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Woman, object, corpse

In light of duck’s post on violence (against women) ‘At what point do you put down the camera and call the police’ and the moral dilemmas such situations raise, and the various responses it elicited, it might be appropriate and timely to link to this excellent post on Africa Is a Country by Linda Stupart: ‘Woman, object, corpse: Killing women through media’

 

Billboard

Billboard, Cape Town

 

In the same week that the image of Steenkamp’s body was all over our media, a billboard appeared in central Cape Town’s Kloof Street (in the photo at the top of this post). The billboard also featured the body of an abused woman or, here, a girl. It shows a young black girl curled up on her side on the floor clutching a sheet. Her underwear is above her head, her trousers are pulled down, exposing her buttocks and there is blood on her shirt. It is difficult to tell if she is dead or catatonic, but it is clear we should infer that she has been raped. Across this image are two yellow strips reminiscent of crime tape, one of which reads, ‘Underage drinking: is it worth it’. Below in bigger uppercase lettering, the text, ‘YOU DECIDE’. ……………..

The pictures of Steenkamp and the girl on the DTI billboard share a relation beyond the fact that they both image women who have been subjected to male violence. Rather, both representations enact a particular equivalence whereby a woman ceases to be a subject as she becomes a sex object (through her own volition, her ‘self-objectification’, her willful vulnerability) and then since she is already an object, slips easily into being dead, a corpse — that is the most real and fearful manifestation of objecthood: subject made thing………….

Steenkamp’s boyfriend has been photographed by a remarkable set of image-makers who have framed him as beautiful, sleek, downward-facing and painstakingly apologetic — he is an image of masculine vulnerability and poise. His image may be everywhere, now, but there is no danger of him losing his humanity. ‘Pistorius’s whole body shook and he wept uncontrollably, as if a chasm of grief threatened to swallow him,’ David Smith writes, helpfully, in The Guardian.

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