I am an advocate for not writing things off as weird because of perspective, individuality and the like. However, there are a few things which I do classify as weird – which, in this case means, wrong.
One of those things is entitlement.
Picture the scene. It is the December holidays in my home town of Port Shepstone. I am in Woolworths buying some clothes which I do very rarely as shopping is a stressful process at the best of times. I walk past a very tall, elderly man. Instead of smiling or nodding politely or just moving past as one does. He decided to say, “Kan ek jou help om dit aan te pas?” Translation: Can I help you try that on?
As a woman, being under scrutiny and receiving inappropriate treatment is no rarity, but I was shocked. Perhaps it was being in the place I grew up, being with my mother or the fact that this man was with his wife and young son. I said, “Excuse me?” which I did not mean as an invitation to reiterate what he said. However, that is what he did. But, being the non-confrontational person that I am, I walked away. He then said to my mother, “I think she’s having a bad day.”
This interaction really angered me because –
- His behaviour was not flattering or appropriate. He is a stranger, a married man, a man. I was made to feell uncomfortable and that makes it not okay.
- My already toned down response was not an indication of my having an unsatisfactory day but a justified reaction to said behaviour.
I do not presume to judge him as a bad person but it is this covert, said-in-jest behavior that keeps the cycle of chauvinistic culture going. People have said to me that they don’t believe in that ‘feminist nonsense’ but until you have lived one day as a woman in any country, you cannot say to me that there is no inequality even if you’re not looking at wage gaps or vocational prejudice.Although woman’s rights and feminism goes to issues beyond this exchange, it is simply dealing with that kind of behaviour that makes the problem visible every day.
Picture the scene: something like this never happens again. Okay?