Citizen.Speak.Amplify

Justice for Siam Lee: We must defend her from victim-blaming

COMMENT

There are bodies deemed valuable and bodies deemed disposable, with the factors of race, gender, sexuality and ability playing a role in deciding between the former and the latter. Bodies which do not conform to cisgender/heterosexuality, whiteness and able-bodiedness are not considered to be sufficiently deserving of empathy and care. Those lives are not mourned or celebrated as readily. Those bodies are more at risk of violation, of violence, of being discarded in silence.

This is the price we pay for existing in a racist, patriarchal and ableist world.

Victims are never allowed full victimhood when existing in these bodies, they always carry the blame for the violence conducted on them. This is a sign of a profound sickness, a deep inner hatred and refusal to acknowledge a common humanity.

Sometimes, even those bodies which conform to the roles and appearance expected of them can be ridiculed and blamed for their own pain. On 4 January, 20-year-old Siam Lee was abducted from outside her place of work and murdered. She was reportedly assaulted and set alightand her body was found on a farm on 6 January, 100km from where she was taken. The case of Siam Lee has horrified South Africa, and details of her death have sparked conversations about rape culture, gender-based violence, racism, sex-worker exploitation and victim-blaming.
On 13 January, the Sunday Times published an article outing Siam and her mother as sex workers, information which held no relevance to the public and served a sensationalist and click-baity purpose.

This example of unethical journalism has turned the tide of horror and sympathy for the dead girl into one of victim-blaming and contempt. The details surrounding her abduction and murder are complex and unclear, nonetheless, Siam is being held to account for her own murder by a plethora of hateful and cruel comments posted by equally hateful and cruel people.

 

It does not matter if Siam was a sex worker. There is no reason to be ashamed or silent on the topic of sex work. Sex work is legitimate work. Sex workers are legitimate workers whose bodies are owed respect. But it cannot be denied that this understanding is not universal, that sex workers are treated with derision and violence across cultures, religions and countries.

Knowing this, knowing how her memory would be treated after this information was made public, the Sunday Times has played a hideous game.

 

Siam is now being blamed for her own death. Her mother is being held responsible by strangers on the internet for her death. Photographs of this young woman and her friends are being used as ammunition by white racists to imply that she deserved what happened to her for “mixing races”. She is being accused of drug-taking delinquency, as though smoking a joint means you deserve to be murdered. Her death has become a point of conversation for those who knew nothing about her, while her family and friends grieve an unspeakable theft.

A girl is dead. A young girl, alone and scared, was murdered in one of the most horrific ways imaginable. Have we become so desensitised, so accepting of these atrocities that we can turn our hearts and minds away from love and empathy to viciousness and inhumanity, to casual commentary on someone’s life and death? Siam was a young girl who had a job, friends, family, hobbies, goals, a future. She was robbed of a long and happy life by people who embrace a system of misogyny, and there are people who think this is debatable. Who is the perfect victim deserving of justice? Who is not? And why are we so comfortable in thinking we have any right to decide?

Featured Image via Facebook

24 Comments
  1. Callum says

    You complain about living in a racist world, then write racist shit about “whiteness”. I personally knew Siam, and you should feel bad for turning this into something about race. Just because people are being racist idiots on Facebook, why condemn the entire white race. Hypocritical much?

    1. Callum says

      Furthermore, your comment on “smoking a joint”. Every time I hung out with Siam, she refused to smoke weed while many of us did, so stop being like the other news articles and assuming shit. Let her family and friends just have peace and stop pissing us all off because you want to assume shit and hop on the train.

    2. AFriendOfTheVictim says

      FUCK YES EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO SAY. “Militant against wrong” fucking bullshit, you’re a large part of the problem. Siam believed that weed killed your brain cells. Also, saying people are being racist AND THEN BEING RACIST YOURSELF BY BLAMING WHITE PEOPLE fucking lol. She was a beautiful soul, full of sunshine and smiles DO NOT TAKE THAT AWAY FROM HER AND REDUCE HER TO NOTHING BUT A “sex worker” under the pretence of telling people not to victim blame. Christ you’re a typical fucking subpar journalist where OHMYGOD ITS WHITE PEOPLES FAULT AHHH LETS PERPETUATE WHITE HATRED MORE.

      THIS HAS LITERALLY FUCKING FUCK ALL TO DO WITH RACE. But somehow, as per fucking usual, IT ALWAYS BECOMES ABOUT RACE UGH disgusting.

  2. Samantha says

    This article is a joke. I go to the same university as you, what “patriarchal society” are you going on about? This is just a typical let’s blame white people and men bullshit. You should feel like a piece of shit for using this young girls death as just another way to cast blame.

  3. Sue says

    You say there is nothing wrong with sex work, and that society should not stay silent about it. At the same time, you accuse the Sunday Times of sensationalism for revealing that Siam Lee was involved in sex work. Your hypocrisy and confusion are staggering.

    1. Petrus Civis says

      Exactly. Also, the author repeatedly refers to the victim (RIP) as a “girl” and a “young girl”. Now, I’m not a feminist, so I don’t have any objection to people referring to young women as “girls”. However, the author is supposedly a Woke radical feminist, so why on Earth is she using that language? Obvious: because it suits the author to be able to confer or remove agency at her own discretion in order to fortify her argument.

  4. ALEX says

    Let’s all ground ourselves here. This has nothing to do with race or anything that has been so broadly pulished in the media. We’re talkong about a 20 year old girl who died under the most horrific circumstances. Does where she ‘worked’ really have anything to do with it? Does where she worked justify the loss of her life and the way it was taken away from her? Surely, considering the terror she must have gone through at the end justifies that we all hold her a little closer to our hearts and give her the dignity and respect EVERY human being deserves. If you can’t say something decent about her – better you remain silent.

  5. Yolande says

    Would that, in my day, we could screen grab OPINIONS of everyday people on SOCIAL MEDIA as valid SOURCES. Give the leads of actual stories (like this one) to actual journalists (unlike this one).

  6. Herman Lategan says

    Thank you for this article. I agree with the ethos and philosophy behind it. I hear you.

  7. Radha says

    Siam, we are so sorry those should have kept you safe – failed you. we are so sorry that as your community and your country we failed to protect you – not only from the darkest of souls – but from those who should have loved and protected you most – those closest to you…. a young, vulnerable girl…. who was lead into an adult world beyond her…we are sorry Siam – and – we hope and pray that those who failed you – talk – let in the light…
    not for retribution but so we can learn to not fail all the other thousands of young girls who tonight are vulnerable, scared, unsafe in a dark adult world. missing and nameless or worse,,, lost right in front of us. forgive us Siam. fly free into the light

  8. Tom says

    Siam wasn’t a fucking sex worker.

    1. Petrus Civis says

      I am pleased to learn that, notwithstanding the author’s views about sex work being an aspirational profession.

  9. Isobel says

    Just for clarity.. timeslive.com is based in Las Vegas and loves to stir inflammatory stuff in South Africa, it is not the Sunday times

    1. Jason says

      Times Live is both the Sunday Times and The Times, which is based in Rosebank, Johannesburg. I know. I used to write for them, and they are very much one and the same.

  10. Confused says

    This article is far less responsible than the Sunday Times article. How is this opinion piece which highlights and exaggerated everything you had issue with any better except an attempt to gain traction for your personal opinion. How are you so disparaging of sex work as is obvious in this article while telling others to accept it etc.
    This was irresponsible writing. It pushed every dramatic issue you were critical of and made a more sensationalist environment for this tragedy, while hurting those close to the victim. Great work.

    1. Paulo says

      Agreed.

  11. Paulo says

    What happened to Siam Lee is horrendous. No person, regardless of race, gender, profession or personal circumstances deserves this.

    Unfortunately, the internet provides a platform for bigots and all-round-idiots to air their views and opinions. The writer of the M&G article is responding to these comments that she has carefully cherry picked, rather than the Times article itself. The writer’s response to these comments only fuels her own personal agenda & narrative about race / gender and “whiteness” – all of which are rooted in the pathetic and biased ‘Social Justice Warrior’ narrative around identity politics. Note the tags at the end of the article – ‘heterosexuality’ and ‘cisgender’ – someone PLEASE explain how or why these tags are relevant to Siam’s story?

    Her claim that the Times article perpetuates victim-blaming is absurd. The Times article presents the facts – unlike this M&G piece which is based on emotion, virtue signaling and validation of her personal narrative.

    The role of investigative journalists is to uncover and expose the FACTS.

    The fact that Siam Lee and her mother were involved with prostitution IS HUGELY significant in that Siam was exposed to a shady and dangerous underworld, much more so than any other ‘average’ 20-year-old woman.

    Also the suggestion that Siam hasn’t received an outpouring of empathy or care is completely false. Again, the comments and opinions of a minority of imbeciles on social media doesn’t reflect the bigger picture.

  12. Marilyn Harris says

    What happened to Siam is a tragedy. We are so quick to judge without knowing any of the real story. We are closer in our humanity than in our distance about what happened. We should all be heart broken about a life filled with so much possibility, cut short in such a tragic way. It is so much easier to love than to hate. Love and forgiveness are all that matter now.

  13. Alexander Gordon says

    DEAR SJW SLACKTIVISTS — ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS…

  14. Shadzie says

    Firstly, I’ve read the comments on this article and I’m disgusted by how people feel entitled to condemn the writer for her writing. I’m not saying the facts about Siam are correct, what happened is a tragedy. With regards to these hateful comments specifically… Just because you don’t experience racial, sexist, or patriarchal abuse doesn’t mean it is not there. Count yourself lucky. Do not condemn others for speaking out against problems many of us face on a daily basis. That is wrong too.

    As for defending the white people and their comments… Stay in your lane. These people harbor real hateful feelings and it should not be excused just because of your personal feelings.

    Racists should not be protected.

    1. Petrus Civis says

      WTF are you even talking about? Wrong thread?

  15. Anonymous says

    I believe what happened to Siam is tragic and shows the fears that South African women face daily. Her occupation is suddenly playing such an important part especially on social media. We don’t know what Siam’s occupation was and we do not need to know. If it is going to help with the investigation then it should be confidential. People need to focus on being less judgmental, actually people should not be judging at all. Suddenly a murder case is open to the public and their opinions. Siam is the victim and her family and friends deserve the sympathy of the public and us as citizens, not judgement regarding every aspect people could possibly think of. To Siam’s family and friends, my sympathies to you all and I pray for strength for the family and justice for Siam. Cases like this are taken too lightly in South Africa. If measures are put in place to prevent this then why does it happen so often? Because the people doing these crimes are not punished enough therefore people think they can easily get away with harming others because it is likely to happen!

  16. robyn perl says

    I am heartbroken by her death by her judgement by everyone. is this life that we know. no heart no feeling empty vessels. who are we to judge. have we become rocks that hard no feelings. I feel sad actually super sad. have we all become judges. don’t be that person. be kind or please go away. you have no place here. no hard feelings. before u judge think read understand x from a good place xx let’s all try be nicer this year xx

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