The Power of Suggestion

13:05. It's been hours, but I'm still disturbed by what happened while I was walking to work.

I never pay attention to people that greet me while I'm on the street. By "people" I mean "men", because they are the ones who make it difficult for me to be out in public. So they might say "sawubona, mana", but I ignore it. Even if they said it in passing, to me it's just one more thing that's distracting me from getting to where I want to go. (Also, who is your "mama"?)

Last week, a taxi conductor shouted after me about how he feels cold at night at the hostel. I was disgusted, but I kept walking. It was just another example of how I always have to hear men saying whatever they want about me, my body, and their "needs" when I'm just trying to mind my business. It's part of life.

But this morning's incident was slightly different. As I was walking, a man who was driving past made a gesture at me with his middle finger. Perhaps because I have been conditioned (through past experience) to register all actions from strange men as rude or invasive, I immediately interpreted this as the man's way of saying that he wanted to have sex with me.

Of course it occurs to me that he could just have been swearing at someone. The issue with that interpretation is that there was no one walking beside me, he was alone in the car, and I certainly had not done anything to warrant being sworn at.
There is also the fact that when he made the gesture he moved his hand up and down, which to me suggested a sort of repetitive motion - a motion that is not present in a straight up "F- you!"

I was shocked, not because I didn't expect a man to say anything like that to me, but because it involved a gesture. There were no words, only the suggestion of an action, and somehow that is worse.

He didn't even slow down as he did it. He just disturbed my peace and kept right on driving. He wasn't even looking for a reaction. And that takes me back to that old question: why do men do things like this in public in the first place? What do they expect will happen?

It's all really unnerving, and I wish I didn't always have to think about things like this.

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