I feel like this week has dealt South African’s – especially parents, mothers, a gut-punch, followed by a kick in the ribs. Monday morning the news of a young girl, basically abducted by four men out of her mothers arms outside her school broke. At the same time, the country was mourning the loss of a young woman, murdered on her way to the post office. Two incidents, the straw that broke the camel’s back – soon social media was flooded with faces and names, countless women whose stories may or may not have been told. Victims of abuse, murder, torture, kidnapping, rape. The bile rises in my throat every time I scroll through my feed – knowing that this is just the tip of the ice-berg, and I, like so many others start thinking – am I next, is my daughter next?
These atrocities – mostly committed by men, gave rise to the #menaretrash movement – and yes…I’ll agree, in general…South African men ARE trash. Don’t argue, the numbers prove you wrong – something is broken in the psyche of the males of this country, something is twisted, sick, perverted. If a man approaches me in a public place, my first thought is never about what a good father/brother/son he is, but rather where my car keys are, where my nearest escape route is, whether I’m showing too much boob. My heart breaks for my little girl, if she learns from my example she will grow up with an inherent fear of men she does not know.
But this is where you come in – the men that love my daughter- and she is thankfully surrounded by a horde of you. I am so grateful for you, for being in our lives, to show her what it means to be good men. I can’t put into words how glad I am that Hannah surrounded by the best of men, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, guncles, friends. It’s going to make raising her a lot easier, but I’m going to need your help.
I need you to know that she is always watching, always listening – whether it’s your interactions with your partners or sisters or mothers – or the woman at the store, or on the side of the road, she is seeing how you treat women and forming her own view of what respect is, and what is acceptable and what is not. Set a good example.
I need you to protect her. Protect her from the outside world for as long as possible. Let her be a princess, a fairy or a gnome. Feed her imagination, play with her, let her run wild. Help her believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter bunny. I need you to protect her from your fellow man, and not just her. Those jokes, catcalls and “harmless comments” from the guys at the pub may not be directed at her, or about her – but what if they were? I need you to make them stop.
I need you to respect her. Respect her opinions and what she has to say. Show her early on that she can share her views so that one day she can take over a boardroom, or a courtroom, or an operating theater. Respect her space, let her know that she is a person of her own who can go and do what she wants. Respect her body. Heck, respect all women’s bodies! Don’t make those comments, she doesn’t need to hear how fat/good looking/skinny/tall/big/small that lady walking past is. Keep it to yourself.
I need you to raise good sons. Sons who follow your example. Sons who will be as loving and respectful towards girls and women as you are. Sons who will one day probably break her heart, but will at least let her down with her dignity and self worth intact.
I need you to hear her. Hear her stories, listen. Let her feel that she is worth your time, that she is worthy of any man’s time. I need you to hear if she says no. No to hugs, no to tickles, no to kisses. Consent is learnt early, and I need you to teach her that when she says no, people listen.
I need you to carry on loving her, and everyone else you love – show her that men are capable of love. In this country filled with so much hate, show her that those pathetic excuses for men are the odd ones out. Show her that your arms can be a safe haven, somewhere she can run to if she needs help. Show her that love comes in many shapes and forms, and doesn’t always look like the movies.
But most of all, I need you to be there for those around you. Show her that men are dependable, when their loved ones need it the most. Support your partners, your family your friends, build them up, compliment them, celebrate them.
I love you all – the men who love my daughter. It may sound like I’m angry and desperate, and I am, but not at you. Thank you for being in her life.