Mauritius: The flu of misogyny

Mauritius: The flu of misogyny

Date: August 6, 2019
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Mauritius; 3 July: This winter we have yet again been hit by a disease, an illness from which many of us suffer. Symptoms are mostly manifested on social media in the form of comments under news articles or in the form of edited videos. It is an illness which crawls under our skin, affecting our nerves, a disease we pass on to our sons and daughters: the contagious flu of misogyny, like any ideology.

The camera caught a man Senior Advisor, stroking the cheeks and neck of a woman Parliamentary Private Secretary, while she sat in the Parliament doing her work. She vehemently condemned the act, describing it as non-consensual.

What did we do as we witnessed, on live camera, a man touching a women’s body as if he owns it?

We laughed, we laughed because we are all sick of misogyny, dear sister and dear brother.  We are however not supposed to laugh or make videos out of this incident, to sensationalize it like a soap opera or to post disgusting comments ridiculing the woman. But we did, we did all of these. We did not rage. We did not engage in a debate. We laughed.

Social media harbors our illness. The comment section under news articles are brewing with misogyny and the odor makes me want to vomit, take my suitcase and run away because the rainbow of my Paradise Island has been smeared with misogyny. The political space has always been infused with a language overflowing with a misogynistic diction. And we, people, have not contributed less. The lens of Facebook caught the misogyny that has been interweaved in our daily lives, in our culture, that it has almost become a norm. It is normal for your daughters, sisters, mothers and wives to be touched. It is normal to make memes about it. In an era when #MeToo Movements are blowing elsewhere, women themselves do not hesitate to post comments like the following:

  1. “chance inn tousse lazou face pa lot lazou. Ziska cameraman mem p focus lor lot lazou la kan li p marC” (“Thank God he touched the cheeks of her face, not the other cheek. Even the cameraman is focusing on her other cheek as she is walking.”)
  2. “[Il] enlevait peut-être l’excedent de fond de teint sur sa joue”. (“[He] was perhaps removing the excessive foundation cream on her cheek.”)

Months ago, I passed on an alley where three men were talking, and as I walked by them, one of them breathed too closely and uttered words that may sound inoffensive but which I still remember: “Mo pe rod enn tifi koumsa mem” (“I am looking for a girl like her.”)

I did not react, kept on walking, sat on the bus as my stomach churned with disgust, fear and anger. I could still feel his breath near my ear. This is one of the many times I was given unsolicited and inappropriate comments from men on the streets and men with ties. One of the many times I did not respond, I did not fight back and kept on walking. Even in moments when I could respond, I never did, glued to my chair, lips stitched. Out of fear, out of surprise? I do not know what to do but what I know is that for my own safety, I have always been told to keep quiet because anyone can brandish a knife.

To women who have been touched inappropriately in the bus, on crowded streets, in their workplace, in their homes, women who had to walk quickly, to avoid alleys, to keep a straight face as words of violence diffused in the air and ripped their insides: I am sorry that you have to answer each time why you did not fight back, why you chose that alley, why you wore a red lipstick. I am sorry that men who spoke these words and whose hands touched your body as if it was theirs are not questioned.

To people displaying their misogyny online, repeat after me: being touched without your permission anywhere on your body, whether you are a woman, a man or a child, is wrong.

And here is a guide to questions you should not be asking: Are they friends? Would she have reacted otherwise if they were not filmed? Does she wear a lot of make-up?

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