Yesterday, walking out of a hospital at 11pm, I had to walk around the building to get to my Dad. The road was empty and three young men walked towards me. My reflex thought was, “How do I escape?” But they walked past me like I was invisible and I realised, it’s in my head. I was not scared because they looked aggressive or scary. They looked like normal young men who I’d probably befriend in broad daylight. What actually scared me was that it was 11pm and I’m a girl who was out past social curfews.
Today I found an article about a journalist who interviewed 100 convicted rapists. One part of the article really got to me – “In the interviews, many men made excuses or gave justifications for their actions. Many denied rape happened at all. “There were only three or four who said we are repenting. Others had found a way to put their actions into some justification, neutralise, or blame action onto the victim.””
The article also quoted her saying how many didn’t know that it was rape because their society hadn’t taught them the difference. It made me think.
I can’t justify rapists due to lack of knowledge. I’m never going to say, “Oh you’re right. Society made rapists do what they did.” No. I know men who wouldn’t do that. They come from the same society.
But we can’t ignore our role in it. My world taught me to be safe after dark. “It’s 8pm, where are you?” is such a normal question to me. “We live in a neighbourhood where people notice. You can’t be walking in so late at night. What will they think of you?” – If I could have a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d be flying private to a penthouse in Manhattan today.
My parents cared so much about the faceless society that they have often chosen what the society would think over my happiness. I tell myself, “Oh I can’t wait to live away so I can live as I please.” But I can’t. My mother’s voice is stuck in my head and so I will continue to live the rest of my life in fear of “What will they think?” The things that make me happy will also make me guilty. The things that I enjoy will also make me scared.
I never stop worrying of the day I would have to explain to my husband about my ex-boyfriend. What do I say? It was nothing? It was a childish thing? But it wasn’t. Yet, if I tell the truth, he won’t marry me. I don’t know how to nod my head yes. What if my husband hates that? What if he hates me?
“Don’t play that sport. Don’t jump so high. Don’t climb walls. Don’t join gymnastics. Careful with the yoga.” Because – WHAT IF MY ENTIRE LIFE, ALL THE MAGICAL MOMENTS I COULD POSSIBLY HAVE WITH THE ONE WHO WILL HOLD ME CLOSE – EVERYTHING VANISHES THE MOMENT MY HYMEN BREAKS BECAUSE OF A REASON THAT DIDN’T INVOLVE MY HUSBAND?
My life has been a series of careful moments to keep myself ‘intact’ for a man I am yet to meet. And in that, I have struggled to find the things I really want to do. Because it’s always about what he might someday want. I have been told repeatedly that having a child is not my choice. It is not a mutual decision. It is his choice. If he wants one, I need to have one. I can’t say No. And that’s part of the problem.
Teach your daughters to be their own people. Let them have their likes, their dislikes. His likes are not her likes. His life is not her life. Even if she’s married, if she wants to say NO, she has the right to say NO. Don’t raise submissives that a man will “want” to marry. Screw him if he doesn’t want someone who knows how to think for herself. EXPECT MORE OUT OF YOUR DAUGHTERS.
My biggest worry today when my father says, “But you’re old enough to be married,” is ‘If I were a guy, I’d be expected to do more with my life.’ Expect them to achieve their own form of personal success. If it’s marriage, good for them. If she comes home crying, don’t send her back to him. Acknowledge her problem. She’s your daughter!
And teach your sons to put it in their pants. Unless a girl – sober and in the right frame of mind – says YES, it automatically means a NO. No excuse they conjure up while sitting in prison justifies a man who enters another’s personal space without their permission.
Don’t tell them they are better because they have a penis. They’re not. Genitalia does not make a human being better. Their behaviour and manners towards another human being does. You expect your daughters to be kind hearted and caring. Expect your sons to be the same. Nothing wrong with him being treated like his sister. “He’s a boy,” is no excuse. It never should have been.
Don’t blind him to the truth by encouraging an ego that doesn’t need to exist.
Teach him that his wife is a fellow human being. She is not made to serve him after a long day. He is not “providing” for her care. That’s someone you employ. Not someone you marry. You can’t teach a man the difference between consent and rape if you tell him that one day he is going to find a girl who has dedicated her entire life to serve him well. She is a PERSON. Not a sex toy he uses as he pleases. Teach him the difference.
And no. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to say, “Oh marriage is terrible. Keep your daughters away from men. Men are horrible people.” Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong in keeping the people in your life happy. I’m happy when I make him happy. But it can’t be the ONLY reason I’m ever happy. Teach your daughters that.
As a society, mind your own fucking business. Want to talk? Talk about problems that aren’t someone’s daughter having a boyfriend or turning up late. Talk about our screwed up political system. About suicides. About RAPE. And talk loudly. Let your children hear and know what to do and what not to do.
And maybe, just maybe, we might have a better country that way.
3 thoughts on “The Difference”
This is so relatable. I grew up in a similar society as you have and understand everything you’re going through. Sending lots of love
I totally get this in so many ways. It’s so hard to be your own person in this society, to please others while keeping yourself happy. It’s also so hard not to be scared of strange men after dark, especially when you know there are many who don’t care what women think.