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Home » South Africa » How sexism is entrenched in South Africa, or ‘Willene’s Thoughts: Part 1’

How sexism is entrenched in South Africa, or ‘Willene’s Thoughts: Part 1’

Call this what you want; a memoir, diary entry, a girl ranting, an open letter to the drunk Stellenbosch brah. I honestly don’t care, but I do feel like sharing this and possibly starting a series. So, let’s just call it Willene’s thoughts: Part 1

Let me tell you something that really ground my gears. A few months back I was walking hand-in-hand with my then boyfriend from a restaurant-bar, better known in Stellenbosch as Bohemia, to a club known as Catwalk. It was a quiet Monday evening and I was still wearing the same clothes I wore during the day. Puffy genie pants with a jacket and scarf to be exact. It is necessary to explain what I was wearing that night because, just in case you were wondering, I wasn’t dressed provocatively, a common excuse for unconsented behaviour for some reason (Which can I just comment is a joke.; what I wore should be completely irrelevant and useless information.) While we were walking two guys came stumbling towards us from the opposite direction. I didn’t think much of it. The one seemed raging drunk, which is a normality for Stellenbosch nightlife, and I thought it funny at the time, actually thinking how he reminded me of my boyfriend’s brother. When, at that very moment, he brushed past me and grabbed my breast in his passing. I was so shocked that I couldn’t form words and when I finally got the words out the stranger was already at a safe distance screaming: “Jah brah, I touched your cherry’s tit, what are you going to do about it.” His friend just stood by, doing absolutely nothing, while I dragged my boyfriend away, persuading him to drop it since the guy was too far away to pursue in any case. I was absolutely outraged and in my heart of hearts I wanted my boyfriend to beat the shit out of him, but instead I ignored it for the rest of the evening.

The next day I couldn’t shake what had happened. I felt violated, angry and disturbed at this stranger who had the audacity to grab at me while I was with my significant other, minding my own business not even dressed provocatively. Even if I was dressed provocatively, drunk and on my own he still wouldn’t have had the right to do what he did, but let’s face it, if that was the case I would have blamed myself. So what type of guy was that? If he had the audacity to do that with a girl walking with her boyfriend, what would he do to a girl who was walking alone, or to a girl who had too much to drink. I wouldn’t even put it past him to throw something in a girls drink. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. The amount of times men have grabbed at me from behind while walking up stairs in a club is crazy. It’s a smart strategy. Walk with a group up the stairs and grab at the girl in front of you, when she turns around she can’t make out who it was, because of the amount of people. Then there was a time where I danced (Sokkie: South African folk partner dance) with a guy, and another guy cut in and in the process grabbed me from behind. I retaliated by slapping him. The rest of my evening was spoiled. Is there something I’m doing that makes guys think it’s okay to treat me like that? Is it the way I’m dressed? Is it the way I dance? Does it even matter?

I don’t even blame radical feminists at this stage. When women speak about equal rights the first response from most males are “Equal rights huh? That includes being allowed to hit woman back right?”. Not the right to equal pay, but the right to beat woman. Especially in the patriarchal Afrikaans houses. Basically it goes “He’s a guy, he can do what he wants but you my dear you need to respect yourself.” I have spoken to guys who have told me that they don’t want their girlfriend to smoke, all while smoking a cigarette. Another example is how many guys feel that they can sleep around but any potential girlfriend should ‘respect’ herself and not have a previous partner number higher than two, but that is already pushing it. I dated a guy who told me that if I had told him that I have slept with three guys before him, he wouldn’t have asked me out, or taken me seriously even though he himself has slept with a number of girls.

Let’s quickly look at the Brock Turner’s case. He wasn’t simply accused of raping a girl, he was stopped mid-rape by two other guys. It wasn’t a question of establishing the truth; but what did they ask her in court? “What were you wearing?”,  “How much did you drink?”, “Why were you going to this party?”, “You said you were a party animal?”. These are the type of questions girls get asked when we are assaulted. Apparently most guys are sex offenders, and if you dress inappropriately and drink too much then you are giving them permission to take advantage of you. In the rape case against Brock, he defends himself by saying he made a mistake by drinking excessively and that he wishes he never picked up a drink or spoke to his victim. How is that justified? So drinking might cause rape tendencies, shouldn’t there be a warning label on alcohol then? Warning: Excessive drinking may lead to rape. I discussed the case with my parents after telling them about the guy who grabbed at me. My mother agreeing how terrible and unfair this whole case is, and my father agreeing full-heartedly but remarking that the girl’s only mistake was that she was drunk. Hello white Afrikaans patriarchal father figure. So maybe he had a word vomit and didn’t mean it like that, but it sounded like he was saying drunk girls deserve to be raped because they were drunk in the first place. In all honesty at that moment I felt like if I were drunk and  were raped (God forbid), I would be too scared to tell my father, because I’d be terrified that he would blame me, because I was drunk. (To clarify, I love my dad, he is an amazing father but our opinions tend to clash.) This is not just my reality, but it is the reality for many girls out there; from my experience it is a very Afrikaans way of thinking.

It’s okay if guys drink, but not girls. You see, girls should respect themselves; we should wear promise rings, learn how to cook, and prepare ourselves to be pure blushing brides. Don’t be that girl who parties and who wears herself out, because yes guys need those girls. They have to get it out of their systems before settling down…

 


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