I WAS watching a music video the other day where a group of men standing by a street corner were hollering at women and making crude gestures at them, the media’s way of glamourising and normalising cat-calling.
One can understand how some people think that cat-calling is a harmless activity meant to flatter women. It’s something that every woman has or will experience at some point in their lives, be it on the way to work or to the supermarket.
In most cases it seems harmless enough, albeit uncomfortable, when a cab driver hollers at you telling you that you are sexy and you should smile more.
Movies and television series also make it seem a harmless activity when rugged handsome construction workers (who look nothing like Petrus and Matheus at the construction site in your neighbourhood) cat-call a beautiful blonde who laps up the ‘compliments’ no matter how crass they are.
At some point, I thought nothing of cat-calling and concluded the women who took offence to it were just high-strung.
That is until it escalated from compliments, to insults, groping and the threat of violence. I had encountered a group of men who felt that I owed them salutations and thank you because they gave me unsolicited compliments as I went about my business in my neighbourhood.
Before I knew it I was staring at a tall, muscular built man who demanded I thank him for his compliment or he would not let me pass. Then he went on to spank me on the ass as I walked by because he is a man who can do whatever it is he wants.
In that moment, as I violently shook with fear it dawned on me that cat-calling was nothing more than sexual harassment that we are conditioned to believe from a young age is part of being a woman. It is a twisted rite of passage that lets you know that you are now nubile.
But all that teaches that we (women) are public property, we do not belong to ourselves and we are merely on this earth for the amusement of men and we should be grateful for the attention they give us (even though it’s unsolicited). Young boys are being brought up to think that it is okay to treat women this way too.
This weekend I went to Grootfontein to get away from the claustrophobia I had been feeling because Windhoek seems to be getting smaller and aggressive by the day. Small towns are made up of homely, close-knit communities where your neighbours are often elated to see you and spoil you, so I expected to get some R&R (rest and relaxation).
However it went sour fast when a group of teenage boys, who were barely out of diapers when I was a teenager myself began cat-calling me.
They made remarks about my body and the things they would like to do to me, all the while calling me every degrading name they could think of. I had it in my right mind to walk up to them, drag them by their earlobes home and lecture them while their parents looked on.
But I didn’t because issues like cat-calling and any other form of sexual harassment is learned behaviour. These are actions modelled by their role models, so they take them on thinking it is okay so a 15 minute lecture cannot undo a lifetime of learned behaviour.
To this day, we often see these actions being emulated by our favourite celebrities in movies and music videos. The leading lady will often be an unassuming hottie walking down the street when Mario or Chris Brown walks up to her and starts accosting her, singing about all the things he would like to do to her, she is responsive so we conclude it’s okay.
So when boys see them doing that, coupled with the actions of the older men around them they conclude that it is the natural order of things.
I find myself having to say a silent prayer every time I walk past a group of men, I hope none of them cat-call or grope me, when they do I find myself having to submit because I know the situation can easily escalate to a violent one. I am at their mercy because I know they outnumber me and are physically stronger.
I hate feeling unsafe in my own neighbourhood, in my hometown but the fact remains that men do not see anything wrong in their actions so it won’t change anytime soon and that saddens me
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015