I am in pain as I write this. The level of which women have been misused, killed, abused and taken advantage of in South Africa particularly is unbearable. I just came from a memorial service of a girl who was strangled to death by her ex boyfriend, a 24 year old beautiful soul.
You would think after all the out cries by women, the marches women have done, in a quest to stop men from raping, abusing and killing us women, would encourage them to STOP. However it seems our cries are falling on deaf ears.
I have come to the conclusion that we have to rewind the tape before we get to how this movie ends. Our pain is as a result of someone being killed or raped. Yet we completely ignore or minimize the root, or rather how this thing “starts”.
Recently I have been sharing disturbing incidents with someone close to me, incidents that I have been having with men. As a young woman in South Africa, I am very uncomfortable walking pass anywhere, where there are men around, in particular my black (african) brothers. The sexual comments they will make, and how they will undress me with their eyes (I literally had a guy say to me “I want to suck your boobs” and there were other men around who laughed at this comment, as I had stopped to ask for directions) this is all humiliating, and degrading. For whatever reason, it’s almost as if they feel like they have a right to do this, because they do it with no shame. The only times I can have my guard down is when I am in “elite” areas, like your Sandton, Rosebank, Melrose Arch and the like.
Please don’t get me wrong, it's not like sexual perversion is nonexistent in the latter mentioned places, oh it’s there, but it is presented as “class”. There they will offer to pay your bill, buy you something to drink, they’ll even offer you money, or to take “care” of you. This behaviour is also prevalent in the work space. I recently worked for a company where men made indirect sexual advances and comments almost everyday, and you feel alone because you see other women in respectable positions accept these behaviours, and you can easily think who am I to complain about this “Petty” thing.
Like I said in the beginning, I have come to the conclusion that the reason men have become so comfortable in strangling a woman to death, or raping, and any form of abuse. I believe that’s because we have over time accepted unacceptable things, we’ve tolerated and justified, unjustifiable behaviour. I have to admit, I am part of the problem, I have laughed at something that a man said to me, something that made me feel very uncomfortable but because I did not want to make things “awkward”, I just laugh it off. When is enough, enough? Where do we draw the line? I think the line should in the small petty things, it’s not okay when men call any woman ugly names, not even in a rap song. It’s totally unacceptable. People are surprised that R. Kelly abused women, watch his music videos, and listen to his songs. We tolerated the “small things”, and that told him that it is okay to do whatever you want to a woman.
I have recently ventured into the world of business, and unfortunately this world is dominated by men. My personal tragedy is, I cannot get men to look “pass” my womanhood, and respect me a business person. I never get the same respect they would give another man in the room, and when I present my ideas, it’s almost as if I am being “cute”. Yet a man could present the same idea, and he will be respected and seen as a visionary, someone who is innovative. However, because of what’s between my legs, after I present my ideas, the next question I get is; “Are you married and do you have kids”, this hurts. I am an intelligent, creative, innovative and hard working entrepreneur, I am more than what’s between my legs.
When I go into meetings, not only do I have to make sure that I present a brilliant idea and prove myself, I also have to make sure I don’t smile too much and give anyone the wrong idea. Which never really helps by the way because a man in that room will still try and hit on me, no matter how professional I dress and present myself. This is frustrating and its very sad.
This is not a venting blog or a way for me to formally complain. However, this is to encourage whoever reads this, to make a decision to change this twisted norm that we have allowed, or pretended like it does not exist. We have to teach men how to treat us, in all walks of life. We are worthy of respect. We as women have to level up, and Stop tolerating degrading, and humiliating treatment of any kind, no matter how “small” it may seem. We also have to be there for another and create space for all women to speak up. We all have the power to effect change in our sphere of influence, and we all have the power to make a difference.
I am more than what’s between my legs, I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a businesswoman, and so much more. I deserve to be treated with respect. We all do.
In memory of Simpiwe, rest in peace beautiful soul!