Outside Comfort Zones

Before we left Virginia for South Africa, I had received about four emails from the U.S. State Department, warning travelers about the dangers of getting caught up in a protest. So I was terrified when we stumbled on to a large anti-rape culture protest in the center of the University of the Witwatersrand campus today—and Professor Locy sent the five of us to do some reporting. The issue is one of several that have emerged from the “fees must fall” movement that originally focused on rising tuition but now encompasses everything from education and poverty to women’s and gay rights. Walking through the crowd, I expected a fight to break out or something, but nothing like that happened. Sure, there were mumbled comments around me such as, “Are these people for real?” and from some male bystanders, “I feel like we’re being dehumanized.” But there wasn’t any violence. This seemed like a topic that would make a lot of men angry. But they didn’t do anything to prevent the women from protesting. It’s only Day Two of our work here in South Africa, so it’s a little too early to be saying that this was the highlight of the project, but it is an experience I’ll never forget.

–Caroline Boras