Dear Sacha, I don’t know you but evidently you are a clever, capable,
accomplished, independent woman. A petite former beauty queen powerhouse
in a man’s world who has busted stereotypes and has no need for
archetypal labels. Neither madonna nor whore. Like the old Virginia
Slims ad: A girl who has come such a long way, baby, that you could be
anything you wanted.
You didn’t have to be butch, matronly, or old to be up there with one of
the big boys. And yes, it’s you we were talking about at the hairdresser
the other day. How proud we are of you. When, after a government
minister, Chandresh Sharma, reportedly slapped, then pushed you against
a car, instead of whimpering, cowed by power, you stood up for yourself,
reported the slap, the push that made you blackout. I’m impressed. I see
my younger self in you, the self I wish I had the confidence to be then.
I cringe at my younger self. I sat in offices with powerful people,
invariably older men, and pretended to find their bombastic, sexist
jokes funny. Dumbing down, limiting my vocabulary, hiding my brain
behind pink lipstick, resisting the urge to smack leering men—with poor
grammar, yellow teeth, deep pockets and power to shape my career—
smirking at my legs. I associated being feminine with weakness, having
babies as a liability.
The minister denied everything. Mysteriously, private seminude
photographs of you sent to your boyfriend were released on the Internet.
To look at you, one would think you were made of steel. But we know
you’re human. This hurts badly. Your dignity is bruised. I hope you were
encouraged to be brave by flight attendant Ronelle Laidlow, who was
allegedly threatened with losing her job and got felt up by another
government minister, Glenn Ramadharsingh, and reported him. People like
Sat Maharaj—to whom entire communities look for guidance—dismissed a
reported slap on a woman’s face and shoving her so hard she blacked out,
as a “private marital matter.” Women who still feel powerless in their
lives and dependent on men to get ahead herded together to throw darts
at you for “moral” reasons, while, immorally, not recognising that yes,
you could have been killed with that knock to your head.
Many men—owing to your beauty, independence and the fact that you
wouldn’t look at them twice—tried to degrade and dehumanise you by
salivating over you. Human hearts are tangled and mangled because we are
complicated; but freedom from fear is a basic human right, and slapping
someone or pushing them is a violation of a human right.
Instead of crumbling in shame at the images of you being circulated
amongst shameless, salacious men in this country who do nothing to
protect women, you held a press conference, claiming a smear campaign,
making no apologies for the photos you sent your boyfriend as your
inalienable right to privacy, and calling on the Prime Minister as a
woman to protect you.
How the talk of you came up at the hairdresser: As I walked into the
salon my hairdresser—I’ll call her Susan— expertly spun around a
middleaged, very attractive woman to face the mirror. But there was
something wrong with her. She had a cast on her arm. She said she
“fell.” Even after the haircut that would have any woman bouncing out of
the door with confidence, she quietly asked with downcast eyes if she
could sit down in the lounge for a bit.
There was a good chance she hadn’t fallen. That someone did this to her.
That this salon with women became her refuge for a few minutes. While
Susan lathered, conditioned and blow-dried my hair, Susan told me about
her mother. Her father drank, womanised and spent almost a decade
beating her mother senseless.
The incidents spilled out: the time her father threw her mother against
the fridge; splattered blood on the TV when he threw it at her; dumped
the hot meal which he said had too much salt over her mother: gravy,
meat, vegetables, lovingly prepared, pouring down her face like sewage;
questioned about a woman, decided he would drag her down the hill like a
rag doll, her body rolling in cement, stone and broken glass.
She ended the story with a sudden murderous glassy look in her eyes.
“Nobody is going to ever hit me. If they do, forget the police. I will
kill them. See all those little girls growing up seeing their fathers or
any man beating, abusing, shouting at their mothers and other women in
their lives? Guess what? They’ve grown up.”
In a week, two separate women cut the careers of two powerful men to
shreds; men who, oddly, while protesting their innocence, resigned;
meaning there was too much egg on their faces to do otherwise. The
latest shot of you in a smart, long-sleeved form-fitting sexy black
dress, smiling and walking towards your shiny car in the sunshine with
your head held high, warmed my heart.
You’re a fighter. And you won’t let them see you cry.
Meanwhile, the older woman with the
lovely haircut: where is she? You did this for her, and for another
generation of women. You helped men to think twice before they
physically, verbally or sexually abuse a woman. Bravo.