I have always maintained that there is nothing as powerful as the ability to speak up.
To keep silent when something is terribly wrong is to be complicit in the perpetuation of that wrong.
And while many people often think that speaking up changes nothing, I for one have learned that the greatest thing about speaking up is that it changes you, if nothing else.
It changes you because it teaches you courage, it teaches you to walk outside the castle of your fear and venture onto the other side of the shores of public opinion.
There is nothing that riles me more than injustice in its myriad manifestations and regardless of who it is directed at – I simply cannot stomach it.
Which explains why I have failed to shake off this slimy feeling of revulsion and a sense of a violation I can only equate to having someone smear excrement all over my face.
Honestly, I really cannot stand it.
I was very profoundly affected by the NewsDay story titled Tinopona Katsande reveals infertility that was written by one Silence Charumbira and sourced from her Facebook profile where she revealed that she was suffering from a health condition that has rendered her infertile.
The revelation was very deeply personal and I have no doubt that she made that revelation after much reflection and at great personal cost because the more prominent a person is in society – the more scrutiny they become subjected to.
I don’t take issue with the fact that the story was sourced from Facebook, I believe that when something is in the public domain – online or offline – it should be fair game for journalists.
What upset me is the manner in which the story was written without an attempt at objectivity, balance or even a pretense at being fair in the portrayal of Katsande.
What upset me even more is the apparent lack of remorse, repentance or empathy on the part of those who defended this story.
Fortunately, through her article titled An Open Letter To Zimbabwe’s Media one of my dear friends have called them out on this so I won’t have to harp on about it.
The portrayal of women in Zimbabwean media has always been of grave concern to me and I have argued that wherever women are subjects in a story they are either victims or they are social/sexual deviants; Charumbira’s article sadly proves me right.
In Charumbira’s article, Katsande is framed as a victim by being introduced to the reader as the “battered television and radio personality” and in the very next paragraph, the issue of her “controversial sex-tape” is made mention of thus framing her as a deviant and opening her up to judgment even before the facts of the story at hand have been presented.
Admittedly, the rest of the article gives a faithful rendition of Katsande’s post but this does little to mitigate the harm done by the initial introduction of Katsande to Charumbira’s audience – here is a battered woman, who (lest you forget) made a sex tape and is now confirmed to be barren – the stigmatizing narrative is thus gleefully (almost maliciously) served up to an audience that laps it up and reacts with the judgmental, holier-than-thou, self-righteous and indignant vitriol that the framing of the story elicits.
To defend such a story (especially when you have read the comments and are aware of the unintended consequences it has visited on an individual whose stated intent was to raise awareness on a very serious health issue) you would have to be incredibly obtuse, breathtakingly misogynistic and completely impervious to common sense.
Journalism is powerful.
To be able to write of other people and expose the intimate, personal, private and sometimes shameful details about their lives is to possess incredible power – it is to play God.
May we never get so drunk with that heady sense of power that we become journalists whose purpose is to inflict harm, demean the dignity of others and wreck lives for no other reason than that we have the power to do so.
That is unjust and to some of us who believe in social justice that is unacceptable.
So for justice’s sake, we will speak up because no one’s social status insulates them from pain or victimization.
For justice’s sake – let us refuse to be the ones who allowed a grievous wrong to go unchallenged.