About two months ago I took my boyfriend along to a club in Cape Town where, in the past, men have had their drinks spiked. It’s a well-known spot, and I’ve been there with friends many times before.
Naturally, I warned my boyfriend to watch his drink and stay alert, especially if he was getting unwanted and persistent attention from anyone.
He was suddenly hyper-aware of his surroundings. He’d never been in a club or any public social space where he had to worry about these things, where he had to accept that he was unsafe, and continue with his night regardless because the alternative is never leaving the house.
This sparked a question from him: “Is this how you feel when you go out?”
No – this is how I feel all the time.
Navigating the world as a woman is synonymous with being constantly tense and alert, at home, at work and on the street – everywhere.
The #MeToo movement started bringing this into public discourse, but it isn’t enough. Every day we hear about a new case of sexual assault, sexual harassment, violence, femicide…the list goes on.
Just the other day at work, right after finding out about the sexual assault of multiple women in Johannesburg and Cape Town from a journalist friend, I wrote an article about the rape of a seven-year-old girl. In the background, CNN blasted the word “gang rape” over and over again in connection with Brett Kavanaugh, interspersed only with the whining drawl of Donald Trump defending him.
The assault on women is happening in both a very obvious way – the multiple cases that emerge every day – and in a more subtle way – women never feel safe. Being on constant alert and living in a state of permanent fear is draining, physically and emotionally.
At the moment, there’s a rather pertinent Twitter thread going viral. American civil rights activist and writer, Danielle Muscato, asked women on Twitter, “What would you do if all men had a 9PM curfew?”
The responses are both mundane and heartbreaking in their simplicity. Women just want to be able to walk around without fear:
These are just a few of the hundreds of responses. Do yourself a favour – you can read the thread here.
All of the responses, with the exception of those from “men’s rights” groups and Trump supporters, echo the same idea:
Simple tasks like going out, doing the groceries in the evening, and listening to music while walking or taking public transport are currently the stuff of fantasy.
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