The Vagenda

My Month Of Feminist Hell


(…we need to get this girl to feminist rehab, pronto – Ed.)

Over the summer, I fell in love with a South African man. He was funny, he was sweet, handsome – and, most importantly, he let me be me. If I put on weight, he didn’t care, he just said there was more of me to love. If I ranted and raved about the over sexualisation of women, the oppression of woman, slut shaming, body image or the stereotyping of women drivers – you name it – he supported my opinions. He was, all in all, a perfect addition to my life. He didn’t moan when I scoffed four desserts in a day (which is most days), he thought I was just as sexy in ugly holey tracksuit bottoms and a hoody as he did in lingerie and he NEVER told me what to do. Then he had to go home, his visa had expired and I swore I would be out to see him over Christmas, and stay for three months.

And that is exactly what I did. I took a gap year (yes, I know what you’re thinking, I took a gap year and put my life on hold for a boy, but hey, it was relatively cheap travel and an excuse for an extended holiday) I arrived in Africa on the first of December, excited, and ready to see my boyfriend. Instead, I was met with his mother and his sister. Oh. While I suffered the four hour journey from Capetown airport to their home minus my boyfriend, I encountered my first of their many anti-women comments. From women. There was a sex worker on the side of the road, a common sight for me as I live in a city, but not so for them. Their response? “She needs to be stoned.” Erm, EXCUSE ME?! I do not fucking think so. We are not living in an age where stoning people is an acceptable punishment for a girl trying to make a living.

But this was not the worst of it. What came out of his sister’s mouth nexting is “she deserves to be raped.” They were an extremely religious family, so how in the name of all that is Holy can a ‘Christian’ woman condemn another woman to be raped? It’s genuinely the vilest thing I have ever heard. And what of the men that paid said ‘prostitutes’?, I asked. Oh but no, they were, OF COURSE, A-OK. Men ought to sow their seeds, they explained. Woman, meanwhile, should remain pure until marriage. Considering I had spent the summer shagging her son with no ring in sight, I was cringing. As I sat silently in the back seat , I wondered how exactly I was going to get through this trip. As it happens I didn’t.

Upon arrival at their house (we had to go through electrified security gates, with ARMED guards, I kid you not), I greeted my boyfriend, and felt a lot calmer. Until, that is, they explained their diet. The diet I was EXPECTED to follow. It eliminated carbs, processed sugar and soy. And any meat of which the animal may have been fed soy, which left only turkey and fish on the menu. With pumpkin. And peas. Every single night.

I was expected to pray before dinner, which seemed a tad pushy to me, as I wasn’t religious, and they knew that. I did it however, out of respect. The next morning, after spending our nights in separate bedrooms- go figure- my boyfriend and I went out for breakfast, as all that was available in their house was rye bread and millipap (literally a tasteless mush that looks like mashed potato, but is a lot harder) All I had eaten in the last 48 hours was the crap they serve on the plane, and a minimal amount of turkey and pumpkin (I hate peas.) I ordered waffles for breakfast, with bacon, syrup and sausages. My boyfriend raised his eyebrows at me. I proceeded to stuff the whole thing in my face and order a huge cookie to go. Another raised eyebrow.

Later, as I sat on his sofa devouring the cookie, his mother came to talk to me. Picture a 7 stone, 5’8 woman, and that is her. She told me that women who eat sugar have an increased risk of cancer as it combines with the hormones and increases the growth of cancer cells. What the fuck. I continued eating my cookie, trying to ignore the horrible fact that she is suggesting women who have suffered from cancer brought it on themselves because, cake. She then proceeded to tell me that if I put on weight men wouldn’t find me attractive (I’m a size 6-8).

Well blow me down. I never thought it was my job to keep a man interested in me. Being an unhealthy weight and starving myself to make myself appealing to her son? I think not. This was coming from a woman who subsists on a diet of juice, whiskey and turkey.

I could go on to list every woman-oppressing, racist, homophobic comment they made over the time I was there, but I will jump straight to my favourite ones.

They got me a book for Christmas about a prostitute who is redeemed because she lets in ‘God’s love’. They told me I was corrupted for reading Fifty Shades of Grey. My boyfriend poked my stomach and told me I was putting on weight. I wasn’t permitted to swear or blaspheme, or talk about drinking culture or partying. I was told, by a woman that has a maid, has massages twice a week, and her hair and nails done weekly, that housewives have it easy. I was told not to wear crop tops. I wasn’t allowed to mention my top exam results because woman were not meant to be intelligent. I was introduced to everyone with the end line “Isn’t she pretty?.” Like a trophy.

I cannot describe how oppressing the environment was. As a woman, I was not allowed to give an opinion.

I left my boyfriend, and was abandoned in a foreign country. I had to make the four hour journey to Capetown airport by myself, in a country known for its violence again women.

I don’t know what happened to my boyfriend, or why he suddenly changed. Maybe he was just as controlled as I was in that house.

I don’t regret going, I know more than anything now that I am not a trophy, that I am not a weak and feeble damsel in distress. I am a woman, and I am stronger and better than any man that thinks a woman should cut out sugar to be his perfect trophy girlfriend. I lasted exactly one month, which I think I deserve a fucking medal for, frankly. I knew people like this existed, but until I met them, I never quite realised the level of hatred and disdain that exists for women in this world.

When I fled the house, I left my empty pill packets in plain view.

- BK

10 thoughts on “My Month Of Feminist Hell

  1. I hardly ever comment on blog, but felt compelled to for this. This sounds awful BK and I wish I could give you a hug.

    I really hope you’ve found something/someone better to do with your gap year!

  2. I’m sorry you had such an awful time – these people sound absurd and completely bonkers!

    Just have to reassure you that, as a Capetonian South African, I can tell you that we’re not all like this! Yes, there are many prejudiced people (as with all countries), and the crime rate is high enough that high walls & alarm companies are the norm, and sexism is fairly common, but I promise, South Africans aren’t all crazed bigots like this. It seems like your bad luck to have ended up with the family from hell. Not only that, but areas further away from the city tend to be very traditional in outlooks and in food choices (ie meat, rice & potatoes) so you ending up with wierdo foodies was another stroke of bad luck. What a pity your boyf couldn’t have warned you ahead of time! He must have known there’d be issues. I guess you’ll have to see it as a learning curve (leaving the Pill packets behind is a good one, though).

    Btw: Mieliepap/Mealiepap is maize made into porridge (kind of like fine polenta), and there are many ways to prepare it. When it’s thick & unsweet -stywepap – stiff porridge – it’s usually served with things like barbecue (not personally a fan either). Otherwise it is a breakfast food like oatmeal. Can also be used in cooking. Love it or hate it, it IS a South African staple, and it can taste nice – promise!

    Good luck with your gap year, and congrats on surviving those nutjobs!

  3. Urgh, this sounds truly frightful. And how on earth are these poor prostitutes supposed to survive long enough to “let in God’s love” if they’re raped or stoned to death on first sight?!

    I’m so sorry you had such an awful time

  4. I promise you I don’t tar all South Africans with the same brush, I met some truly wonderful people- hey, even one of the parents friends I bumped into post break-up said what a nut job his mother is! Sadly when I met them in England they disguised it from me, and I got thrown in right at the deep end.

  5. As a South African woman I can tell you that it is very common to hear anti-women comments by women in this country. My friend and I were discussing this the other day. We realised that it was mainly women who were trying to coerce/harass/shame us into getting married and having babies. Our achievements in our studies or careers, contributing to our communities by doing volunteer work, contributing financially to our families’ well-being, etc. mean nothing if you are not married with kids by the age of 30.
    I know several women who are drug addicts with abusive boyfriends who are praised just because they “did the right thing” and had kids.
    My boyfriend (who is Irish and lives in the UK) and I also had to sleep in separate rooms when he came to visit my family, despite the fact that we were in our mid-twenties at the time. In fact, I slept in the same bedroom as my mother, on a spare bed she had moved there especially, so that she could watch me carefully.
    The oppressive, harmful ways in which women are treated in this South Africa is just one of the reasons I do not want to live here anymore.

  6. Where did you find these people?! You came to SA and found a religious family that starved you instead of trying to fatten you up?* Madness.

    Must say I had a giggle at the sleeping in separate rooms. My BF and I need to as well, even though everyone knows we stay over at each other over weekends and are both over 25. Something to do with respect.

    *Based on a true story, many of my ex’s mothers would be offended/ think there is something wrong with their food if I didn’t go for seconds. Also, most of SA staple foods are notoriously fattening! There is even a dish which is, literally, fried fat!

  7. At college, I had a friend who’d just moved over from SA. Her stories made me feel immensely lucky. She was amazed we all got the bus to college alone (we were all about 17), because in her hometown, it wouldn’t be safe. She was also amazed by the outfits she saw girls wearing; she was always modestly dressed in jeans and high necklines, and often long sleeves. She told me that if you dressed like British girls in SA, you were at risk of being assaulted. Her hometown was an immensely religious community, which perhaps added to the modest dressing, but she certainly had a wildly different upbringing to the rest of us.

  8. I think what your ex is is an easily dominated guy. He let you be you without complaint, just as he let his mother be who she was. The problem is that his mother outranked you in his hierarchy and there wasn’t a hope in hell that he would stand up to her. And you can be guaranteed that he will end up marrying a woman exactly like his mother, because she won’t accept anything else for him.

  9. Reading this was like reading someone telling my own story – I went through something uncannily similar, i.e. falling in love with a South African, his visa ending and him leaving. The prejudices of his mother and sister were so strong that they wouldn’t even let me go out there to visit him – he rang me a week before I was due to fly out and told me that we had to break up because his family wouldn’t accept me. They had somehow gotten into their heads that as a modern, London woman, I was corrupt, immoral and evil and would turn their son the same. They slowly poisoned his mind with this, even going so far as getting a priestess in to giving their house and their son’s soul an exorcism from my witch-like evil powers I’d cast over him, making him bathe in holy/blessed milk. They even got in a fortune teller who said that I was evil and if he stayed with me, then I would leave him for another woman soon after we married (what the actual fuck). The same soothsayer also said that I had had previous lesbian relationships in the past and would never be able to stop loving women – in their eyes, being gay is a sin, and this is what, ultimately, led him to leave me; the fact that he chose to believe the fortune teller over me in whether or not I was attracted to women is ridiculous in itself. His mum also said that she psychically knew I’d slept with a black man in the past – apparently that’s also a sin of the highest order to them.

    Though it caused a lot of heartbreak at the time, I’m glad I got out of that toxic relationship, poisoned by backwards and idiotic beliefs from the family. I think we’re both very lucky to have gotten out when we did.

  10. Being a bloke and reading this article, I am disgusted at the treatment of women in Capetown. “She needs to be stoned” that woman needs to be taught to respect other women who aren’t so fucking religiously fanatical as they are