Tag Archives: power

Sexism, Power and Entitlement

15 Jul

This post is about an incident that happened to me Friday night that absolutely infuriated me and that I cannot stop thinking about. 

Friday night, I went out to a club with some friends. While there, one of my friends (let us call him J) introduced me to someone he knew (let us call him M). J is from Senegal, we had a few mutual friends, and we bonded over my ability to communicate with him in his first language – and I also liked hanging out with him. M is from Sudan, loved to show off his wealth and was very physically imposing (if I had to guess his height I would say 6″8, and a BIG man too). 

All night M was flashing his money around (literally opening his wallet and showing it to people), annoyed every single one of my friends and was progressively getting belligerently drunk – I saw him get into at least 2 arguments with mild physical contact before my incident with him. 

We eventually left to another club, but unfortunately M was there too. I was talking to J when M came over and starting hitting on me – very, very persistently. I kept saying no, I wasn’t interested, and J also told him to back off and leave me alone. Then, M says to me “Look, I am a very wealthy man and I want you tonight. How much do I have to pay you to have you for the night?” 

I was so taken aback. I didn’t even know what to say. If I wasn’t genuinely concerned that he might hurt me (and was somewhere where I knew 100% that security would back me up), I would have slapped him across the face. I just walked away, stunned, to my other friends. 

The more I think about it, the more infuriated I get. This man felt so entitled that he thought he deserved my body. I was not a person with feelings, rights, and power over myself to him. I was just another object that he wanted and assumed that he could buy for the right price. I have never felt so objectified in my life. And while this behaviour is the most extreme sexual entitlement I have ever encountered, it is by no means the only. I have had my butt grabbed by strangers in Canadian clubs. I had a man call me a bitch for saying I wasn’t interested in Botswana. When my friend and I ignored two men’s catcalls from their car in Ethiopia one of them called me a fat slut. An American man with a high status put his hand down my friend’s pants against her will and I was the only one outraged with her. When I called him out for being disrespectful he laughed and said “I like power, but don’t worry I’m harmless.” 

This male sexual empowerment is one part of the rape culture we live in all around the world. Male sexuality is valued and is seen as inevitable and sometimes uncontrollable, while female sexuality is seen to exist for male pleasure. 

I am still worked up about this incident and don’t know how to put my thoughts into proper sentences, but I recommend reading a few other posts about sexual entitlement here, here and it’s follow up here

To put everyone at ease though (Mom, I know you won’t be happy when you read this!) I do have some wonderful friends here that would never put me in those situations, and indeed would help me out of them. For the record, my friend J was also visibly very upset and I saw him yelling at M for a solid 20 minutes before forcing him out the door to go home. 

I do not intend this post to be a criticism of all men. It is a criticism of the culture we live in that allows some men to think and behave in this way and for the majority of people to accept it as normal. 

What’s Culture Go To Do With It?

8 Nov

I had the amazing opportunity to attend a forum on Reinvigorating the Gender Movement in Botswana this week. It was a really valuable experience and I got to hear some great and open debate, learn more about the history of the gender movement in Botswana and meet some really interesting people.

BUT (because there is always a but) there were two comments that just irked me.

The first was: “Women have more power than men because they can say no in the bedroom. Men will never say no!” Excuse me?! In what world can women always say no? Marital rape is a sad reality. Also, maybe she would want to have sex if her pleasure was put on an equal level as his. And maybe she would want to have sex if she wasn’t tired from working two jobs every single day – her paid work and the unpaid work she does at home. Of course, I too am making assumptions with these statements, but I just want to make it obvious that a woman does not always have the power to say no, and when she does have the power – well, why shouldn’t she? And to speak to my personal experience regarding the power dynamic in Botswana – when a man hits on me by asking me how many cows my parents want, that shows me that he has put the power on him and on my parents (likely mostly my father) while giving me none of the power.

Also – why should a woman’s power be connected to her sexuality? Men are judged on their intelligence, on their work, on their ideas – so why aren’t women?

The second comment was: “I married a Kalanga woman because I think she is still more controllable. It is still in the Kalanga culture to raise a girl to be a woman that will take care of her husband.”

This reminded me a comment on my Facebook that I choose not to address at the time. Here it is:

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How long are we going to blame culture for human rights violations?! Oppression does NOT equal culture. I am tired of skirting around it – but the “culture” excuse a shitty and pathetic excuse. Cultures are socially constructed and therefore are molded and changed over time. We need to carry the best parts of culture forward into the future while leaving the harmful parts in the past.