A page out of my thought recollections
A former lover of mine once remarked, “girls’ hips are created for men to enjoy looking at.” Funny as this may sound, I was actually very disturbed by the statement (the whole notion that the female exists for the sole purpose of being something pleasurable for a man to look at).
…I tried to explain to him that female hips curved that way to assist with child birth but he wouldn’t hear it. I also tried to remind him that different people were attracted to different body features so he couldn’t base his statement on hips alone. I can say this was probably my first experience in understanding how men are socialised to objectify women…it also really stung so bad because this was someone that I actually loved and thought the world of.
“You dress up for me, right?” Katto whispered in my ear. Much as I was attracted to him, I couldn’t understand why he thought I actually woke up in the morning to dress up with the sole intention of pleasing him. I smiled at him mischievously, shook my head from side to side as I whispered into his left ear, ‘no hun, I dress up for myself.’ Without batting an eyelid, he continued to assure me that women always dressed up for men and that I purposely dressed up to please him. I was slightly taken aback by his statement and his refusal to understand my individuality as a woman. I listened him go on for a couple of minutes quietly; he had completely disregarded me as a human being capable of doing things for myself or even expressing my individuality with my own sense of style.
Honestly speaking … I was shocked, I felt anger wash over me followed by sadness. I carefully explained to him that I dressed up for my own comfort and to suit my type work – I worked with 8 year olds. He opposed me quite vehemently. I was at a loss of words for a moment and decided to let the issue slide. After about 4 months of dating him, he informed me in passing that he now believed that I dressed up for myself and not for him. I never asked him what led to that realisation. At that point, I simply wasn’t interested. And now, years later, I would like to pick his mind on how he came to that conclusion.
A year before the above incident, there was a similar incident with another man, Fred, who was deeply attracted to me, who made comments that were just as uncomfortable listening to. It happened that this handsome fella had the opportunity to travel all over the world often. Sometimes he would be gone for a month and other times for as long as 6 months. For this particular trip he was gone for half a year and on returning to Uganda, dropped by my house to catch up on old times. I was pretty excited to see him and immediately asked him for the pair of drum sticks he’d promised he would bring for me when he returned. Well, I never got any drum sticks from him, but I was shocked when he suggested that I’d dressed up for him. Before I can go into a vivid description of my attire, I want to put a few things into context; when I discovered that my legs were not half as ugly as my mum made them out to be and that shorter skirts were actually more comfortable and lighter to wear than the long big skirts she used to dress me up in, I’d never turned back. I LOVE SHORT SKIRTS. I still do. So that particular afternoon, I was dressed in a short denim skirt and a pink cotton blouse which probably looked enticing to him. I’ll never know.
I quickly set about correcting Fred by informing him that I hadn’t dressed up for him. He just laughed out loud while saying ‘girls’ a number of times. Later that evening, while I walked him to the taxi stop, he then explained to me that he realised I hadn’t dressed up for him. I quickly changed the subject before he could babble on. I did not want to know why and how he came to that conclusion. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that his comment bordered on the evening not going in the direction he’d imagined it would go.
A decade later, I can now confidently describe why I felt uncomfortable at their statements and what was happening in each scenario. I have come to learn that many males are socialised to objectify women from the day they are born. It’s so sad that men are trained to think that an entire gender’s lives solely exists to fulfill their needs. Not only does this dehumanise millions of females, it also imposes limits on what males can do. In fact, it is very difficult to have empathy for someone who you don’t view as a real person. Statistics show that females are actually molested or assaulted by people they know which I believe stems from the way men are socialised to believe that they are entitled to female bodies. This does not only affect men but also hurts how women eventually view themselves in society.
The objectification of women is so extensive that many men, just like the ones I’ve shared about, aren’t even aware that they are participating in it. This is not just for the men, but women are also taught that they are to be objectified.
Breaking down and analyzing objectification and the idea of women as property explains how men come to view women as being of less value. These ideas come from the man box where our socialization leads us to believe that the primary purpose of women (objects) is to support, serve, comfort, satisfy, and entertain men. We often place more value on a woman with more desirable physical features than we do on a woman with high-quality, intangible characteristics. – Tony Porter, 2016 –
Children are encouraged to follow rigid gender roles in school not taking into consideration that genetics can actually dictate what we are good at. A boy can love to cook and do well at it, a girl can be so good at engineering and fixing things. A boy can inherit curvy hips from his ancestors and a girl can be very loud and authoritative just like her father.
It’s only after men are asked to imagine that a female could be their mother or sister that they actually will start to empathise with the female. This shouldn’t be the case, all women should be treated as human beings that have feelings and that are complete human beings in their own right.
So how do we rectify something that has been passed on for centuries and generations:
- Check our attitudes toward females and males
- Raise our children as individuals and not as vessels to fulfil someone’s desires.
- Respect all people…respect women… do not use negative words for women when the same trait is a plus for men for example calling women whores for expressing their sexuality.
- Teach boys to talk through their feelings and to cry
- Teach boys intimacy
- Teach consent to all
- Call out all boys and men (and women) on sexism.
Books to read:
Breaking the Male Code by Robert Garfield
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Vishen Lakhiani
Changing the narrative. Telling my African story