'I am more than my clothes'

LONDON - The other day I watched a horrifying video on Facebook, which captured a black woman, in Africa, being attacked by a group of ruthless black men.

Their reason for attacking this African queen was that she was dressed inappropriately. Her walking with a male companion was not enough to ward off the thugs that attacked her.

She tried to escape by boarding different commuter omnibuses and yet her attackers followed her and would pull her out the vehicles that she entered.

They pulled up her “provocative” skirt and exposed her. They did not just stop there; they ripped her undergarments. They claimed that she was asking for this because of the way she was dressed.

So wait...a woman is inappropriately dressed so we strip her to teach her a lesson? What was really sad was seeing that no one came to her defence. Her male companion tried to lead her away from the mob and would pull her skirt down but I never actually heard him say stop. Some may say that he feared for his own safety, that is probably the case.

I wish this was a rare incident but sadly this is not the case. Women are judged by the way they dress and look all the time. A chat with a male friend about this revealed that men did this believing that they were doing the work of God (my friend’s two cents!)... Yes, abusing black women in the name of God. I recounted how when I was younger this individual had grabbed me and forced me to kiss him. I tried to push him away but he held me tight.

His kiss was not about love; it was about taking what he wanted from me by force. I can still remember the ‘’schmuck’’ look he had on this face as I slapped him. It did not matter what I did afterwards because he had already had his way with me. I could not even share the story with another soul because of fear that I would be asked why had I put myself in a situation where I was alone with the boy. Mind you we lived on the same street, went to the same school, and had just gotten off the school bus.

I remembered the event as rape and called it rape for a very long time. Over the years I would downgrade the charges I had against this boy. As I shared this story with a few friends, most of my black male friends would laugh it off and say that it had been due to youth. Little did they know how this incident had made me petrified of men and their intentions. It was then that I resolved to become a tomboy.

This story resurfaced again when I was talking to a friend about a guy we both knew who is now in prison for killing his girlfriend in front of his daughter. She would share that she had dated the guy and that he had tried to rape her. She recalled him pinning her down and the only thing that had stopped the horrid ordeal was his sister walking in. The way she was dressed had no bearing on his actions. He like the boy I had encountered had learned at some point that it was okay to take whatever he wanted from black women. These stories all occurred in Africa

While in America I remember working at a retail job where different artists would proposition me different modelling gigs. Why was I being asked such things? Did I not cover up? Ironically dressing like a tomboy was not enough to conceal my curves. At this point I found my body to be a liability as I saw it at something that attracted the wrong attention and would get me into trouble. A world-renowned sculptor offered me several thousands of dollars and promised me more work if I would sit in a mould for him to capture my shape. He told me that my proportions and in particular my tiny waist made me a prime specimen for his project. He did not see me, he did not know me. He did not even realise how young I was. All he saw were African features that he could exploit. No matter how I dressed the vultures followed.

Over the years my sense of fashion has evolved and I have come to a point where I embrace being a woman. I realise that abuse towards women is never about what they wear but rather about men who find it hard to control themselves. That young boy I went to school with felt that he had a right to kiss me without my consent; he never apologised. My friend was almost raped because that young man could not control himself. Clearly his actions were independent of anything she did because he ended up in prison.

That young lady I saw on Facebook was stripped naked because a group of thugs felt empowered to dishonour her in the name of culture. These attacks made against women have nothing to do with the way they dress but rather a warped mindset that needs to change. I should be able to walk down the street wearing whatever I want and if I offend you please cross the street and walk the other way. I am more than an outfit. What I wear is just a means of expression. For the record I wear it all: minis, skinny jeans, bohemian skirts, suits, weaves, braids, head wraps, ties, and I love my red bottoms! You name it I wear it.

*Pamela is a keen writer and analyst and has years of working experience in management on the famous New York Wall Street. She is an avid reader and a huge supporter of female developmental rights. Pam is based in New York.

    Comments (10)

    rubbish

    jane - 26 January 2015

    Freedom to dress is good

    Patricia - 26 January 2015

    Men forcing themselves on women never is about love, want or need but more so about control. Unfortunately, for some of us women it is a lesson we have yet to learn. Many of us still blame ourselves for the sins of men rather than see their actions for what it is, heinous.

    Lola - 27 January 2015

    Love this! I am not my clothes and should not be judged or attacked because of what I'm wearing. If you don't like the way I look then look somewhere else!

    Daphne - 27 January 2015

    Our true culture reveres women. This kind of public humiliation has nothing to do with culture. Zimbabweans have had a culture of turning a blind eye to the abuse of women. Old men in the rural areas impregnate young girls with no consequences.

    Hazvineyi - 27 January 2015

    This is a message that needs to be repeated until men change their behavoir. I have felt the need to cover up be cause I feared I would receive unwanted attention from men. I should not have to stifle the way I express myself through clothing because a man does not know how to control himself.

    Keitha - 27 January 2015

    Nicely written article! I loved the fact you reaffirmed that fashion is a means of expression and it shouldn't be used as a channel for women to be disgraced or victimized. I also agree with your statement that "these attacks made against women have nothing to do with the way they dress but rather a warped mindset that needs to change." Not only men need to change their mindset but society as a whole. All woman should feel empowered to walk down the street wearing whatever they want!

    Darnell - 27 January 2015

    Great article. I couldn't agree with you more. I have had so many discussions about men stripping women with the intention of teaching them a lesson. I have often wondered, is it a lesson on modesty, how to dress; or men using this as an excuse to sexually harass women? Sadly enough, people stand by and watch, what does this say about our society. Any self respecting man would never undress and humiliate a woman in public, nor would one standby and do nothing while his girlfriend or any woman for that matter is terrorized in this manner. This is not a male or female problem. Our society as a whole should stand up against sexual harassment. Remember it could happen to your sister, or your someone you love. Thanks for writing about this Pam.

    Ellie - 27 January 2015

    you cannot teach someone a lesson by stripping her naked .if she was half dressed as per your view is it not worse when she is naked comeon men lets leave these women alone after all we are not their parents

    mr honest - 28 January 2015

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