The men who stare at women

2014-12-01 15:00

The other day, my car had been parked awkwardly in my driveway because a few workmen were busy on the thatched roof of the property we own.

So I had to do a tricky reverse out of my driveway. While I was exiting my gate, looking in my mirrors and getting more frustrated by the minute, I noticed a youngish white man in his bakkie, probably waiting to pick someone up from the house next door.

He was sitting there staring at me with the most lecherous, intrusive grin. When he saw I had noticed him, he waved and puckered up for a kiss.

I felt so violated, intruded upon and so vulnerable, that I burst into tears as I drove away.

After a few seconds, I became angry that a stranger had made me feel this way. Angry that he had invaded my space and with one lecherous stare, had violated me.

I phoned my boyfriend, who was still in the house, and told him to look outside to see if the guy was still parked outside.

My boyfriend was confused. “But what did he do? Did he try anything? Do you think he’s a robber?” he asked.

How could I describe to him, a man who had never experienced this, that it was “the way” he had looked at me. How could I describe that crippling feeling of having my pride taken away.

That in a world like this, any man, just by virtue of being a man, could cripple the most powerful of women with one lecherous look, a look that says you are nothing more to me than a sex object. You can stand there, strong and confident, but as soon as I undress you with my eyes, you are less than me.

I felt impotent in my rage and vulnerability. And it has happened since – driving to work and a bakkieload of men waving and gesticulating, walking into a store to be told by a man, “you’ll look prettier when you smile”.

These small acts of micro-aggression are meant to diminish a woman and knock her down a peg.

“Look at that bitch, thinking she’s better than us. Let’s show her,” they’re thinking.

Women are not supposed to talk about these things because these are “compliments” and you’re making a fuss over nothing. Because he didn’t physically attack you, he didn’t rape you, so what’s the problem?

A woman cannot walk proud and upright in the street. She cannot stop at a traffic light without trying to hide herself from the men staring at her and trying to get her attention.

She cannot even reverse out of her driveway without an insecure male who wants to take the proud strut out of her walk.

There are men who are proud and secure enough to let a woman walk beside them. But unfortunately, they are outnumbered by the men who think that to gain power is to take it from someone else.

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