By Kizzy Katawonga, Uganda:
I recently read an alarming article. A writer at the Goodmen Project spoke of a time he attended a conference with almost 2000 people almost evenly split between men and women. The facilitator asked the crowd “How many men have felt unsafe this past week”. A few hands came up. He then posed the same question to the women and almost every woman's hand went up.
I gave it some thought myself and I realised it's been very few times in my entire life that I personally felt unsafe. But I also realised, if I asked my wife, she would have said the number was too many to count. It boggled my mind. I'd never given my personal safety much thought but I clearly live in a world where the average woman is concerned for her personal safety, ALL THE TIME!
From just walking down the street to even within the very confines of her own home, many women feel perpetually unsafe. Why? Because we men have made the world a generally unsafe place for women to be free to go about their lives without fear of attack, be it verbal or physical: From Catcalling, to groping, to rape women find themselves in a constant state of peril.
As a man, i don't face any of those things. I can't remember ever thinking, “If I go out late, I need to be clear about my transportation else I'll be forced to use a boda (motorcycle taxi) and he could take advantage of me.” I have never thought that when I go to work, some woman is likely going to grope my ass or make a unsavoury sexist comment towards me.
I have never thought about the way I dress causing unwanted attention that could get me figuratively and literally undressed or sexually assaulted when I go through the local taxi park.
There are so many things I take for granted that my wife, daughters and so many other women are deeply concerned about on any given day. Good lord, what a horrible world we've created and by “we” I mean mostly us men.
In my early school years, I was pretty much taught that girls are weak beings that are meant to be teased and not let in on the cool games that we boys play. We shove and push them around to show our strength. As we continued to grow, girls were to be made fun of because of their growing breasts which were to be poked at and the monthly periods that were to be cruelly teased about.
Shaming and teasing were the way to go for boys to treat girls until boys hit puberty and then realised their hormones are drawing them to the very thing they are only accustomed to dealing with in a negative manner. This inevitably will lead to cases of voyeurism, sexual assault, rufies, date rape and other forms of violence. Girls now become objects of sexual desire.
This learned behaviour continues as boys turn to men, with the form being amplified. Voyeurism becomes porn addiction, teasing becomes vicious catcalling and inappropriate flirting. Pinching and poking of budding breasts and buttocks becomes groping and sexual assault.
It's no wonder women feel unsafe in this world.
I for one don't like that this is the kind of world my wife and daughters have to live in everyday and that is why I speak out to men about their true calling; that calling is to nurture and protect that which matters most; to stand up for those weaker than us and fight for the liberties of the oppressed; to promote and praise that which is beautiful and lovely while tearing down and destroying that which is evil and dark.
I want a world where my daughters can feel safe and secure at all times knowing they won't be attacked by boys or men. I want a world where women aren't abused by their husbands, where workers aren't harassed by their male colleagues, where women don't have to be so self-conscious about their every action lest they “attract” unwanted attention. I want a world where hurt women aren't accused of “deserving or asking for it” when they are abused or assaulted by depraved men. I want a better world for all women.
A friend of mine once said to me, the best thing you can do to protect your daughters is to teach other people's sons how to cherish and respect women.
I intend to do that for the rest of my days. What about you?
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