse and rape by her father. ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold adds to the shape of rape in contemporary literature, presenting ‘Susie Salmon’ who posthumously describes how she was raped and killed on her way from school. Symbolically, what we know about Susie, her family does not, as rape remains an isolated event. The list of literature can go on including our case study ‘Ama’ by Manu Herbestein.
Critics complain that rape and violence against women are being misrepresentedp in fiction. The above literatures suggest that men are rapists as women are often cast as victims. Like in the cartoon ‘Rape man’, rape in works of fiction is often perceived as punishment to stubborn heroines. This raises question on whether fiction is purely an imaginative work or is inspired by reality? Certainly authors may hand pick realities they want to represent and the pattern arguably shows that their choices seem to favour realities that reinforce women as victims. But in reality, it’s important to note that rape cuts across gender as men are raped too. The fact that a man responds to a stimulation with  an erection does not mean he wants to have sex.
Writing this, am wondering if fiction writing can provoke the desired change, can the mental structures of a writer shift to entertainimages and present realities that will stimulate change for all? Can our mental structure as readers also adjust on this issue by reading literary fiction?
In conclusion, the comparisons above can never contend with Susan Brownmiller’s  persuasive prose ‘Against our Will’, but I assume like her, that it’s important to explore this issue in every way we can until the mental structure of our society begins to shift organically. Hopefully, through fresh wisdom, we can abandon silence to speak and fight against this violence. The truth is that every victim of rape goes through rape twice, the first is by the rapist, and the second is the rape by the law and the society which shuts them up.
-Written by Adaobi Nkeokelonye

13 thoughts on “Rape!”

  1. Rape was been a hot issue just recently in the Philippines when one stand-off comedian used it as a joke to a well respected woman in our country. Rape should not used as joke just to make other people laugh, they don’t know how the victims undergo that situation. Both woman and man who had experienced rape lost their morals and dignity that money cannot replace.
    So sad to read this kind of story ;(

    1. Dear Villanueva, its indeed a rising trend all over the world. It is sad that things like this happen, the Philippines story must be interesting to read up. We all must speak against it. Thanks for reading again.

  2. what an interesting article.. it must have been difficult to expound on. A delicate and disturbing issue we must all put an end to. I am glad you found my recommendation insightful.

  3. So so sad that “cartoons” is a medium and window to view this sensitive topic.Then its a sure indication that rape education should be introduced to today’s young generation. Is anyone with me on this?

  4. Are we talking about the same cartoon circulating in social media? I found it extremely disturbing. That rape jokes are commonplace in our society goes to show the mindset of the people about it, nobody takes rape victims seriously, and we know women are mostly the victims. Guess what, only men crack those jokes (at least to my hearing). I completely flipped out at dinner with some friends over a rape joke. How can violence so invasive and dehumanizing be amusing and perceived so lightly? They thought I was over-reacting.
    I looked at the numbers above, and to be honest, the US may or may not have the highest rape numbers in reality. African countries will probably produce shocking numbers IF only it was something that is talked about or reported, if only there was appropriate legislature and the good sense to enforce it.

    1. Ann Dear, the case of African statistics on rape will indeed be shocking. The fact is that many people who are raped in Africa, may not be informed enough to conceptualize it how much more to seek for justice. This patriarchal system seems to rape the mind of many glaring truth, hence women think violence is ok. I once carried out a focus group discussion with young women on their perspective of domestic violence. You may not believe it, but almost all the girls in the circle actually said they will like to be beaten once in a while by their male partners. Now how do you criminalize violence when the supposed victim justifies it just because it facilitates more bonding, a make-up sex and some cuddling. There is a serious problem with the mental structure of most people, you may be shocked that some of them didn’t mind forceful sex too. Its very rampant, so I may understand where your friends who thought you were over-reacting are coming from.

  5. Ada, this is your best. Your knowledge of the subject is deep. You communicated with superlative clarity. Your multidiciplinary approach and passion reflected in the debates you raised.This is an important starting material for those who want to go dig the subject further. Do not run away from the laboratory of ideas for that is where you belong. Congrats.

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