I watched a movie about domestic abuse today and cried.
Before I cried, I scorned the victim for her stupidity and recklessness.
I took part in the culture of victim-blaming because she had stayed with an abusive lover after he beat her again and again.
I blamed her for being stupid enough to believe that he would change, that she could change him and that he needed her to stay so that he could get help.
I was so frustrated that I nearly cried for her daughter for having such a sorry excuse for a mother and cursed the woman who raised her mother to become that way.
I cried because I realised in those last few scenes, the complete helplessness of women all over the world in the same situation, and worse.
I cried because of the inextricable power that men hold over us…in Tabuk, in Brooklyn, in New Delhi, in Moscow, in Kigali, in Las Vegas, in Johannesburg…
I cried because for all my radical feminism’s worth, earlier that day, as I walked alone through the streets of Johannesburg in a mini skirt, I was equally powerless.
For all my notions of equality and ‘feminism for men’ that I believe in, I was paralysed by the same helplessness of the protagonist in the film.
As I walked past catcalls, grimy hands squeezing my shoulder, slut-shaming remarks & asking why I wasn’t dressed and how they wanted to see my private parts, my body did not belong to me.
Like, the victim of domestic abuse where neighbours draw their curtains, I was trapped in a world where men can do as they please with my body and by-passers will mind their own business.
They will tell us it’s our fault, and tell us what to wear, tell us how we should have responded and how stupid we were…
They will, like I was, become desensitised to our pain – seeing it as punishment for being weak or stubborn and say, “Well if only you had listened when we said…”
They will be friendly, they will call themselves feminists, they will be teachers, family, preachers, leaders…they will all love us.
But they will all remain trapped in a system that condemns & shames the victims and does everything else before changing their attitude towards the perpetrator and the crime.