Women should not have to shield men as they speak about the pain of abuse

Kwanele Ndlovu Singles Lane
Parents and children in Hanover Park, Cape Town, protesting against violence and the abuse of women and children in their community. /Esa Alexander
Parents and children in Hanover Park, Cape Town, protesting against violence and the abuse of women and children in their community. /Esa Alexander

I cannot remember the exact moment I realised that social media had become a cushion for women who needed the comfort of knowing that someone else out there knew their pain - but it happened.

I too became one of the vocal people inviting an ear to our predicaments and stretching a hand out to my sisters. I spoke openly about my misadventures with men and my fears. Some of the most terrifying moments of womanhood, courtesy of me, are well etched in pages on social platforms on the internet.

I do, however, remember the day I realised that women were gradually gagged from typing anything that dared suggest that men are problematic without inserting a qualification and clarifying that the statement excluded all good, religious men, caring fathers, exemplary brothers, loving partners, committed husbands, regular runners and health freaks and God knows who else.

We woke up to our Facebook accounts being blocked at the mere mention of the phrase "MenAreTrash" and literally had to defend ourselves from attacks from patriarchs and their guardians who were offended that we included their precious fathers in the narrative.

Careless accusations, we were told. Mathematically flawed representation of men. An exaggerated attention-seeking stunt by women who should be specifying the men who victimised them and leave the exceptional members of the #NotAllMen brigade out of this. Every time you wanted to say something about sexual crimes, you had to have the crafty edge of a spin doctor and the soul of an impartial judge. Forget your misguided prejudice against man and focus on the fact that even though each and every one of your friends has gone through some form of sexual abuse, they were not abused by all men!

But how exactly do we do that as women? How do we get our society to stand up and protect us from being violated by men if we have to filter our narrations to specifics? "A guy called Adam, not all Adams, just the one from Eden."

In cases like AB Xuma school - the defenders of good men who insist that we are painting all men with one brush need to come out and tell me again - do you insist that we tell those girl children "Not All Men" and send another man, one who has never hurt little girls of course, into their midst?

How should any one of those girls henceforth speak of her experiences with men and abuse? Should she say "Please be assured that I taint not the great innocent masculine souls littered about for the grand purpose of loving and protecting us woman folks - oh no, this is merely pointed at two rare evildoers missed by their male counterparts (else they would have been educated and changed by the contagious goodness of their brothers and my ordeal prevented) - thus I was raped at school at the age of seven. Alas, I dare never speak ill of men, lest I bind the majority innocent bearded beasts therewith incorrectly. It's only just two men. Just two. Not even a big number. Two!"

Is that how we should speak about our pain? Teach me! Should we phrase it with cushions around fragile masculinity seeking good character validation?

You, the men offended by us saying "Men Terrify Us" - today I want to speak about how I and almost every strong woman I know have been torn down and forcefully penetrated by a man while we lay and imagined beautiful gardens in our heads to numb the pain of aliens dwelling in our wombs.

Where do I begin to please you with a cautious narration? Are innocent men the first thing we should shield when we try to heal from men?

Somebody please teach me.