Lessons for a misogynist

2012-02-18 00:00

IAM a trained misogynist. I have been taught from a very young age to disrespect women and so I am spending a lot of my time as a grown man undoing that and showing others why they also need to do so.

Maya Angelou was recently asked what her message to every black man would be, and she spoke of forgiveness. She told black men to forgive themselves for not protecting their women and children against the oppression black people have suffered worldwide. The main symptom of the damage this has caused, she said, is our need to show that we are powerful, both physically and sexually.

I felt a bit embarrassed because rap, the music I enjoy and create, is known to celebrate these behaviours. But it is alright to relax and be comfortable in our own skins, she said.

This got me thinking of all the things I have experienced and seen.

The only time I have ever slapped a girl was when I was eight years old. My teacher, I think her name was Mrs Schmidt, explained to my still inarticulate self that boys must never hit girls, and that was the last time I did that. Remembering that incident is very important to me.

It is embarrassing to say that there are grown men who are proud to say that they would hit a woman.

What if I had not been told that you don’t do such things?

It is a touchy subject, and to protect victims and perpetrators I know I must be careful how I write, but one of the most frightening things I have ever seen was a man beating a woman in the street.

I was seven years old then but I remember developing an inexplicable fear and dislike for that man. He was pulling her and dragging her somewhere, possibly to his house, and striking her every few steps in broad daylight on a weekend. I still wonder why the community let that happen and why nobody intervened.

It is a blur how that episode ended but he must have felt justified in his actions to parade his abuse like that.

There are less extreme forms of misogyny. We are encouraged to have as many girlfriends as possible, and pretty much to try our luck with every girl we see. You get points for that as a boy, and it is almost a sin not to have a girlfriend, however young you are.

Sometimes it is as if the ghetto or township is a pervert factory.

Men and women can’t just be friends. Male-female interaction is automatically assumed to be salacious and this leads to extreme jealousy and endless crimes of passion.

It all seems like healthy boy behaviour until you meet people from places where women have been liberated for a few generations, or are from healthy families.

These women are assertive and outspoken. They demand respect and gladly define it for you.

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