Note: I’m exorcising a very deep anger here in an effort to find healing and to move on. An anger many women can relate to. The story, situations and character descriptions may change but the underlying theme has been male aggression and their privilege to exercise that aggression. If you don’t want to read about the need for Feminism, please stop reading here and save yourself some time.
We had a pet dog called Jimmy. She was such a intelligent, kind and friendly dog. Everyone in our neighbourhood treated her as they would a family member. She was loved and respected in society.
One day a little kitten , barely a week or so old strayed into our compound. Now this kitten had just learned to walk and was probably not yet weaned off her mother’s milk. An innocent baby in every sense. Let’s call her Kitty.
What happened when the Intelligent and kind-hearted older dog , a mother of two litters, well fed dog, beacon dog of society, met Kitty? Ofcourse, the deep bias inherent in dogs against cats came out. She started to bark and attack Kitty. I watched Kitty go towards Jimmy still friendly, curious and playful thinking Jimmy’s aggression was a game. Kitty was too young to even understand aggression. She must have only seen in her brief life the loving care of the mother and she must have projected that image of loving , playful benevolence on Jimmy. The image of that innocent moment is still etched in my mind.
When Kitty playfully approached Jimmy , she got even more aggressive and went to attack Kitty. Kitty realizing half instinctively that something was wrong , ran to a corner of the compound into an outdoor toilet. She was cornered by Jimmy who was blocking the entrance. I tried to go near Jimmy to pull her back. But she was so aggressive and snarling, ready to even bite me that I couldn’t do anything. Now cornered Kitty was still confused on what was happening and reached out gently with her paw, mewing softly. I don’t know cat language but I swear it was a peace gesture. Jimmy was still snarling, growling and aggressive. Jimmy jaws descended towards Kitty. At that very moment Kitty’s instinct fully kicked in and she grew up in that one second. She realized that she was in grave danger and then lashed out to save herself, scratching Jimmy in the face. In the final moments of Kitty’s life, cornered, her playful and loving gestures rewarded with a fatal bite, her eyes showed a flash of ferociousness that also remains etched in my mind.
In many ways this Kitty , her short life cut short by the much adored and loved and lauded Jimmy ,is my secret heroine. No, she didn’t win that battle but that last moment of ferociousness inspires me to this day to fight for myself irrespective of whatever corner the “Jimmys “of my life push me into and however the bleak the prospects of survival may seem.
Yes, I have had a fair share of such “Jimmy’s” in my life. My girl friends too. These “Jimmys” have attacked us with preconceived notions, gender bias, stereotyping and misunderstanding pure innocence. They have snarled like dogs. Put us in corners. Most of these ‘gentlemen’ walk around in society with their heads held high , lauded and congratulated. Loved. Successful. They go unpunished ,without a scratch. When I see that my blood boils on the injustice because no one knows what they did or even if they knew no one cares that much. Being aggressive or mean to a girl/woman and triggering fight or flight responses is not a crime unless a punch was thrown or there was actual physical contact . Even then we see women struggle to get the justice in court for those offences.
This male aggression towards women, that falls just short of the legal definition of abuse… is so insidious. So difficult to fight. So difficult to forget. So difficult to forgive. It has been years since some of those incidents happened but the wounds open up every time I encounter that abuser’s apparently successful life.
The following year, when he called a bunch of us girls into his office to scream at us when a male lecturer complained to him that we were talking loudly in a hallway, he showed his true colours. He said, ” I know about the characters of you girls (as in bad character). Your seniors have told stories about you”. Now these same seniors vandalized the girls bathroom with lewd drawings and etched our names in desks with slurs. Why was this refined, older gentleman , a father of a daughter, ex-guardian of the nations skies, listening to adolescent boys carrying erotic made-up tales about teenage girls? Didn’t he have any common sense to know what is true and what is false? Does he know that talking normally in an almost empty hallway/building , when there was no electricity, would be loud without the hum of the 100s of electronic equipment? Does it need a telling-off? Was it even appropriate to scream at girls about their character based on a rumour and how is it related to talking in a hallway? Now, we needed to get out of the college with a ‘Good Conduct certificate’ signed by that man to graduate . So yes, we were kind of cornered, so we endured it. He would have continued his angry rant if I had not started crying after about 10 minutes of that rant. Oh! how I hate myself for crying. I was crying out of uncontrollable anger on the injustice and and helplessness that I couldn’t scratch his face off.
And then there was this other man a few years later who said that he will destroy me, crush me , ruin my life if he so chooses. It was just a matter of his choice he said when no one was around. I did nothing to deserve that aggressive threat. “Really, you did nothing?” I can hear someone asking. I can also hear some women say that they believe me. I did nothing more than what Kitty did when she accidentally crossed paths with a species way different from her own. I walked away from him , without even uttering a word, with the grace of a grown up cat on a high compound wall, above reach from the snarling dog below. However coolly I walked away, it was like walking on a high-razor-wire . One misstep is all it can take to plunge to ruin. By this time, I had learned not to cry…to control that anger, channel it, trap it like molten lava in the Earth’s belly.
We continued to love and care for Jimmy after she murdered Kitty. “It’s her nature”, my dad said: “She’s just a dog. What can you expect”. But it was our fault, we never put Jimmy on a leash. No negative feedback loop to discourage unwarranted aggression. So if you can’t help but love one of these human ‘Jimmys” in spite of fully knowing their ‘nature’, I empathize with you. I understand that a man is more than his gender bias or moments of stupidity. But the lowest moments are how people are judged. Like Bill Clinton. Did I hear someone snicker ? So for all of your sakes you need to put a leash on him and do something to prevent such aggression. Else you are equally guilty.
I’m attempting to convert this smouldering anger into a constructive force hoping that by writing about this, at least one person who reads this recognizes and stops their negative behaviour /gender bias or if you witness such incidents to “pick up a leash”. Or if you are cornered like Kitty, know that you need to act ferociously. The incidents I have mentioned are just two of a longer list. The reason I picked these two is because both were senior citizens with a solid standing in society with enough life experience, and had raised a daughter of their own. Pillars of society. Yet, they showed bias and aggression towards another man’s daughter with little to no provocation.