Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Sometimes being a woman sucks - allow me to recount the ways

WARNING: the follow post may not be appropriate for all readers, and my upset some folks. 

Today was a rough day. In fact, this entire past week have been difficult.

Since last Tuesday, I have been in (and continue to be in) a workshop that has been peppered by unwanted comments and assumptions about my capabilities based on factors that are irrelevant. Some of these have been by fellow participants, while others have been by friends and other such people in my life outside of the workshop.

It’s no secret that my time in Uganda has been a struggle where my body shape and size has been concerned. It’s often hurtful, some of the comments I receive, but for the most part I push past them because ultimately, it’s a) none of their business, and b) an aspect of my life that I’m not overly worried about, because overall I’m okay with who I am, physically and otherwise.

But, given that this is a garden/food production related course, I was the recipient of many derogatory and negative suggestions about my ability to partake in this workshop do to the fact that I’m a) white*, b) female, and c) not with the typical “white girl” body. I have been laughed at, doubted, and made to feel like any of those three factors could possibly relate to my ability, enjoyment, and/or previous experience at growing my own food, working the land, and my personal favourite – being able to maneuver a hoe to break the soil**.

In these instances, I took those as opportunities to prove the naysayers wrong – because, I knew that I was capable of performing the task at hand***. However, the final straw came today when a comment was made about my voluntold position as the “official” timekeeper for the 2 weeks****.

We were late to start this morning, because almost everyone failed to show up on time. In an effort to make up for said time, a few of us thought it best to reduce break time so we could get caught up on what we’d missed waiting for everyone to show up. Just as we were set to begin our afternoon tea break, I jokingly made a comment that I meant serious business, and that everyone had better return on time or else. But one of my fellow participants apparently didn’t appreciate this – particularly as I had bumped heads with him earlier about his complete disregard related to his lateness having impacts on other peoples lives (i.e. the other participants who have been able to show up on time). Although instead of a lighthearted jab back at me, he insinuated a rather vulgar act that involved a particular part of my body, and the knife***** he was holding in his hand.

I will be the first person to admit, that I have no problem making a quip here and there about the inequalities of being female… mainly related to my stellar abilities in sandwich making, laundry doing, and even ironing. These aren’t to undermine the work that has been done in the past by some of the courageous and strong ladies before me, but more so to emphasize in my usual sarcastic way just how ridiculous it is that people still expect this as part of a “woman’s duty”. But with that in mind, I draw the line at jokes about sexual assault. It’s not funny no matter if we’re talking about the survivor being male or female.

So, when said individual made the comment about removing a part of my sexual organs (the pleasure giving one), as a reasonable consequence for my desire to uphold strict timekeeping, I got upset. Sure, he said the comment as a joke, most likely, but it wasn’t funny. And it especially wasn’t funny when I called him out on the inappropriateness of making such a joke, only to be met with a snicker and acting completely unapologetic. I’m also certain some of you reading this may think I am overreacting, and if you fall into that category, kindly unfriend/follow me.

The truth is, I do have a history of being on the receiving end of sexual assault. I wish I could say that this was the case on one occasion, but the reality is, it has been more times than I care to think about or even process. And while I’m not going to get into the details of it all via my blog, I will say, that I 100% understand why people don’t report it, because, well, more often than not, we aren’t taken seriously and are accused of attention seeking. But it’s also for this reason that I cannot tolerate these comments that are made to sound like jokes. They aren’t funny. They’re hurtful – threatening even.

Edit: this did NOT take place in the area I'm setting up the training program. In fact in Soroti, I have never felt less than a part of the communities I have worked in, and I haven't been harassed or spoken to in such a way (except for one extremely drunk guy, but that's an average day in most Canadian cities!). Please do not associated this isolated incident with the entire country, or even continent. I usually always feel safe here.

I’m sorry for ranting about this, but I’ve been sick for the last number of days, and I’m equally sick of still having to put up with this type of shit in 2017.

Anyway, here’s to a more positive day tomorrow. I’m not going to let this one individual or instance ruin the rest of what is an otherwise amazing experience.

-the Orange Canadian

*Don’t worry – I fully understand that I have an extreme privilege because of this fact about myself for which I had zero control. I just still don’t get why skin pigment gives anyone a right to judge a person on their abilities, skillset, intelligence, affluence, or any other factor.
**For the record, I much prefer the hand hoe, because it gives a bit more control, even though it’s much harder on your back and body, overall.
***Which has led to many questions from folks back home about why I continue to stay here…but it’s simple, there are far more incredible and positive aspects to living in this part of the world than the comments or the doubts I receive.
****A position bestowed upon me for my ability to keep and be on time.

*****Now, don’t go all crazy here. We were just learning about grafting and budding, so it made sense for him to be in possession of this tool. It didn’t make sense, however, for him to make such a comment.

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