Perdeby experience: what Red My Lips taught me

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Every week Perdeby sends their journalists to experience something out of their comfort zones. This week is a little different. This week, Carly Twaddle recounts her experience of supporting the Red My Lips campaign throughout April.

Red is a very bright colour to commit to every day for 30 days. It stands out in most situations. It is an intense colour for university, family lunches, and a road trip down to Durban – but that was the point of this campaign: getting attention for sexual violence victims and breaking the infamously ridiculous notions surrounding them, force people to become aware, make them uncomfortable. This month was an interesting experience to say the least. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.

I wore red lipstick every time I stepped out of the house for 30 days. As an avid lover of lipstick in general, the attention this drew shocked me. At first, my friends did not really take note of the consistent colour; they were used to me wearing lipstick in otherwise ordinary circumstances. My family and lecturers noticed, but didn’t say anything.

After a week, the comments started. My friends were supportive and many took on the cause themselves. Many were complimentary, as red can be quite a flattering colour. I made a point of telling everyone who commented on my lipstick about the cause. Some took great interest in it, others feigned interest. In some cases people rolled their eyes at this ‘preppy girl’ who was taking on ‘yet another silly cause’. This month of wearing red lipstick definitely changed my perception of society, especially of those who view raising awareness for sexual violence victims as a ‘silly cause’.

A friend of mine jokingly said, ‘Oh, you’re asking for it hey?’ every time he saw me putting on red lipstick. He did not realise the harm that this joke carries, that this joke and others of its kind perpetuates victim-shaming and the lack of seriousness taken in sexual violence cases. These types of micro-aggressions shocked me throughout the whole month. There were numerous comments throughout my Red My Lips experience that disappointed me.

Many were along the lines of ‘But how can you change anything?’ All I could say in response was, ‘At least I’m trying. Are you?’ Others just left me dumbfounded, such as the girl outside Haloa who said, ‘Wow, that looks like a prostitute colour’. These negative comments were not acceptable. How can we, as a society, still be complicit in victim-shaming? These comments made me feel guilty, and I am not even a victim of sexual violence. I can only imagine what they do to those who are told that it is their fault that they were attacked. How can we make a human being think that their clothing or behaviour influenced the assailant’s decision to commit a horrific crime?

I find it sad that participating in this campaign made me aware of the necessity of it. This experience has taught me many things. Firstly, society needs to change its perception of sexual violence victims. Secondly, we need to stop judging one another and slut-shaming; sensual clothing and makeup does not mean someone is ‘asking for it’. Thirdly, next year I need to be more vocal during this campaign. I need to make sure that those around me are educated about this cause. It is our job as humans to raise awareness and help each other. We need to fight harder.

Written by: Carly Twaddle

Originally published: