The “boys” were lounging around the men’s hostel, drinking beer and checking out the “fresh meat” arriving to register at Onderstepoort veterinary university.
As I drove in, (in a fancy test Audi), there were a few “mooi kar, oom” comments. When my daughter got out of her car and started walking towards the office with her mother, the wolf whistles began.
She left her mother, walked towards them with her “you are a piece of dog shit” face and gave them the finger. My wife and I were talking about the incident the other day, in the light of the #AmINext and #AllMenAreTrash protests.
We were a bit embarrassed by her behaviour then, but now we’re proud of her.
Even that wasn’t the last she heard from the “manne”. One night, during a power failure while she was studying, there was a knock at her door – two boys, one wearing a ski mask to scare her. She kicked him in the balls and he crawled away screaming. She never had any trouble again.
Mind you, I think she also let it be known she carried pepper spray in her car and a “butterfly” flick knife in her bag.
My daughter comes from a line of strong Irishwomen, who are known not to take nonsense from any man. But we have also raised her to know that she does not need to step aside for any man. And by we, I mean both of us – but more my wife than me, truth be told.
I’ve also never understood why a man would want to rape a woman. Why would you want to force yourself on someone who doesn’t want you; is disgusted by you? I have never physically abused a woman either. My mother told my father that the first time he hit her would be the last. She drilled it into me, too, that boys don’t hit girls.
Have I been nasty to women? Yes – and I regret that. Have women been nasty to me? Yes. But when love and hate are so close, that comes with the territory.
Have I been part of the “lad culture” which laughs at sexist jokes and demeans women? Probably. But I’ve also tried to stand up where I’ve seen abuse – although I’ve seen very little among my family and friends. We had a friend whose husband abused her physically, emotionally and financially and refused to sign divorce papers. Her family, not to mention the cops, were useless.
I offered to drive to his new town and tell him: “You don’t know me, but I know you, and unless you leave her alone, I will come back and break your legs.” Fortunately (for him), I never had to. And it was other kind men who came to her rescue.
Have I done enough? Probably not. But it doesn’t help to demonise an entire gender. Merely by saying #NotAllMen risks me being labelled an abuser myself.
I will continue to treat my wife as an equal and evaluate people on their minds and competence, not their bodies.
But I will not stand in a useless public protest to show I am a “good” man. Anyone who has to tell you how saintly they are is dodgy.
If that attitude makes me #Trash, I don’t care. I know who I am and so do the women in my life.