#WriteToEndVAW Reflections

On Thursday last week I was delighted to be awarded my second ‘Write to End Violence Against Women’ Award, this time in the ‘Student Article’ category, for a post about rape culture in the aftermath of a spate of incidents around Edinburgh. Eagle-eyed readers will know I haven’t been a student for a couple of years, but the nominated piece was written about student protest when I was a student union officer so the panel felt it fitted best in that category.

The lovely feedback I got from the judges included the following, which I’m obviously very grateful for:

“This is an example of something rarely seen: a combination of good writing, good ideas and good activism. The author is clearly in a position of leadership and responsibility on campus, and uses that to challenge rape culture head on and build a feeling of solidarity and community amongst women so that their justifiable anger turns into action rather than fear. This is student politics at its most inspirational.”

I’ve been really lucky to be at each of the three ceremonies so far and this year was easily the biggest yet. Part of this success probably also comes from the fact that, for the first year, the awards had a media partner in The National, who asked the winners to write a small piece in their Saturday edition. You can read mine below:

I’m delighted to have won this award and I’m very grateful to the organisers and judges who make this important event happen every year.

This is an honour that’s made even more special by the fact that, at the inaugural Write to End VAW Awards in 2012, I was lucky enough to win the first ever Best Blog prize.

That blog was about Reeva Steenkamp and the media’s treatment of her after her death at the hands of a man. Last week, almost exactly three years later, that man was finally convicted of her murder.

That it took so long for her killer to be brought to justice shows just how easily rape culture permeates structures as fundamental as criminal justice. But that doesn’t happen on its own, and that those three years have been filled with media discussion of the case ranging from victim-blaming to the idolisation of a murderer shows how reliant such a culture is on dominant narratives which excuse and minimise male violence against women.

That’s why writing is a crucial form of activism; it raises important voices to a rape culture whose enduring popularity relies on rhetoric. It allows us to present counter-narratives to those which bolster structural inequality.

Writing to end violence against women shouldn’t be necessary. But as long as it is, I am proud to play a part.

Originally published in The National


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