Ainsley is a master’s student in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, who started working full-time while this project was on-going. She is 23, white and grew up in Johannesburg.

Four main themes emerged in her PhotoVOICE 2.0 journey.

1. Women’s vulnerability

Ainsley focused on how vulnerable female students are on campus. The town and campus look beautiful and idyllic, yet there is a quiet menace underneath the surface. Women are in danger night and day and must constantly be on high alert.

“…I felt very uneasy to just be there knowing that this was a place where men have been perpetrators and women have been victims for years and it’s messed up.”

“…(W)hen it comes to cat calling, (this photo) represents that when it happens, we can’t do anything, ’cause we are physically stuck.”

“I never see single women running, it’s always in groups.”

2. Speaking out can be empowering,but the pushback can be tough to handle

Ainsley has found, in her experiences and in the experiences of those she spoke to, that speaking out against campus rape culture can be empowering. At the same time, there is often pushback when you do so, which makes it hard to continue fighting for change.

 “So I was actually walking to my car from lecture and then this guy on the roof shouted at me ‘rrrooaw, what a nice pussy cat’… I was like ‘you know what? That’s not OK.’”

“At that silent protest, where nothing was achieved, a lot of the people got eggs thrown at them.”

“I just looked at him and I was like, ‘shame you feel threatened by the truth.’ In a weird way that made me feel powerful.”

“I’m also struggling with how sharing a story can be empowering. I mean, with the whole correlation between understanding and your experience, it seems a lot easier just to turn a blind eye and just say ‘o, that’s life’. It is what it is and just move on from it. It’s not fun to say ‘oh wow, I’m really going to be objectified my whole life and this such an enormous possibility that this might be my last day on campus.’ And yeah, no, it’s not fun.”

“Like it’s the same thing that applies to whenever sexual assault happens. People are always like, ‘what was she wearing, what was she drinking?’”

3. The power dynamics between men and women on campus

Ainsley explains that on campus the power dynamics are skewed. Men are positioned as strong and dominant, while women are perceived as weak and waiting to be ‘saved’ by men. Much of this appears to be due to the gender norms that students were brought up with, but it is strengthened by the culture on campus.

“I took this photograph to symbolize that this is the start for not just locals, but for those who are in leadership positions, to accept that their behaviour which is demeaning and degrading towards women is actually justified.”

“Women are always assumed to be more emotional than men… It’s always seen as like something, like you’re being irrational, you’re on your period, it’s PMS. There’s always an excuse for women to speak up, and it’s always kind of shut down. And I think that’s also what I found with my work experience. Speaking up is like ‘well, no, you can’t do that.’”

“(This idea that) men are better than women. There’s always, I think especially with Stellenbosch with the – I hate to say it, but with the Afrikaans upbringing – there’s always this assumption that men are better. And then that kind of spreads out into all of this. I guess this was what was going on in my head when I also said that there’s a power dynamic and it’s just like men, they they can be irrational, get angry. But then women can’t.”

“You know the kind of stereotype we grew up with? And my thoughts then went to fairy tales. Like you have the Prince that comes and saves the Princess. There’s always that assumption that women are the weaker sex and men are the ones to save them… So the underlying assumptions that we kind of all just accept play such a huge role in the campus rape culture found at Stellenbosch.”

“But you know the Afrikaner upbringing is quite predominant (in Stellenbosch) and it’s… I found it very strict in how you identify men and women… So, for example, the men always braai and drink beer and the women are in the kitchen making the salads. And it’s this very clear distinction… It was quite quite shocking coming here, seeing that… So it was interesting to first be exposed to that and then actually see that it’s just kind of the way that different people have been brought up.”

4. The University as institution is not responding adequately

Ainsley feels that Stellenbosch University as institution is not doing enough to address campus rape culture, ensure women’s safety, and respond to actual incidences of assault and rape. Furthermore, it doesn’t prepare students for the sexism they will find in the workplace.

“And in March this co-ed rez had a huge gender-based violence assault where the (rez’s student leaders) let in random men, who then proceeded to assault several women in their own beds. And you would think that they would be held accountable, but they weren’t.”

“Because that is what the university does: the university sweeps things under the rug, like nothing happened.”

“It’s taken by the library and I used it to represent how, whenever you start the process of trying to report a case to the University, you may go up one step, but you have so many left.”

“This is one of the very first photos I took when we were doing the project. And it was, I found, so interesting. This is during welcoming week and these campus security guards were sitting on their phones and I immediately was like ‘oh, that is not a good thing to see.’ Because you know you are there to watch all the students and interactions, and you’re on your phone.”

Thank you for engaging with Ainsley’s journey. Please click here to move onto exploring B.v’s journey.