At thirteen, my first year in high school, my period started. You probably don't care but the trajectory is at the fore of understanding the narrative. At fourteen, the possibility that I would remain "green" for the rest of my life was my biggest concern. 'Green' is a term given to a girl who has not had her first kiss, I'm not sure if it's used for boys as well. At sixteen I was called a whore and a bitch: a whore because I had kissed a boy and a bitch because I had not. For years, different variations of these words were thrown my way and with every repetition, I carried them. I was still a child, at eighteen I did not know that I was being called out of my name.
I accepted this "locker room banter" and found nothing particularly wrong with society and the way it judged women: for having opinions, for keeping quiet, for changing their minds... It was normal to assign tags to women as it was the backbone of our media. We always heard of the loose women but never discussed the men that contributed fifty percent of her 'looseness'. Men are conditioned to own how women can navigate this world and in retrospect, I understand that this is how society is constructed.
I understand that men make the rules and change them to suit themselves and that women have been conditioned to view other women the way that men dictate: as competition for their attention. Even now at age 26, I am still in the process of unlearning the misogyny. I am still called a hoe when I refuse a drink, a hoe when I take one, a hoe when I am in a relationship for longer than men want me to be, a hoe when my drink is spiked by a male 'friend' in university and I wake up with no recollection of the night before and having to spend hours at the hospital dealing with nurses and a higher education system that doesn't care...
A hoe when I upload a picture of myself in a bikini, a thirsty hoe because I enjoy the company of my male friends, a thirsty hoe because I am out clubbing with my female friends; a "selfish bitch" when a man harasses me from inside the mall all the way to my car and corners me into giving him my number, a hoe when I wear a crop top and a hoe when I wear a jersey. Because I exist in this space for men's pleasure, right? There are WhatsApp groups in which my images are screen munched and shared. They discuss that I'm looking tired on a particular day or not as pretty as I used to be or "still good enough to bang" or that "(my) ass is on fire in these pants" or that my posts are very angry and I "need to be laid" and and... Do you see how these "good men" behave - the #NotAllMen crew?
Men I trust and those that have personally assured me that they were good, partook in some of these actions towards me or other women, or are bystanders in such instances. And because I did not predict it, I am left to "heal" and "grow" and "come out stronger" from their fuckery. "Good men" break us everyday. Most of this behaviour is not classified as abuse, but it is. It is also the breeding ground for crimes against women. Men make jokes about us when we speak out against the (world's) treatment of us, they text other women behind our backs and claim it's not cheating, they lead women on yet manage to paint themselves clean in these transactions. They say nonsense like "if women called us out on our actions, we would not do this to them" then they turn around and call us 'crazy' when we do. They have sex with women then view them as disgusting based on moral standards, which they interestingly do not uphold.
After all of this, men then claim it is their preference to date a woman who has been with fewer men, they make jokes about lesbian women yet fetishise them, they raise their voices when speaking to us and call us 'exaggerators' when we fear their reactions, the "gay guys are cool as long as they don't hit on me" squad. The list is endless. I'm tired. And I am violently angry. My despair overtakes me even as I sleep. As a woman who has been violated time and time again by men, my heart is unable to master why our bodies are hated and the many ways we have to explain why it is not okay. I will continue to unlearn the bullshit I have been told is normal but this lifetime will not be enough.
Men's mouths are soiled. And if they wanted to clean them out, they would take the time to find out how. I can no longer exist to educate men, but I hope our women can unlearn. We may not be able to salvage these men, but in our little ways of unraveling, maybe we can salvage ourselves.