I can kind of say I “know about” rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m not an expert on DRC by any means, but I’ve certainly read enough to know that it is happening.
Does “knowing about” rape in the DRC make me very sad? Yes.
Does “knowing about” it make me feel like the world is an evil place sometimes? Yes.
Does it blow my mind that humans endure or perpetrate this type of brutality? Yes.
Does it make me wonder what is underlying it, why it happens and what are all the complexities that surround it? Yes.
Does it make me wish that there were a way to help make it stop? Yes.
Has anyone offered a viable solution for someone like me to help stop it? Not really.
“Knowing about” and “caring about” don’t equal “having identified the right thing to do about.”
A new short film is out called “Unwatchable.” This film assumes that the reason people don’t do more about the situation in the DRC is that they don’t know about it or don’t empathize with it because it is happening to people in the DRC.
To remedy that, “Unwatchable” re-enacts a true story that happened to a family in the DRC, setting it the UK. The premise is that if we watch the same horrifying things happening to a white family in the UK, we will “know about” what is happening in the DRC, and then we will “care about” it enough to “do something about” it by signing a petition to “stop rape minerals”.
So, does watching a horrific short film about a white British family being brutalized help me empathize with families in the DRC? No.
Does it help me better understand the situation in the DRC? No.
Does it move me to do something about violence in the DRC? No.
Does it offer me a solution or a viable way to help stop violence in the DRC? Not really.
To start with, I actually can’t even remember who the organization is behind the film. All I remember is some helicopters, a man with a bloody groin, lots of screaming and men in military gear, a teen-aged girl in a school uniform forced back on the kitchen table with flour all over her face being gang raped with a gun, and a little girl in white running in the fields with some flowers.
And another thing – no matter whether the people portrayed in the film were Brits or Congolese or from wherever, I would have been disturbed by the images. So if the goal of the film is horrifying the viewer by showing something that is “unwatchable,” then yes, goal achieved.
But am I better informed? Do I empathize now? Not really. Instead, I feel alienated, traumatized and I want to look away. I feel hopeless.
Will a lot of people watch the “unwatchable?” Probably. (Especially since it’s getting a lot of criticism right now.)
Does it make a solid connection between this violence and “rape minerals”? Not really.
No sane person would approve of rape as a weapon of war. But the difficult part is knowing what is the best way to end it, and knowing if there is really a way that someone like you or me can do anything about it.
Is legislation against “rape minerals” the best way? Who knows? There’s certainly enough questioning about the recent advocacy work and legislation that achieved a ban on them to make you wonder if banning is anything like a real solution.
The thing is, you can “know about” what is happening in the DRC and be “against rape” and still not be convinced that a petition or a boycott or Dodd Frank is the best way to end it.
So does “Unwatchable” add anything relevant to the debate or identify real solutions? Not really.
In addition to being unwatchable, I found it to be pretty “Unhelpful.”