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Hey wena, fill up the bloody tank and stop ogling my thighs and calling me sweetie

Kwanele Ndlovu Singles Lane
Sexualisation of women is taken for granted and blamed on those deemed to be dressed provocatively.
Sexualisation of women is taken for granted and blamed on those deemed to be dressed provocatively.
Image: 123RF/André Silva

There is no end to the insults and degradation a woman endures daily. The world never fails to remind me that no matter how strong my personality is, I will always be viewed as the weaker sex - sex usually being the operative concept.

This past Sunday, I wore my favourite high-waist shorts - that piece of apparel that our fathers disapprove of and our husbands forbid you from wearing. Yes, those. Knowing the culture of victim-blaming we have embraced, I appreciate that rapists and their aides will say I "invited" the disrespect I endured thereby.

I pulled into a garage en route to my brother and the Man serving me locked his stare unto my thighs while I communicated my requirements. Then he greeted me with a grossly sexualised, "Hey Nana, eish, o montle waitse Nana..."

This may sound foreign to most men, but we women do feel violated by some greetings. There is a sexual violence that is meted out by men when they demand attention. It is there in a silent stare or slow lick of the lip - worse if accompanied by pervert-speak.

I was immediately alarmed and my defences were alerted. I wanted to make my outrage visible. I could feel the muscles in my face tangle into fists. But, alas, he was not deterred. He forgot to address me with the respect due to every customer, regardless of the length of their dress. He reduced me to a sexual object and repeatedly delivered the most perverted "nana" I have ever heard.

Nana - a term of endearment that literally means "little one"- was used as a weapon to undress me.

In fact, I doubt there is a woman alive who has never been cornered into a strange man's little sex fantasy and made to feel dirty, whose dignity was not butchered for a moment of entertainment.

Eventually I told him off. I had to remind him that firstly I am not a little child, that he is at work and I am a customer, that his service should not extend to unwelcome sexual innuendo and sexualisation of women.

I had to tell him that there are plenty welcome titles he could use, from m'am to sisi; that would not piss me off.

I had to cuss and I had to raise my voice. I had to be upset and assertive before the man could see just how inappropriate his interaction with me was.

It has become the nature of our existence as women that unlike our male counterparts, we have to fight for respect and defend our bodies at every turn, including the darn filling stations. Unlike the man in a van wearing shorts and torn T-shirt, I have to feel like I have broken the Eleventh Commandment by showing my thigh on a goddam Sunday on a hot summer!

Thankfully, I have a full, strong voice and that man was not ready for the tongue lashing, especially in my Zulu accent. He was especially stunned because I got out and I am no taller than the damn car - but boy do I breathe fire!

I am certain he will never call another woman a "nana" like that, not this year!

However, he is only one of millions of men who feel entitled to women's comfort. Around every corner there are relentless, oversexed machos who think grabbing a woman's buttocks is a compliment. They hold our hands to ask to speak to us and call us bitches when we refuse to. Believe it, women are violated by a greeting from men!

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