I shouldn't have worn that dress in activism

2015-12-07 12:08

I stood there defenceless. I was just an object amidst crowds of people. Men and women casually walked by, staring just seconds’ too long while, their eyes scrutinise my body.

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that dress.

I had lost my jacket and was forced to wait for the bus with only my strappy black dress on. It was an unfortunate and unintended situation but I vow to never let it happen again.

As I stood there vulnerable all I could think was, “If I were raped it would be alleged to be my own fault.”

It’s ironic that this had to occur during the 16 Days of Activism campaign but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. Such situations occur countless times daily for many women. Women are constantly objectified by random strangers who feel it is their privilege to observe and spit their gross and unsolicited remarks.

The unwelcome molesting stare-down, head to toe, from grown men somehow makes me – the objectified women – the perpetrator.

Surely the thoughts and intentions of these onlookers' are worse than my own?

As a woman, each time I put on something to wear I am forced to consider the boundaries of our patriarchal society. Even though what I choose to wear is for my very own satisfaction and liberation, many still believe I do it for their ignorant entitlement.

Violent abuse to another body does not only apply to physical abuse. The mental manipulation of a helpless woman into believing she is the perpetrator, added to the outright exploitation of a woman’s body into a mere object for sex constitutes as abuse.

Similar to most cases of violence against women, the inability to see these casual encounters and call them what they are – abuse – prevents any reform. In our male-dominated society it is the men who need to name and shame other men before the voices of the real victims can be heard and understood.

Instead men encourage other men. Even women, such as Grace Mugabe, join into the vicious circle of cat-calling and blame the women for being violated.

Undoing the years of patriarchal brainwashing starts with the individual, not a packaged 16 days campaign. We can intellectually speak of equality and the statistics of violence but when our cultures, religions and even science aim to discredit and dehumanise women, the mental enigma remains.

Comparable to our nationwide drought; intellectual calls to save water resulted in a public acknowledgement of the severe water shortage but very few wilfully bothered to take shorter showers or even turn off the water while brushing their teeth.

Unless individuals use the education from the 16 Days of Activism campaign to consciously change their behaviour for 365 days a year, the campaign, like many others, is in vain.

As a woman, vowing to change the way I dress or the way I feel about myself comes almost naturally because as a woman I am defined by the thoughts of men.

It is only when men can effortlessly vow to not abuse women and the real perpetrators’ of society are exposed will we achieve an actual victory.

But for now, maybe I shouldn’t have worn that dress?

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