Taken For Granted: Durban’s Hollywood Problem

We’ve given Russell Grant a monthly column to talk about whatever he sees fit. In his first column, he tries to tackle an issue that’s pervasive around the world from a grass-roots level.

 

 

 

Much of my time leading up to this, my first column, has been spent trying to decide what to write about. A lot has happened in the news recently, but perhaps the biggest piece of news involved a certain cretinous Hollywood movie producer and his streak of horrific sexual assaults. I will refrain from mentioning his name because this column is not about him. I only mention it to segue into something far closer to home, and therefore far more terrifying: our local creative scene has EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM. What is that problem you ask? The problem is men and their fucked up behaviour towards women. How do I know this? Well, just take a look your social media feeds from the last few days.  

 

Now, unless you’re living in a desert, this shouldn’t be anything new to you. Rape, assault and harassment are topics which receive a fair bit of coverage on social media. We should all be well aware that women are being raped in disgustingly large numbers. Why then does the problem persist? The answer is, simply, men just won’t stop raping (I won’t entertain any arguments here that place the blame on women. We should be beyond that). So why do men rape? The reasons for this are numerous and well documented, and I won’t be going into a great deal of detail about that here. My main point, rather, is that it is men who are responsible for their actions, and for policing the actions of problematic men around them. This leads me to my next point: the Durban creative scene is fucking overflowing with problematic behaviour and it is our job, as men in this scene, to make sure that it stops.

 

Before anyone gets on my back about virtue signalling or trying to position myself as a “good guy”, I would like to point out that I include myself amongst the list of problematic dudes. In fact, I include ALL dudes in the list of problematic dudes. We are all responsible for making sure that women are safe in our communities, and judging by the sheer volume of #MeToo statuses and tweets in the last week, we are failing miserably. Every time we let a sexist remark pass unchallenged, every time we see a guy being pushy with a woman and we remain silent, we are contributing to a world in which the Harvey Weinsteins among us are free to act with impunity. God knows I have been that guy who has been persistent in the face of rejection. I have been the guy who lets the jokes and problematic behaviour slide. At one stage in my life I was actually the guy making the jokes. While these facts bring me a great deal of shame, I also know that it is possible to change.

 

I know for a fact that there are a number of sexual predators lurking around Durban’s creative haunts. I have learnt this from female friends of mine who have been either directly victimized by them, or have had friends victimized by them. Some of these men I once called friends. Others are simply acquaintances. Nevertheless, if you head out to any of Durban’s popular venues on any given night, you are very likely to bump into one of them. Hell, you will probably even shake their hand and buy them a drink. So many of these dudes appear, on the outside, to be amicable and pleasant, and even popular.

 

If we look at it from a different perspective, let’s say, that of a woman, the picture is very different. When a woman goes out in Durban, they aren’t seeing the same nice guys that we are. They’re seeing a lot of creepy dudes, and are frequently having to look over their shoulders. Again, I know this is true because I have been told it’s true by many, many women.

 

The question now becomes, for us men: how the hell do we fix this? All of the women I know have either been sexually assaulted or raped, or they have someone close to them who has experienced the same. All of these women know who the predators are. Why then are we men so fucking oblivious to what is going on around us? My answer to this question is that, in most cases, we are not oblivious, we simply choose to ignore it.

 

I am one of those men who has chosen to ignore. For this, I should be rightfully branded a coward. The reasons for my ignoring these claims are that, well, a lot of these guys are popular. A lot of them, are, in other ways, sweet dudes to hang out with. The truth is, however, that these are not sweet dudes at all. They are predators, and should be treated as such. But that’s the thing about power. It’s difficult to overcome. When one stands up to these guys one runs a very real risk of alienating one’s self from the social hierarchy. It isn’t pleasant to make enemies, or to be disliked, and I’m guessing this is what holds a lot of men back from publicly confronting one of these predators. At least, I think that’s the case for the men among us who acknowledge even a little bit that what is happening is a problem. A large portion of men simply do not care.

 

One can draw a number of parallels between what is happening in Hollywood and what is happening at your local pub. While the Durban men do not have anywhere near the amount of money or professional clout as, say, Harvey Weinstein, within our small community they still wield a degree of soft power that makes resisting them difficult. Many of these men are talented and prominent in the industries that they work in. Many of them are popular. Those two factors alone make them difficult to stand up to, so they end up getting a pass. I’ve experienced this first hand. When some sort of scandal emerges in the scene lots of men, myself included, get all riled up and ready for action, until, of course, a name emerges. “Oh, but that dude’s a homie”. And it is there that it stops, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

 

So what CAN we do? Many have suggested calling people out publicly. This can be a dangerous course of action. Whilst it is important to always believe a woman who says that she has been raped or assaulted, it is also important to realise that, for a number of very good reasons, many of these allegations occur off the record (reporting a rape to the police is oftentimes a highly traumatic experience). This means that your public exposing of a rapist could land you in very hot water legally, should the accused have access to a lawyer.

 

Another course of action is the social shunning of the predator. This, however, needs to take place on a collective level. It is no good one or two men simply now choosing to disengage from an individual. Often, the accused man will have no idea why this other dude is no longer talking to him, and if he does know, he’s not likely to care. One or two people ignoring him is not gonna change him.

 

I’m a communitarian, and I believe in low level community organisation when it comes to tackling problems like these. The Durban creative scene is our community, and we are therefore responsible for making sure that people are safe within it. That is why I believe our best course of action is a bottom-up, highly visible and organised collective of people of all genders who are willing to be vocal and take action when it comes to issues of sexual assault and harassment. There are a bunch of benefits to this. Firstly, it lessens the perceived feeling of alienation men and women might feel when calling these guys out. Knowing that you have a team at your back that will support you is a courage-giving thing. Secondly, these accused men will feel a great deal more pressure if they are targeted by a large group, instead of, say one or two individuals.

 

I truly believe such a collective is possible. But it will take guts, and a hefty dose of organising. We are all responsible for safety in our community, and it’s about time we stood up for those around us who are unable to do so.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments. Let’s discuss.

 

R

Comments
One Response to “Taken For Granted: Durban’s Hollywood Problem”
  1. brandon says:

    Hell is paved with good intentions.

    Your “highly visible and organised collective of people of all genders who are willing to be vocal and take action when it comes to issues of sexual assault and harassment” correcting bad male behaviour in the name of protecting women could spiral into this

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/11/the-cultural-revolution-50-years-on-all-you-need-to-know-about-chinas-political-convulsion

    If the relevant authorities in this country are failing to prosecute these cases (and really all we have to go on are cases and reports otherwise we’re left with your subjective, anecdotal impressions “I know this is true because I have been told it’s true by many, many women” which isn’t a credible objective basis from which to start engineering the social life around you), we have to ask why? Does this government prioritise the needs of everyday people like us (struggling black, white, men, women) by putting genuine social development above craven personal gain? No, it does not. What can we do about it? Well, look at 1917. This is the Centenary of the Russian Revolution in which the working class took power for itself and began reconstructing society on the basis of social need not private profit. We need to build an independent revolutionary party to carry forward our demands for work, peace, health care, education and a dignified life worth living free of harassment, exploitation and misery of any kind.

    The issues are interconnecting but bound by the overarching need to liberate ourselves for the backwardness of capitalist social relations that puts profit and power before people (men or women, black or white).

    Some of your goodwill is very dangerous: “always believe a woman who says that she has been raped or assaulted”. Really? Without evidence or a basis in reality, without an investigation? Doesn’t that just open up space for more of this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/09/jon-stewart-rolling-stone_n_7031064.html

    Rape is a violation of another person and nobody on earth with an ounce of empathy or integrity can tolerate or do it but only participation in the independent revolutionary struggle against capitalist exploitation that pits us against each other can move us beyond these depredations to a society that values human dignity, creativity and life.

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