So, this actually happened.
Although the first sentence of this post is past tense, I should say “so this is actually happening” because I know that this ‘happening’ isn’t rare and doesn’t just impact the people who I love.
What’s gotten me so riled up? What anger drove me straight to my laptop, where I sit hitting the keyboard as if each word I write can somehow strip the guy-in-focus of his enormously disproportionate ego?
Before you roll your eyes and think “great, another blog post about man-hating”, let me first contextualise this story.
My closest friend is genuinely the most wholesome person I know: she is soft with a strong backbone, she is kind with an eye for justice, and she’s just a good person, man.
She was also added to a group chat by some 32 year old who she went on a date with at the suggestion of a family friend. As far as I can recall from what she told me of said date, it wasn’t anything special. They split the bill and he laughed at her for wanting a career instead of to be a housewife (yes, that mindset is still alive and well, it would seem). This lad, who must have some sort of Freudian issue (seeing as she is a 21 year old student and he is at the age where he’s been paying taxes for a good five years at least), added her to a group chat called “casual flings”.
There are a total of 27 women on this group. So this is actually happening. And the worst part of it is how my friend told me about it. With a voice betraying the onset of tears and disbelief, she said that she is so ashamed. She is ashamed. She is. After listening to the voice note, I thought:
‘well, this is a new one. I haven’t heard of any guy so confident in his dating ability to add all of his ‘casual flings’ onto the same WhatsApp group chat’.
In my life as a student, I’ve aided the drunk friend when she went home with two strangers she met at Bohos (a bar in Stellenbosch), I’ve sympathised with the accounts of my sister ranting about getting cat-called by men in bakkies, and we shared stories about guys on the side of the walkway commenting on my “lekker boobies” as I walked to gym (wearing a hoodie in summer, in an attempt to hide my body from such verbal assaults).
I’ve listened to the tragic tale of a friend whose virginity was stolen on a beach in Bali during matric vac; a tale she had shamefully hidden for years in fear of being called ‘loose’. My female role-model was dating a guy she thought she’d marry, until she was not “religious enough for him” after sleeping with him to “prove how much she loved him” (that was his ultimatum, btw, ‘sleep with me to prove to me how much you love me’). If you’re a woman reading this post, none of these “happenings” would be a surprise to you. These stories may make you angry, and you may even relate to some of them, but none will be new. When people joke about ‘ rape culture’ or roll their eyes at the chanting social justice warriors singing “men are trash”, they’re rolling their eyes at my friend being added to a cruel and demeaning WhatsApp group.
They’re laughing at the names my sister gets called. They’re laughing at my anger and my experiences and my helplessness to do anything about it but call myself a feminist and share a few Facebook posts on “womxn’s empowerment”. Being the ‘act first, think later’ type ‘o gal (and totally unapologetic for it), I told my closest friend to send the following message to this ‘casual flings’ group.
When I saw her later that day, I told her how her experience, and the way she told me about it, was the catalyst sparking the words on this post. She doesn’t get to feel ashamed or teary talking to me about it. The girl raped in Bali doesn’t get to be called a slut for sharing her trauma. I consider myself a fantasy writer, and that is why I conclude this post by writing that I believe in the day when I can say “so that actually happened” and not feel stupid for using the past tense.
Kathryn van den Berg
When trying to come up with an alias for my blog, I turned to words people have used to describe me for inspiration. The term 'control freak' popped up in my mind, but I'm not that confrontational and opinionated (anymore...). And so came into existence a happy compromise between my A-type personality and sense of humour.
Kathryn is The Control Enthusiast.