It’s easy to ignore a passer-by who catcalls or makes sexist remarks towards you. Accepting that this is the norm in society is much harder.
The Cape Town CBD seems to be filled with men who think they’re entitled to speak to women any way they like. I cannot sit at a bus stop without some man hooting at me, as if I am going to wave him down and get in the car with him. I’ve learnt to feel indifferent about these incidents. But I was recently subjected to a level of chauvinist aggression I had never experienced before, and I’m finding it hard to ignore.
A man in the CBD wolf-whistled at me. I ignored him and continued on my way but he caught up with me and knocked me against the wall with his shoulder as he passed; the typical high-school-bully move.
I had never felt more disrespected and unacknowledged as a human being. Despite the shock and adrenaline, I managed to get away with shouting profanities at him. He simply laughed as he gained distance.
This memory has me fuming. He meanwhile is continuing with his life as normal, believing one of two things: (a) he is not in the wrong and it is perfectly fine to speak to and treat women the way he does, or (b) he is fully aware of his actions and can live with himself despite it.
What I struggle to understand is why this man, and others like him, feel so entitled to harass women. The problem must lie, I think, with the values passed down from kin or the education they’ve received. Maybe it is simply ignorance.