Over my many years walking, running and cycling the streets of Harare, one unfortunate, recurring theme of my experience has been men’s harassment of women, including myself. In struggling to find ways to deal with the often daily comments, stares, whispers and shouts, I’ve used a variety of tactics. Sometimes I ignore. Sometimes I try and rationalise. Sometimes I engage. But often, often, I think about what I, or anyone, could possibly do, to make it all stop.
A friend of mine and I sometimes discuss WWW: Women With Weapons. A few years ago, cycling to work and back every day, I had a recurring fantasy that my bike was kitted out with a bayonet in the front, and flame throwers out the spokes of my wheels. Pity the poor bloke who made some nasty comment at me, I’d think. He’d be a lesson to all other men. And then maybe, just maybe, eventually, the heckling would stop.
Of course, I know violence isn’t the answer. And I know that if part of what I resent about men’s harassment of women is the ways in which they generalise all women into the category “vagina” and treat them all as a potential fuck, then I also shouldn’t generalise all men as potential harassers.
For a much more constructive and thoughtful approach to issues of gender violence and harassment of women, visit our current eactivism campaign. It discusses the potential of the Vagina Vote for our upcoming elections in Zimbabwe. This is “the belief that a new paradigm can manifest itself in a political as well as spiritual form. It is the decision to ask those running for office as well as those already in office to make ending violence against girls and women a priority.”
Certainly that’s a much more level headed take on the whole thing. But something in my gut resonates much more closely with this poem from the Rape volume of Agenda’s Gender Based Violence Trilogy – Issue 74, 2007.
My vagina wants an Uzi
My vagina is tired of explaining why it needs one
My vagina is ready for the armed (vagina) struggle
My vagina is not my father’s kraal, or anyone’s for that matter
My vagina has its own culture “vagina friendly culture” VFC
VFC = no means no
VFC = justice before the law
VFC = I wear what I want and I walk where I want and I say what I feel, when I feel it
My vagina wants a world where it decides when and how and with whom
My vagina does not want a cock
No man’s cock
My vagina is a lesbian
My vagina is clear about that
My vagina is tired of being angry and afraid and sad
My vagina is sad more deeply than indigo, the colour of a vivid bruise, the colour of dried blood, the colour of women and children broken on the altar of culture
My vagina wants to be free
My vagina wants an Uzi
- Larissa Klazinga