After commenting to my friend last night that I had finally stopped being contacted by a stalker, I woke up this day – while I was praying, of all instances – by a call from yet another unknown number. I’m a social worker and work heavily in youth volunteer activities. I am a representative of two organisations and receive calls from all kinds of people at all hours of the week. Whether it’s someone calling out for help, an idea, a donation, a keenness to serve our community, or someone who just wants to know more, I have to be the voice behind that phone call. I need to have the freedom to do this and as of December 2014, this vocation of mine has taken a different turn.
Every time I get a call from an unknown number now, my heart skips a beat. I used to be excited to receive all these calls from the many voices wanting to serve our community. The gentleness in my voice as I say hello is gone: how would you feel if you were going through a crisis and needed to hear the gentle comfort of your confidante’s voice? My stalker has destroyed this for all of those people. And what’s worse? He met me on a volunteer activity and contacts me on the premise that, as an older person, he wants to guide me as a fellow ‘social activist’.
You’ve destroyed a hefty part of this ‘activist’ spirit, you sad old man.
(I don’t even call myself an ‘activist’. It doesn’t do justice to real activists who are willing to put themselves and their personal safety on the line for the cause of social justice, so stop calling me that too, you disrespectful bastard).
So tell me, dear Reader, what should I do in this situation? Now, this man has been using every friend of his to call me as I keep blocking every new number. So what’s an obvious next step, hmm? Changing SIMs, isn’t it? And this is the answer that reminded me how expensive it is being a woman.
The harasser can stay
I should go
He can keep his number
while I can change mine
Why can’t he change his number
and his phone
and his attitude
and erase me from his memory
(he’s not senile yet)
so my life can go on
The harassee can buy a new SIM
a new phone
a new attitude
Stop standing for all the things you believe in.
And what if I went to him
and forced him
tore his SIM apart
so he is forced to buy another one
Is that more violent
than what he is doing to me?
I can’t go to the police
They would only tell me
what I already know
Do everything you’ve
It’ll die down.
This is a tax on my money
on my mind
on my spirit
and on the country
That you’ve destroyed
another small flame
however small it is
that was only trying to help.
So tell me, what really is the difference between my physical confrontation of him and his phone and the way that he has attacked me? He can harass me uninhibitedly and drive me to spend my money and time and energy but if I were to go and physically do something, am I the culprit? Am I the one who should pay him liabilities?
And to stay safe from threats like these in the future, here are the other taxes women have to stomach just by virtue of being women.
- Paying for a trishaw or personal transport instead of using public transport
- Having different outfits to travel on public transport, then semi-personal transport like cabs or trishaws, and then personal transport.
- And then having to buy shawls because God forbid you do wear something revealing on top while driving in your iron cage of a car, you are still ogled at by vehicles stopped beside you. How else can I behave and dress as I wish if I am not even safe in my own car. Stop telling me to travel by car to be safe, I NEVER AM.
- Pay for the transport and time of a male relative or friend to voice your own discontent and plea to be left alone. My voice is not enough, my misery is not enough.
- Spend money and time to contact all possible avenues to seek protection, whether it is those ‘guardian’ men or the police. I need to be spending my time studying, working, building my own capacity to work for my community, not to protect myself so this throbbing fear in my chest can stop.
And the list goes on and diverges, as my angry mind is wont to do. Perhaps I’ll write an exhaustive list later on about the diverse taxes in other spheres of life. The complete inventory of the Taxes on Women.
This is written to commemorate the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, a global campaign taking place from the 25th November to 10th December.