“a (dead) body that appears to look exactly like (a) woman is supposed to”
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 billboard is jointly sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), South African Breweries (SABMiller) and the National Youth Development Agency. The advertisement is straightforward in its logic that a) you, the woman-reader, decide whether to be raped and thus b) you are entirely culpable and responsible for any sexual violence to which you are subjected. At the very least, the billboard states a) and b) with the qualifier [if you are underage and have been drinking]. Thus, if you drink when you are under eighteen you are participating in your own rape, and any underage girl who has been raped, and who had been drinking at any point in the lead up to this violence, is to be considered entirely responsible for this event.
The image shows us a woman, a girl, made up to look exactly like a dead body.