The Red My Lips 2015 Campaign is a worldwide movement to raise awareness about sexual abuse. I stumbled across it on a Facebook trolling session and read up a little bit about it in classic procrastination style – I’ll save you the searching and put the link here. Sexual abuse, victim blaming, rape and all the other things that fall into this category are things that people don’t want to talk about, and they are things that most people don’t even want to think about for longer than they absolutely have to. If you know anything about me, you will know that I am seldom at a loss for words. But it is so hard to write about this, because the emotions and thoughts I have about it can’t really be categorised. But I feel like if you’re reading this, you can fill in the emotional blanks with whatever thinking about this conjures up for you, because I doubt my words could do it justice.
This all comes at a time where a Tennis legend was accused of raping two of his pupils decades ago. In this case the parents of the woman who laid the charge (a girl at the time it happened) didn’t even believe her. The Red My Lips 2015 Campaign also happens to coincide with a string of protests on UCT’s front doorstep where people are physically calling for change and vehemently protesting the presence of a statue and the legacy of institutionalised racism that the man it honours left behind. I find it quite telling that people will get behind a movement to deal with the remnants of our country’s history, while the culture and attitude towards women, men and other victims of abuse in our every day lives remains what it is. I am not saying that one is more important than the other, I am not saying that history doesn’t matter, I am merely challenging you to think about that for a second.
Revlon posted this post on Facebook, and I’ve pasted the image in here because I think it is chilling in its simplicity.
We all hear the facts, we all hear the stats and the horrific stories on the news and we push them out of the way with something along the lines of “I actually can’t understand how someone could do that”, and for me, personally this is because it is something that goes beyond my understanding. We all know that there is nothing right about any of this, and yet it continues. Human beings are fundamentally wired to love, and it makes my heart sore trying to work out what must have gone wrong to generate the levels of hate and violence that we hear about almost daily and if you’re lucky, it’s the news you’ll be hearing it from.
A few months ago Emma Watson was named a UN ambassador and gave a life-changing speech for the #HeForShe campaign. I say life changing because I really do think it will change how people think about things and it is one of the most incredible speeches I have ever heard. If you haven’t already watched it, you can watch it here, but in summary it is a call for gender equality. Because she is who she is, she managed to find the words that this topic deserves, and she does it with grace and eloquence. Her words, I realised, echo my own feelings and beliefs on the very real issues of gender that are a part of everything we do. This Red My Lips campaign may seem like it is aimed primarily at women, because for the most part it is women who wear red lipstick and it will thus be women who will need to speak about the issue when asked “what’s with the red lipstick today?”. But I don’t believe that this issue is one that belongs solely to women, in the same way that the #HeForShe campaign challenges men to lend their voice to the cause, a campaign to raise awareness about sexual abuse should be no different.
“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcomed to participate in the conversation. Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation.”
If you’re still with me at this point, odds are you are thinking of someone you know that has had something happen to them, if not, think of three women that you love and then think about the stats I just shared with you.
A wonderful friend of mine went through a rough patch in her life a few years ago and took to wearing the same bright shade of lipstick every day. When asked about it she said that she wore it to make her feel brave. Although it is completely unrelated to this topic apart from the fact that it involved red lipstick I think of her every time I put on bright lipstick. Wearing Red Lipstick this month for the Red My Lips Campaign is not about vanity it’s about visibility. In my mind this campaign isn’t simply about sexual abuse it is about abuse in absolutely every sense of the word and in all the forms that it takes. There comes a point where we have to stop ignoring things simply because they are uncomfortable to think about, or too hateful even to imagine, because the reality is, these things are being done to human beings by human beings. Too often issues involving this scale of cruelty and hate seem so immense that you wouldn’t even know where to start to help if you wanted to. Start here. Red your lips this month and be brave when someone asks you why. It may seem like a very small drop in a very big ocean, but there is value in challenging people to think about things that they ordinarily wouldn’t do. I asked some of my wonderful friends to be brave this month, and look how beautifully brave they were. Red My Lips 2015, Re(a)d My Lips – it’s time that things changed.
If you need help or if you are ever in the position to help someone you know with more than a selfie or some red lipstick, this is a good place to start.