I looked at myself in the mirror, I liked what I saw. I started removing the make-up, I didn’t want the attention. My clothes looked good, then I remembered that I was going to the taxi rank, my mini-skirt might offend them. I made my way past a group of them; I was in my jeans and a hoodie, they still cat-called “sweety”, “mamakhe”, “slender.” I walked past them in fear, saying a silent prayer, pleading for safety.

I used to have anxiety about going to high school. I feared male teachers, I feared they’d ask me out. I was uncomfortable with the thought of being alone with a male teacher. I feared they’d ask me for sexual favours in exchange for marks. It never happened, well not to me, but perhaps to other girls it did.

I tried to tell his mom about the slap incident. She asked, “What did you do?” I was told to stop being moody, to be submissive and tone it down a bit. “Stop drinking and behave like a wife.”

My cousin got a promotion. Her promotion was an insult to him because her higher salary would emasculate him. She had to put on a scarf and make-up the following day at work. She had to hide the shame, it was her family affair, no one had to know.

I lost a friend after she started dating him. She no longer hung out with us, apparently we were bad for her. She is now too afraid to look at us, let alone talk.

Back in grade 6 my friend started isolating himself. I asked what was wrong, he told me his uncle had started touching him and also had my friend massage his genitals. The uncle threatened to kill his family should he say anything.

My girl’s virginity was stolen away from her at the age of nine. She knew nothing, she was helpless and a family friend took advantage of her.

A lady I met at the clinic told me her story. He would kick her, strangle her, even during her pregnancy. He accused her of cheating. “Why don’t you leave?” I asked. Like many others, she replied, “We have a kid together. I need his financial support.” She just learnt to fight back. Now their child will grow up in a house where things, words and fists are thrown around.

My sister told me that her boyfriend once “jokingly” said, “ I should hit you one day, just to show you I love you.” It scared her. He didn’t hit her but she is waiting to see, hoping she never pushes him to that point.

My mother told me of her story with an ex. He would tell her to lose weight, quit her job. He never hit her, but his words cut deeper than a knife. He would come home drunk and insults would fly around. This one time he was so angry he held my older brother, who was 4 months old at the time, hanging with one leg and threatened to drop him. She called the cops and thought, “Poor man, what will become of him?”. She dropped the call and never reported him.

I heard a story on the radio about this lady. Her husband was a cop and they had kids together. He hit her and threatened to use his gun on them. One night he kicked her out and when she got home, her family was furious that she wanted a divorce — their beliefs were against such. She went back to him and he told her that he wouldn’t get arrested, he was the law. She went to the police station, before she could even get in, her husband’s friend approached her. He told her to “sort it out” at home. She should not risk her man’s job. They should discuss it as a family.

I had a classmate who once tutored an older guy who was studying for an MBA. Old enough to be her father. He promised to get her a job after her graduation, if of course she went out with him.

In our neighbourhood there was a guy who would publicly insult his wife. Everyone knew he hit her. His family would pretend not to hear the noises coming from their bedroom. They did nothing, we did nothing.

My friend’s mom hit her step-dad. She insulted him, pushed him, bit him and locked him out at night. All this happened in the presence of their kids. She did all this when he was drunk. He was unemployed. The financial burden was “too much for her.”

I once saw a documentary on TV. A lesbian woman was gang raped and tortured by a group of men from her neighbourhood. Corrective rape they call it. She lost her life. She did nothing wrong. Gay men are bashed, attacked and murdered. They did nothing wrong.

I read a story of a woman who was raped by a powerful man in society. He was a father figure to her, he was comrades in exile with her father. She lost the rape case and he got acquitted. She and her mother had to flee the country due to the threats they got from the man’s supporters.

I have seen on the news a lot of cases of gender based violence. Femicide on the rise. Women killed by their lovers, by strangers. I’ve heard reports of little girls and boys being raped, a pregnant lady stabbed and left hanging from a tree.

Why did you go out at night?
You were both drunk, did you say no?
You can’t deny your man sex.
Avoid provoking him.
He’ll change, he won’t do it again.
Why did you leave your child with a man alone?
She was asking for it, look at how she was dressed.
Did you fight him off? You should have screamed louder.
You can’t accuse our pastor of such!
It should be a family secret, don’t tell anyone.

I did nothing wrong. She did nothing wrong. Our existence seems to be a threat to them. We are on the brink of extinction. We did nothing wrong! Toxic masculinity is wrong. Our men are wrong.


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