It’s disrespect

2017-03-21 06:02

GETTING “catcalled” is not cool and is in no way a compliment.

For all those who don’t know what catcalling is — catcalling is when men yell out inappropriate and sexual comments and whistle in a public place for the purpose of getting a woman’s attention.

Some people think that women should appreciate being catcalled and take it as a compliment. My question to that is in what way is a man making sexual and vulgar comments about a woman’s body a compliment?

It suggests that when some men see a woman walk past, they see her as a piece of meat one must devour.

There’s not even a hello anymore, they go straight into what they want to do to you, as if you have no say.

I have been catcalled numerous times, from my days walking from school wearing my knee-length skirt, in supermarkets by men working there, in town, in a police station by the police and almost anywhere where there is a group of men standing together. It’s like they can’t help themselves and have this deep urge to yell dirty comments at women.

And it’s not just one race group, and your dress code makes no difference.

In 2016, when living in Durban, I used to walk from res to work and from work to the res past the taxi rank.

Walking alone there every morning and afternoon was always the worst part of my day - the comments some of those taxi drivers and their assistants would hurl at me. They would comment about my body shape, my dress code and even tell me what they would do to me in the bedroom.

Not only did they make me feel naked, cheap, humiliated and stripped, I felt violated. I felt I couldn’t walk freely and be safe on the street or anywhere where there was a group of men.

Some men would go as far as forcefully grabbing me by the arm or caressing my face as I walked past.

It is absolutely traumatic that we, as women, have to endure such behaviour from some men. One man went as far as jumping out of a stationary taxi and grabbing my friend’s bum while the rest of the men found it amusing - it was no surprise that no one intervened.

The worst part is these men’s arrogance. They become aggressive, especially when you show that you are not flattered or impressed by their comments. Some even start swearing and telling you how unattractive you are and how they were trying to make your day by catcalling you.

It’s no compliment, it is actually very disrespectful and despite many girls complaining about it every day, it just keeps on happening. If it was meant respectfully, then as soon as women started complaining about how it made them uncomfortable, it would have stopped.

And if you think it’s safer in the comfort of your car, think again. I sometimes get men making disgusting faces at me at the red traffic lights and miming stuff I care not to entertain.

It is a sad reality that there will always be a man just waiting to hurl insults at me for not responding to his advances.

But it’s not only the catcalling that bothers me as a woman, it’s knowing that when a stranger grabs my bum, nobody will come to my rescue.

It is knowing that some men see women as something one marries and takes home to bear children, cook and clean for him. Why do we as young women persevere and live in a place where men don’t take our opinions seriously?

I think the biggest struggle we as women face is knowing that some men have this mentality of feeling entitled to us, our bodies, our opinions, the way we dress, everything.

Very few men see women as a force to be reckoned with or women who can exist without a man, or women who don’t aspire to get married.

My biggest struggle is that men, whether in business or at a taxi rank, still don’t count my opinion as valid because I’m a woman. On Wednesday, we celebrated International Women’s Day.

What are we celebrating when the topic of the roles of men and women is still very conventional? I would say our biggest struggle is still patriarchy.

When a girl grows up she is taught to sit appropriately, she is taught how to dress respectfully and cautioned against showing too much flesh, how to be ladylike, polite, respectful and kind. What are our boys taught? Should they not be taught how to be polite, respectful, well mannered and protective of women?

I don’t know, but I sure know that all these men who continue hurling sexually inappropriate remarks to women should know better. It’s not a compliment, it’s disrespect.

• Nompilo Kunene is a reporter at The Witness.

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