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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“Is there another boyfriend inside? I will kill you!”

Again, I found myself with the police in my backyard…
The ex-boyfriend of my neighbour girl came back last night.
Almost everyone of us, were fast asleep, so I felt like somebody dumped a bucket of cold water onto me when I was woken up. I was like: “What? Where? Who?”
I tried to sort out my thoughts and think about what to do. First thing, of course: Calling the police! I called them, while I was standing behind the curtain and there I saw this guy with a big brick in his hand, shouting something I didn’t understand and smashing the brick again and again against the door until the lock was damaged and the door opened. I thought my neighbour girl was not at home because I didn’t see a light the whole evening, but when the door went open I saw her with her baby on the arm crying. And this guy just throws the brick at her……fortunately it just hit the fridge. I was screeming to my boyfriend: Get out to her! He is attacking her! The same moment somebody was saying something in my ear: the police on the phone. I totally forgot about that. I tried to explain what’s going on there. The policeman was just like: “Ok, Give me your number, someboday will call you back!” And I thought: “What the hell? Somebeody is calling me back? Somebody has to get to this place!”
Of course, nobody called back.
In the meantime our teenage neighbour boy ran out as well. In that moment the ex-boyfriend ran away, but throwed another brick at this boy so that he got hurt on the hip. After that, everyone of us got in the house and for a moment we were just sitting there. Thinking about if this happened for real, again?! We called our neighbour which came immediately. He called the police and they said that they can’t come right now because they are short on vehicles. What??? They said, they have just one vehicle for the night! No, no, no…is this a police station or a charade? Eventually they came. Five police officers. They were more interested in that case than the last time, but I thought they were standing there for ever while they should go and hunt this guy. Interestingly, after a few minutes came another car – a pick up – with two other policemen. They wore a different dress. They took a look at a picture of this guy and went off. Later, we found out that this was the armed combat unit – the hunting guys!
For safety reason the police took our neighbour girl and her baby to the police station to give her shelter during the night.

This was the night and now it’s the morning.
It’s just one sentence who’s in my mind. It’s the sentence this guy shouted at his ex-girlfriend: “Is there another boyfriend inside? I will kill you!” So, again I think about gender! Of course, the majority of men don’t act in this violent way, but this guy did and I am sure this is not the only one.
Unfortunately, Botswana is also famous for the so called “passion killings” were jealous boyfriends kill the lovers of their girlfriend or/and the girlfriend and then commit suicide. Sure, to catch the girlfriend with another guy is bad, really, really bad. But is this a reason to kill them and commit suicide? Certainly, not! The problem of that whole scenario starts way before!
For example, there was this case in Mochudi were a guy killed his girlfriend. He removed her heart and put it on top of her chest. After that the guy commited suicide. Since then this place is called “Ko pelong”. The place where the heart is.

What is it that people get furious like that? Why can’t they deal with their feelings?
And in our case: Why does this guy care? He already made another girl pregnant. If our neighbour girl should have another boyfriend now, wouldn’t it be her right? They broke up!
When is a relationship over? Only, when the guy says so? Or is there never really an end, while people want to keep up the possiblitiy in coming back? And is this maybe part of the reason why one could speak about sexual NETWORKS, because they can be activated at any time?

In between

This post is a tough one because it shows how thin the line is between being a social anthropologist and just a an “ordinary” person who is raised in her own specific culture.

Yesterday, I was witness and participant of an incidence of something I feel difficult to put into the right words. It just happened in my backyard.

There live lovely people. A young woman, her little baby of less then one year of age and her younger brother, a smart teenage boy of fourteen years.
The father of the baby, who never took care of the baby, was threatening her several times during the day. All of a sudden he wants to take his baby away. Take what – so he says – belongs to him. As far as I know, if one couple is not married, the baby belongs to the mother.
So he came during the evening again – drunk. She chased him away and locked the gate. A little later he came back. He just jumped over the fence, just to claim that he will take the baby with him.
The teenage boy knocked at the door and asked for help. We went over. I told this guy to leave this yard, because it is also mine. He refused, of course. I told him that I will call the police. And he said: “Yes, do it: they will tell you that the law is on my side”. So I did, but the number was not working. How crazy. So I went to our neighbour asking for help as well. She kept on trying to call the police, but no reception (Later, we found out, that they changed the number). So I called my hostfather, the only person I could think about in this situation, as he is a person of respect. He rushed to our place and tried to mediate in that case. It didn’t help. This guy was just insulting the mother of that baby and me as well. I think, he didn’t like that this white woman told him to go.
So he got more furious and said he will take then at least what else belongs to him: his chicken. He went to the cage to get them. They made incredible noise. He was holding them on their legs. In the meantime another neighbour came to mediate and he wants to talk to him to let the chicken there. All of them were trying to calm him down. But his person was full of anger because he didn’t get what he wants. A fights start between him and the neighbour. I can’t tell exactly how one step leads to the other, but all of a suddne the drunken guy beat the chicken to death by smashing them on the ground, again and again ( I can’t find other words for that). Long before, I stepped aside because I think I couldn’t handle it. Even if I tried to show civil courage to a certain point. There were happening some things which go beyond my understanding. This I had to realise because of being a social anthropologist. In my head was just one question: “What is going on here?”.
Finally the guy went away. Disapered into the darkness carrying his dead chicken and a stone with him. We decided to go alltogether in our house, so that our neighbours are save.
Ten minutes later, the guy came back to take more chicken. We called my hostfather again and he rushed straight to the police. After ten minutes they were here at our place. They were three policemen. I felt like they were rather suspicious then they wanted to help. Maybe they also didn’t like that there where white people involved. One of them was in my eyes very unprofessional because he scanned me from the top to the toe. Later, when he passed by me to go the house of our neighbours he was kind of whispering: “How are you?”, still watching at me. The only answer I could give was: “I’ve seen better days”. But I thought: “Really? What is that guy up to in that situation?”
The police went away without doing anything. They said, that they can’t do anything. And my hostfather said as well. “We can’t do anything. This is a family issue.”
“Is it?” I am asking myself.

Now, that this incident happened one day ago I still ask myself what exactly is bothering me about that.

Foremost it is because this woman is treated from this guy like she’s not worth anything. He – because he is a man – has all the right to claim what he wants, even to the extend to get abusive. This is not meant to blame men, but someone who would deny this is an issue of gender didn’t get the point. How can a man just claim something? With all that social-anthropological background I know how a man can claim, but that doesn’t mean that it has just to be accepted. What is gender equality? This situation is not about me, but even me I felt insulted on the one hand of the drunken guy and on the other hand of  the policemen who was scanning me. So, I know that I can leave this country if I don’t like how I am treated, but what’s with that women who live there? Where does gender equality start? Who is responsible for that?

This post is not supposed to be neither analytical nor really self-reflexive. It is a drama what happened to this neigbour woman. And I am compassionate about it, not just because she is my neighbour or I am a woman, too. I am compassionate because I am already part of the network I am searching about. So the life of social anthropoligists is far away from being like a satellite who flies around the earth. This incidence stroke me personally and professionally. It raises different questions of how and why things happened the way they happened. Especially it challenges my understanding of gender roles and how to get along with such different understandings between the sexes?
And I ask myself what kind of responsibility I do have to get along with that thin line of being a social anthropologist and a woman born and raised in Europe.