No means no! Maybe!

The no means no just became not to a simple statement of truth but a question to me when I went to a club two weeks ago.

There, I have been harassed not only once, nor twice, but thrice. Also, I would call it a sexual harassment. I haven’t been touched improper or been „pushed in a corner“. But the way those guys approached me was definitely sexually motivated. Well, they can try! For sure! But if a no comes over the lips, it is a no. I thought so. But it wasn’t. Instead, they were trying to get closer or laughing (about me). One of those guys said: „Don’t be so selfish“. Huh! Selfish?! Maybe it was meant to be a joke but I didn’t get it. A no means a no. To the other one I said: „I am not interested at all. And I don’t want that you are coming over and standing next to me. Go away!“ His answer: „Why? Come on! Come on!“ And I said: „Why? Because I don’t want to.“ He didn’t go. So I did. But just a little later, there he was again. And I said to him again: „What didn’t you get of my ‚I don’t want to?‘ I am not interested at all! A no is a no. So: back off! He again: „Yah, but I am interested!“

Others, I was telling about it, said to me: „You have been to polite.“ Maybe I was. First of all, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that those guys think they can act on me like I would be an object which can be used for their amusement.

The third guy didn’t say anything. He was only following me around the dancefloor. Just, when he was next to me I changed the place and at some moment I thought maybe I am just imagining that he was following me. But all of a sudden, there was another guy in front of me and said to me: „Hey, I saw that this guy follows you around since twenty minutes. If he gives you any trouble and you need help, I am just right over there!“ That was nice, and honestly spoken, it gave me some of my security back which I lost. But my second thoughts of this scenery just made me mad because is it still like, that a woman needs a man to get rid of another man? Or in other words spoken: Is the no of a woman not the same as the no of a man?

What I haven’t mentioned yet but what is of some importance is, that those guys had a different cultural background than I have. At this point, my anthropological thinking got activated. I memorized some scenes I experienced in Botswana and stories Batswana girls have told me. There indeed, a no is not always a no. It can be part of a game and it can be a necessity to find out about the aspirations of a man: is he really into it or just trying to make the best deal out of it?! But what does this mean for my life in Germany? Do I have to accept that these kinds of cultural differences are there and that a no is not a no? Is this part of a tolerance I have to live with? Do I have to understand this?

The thing is, I can understand where the attitude of those men is coming from but I don’t want to understand it. And I don’t want to tolerate it.

I don’t know if I am overemphasizing this whole story but it sticks to my mind since two weeks because those men were trying to interfere in my integrity as a person. If they would have tried once and than accepted my refusal it would have been a totally different story, but they acted like they would be superior, like they have the right to force their interest onto me. Of course, they didn’t thought that far. This is not the point. The point is: a no has to be a fucking no. Otherwise, I could have said: maybe.

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I don’t want to be a lekgowa, but damn: I am!

Earlier on that blog I wrote about being a white woman in Botswana. For quite a while I didn’t think about it, but the last days I was confronted with that topic again. This time it was much about less being a white woman, but just about being a white person – a lekgowa.This is how Batswana call a white person in setswana.
Of course, I cannot change the colour of my skin and I neither want to. And of course, too, it’s just normal to arouse interest. People ask themselves what is that lekgowa doing here in Mochudi. She lives here. She drives just a small car. She does not have a maid. Her kid is going to a local nursery school. What’s up with her?
Normally, white people don’t live in Mochudi (expect of a little hand full of volunteers who work in different non-governmental organizations). White people (makgowa) live in the high end parts of Gabs like Phakalane. With fancy houses. And big cars. Even myself recognized that if there’s a big car the chance is big that a white person drives it. I don’t like that kind of lifestyle. But this kind of “white people’s lifestyle” leads to that specific impression of a lekgowa. And I have to get along with it.

I had some various experiences around being a lekgowa with my friend Tumelo.
I met him again at the University. When we got some lunch for ourselves the young guys behind the counter started talking to my friend, looking once in a while at me. When we sat down around a table to eat our lunch he told me, that they asked him: “So, you are with a white girl?!” And how that goes along. He tried to explain to them that it’s not a fancy thing a all and that I am a person like everyone else. Tumelo said that they don’t really believe that. There is this “superior-inferior complex” in some people’s mind.
This goes down to relationships, sex and love again:
Girls want to be fancy (fancy clothes, fancy jewelery, fancy gadgets, etc.) because they think white people are like that. And who can blame that. There are a lot of makgowa who are like that. But not all are like that. Everyone should consider that.
Tumelo asked me if girls in Germany are fancy (e.g. materialistic), too. Of course, there are, but not everyone. One thing I love about Germany is that variety in lifestyles is key. So I told him that and said: “Look at me am I fancy? Certainly not!”
Concerning that “superior-inferior complex” I recognized for example that a lot of – I mean really a lot of – girls and women wear perukes. Once I recognized, it’s like perukes are all over the place. And of course, this perukes are all with straight hair.
Tumelo laughed when I said that, but he agreed that this goes along with admiring makgowa.

If there's any single Motswana girl out there who 
reads this post and wears a peruke: "Please,
tell me why? I would love to have curly hair, 
but damn I haven't!"

When I talked to a female interview partner she confirmed that, especially, in Botswana girls wants to have light and flawless skin. This is the ultimate sign of beauty!
And guys go after white women because it comes with a kind of prestige and status. Tumelo told me that if he would introduce me to his guys no one would really speak to me because they wouldn’t know about what to talk with a white girl.

White people are considered as special. This is something a lekgowa has to live it, though I try to introduce another perspective. My family and I were invited to a graduation party from a young women who just had made her Bachelor Degree at University of Botswana. To some extent we were invited because we are white. I recognized that when we were told to sit under the white tend right next to the elder Motswana men and we were served with food amongst the first people. I really felt honoured about that because I believe that it’s not just showing the community that this woman who graduated knows makgowa but also that this hospitality comes from the heart. I tried to honour this hospitality in that way to answer in setswana as best as I could (which is reall not much for now :-)) and show my respect for being provided with delicious food and also some traditional beer by talking to the old ladies who cooked since the early morning and brew the beer over the course of five days. Later, when the party went on, we exchanged our place under the tent with the space behind the house, were the real party was going on. This was, where the young people hang out and all of a sudden my family and I were in the spotlight of everyone. I felt like a celebrity because the girls and some guys came with their cellphones to take pictures. And they said “Lekgowa, lekgowa. We like you!” After the first euphoria was over I tried to intervene. Everytime someone called me lekgowa, I said:”Stop it I’m not!”. “But you are a white!”. I said: “Yes, I am, but I am far away from that image of a lekgowa!” They looked at me, like: “What the hell is she talking about?”.
So…I don’t want to be a lekgowa. But damn: I am!

A little afterword: I know that this is a very sensitive topic due to colonial past, so this is not meant to blame the people here! I just wanted to show my own personal experiences.