Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive narration that may trigger one with similar experiences.
The #16DaysNotEnoughCampaign shares the personal experiences of women who have gone through subtle abuses like gaslighting, crazy-making, pathological lying, excuses, and hypocrisy which has been normalised in our societies. ACTIVATE! Supports the fight against gender-based violence. This is the raw experience of a woman in her own words.
(Author wishes to remain anonymous)
I’ve heard many of my friends say, “Yho! If that was my sister, that punk would be dead by now”, when they see a man hitting a woman they don’t know. When I told my brother, “I hope your daughter grows up to marry a man like you”, his immediate response was “No!” He exclaimed it so loudly and with such conviction, one would think I was already handing his daughter over to the man I was talking about. When I leave the house in tight jeans, my father asks if I’m not going to tie a jersey around my waist just to cover the way the jeans trace my whole behind. You see, men know that men are dangerous, it’s just more comfortable to defend his dignity than to confront this reality. Men know that his friends are capable of sexual assault, you’re just not supposed to call them out on it. Men have had things their way for so long, they cannot imagine the idea of letting go of that privilege. Culture and religion have made sure that the role of the man as “the head of the house” is so deeply engraved in our minds, that it is the most difficult thing to erase.
I was talking to my dad the other day. We had a conversation about how difficult it is to be a woman in the world. He agrees. Dad says that men are unfair to women. Even in rural Xhosa homes, men take all the tasks that eventually end while women are expected to be on their feet all day. I was proud of my dad that day. I was proud of him for pointing out the truth. Dad goes on to tell me that in some villages, women are expected to carry out the process of making traditional beer. This includes the grinding of millies corn, getting enough water from the well, getting a fire started- after making sure that there is enough wood for the fire- the list is long. After the beer has been fermented, and it is almost ready to drink, the men take over and the women are told to go and sit outside. You see, the beer is going to make the women drunk, and that’s not allowed. The men have all the beer for themselves, and only give the women a taste in jug portions. After all of this work, the women are expected to start a fire again and prepare food for the men.
The men slaughter the sheep or cow, and they hand the meat over to the women. Now the endless work begins. The women prepare the liver so that the men can have food, none of these women get a taste of the liver, it is reserved for the men. After that, the meat has to be cleaned and cooked and served to the men. When all of this is done, after a long day of running around, the men and the children are full, the husbands are drunk and they are ready to lay down. The women are left to clean up after these men and their children. When they finally get to bed to rest for the night, her husband requires his bedroom services. If she dare refuses or makes some excuse that she is tired, her husband finds the perfect excuse to go out and sleep with other women.
I had a conversation with my dad the other day, and he told me about all the ways that culture and religion have allowed for the oppression of females. I was proud of him for noticing this. I was, however, very saddened by his closing remark. Dad told me all of these things and then he said, “But what can we do? We can’t change culture.” Dad knows that he can change this culture, he’s just not willing to let go of his position of privilege. He knows all of these things, the topic of whether he is willing to change this or not, is not open for discussion. This is where our conversation ends. This is where he draws the line.
Men know, they just couldn’t be bothered to fight alongside women. They don’t see the big deal, wethu. This thing can’t be big enough for women to insult them that much. I mean #MenAreTrash is a bit extreme, don’t you think? Men know, but they will not call their friends out on their trashy behaviour. “Allow him have fun”, they say. “Boys will be boys,” they say. And when these boys grow up to beat their wives and rape people’s daughters, it is discussed the African way. One day, I will tell you about handling rape the “African way”. For now, let’s stand together to fight against gender-based-violence in these 16 days of activism, and far into the future.
ACTIVATE! is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.
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