Dagbreek Men’s Residence organised a silent protest from the entrance of the residence to the Rooiplein on Friday, 4 October.
The approximately 30 protestors, dressed in black, had posters such as “STOP THE VIOLENCE END THE SILENCE”, “MEN AGAINST GBV”, and “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”. The protest was part of Dagbreek’s gender-based violence (GBV) week, which also included three critical engagement sessions on the topic.
“Through this week we want to bring light to the issue and try to wake men up in our own immediate and greater spaces. We want to take some sort of collective responsibility and try to amend a culture that clearly has gotten way out of hand and is costing lives now,” said Rob Kucera, HK member of Student Affairs and third-year BA (PPE) student.
According to Kucera they took the specific approach of a silent protest to “stand behind the movement” and to “encourage other men to stand with them as a sign of taking collective responsibility”.
“We believe a very big part of remedying GBV is a sense of collective responsibility that all men need to take. Regardless if you have a squeaky clean record or you have never spoken to a woman in your life, all of us as men need to take some sort of action in amending a culture that is now harming women,” Kucera said.
According to Kucera, it is completely justified to have verbal protests, but he says there is power in having a silent protest.
“In a time like this protests are often very loud and conversations get very heated and very angry, there is obviously a time and place for that and we respect that. I think there’s a significant power in silence, especially since the entire premise of this protest was to just publicly promote men to get behind the idea of a collective responsibility that we all have and show that men are mobilizing and we are standing behind the movement and to encourage other men to do the same.”
Thandile Ngxikwe, one of the leading figures in the Anti-GBV movement, criticised Dagbreek’s approach.
“I don’t feel like this is the right approach. Women have been talking to men right, and they don’t hear us. So for men, especially in a res as big as Dagbreek, to have a silent protest, doesn’t make sense,” Ngxikwe said.
Ngxikwe addressed the crowd at the protest and said, “In a time where we actually need men to actually be a voice in saying ‘listen, gross’ we need a man-to-man kind of situation. When you guys are silent, you are perpetuating silence again. I’m not understanding the logic. We have been screaming and they still don’t listen, they are men, they are still quiet, it doesn’t make logical sense, especially because you are standing against gender-based violence and then a woman comes [to talk to you] and then you are silent.”
According to a protestor, JW Beukes, a first-year BCom (Actuarial Science) student, he decided to join the protest because he “believes everybody needs to stand together against GBV” and it “will worsen if action isn’t taken”.
“GBV is a symptom of much bigger problems, not only at universities or in the Western Cape, but nationally, [and it is a symptom of] of the society that is starting to get worse. This can be corrected by educating people on what is the right thing to do, like introducing a compulsory seminar for all first years on what these different movements are about. Universities are places that bring about change, and I think it is exactly why we should make an immediate difference,” Beukes said.