Trigger warning: street harassment, molestation, rape culture, misogynoir
I wasn’t going to write about this, but it’s been a week and I still get anxious every time I see him.
Writing through this may not make me less mad about it, but it will ease my troubled mind somewhat. For some of us “poetry is not a luxury, and writing is not a past time. It is survival. It is revival; it is the healing process of probing deeper into the collective memory of the soul“. (Word to Taylor Dominique Mason )
I was fixing to get into a taxi at Bree when one of the taxi marshalls groped me in full view of the people in the taxi. I immediately hit his hand away and told him, “Please don’t touch me.” The women in the front row laughed. Unfazed, he held out his hand; as though we were doing some kind of foreplay, and smiled like I was being a tease and actually liked that he had just violated me.
What I really wanted to do was kick him in the balls and tell him to go to hell. I wanted to turn to those women and call them out on their endorsement of such appalling behaviour. But what, if I was able to inflict any type of pain, would that achieve except retaliation? 100 bucks says the people at Bree would probably pull me off him, or he would turn even more violent. They did think my ordeal was funny, after all.
I love Black men. I am always the first to root for them. As a matter of principle, I never even use the N word, though I am myself Black. Heck, I want to marry a Black man one day. If you read this blog, you’ll know I’ve written about my love for him too (Ubuhle bendoda: on the beauty of a Black man.
But I’m finding it harder to root for him, and I am painting ‘him’ with a very broad general stroke unapologetically, because I can. He has a whole army of fvkboys who will come to his defense always, anyways.
Being a Black woman in this country is traumatic. On a daily basis there are at least 10 men who insist on calling me “My size” / “Sweedat” / “Lovey” etc and/ or pulling my arm and demanding to see my tattoo, get my number, start a conversation. Where is it safe to walk down the street without being a accosted by seventy men? And when?
From an article I wrote for The Con about a year ago:
“From the time a girl enters puberty until the age men stop seeing her as ‘desirable’, the idea that her body is not her own is systematically imposed on her. On any given day, as she moves from A to B, she will have to fend off unwanted attention, she’ll be whistled at, grabbed, groped, insulted for not responding, and, in some cases, the attack becomes serious. For many men, there is just no desire to see street harassment as harmful – it is just harmless fun, and is often perceived as doing women the ‘favour’ of complimenting them. But harassment on the street is nothing less than an attack on women’s bodies.
[…] Men’s failure to empathise with women is also because the harassment is not really about the women themselves. It is about male sexual entitlement and it is about performing manhood – perhaps more for the sake of other men than for women.”
I have conversations with my girlfriends almost weekly, I see tweets and Facebook posts from friends almost daily, about such experiences. No matter how many times we say, “Leave me alone”, or show no interest, or put earphones in to block them out, they just don’t seem to accept that “No means NO”. This is rape culture, how a man can assume that each woman who passes by is fair game, how he can touch her intimately without knowing her or asking for permission to do so, how he can grope a woman in a public area because he knows no one will challenge him, how he can be amused by her anguish, how he can forget her face and move on with his life while she panics each time she sees him… The list is too long.
Left: K Funk + right: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Their message is clear – our bodies belong to them, they are here for their pleasure. Because you know, I generally woke up wondering how I could please randoms. The idea that I love myself is beyond their understanding. I look good because I want to, not because I’m looking for validation. But looking good is besides the point, because even on a Frumpy Fred day, some dude thinks he can come up to me and try to be all up in my space. The clothes aren’t the problem. The attitude is.
The liver! It still shocks me shem. I mean, it shouldn’t, but every time something happens I’m like, “HOW is that an acceptable way to treat a human being?!” Like, there’s no logic to the messed up way that men insist on performing this masculinity schmasculinity.
But we will overcome.
Have you seen this video of men talking about ST? You’ll laugh. Shout out to Tiq for being the real MVP. We need more men like you. As for those men making this about them. I can’t even.
All of the SMH,
“When Black men are willing to do the work to challenge their own internalization of oppression and reject the dehumanization of Black women and themselves by proxy, they engage in a very radical self-love. […] Many Black men fear this because in their eyes, not dominating Black women means admitting to being weak. They have mistaken the utter weakness, destruction and oppression that patriarchy is and the fragile volatility of patriarchal masculinity for strength and courage. It is neither. It is an endless book of matches placed there by the hand of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Black men use them to set Black women on fire as they too die from smoke inhalation. My desire is for us to live and thrive, not to burn.”