There is a type of man that lives in South Africa. He is not Prince Charming. He is not a Nobel Prize winner. As a matter of fact, he has never won any awards at all. This man does not even have a single monument erected in his honour. As unimportant as this man is, I’m baffled by his need to grope my jiggly bits as if he owns me. He is never quiet when he does this. “Hello, Nice,” usually dribbles off his lips as he undresses me with his eyes. He has quite a long list of endearing terms too. I think he has one for each woman that crosses his path.
“My size!” Yuck!
“Mabhebeza (my baby).” Vom vom.*
“Marara (my baby, my love).” Please go flush yourself!
“African princess”. Puke!
I know, he is a royal creep, right?
As young South African women, this is the kind of man we have to deal with every single day of our lives. He comes in different forms. He is a construction worker. He is a security guard. He is the guy that sells stolen perfume and flash drives on the train. He is the cashier who can’t resist caressing your hand as he gives you your change.
He is a taxi driver, who claims your mini-skirt made him scream sexual innuendos at you. He is that frog look alike that drives the latest German car. He is a brother to some girl and I know for a fact that he would be livid if someone did the same to his sister, but he seems to think it’s alright to harass me.
He is a pastor that gropes breasts of teenagers before a church service, and is still allowed to stand in front of the congregation and talk about how much Jesus loves the righteous. He is a loving husband and a respectable father, living double a life; “No sweetie, this has to be just between me and you. No one else has to know,” is his motto.
This miserable lump of a human being is the kind that believes I owe him a hello. If I ignore him, he will shower me with insults that would make a sailor blush. If I greet him back, he sees it as an invitation to be a pest. He usually follows me to wherever I’m going, begging for my tens (cell number). He doesn’t listen to reason and there is no winning with him. Where does he even get the time?
Saying, “No. I’m not interested,” will be met with:
I’ve learned to fabricate stories of boyfriends that don’t exist to get this man to leave me alone, and that’s if he doesn’t make a suggestion of being a umakhwapheni (secret lover). You know this man amazes me. He respects a guy that might potentially not exist more than he respects my unequivocal no.
Not long ago I was walking to the Spar near my house. The road is usually quiet, I wasn’t expecting it to be any different on this day. I wasn’t too far from the shop when a drunk man caught up to me. Previous experiences have taught me not entertain hellos from strangers, period. I would have preferred insults to being escorted to my intended destination by this man.
On this particular day, this man was in no mood to be ignored. So, he grabbed my arm and asked me if I knew what my belligerence might drive him to do? “We are out here alone, I can rip your buttocks apart and still have time to clean myself up before anyone can come to your rescue,” he said as he shoved his free hand inside his pants.
I’ve been in such situations before and none of them ended well for me. At this point I willed my big mouth to stay sealed even though I had a few choice words to impart on him. I kept quiet because sometimes being docile helps. Because sometimes he is turned on by aggressive attitudes, he sees it as a challenge. (I can say with absolute confidence that no human knows the mysteries that lie in the heart of this sub-human. You can never win with him.)
He still had my hand in a tight grip; at this point my eyes were darting around looking for a weapon. Now, get this about me, I don’t have a single violent bone in my body. I’m that proverbial character who is rumoured to not possess the ability to harm a fly. But on this particular day, I was prepared to unleash all my pent-up fury on this bath-water-drinking-rat. He was going to know me.
Fortunately, there was a half-brick lying about. I quickly grabbed it even though my right hand was still in his possession; I was determined to do die using it. I wasn’t going to be raped again, not this time. He knew he was in trouble alright, he let go of my arm and continued walking. I ran towards the shop with the brick still in my hand in case he tried to ambush me again.
Now get this second thing about me, I love being a woman. It’s not because I get to dress up, and wear make-up (which I don’t). It’s the fact that I possess the ability to usher life into this world. However, being a woman in our society today is an exercise in caution. I read somewhere that most men fear going to jail because they might be raped. Women fear walking on the streets EVERYDAY because we might be raped.
If you are a man and you are reading this, please stop the cat-calling. Sure, you think it’s cute, and it might even be strangely therapeutic for you. To us it is harassment, we simply don’t enjoy it. Not even the compliments you think are well-intentioned. You don’t know us well enough to tell us we have succulent lips. Above all, I am not your Hello Nice!
*Vom vom – To vomit