Enough already!

All Woman

Enough already!

Monday, October 19, 2020

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AMERICAN model and socialite Amber Rose, in response to being body-shamed and scandalised, launched her version of the international SlutWalk movement in 2014, transforming her bad experience into women's rights activism. At that time, Rose said she was sexually assaulted, raped and victim-blamed, but had started the walk to take power away from derogatory labels, to end rape culture, victim blaming, and body shaming.

The movement has come as close to our shores as Latin America, with Marcha das Vadias in Brazil and La Marcha de las Putas in many Spanish-speaking countries. Some protests select their dates to match significant events such as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Shaming a woman for what she wears, the number of partners she has, or what she chooses to do with her body, has become so commonplace that many people don't realise that it amounts to bullying.

What has been local women's experiences with this shaming, and how did they move on from it?

Melody, 40, library assistant:

My large breasts in high school meant, automatically, that I was labelled as a girl who was “fast”, even though poor me was not. The boys would titter behind their hands when I would pass, and many of the girls scorned me, and would accuse me of being with their boyfriends. For the most part I managed to hold my head up despite the pressure, but my breakdown moment came when my friend, who I had known since primary school, had sleepovers with and went everywhere together with, told me that her mom, who I called aunt, said she should stop talking to me because I “looked like I was taking man”. My 14-year-old self was crushed. Even today, years later, I look back at that time and feel so sad. And even though I'm now married with children, there are people who think they have a right to touch, make lewd comments, and comment on how good I must perform in intimate spaces because of my breasts.

Racquel, 25, dental hygienist:

A couple years ago I was in a monogamous relationship, and because I couldn't settle on a birth control option that didn't mess with my body, quite a few times I had to go to the pharmacy near my house to get the morning after pill. I thought I had great rapport with the male pharmacist, who was always decent and professional to me. That was until one day — I guess he was having a bad day — when he snapped at me in front of a few other customers. “Stop sleeping with so many men and not using protection! I'm tired of always seeing you in here. Have some pride and respect for your body, man,” he yelled. I was so ashamed; I still have not gone back to that pharmacy, and prefer to go outside my community when I need meds.

Rosheika, 30, small business owner:

I was engaged to be married five years ago, after getting saved and going back in the church. Before that I had had a few boyfriends, but just two intimate partners. My fiancé at the time knew I wasn't a virgin, having come into church from the 'world', and I didn't know it bothered him until we started couples' counselling. Well, all hell broke loose after one session on satisfaction and mutual gratification. He drove me home in silence, then remarked that he was willing to work with me even though I was 'tainted', and insisted that I tell him how many partners I had had before. When I told him, his reaction was, “Jeez, how could you share your body with so many men?” Needless to say, that relationship ended that night.

Ayesha, 33, nanny:

It's bad when it comes from men, but even worse when it comes from other women. I remember one night a group of us from college was drinking and hanging around, when the argument turned to romance. My good friend at the time, I guess in an effort to feel good about herself, called me out for having a high body count at my young age. And everybody just cackled over what a big trollop I was.

Kerie, 38, social worker:

This was when I was having my baby as a teenager, and from what I've heard from other people, it's a regular thing with nurses. Little 16-year-old me was trying to bear the pain, and trying to get help from the nurses, when one bellowed, “Ah bet is so you did bawl out when you a take man. Take the pain man, you want to act like you big, take big woman problem.” And even after I had my baby and used to go to the clinic, they all acted like I was the worst person in the world to get pregnant so young, and would always ask questions about the number of partners I had, comment on everything I wore, and urged me to take up my books and not man.

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