THE BLOG

It Is A Man’s World Because You Are A Woman

My ability to make a decision and express agency is constantly undermined and dismissed just because I am a woman.

14/07/2017 03:59 SAST
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From the time I turn my alarm off to the moment my head touches the pillow at night, I look at the world through the eyes and lenses that are automatically alert to gender gaps and inequality. Feminism as an ideology and as an everyday practice occupies my existence, it's not something I am able to turn on and off at a moment's notice to get a reaction out of people. It's not a mechanism for anything, it's just the way my brain has been wired. So I am always very conscious and conscientious of everyday occurrence that makes my skin eek a bit. Like the other day, I was going about my day doing groceries when a random man came from behind and put his arm around me. It was a serious invasion of my personal space and I felt threatened, but he didn't quite understand that.

He was a stranger who for some reason felt a familiar proclamation to my body, he decided to hold me as though I was a possession and claimed my body as his own to touch at a moment's notice, despite my resistance. It was in a public space with other people around, but even then he felt no shame nor even entertained the possibility that other people might do something. He saw no threat because as a heterosexual male, the world around is not threatening to him. He never worries about his sense of security, whatever that looks like for different people. Once again as the woman in this scenario, I was the hysterical one for reacting as I did. James Brown captured it better when he said 'it's a man's world'.

He didn't seem to fully comprehend why it wasn't ok for him to do that without my consent because he still went on to ask me out, and I said no. Even then he insisted on asking for my number despite my expression of discomfort, everything I had said to him thus far was in inconsequential to him. I might as well have been preaching to a rock because none of the things I actually said reached his brain. He knew what he wanted at that moment and was willing to do whatever, despite how I felt about his pursuit. His privilege told him that violation wore a different cloth that had nothing to do with privacy or privately touching women's bodies without their permission. For him violence took on a different tone, demeanour and body, just like Donald Trump and groping women, it's never OK, under any circumstances to crowd people's spaces and dictate to people's bodies based on your own predisposition.

The very idea of demonstrating ownership towards another's body also counts as a violation, maybe not as extreme as rape but it's still a form of assault. Keep in mind that such acts could easily retraumatize people who have previously experienced sexual trauma or lead others to a place where they stop feeling safe in public spaces because they feel threatened by the very idea of being around men. Only looking at the world through your own lens of privilege is an illusion or distorted reality. It's always the things others take for granted that eventually lead to bigger issues, it's simple things like not telling male colleagues that we couldn't come to work because you have debilitating period pains since you know the level of judgement that will be hauled your way. That your future work decisions will be boxed as your inability to be rational because of your feminine hormones.

It must be really nice to live in a body and see with the eyes of a privileged heterosexual man, to feel so entitled to women's bodies and feel safe in a world the rest of us feel otherwise threatened by. Like in many cases, it's second nature for men like this stranger, to dismiss my protest when he insistent on invading my personal space, treated the issue as though it was subjective and debatable. It's not a 'sweet' or 'romantic' gesture, in this case, persistence is not 'cute' nor is it rewarded. 'No I am not interested' is not a cue for you to keep pushing. Men can choose and be respected for not liking or objecting to certain things, we call this character 'decisive' in men, but the same act is open to debate when expressed by a woman.

Imagine what would happen when the roles are switched? If and when a woman asks a man out, and he says no, her continued will and persistence to ask him out over and over again will be classified as psycho. When a woman can't take no for an answer she gets called all kinds of names, but the same act coming from a man is seen as an admirable act of persistence. It's a 'man knowing what he wants and willing to do whatever it takes' because 'it's a man's world', and the rest of us are just spectators waiting to cheer them on or offer our bodies up as forms of amusement when they are bored playing with their toys. The implication is that society has set up spaces and places in a way that's favourable to men, it has made it acceptable to mistreat and be dismissive of women's choices just because they are women.

You're neither safe at home or in public spaces, you should always be aware of the possibility of a sexual violence.

My ability to make a decision and express agency is constantly undermined and dismissed just because I am a woman and because the men in our lives, supposedly always know better. Ignoring someone's resistance (man or woman) shows how very little you respect that person, all we have in this life is our ability to choose so taking that way would not be received with kindness. I don't like having to debate my right and decision to say no to something or someone, I don't like having my agency dismissed. In what world do some people think that forcing yourself on a woman (especially one you just met) increases your chances with someone, because if you clearly can't respect my right to say no to something that might seem so small, then why should I assume you'd respect my future decisions with much bigger issues?

Your continued need to pester me about going out only gives me more reasons to say no (not that I need to justify myself in the first place), you deciding for me is not a thing. I hate that women still need to use the excuse of having a men in their lives to avoid being harassed, why is it that the man, in this case, respects the 'territory' of a fictitious man but can't respect the decision of the person standing beside them (me and other women in this case)? It must really be great to be born with such a privilege as your birthday right?

As women on the other hand, as part of our rite of passage we had to learn other more uncomfortable realities: don't be rude to a group of men hauling insults at you when you're alone, sometimes give the guy your number to get him to leave you alone (block it when you get home). Saying 'I have a boyfriend will come naturally to you', don't walk alone anywhere by yourself, always let someone know where you are and with whom, you're neither safe at home or in public spaces, you should always be aware of the possibility of a sexual violence.

You're told not to wear anything too revealing to avoid giving the 'wrong' signal, don't get too drunk because some guy might use that as a chance to violate you, you can't enjoy sex 'too much' or be sexually liberated because you run the risk of gaining the 'whore' reputation, don't run for high-powered positions because your decisions will always be scrutinised and rendered as emotional since our minds are controlled by nature's decision to make us bleed every month. So basically don't live in the world because you're a woman.