no woman no smile

i admit, when i step out of my house, i put my Ds (defences) on. i’ve been on a defense ever since i was fourteen. i can never forget when, as a late bloomer fourteen year old, coming out of a café some lecherous man pinched my thigh. that was the last time i wore shorts and the first time i learnt to put my Ds on. i got my Ds on not just to avoid strangers offering me sweets but because at age fourteen i suddenly realised that i was under sexual threat.

my teenage years were over. so i covered up. and it made me mad. i was mad because i didn’t know why i had to carry this burden. why men weren’t responsible for the control of their own bodies! of course, not long after that, i witnessed taxi drivers at the wanders taxi rank howl calling and trying to undress sisters that were walking by wearing mini skirts. this was years before Nwabisa was stripped of her clothes and sexually assaulted at the Noord (MTN) taxi rank by a hoard of men (mainly taxi drivers).

so i learnt not to wear short skirts or anything revealing. i learnt then that no woman, no man was going to protect me. nobody protected Nwabisa on that day in 2008. nobody defended any of those other nameless woman that have had to suffer the same thing. so i had to protect myself. i hunched, dressed down, didn’t make eye contact, crossed the street when faced with a suspicious black male, travelled in packs or at least with my pepper spray in my hand… brothers got me enforcing the sus law – except i don’t stop and search the black brother, i run. i’ve learnt to not step out there into the world looking like any form of target – but that doesn’t mean i’m safe or that i’ll be left alone.

Jamila Lemieux writes a very interesting article Nobody’s Smiling on clutch mag online. in fact, it’s that thinkpiece that got me off on this one. ms Lemieux is right – sometimes i’m not smiling because i’ve had a hard day. because i’m deep in thought., because there’s nothing to smile about or simply because i’m pissed off! so the last thing i need, even when i’m smiling like a fool ’cause it’s that kinda day, the last thing i need is a brother to howl call me. the last thing i need is a brother – who’s usually not my type – cussing at me ’cause i didn’t respond to his leery “sweety”. the last thing i need is a brother threatening me by forcing his way into my space even when i have responded a hello but closed the door to signify that i don’t want to engage. and brothers act like they don’t know why sisters walk around looking damn near irate…

see it was even before i turned fourteen that i learnt to read men’s tones. i learnt quick that when a brother stops me in the street saying “ngicela ukubuza” (can i ask a question) sounding like he’s lost and requires my help that all that is just a sleazy way into “i love you, can i get your number, your’re cute,” lathered with a thick dose of “bi*#h break off a piece of that ass”. after all, aren’t all women here to service men’s sexual urges. i learnt early on to understand that tone. but even now, i miss a few. i greet back with a querying (ok!) suspicious look and no sooner have i told myself to be more Afrikan is the man all over me like cootdies. and if i don’t submit i’m cussed out. see this is why i’m always pissed off out in the street because as Ms Lemiuex said, i just want to be left alone. so please leave me alone.

this is the sort of thing that makes sisters walk about scowling, tryna be all gangsta. it’s these sort of awful encounters with brothers that makes a sister stick her nose up in the air. makes a sister wanna just drop some old phoqaring (telling off) like when the fool asks for the time and i say “time to buy your own watch”. a sweet brother says hello and i snap back “you’re not my type!” and i didn’t even look, he coulda been. and these sleazy brothers cause us to act all hellish. and brothers wonder why we’re so angry.

see i am an angry black woman – through and through. i’m angry because brothers could be nicer to sisters – even when i’m acting like a snob. brothers could be more respectful. more innovative with those pick up lines. brothers don’t have to treat every single female like a piece. brothers should just drop it because no woman likes it. just be genuine and maybe i’ll walk around smiling because my brothers aren’t a threat to me. maybe i’ll walk around not expecting to be harrassed by you and you not expecting to be snapped at by me. they way we treat each other makes it hard for a sister to drop the angry facade and just be happy to be in the midst of brothers…

come on brother, let me get to wear i’m going. the street is not a petting zoo – i’m not hear for your amusement.


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