It is my first time to attend a meeting and so I, as usual, go round to greet people that I haven’t met with a handshake and introduce myself by saying, “Hi my name is Kgethi”. So the last person I introduce myself to and sit next to, is a middle aged white male professor who tells me his name and then says, “Pink! Is it your favourite colour?” I gave a response that I thought would end the conversation saying, “Not really, its my colour for today.” The professor continued, “So did your husband buy you the outfit?” I said, “ No, but what does this have to do with my husband?” He ignored my question and asked his next question, “So which department are you in?” Then I gave wicked smile and said, “I make tea in Danie’s office.” Danie and other colleagues sitting around who have been listening to the conversation continued to listen quietly. The professor kept quiet and I continued sarcastically, “Lucky man Danie is, right?” At that point I think the professor might have realised that I am leading him on. So he laughed and stopped asking questions. Danie started the meeting by introducing me as the new DVC and explained that I will chair the next meeting. At that point I thought the professor would whisper an apology, but nah! Then I thought he’d do that at the end of the meeting. Nothing! Once again it hit me – this is how patriarchal spaces work!
You see in a place where patriarchy is the norm, public space is very clearly defined as belonging to men, with women not cohabitating but rather infiltrating the space as outsiders made to live in accordance with parameters set by men. How women dress, act, and engage in those spaces is strictly regulated by these social habits/norms. Such a pervasive environment of patriarchy reinforces a sense of impunity that allows men to cause discomfort, embarrass, berate, harass, and sometimes even violently attack women for no other reason than their existence as the opposite sex.
So why am I telling you this and what am I going to do about this whole thing, I hear you ask. Well, I will not take any drastic step because there is no need, after all this person reports to someone who reports tome, he is going to sit in many meetings I chair and we are going to have to work together for the good of the institution. So I choose to be kind and generous because we have very important work to do together here and there are more important fights ahead. Fighting with him is definitely not worth it; in fact my not doing anything is enough punishment. It is important to know when to let things go and I am learning. I am letting this one go. In my view this situation is over and I am moving forward.