B.v is a final year womxn humanities student at Stellenbosch University, majoring in anthropology. She is a fourth generation Indian South African from Kwa-Zulu Natal. She loves her rainbow nation and the work put in to uplift her generation. Now it’s her turn to ensure a space for a greater spectrum of colours.

Four main themes emerge in her PhotoVOICE 2.0 journey.

1. Sexualisation of women and patterns of male entitlement

B.v focuses on the constant sexualisation of women students and a sense of male entitlement to female bodies and female attention across many settings and spaces. This also leads to women students feeling shame and self-blame in sexual situations where what is seen as consent is often shown to be complex.

“He was like, ‘okay, so let’s go to your place’ or something like that, and she was like, ‘no I’m not into…I think you know we can leave it here for now.’ And he kept pestering her…to a point where he got angry…and he said ‘where’s my thank you, that’s the least you could do’.”

“… (M)any people would blame the girl for letting him into her house when really there’s a lot of pressure, guilt and aggression in him coming…people say, ‘oh but she said yes with her body, but no with her lips’… she continuously said no verbally and physically and he still saw it as a cat and mouse game.”

“I was at the maties rugby match last night and I saw this gentleman hold this sign in many of his pictures not at anyone directly but just joking around with it…and I know the sign can be used around campus to catcall girls just to insinuate that they wanna have sex with you.”

“…(S)he wasn’t interested, and then he said, ‘come on, let me make your dreams come true, I know all black girls wanna have sex with a white guy’…this is an intense example of racism and sexism combined at Stellenbosch.”

“I was interviewing a girl and she said she lived at (a specific block of flats on campus) and there’d been three instances where she had almost been raped and one of the instances was when this guy was trying to force himself onto her and she actively tried to push him off and be like, ‘no I don’t want to do this’ (and) he said, ‘you’re making me a rapist’.”

2. When your home becomes a hell

B.v identifies SU residences as both key sites of harmful gendered socialisation, and as places of deep unsafety for many women as well as for many queer bodies, describing this important place of home within university settings as either ‘your heaven or your hell’ depending on your experiences there.

“…(A)nother driver of campus rape culture is not taking women seriously, or assuming they’re overreacting…I took this picture of her playing with her rings because that’s what she does when she feels anxious.”

“I felt very vulnerable standing in the centre of this enclosed space, but it also reminded me that this is the home to many victims that have been violated within their safe space… So, outsiders got into (this co-ed res) via the (male HKs) and the perpetrators went into the beds of the victims while they were sleeping. And…its so mind boggling that there is no safety anywhere.”

“…(T)his says something about the greater consensus surrounding homosexuality within South Africa and it’s generally treated as abnormality, and so I completely understand her fear of telling someone she’s bi-sexual in a women’s only rez, because they could outcast her or see her as different or perverted.”

“…(T)his picture of the knight is a physical embodiment of how entitled and powerful male rezzes believe that they are…because if you’re the king in chess you don’t need permission to move the other pieces around.”

“…(T)here’s a specific male residence situated between (two female res’s) and if you scream ‘the female res name’ in Afrikaans the guys shower you… It really makes me worried for the first years that are girls that are coming in, that aren’t aware…“

“This is a res leader mentor T-shirt…I think that it also leads into the hierarchy or authority they have over newcomers and forcing them to do initiation processes.”

3. Alcohol – it’s complicated

B.v explores the complex roles of alcohol in student life, and in campus rape culture. She highlights various tensions and ambiguities in the gendered relationships which students have with alcohol. She notes its hyper visibility within university life and events and points to the need for an institutional response to this.

“…(T)he bottle is a symbol of the binge drinking culture and how if it seeps into everyday life, …alcoholic behaviour or behaviour where it gets a bit rowdy would also be normalised into everyday life and I think that’s a driver of campus rape culture, that men are still excused even when they’re not drunk for disrespectful behaviour.”

“…(S)he said she felt so ashamed and guilty that she allowed herself to ‘be in that position’ that…she was just truly grateful that nothing happened. Like had she been with someone she didn’t trust, had someone that she didn’t know take advantage of her, she was not able to protect herself.”

“I took this picture at the maties rugby game and people say, you don’t go there to watch the game you go there to drink.”

“…(H)er friends tend to allow themselves to be kissed or touched because they feel guilty or they feel like they owe someone some sort of gratification for the drink they bought or for dancing with them …like if someone said I’m going to buy you this drink but you have to kiss me lots of people would be like, ‘fuck that, no!”

“…(T)his door is at (a main university building). It’s a Saturday so clearly a bunch of guys from this rez got super drunk and decided to write…’their home’ on the door. You can see one of the plastic bottles there.”

“…(S)o when men try to coax girls into drinking more shots and having a lot more shots than they are used to in order to get drunk to the point of blacking out… Men don’t really see that as a form of rape as women do. I’ve noticed a lot of guys employ this method of ‘I’m going to buy you a drink and I’m going to keep buying you drinks till you pass out’ and I think that a lot of the time people are confused if whether that’s right, or they say, ‘Well, that’s not rape, because if he’s drunk and she’s drunk, then what does that mean?’ “

4. When there is no safety anywhere

B.v feels that Stellenbosch University needs to do far more to address women’s safety and their feelings of being unsafe on campus including tackling many spaces and agents of sexualisation. She notes the problems with SU support structures which are intended to help. Her analysis highlights a problematic narrative of ‘safety being a placement rather than a people issue’ as a common mindset on campus. She suggests this is unhelpful and can lead to blaming the victim for being ‘in the wrong place’ rather than tackling mindsets.

“I took a picture of this empty campus security booth around like eight o’clock last night…it was just a shell, ….you really can’t feel safe anywhere in Stellenbosch including having campus security by your side.”

“I just felt so helpless that even physical structures in place to listen and hear and help students aren’t efficient enough…it’s still not being listened to in this department where that’s their only job then it’s really problematic.”

“I spoke to a first year and she feels completely safe on campus….she avoids walking alone on roads to Bohemia or Entourage but other than that she walks everywhere by herself…So its interesting that she points out certain spaces that are unsafe… I think she doesn’t see that safety is not a placement issue but a mindset issue.”

“…(I)f someone was behind her she would feel so anxious, because she was too afraid to turn around because that person could launch and attack her …this translates into the idea of the female fear factory…like half the choices women make are not choices out of their own will but are choices they’re forced to.”

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