I step inside the stale community hall, get myself a cup of very bad coffee, and take a seat in the makeshift circle of chairs. I’m careful to avoid making eye-contact.
There can’t be more than 20 people here, split about half along gender lines. It would seem that misogyny is quite universal. The meeting is about to start. I gulp down the rest of the caffeinated sludge.
The group leader is identified by a lapel label, today our counsellor is Eva. Very appropriate name, I think. The introductions: Eva instructs us to announce ourselves clockwise from her. It is my turn, there’s a bowling ball in my stomach, there’s a desert in my mouth.
“Hi everyone, my name is Erick and I am an ex-misogynist.”
“Hi Erick,” everyone retorts.
The support group came after years of harbouring a kind of disillusionment with the patriarchal status quo. As a kid I thought women were powerless and seemingly content with it. It wasn’t until much later that I realised girls were socialised to be dependent and vulnerable.
I am engulfed in my own memories and reflections while Eva continues the scheduled group therapy for the day. I do not listen at all. I have been a bad feminist a decade and half ago. Then again, I was juvenile and hardly politically aware but my conscience demands that I issue an apology.
By the age of 20, I had noticed how women continued to be taught to be dependent on the assistance of males. I get sick when I hear someone uttering, “She cannot drive all by herself at night!” Women can also change tyres. Admittedly, changing tyres is no fun and I do not relish in that ability, it is a nuisance methinks everyone would love to avoid.
Don’t get me wrong, my name isn’t Mao Tse-tung and I do not enjoy seeing women suffering hardships in the name of egalitarianism as Jung Chang contends in her and Jon Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story.
I realise I was wrong to blame women for how they have been raised. I recognise the folly of my reasoning that attributed defencelessness to a feminine trait where it should have been attributed to a system of patriarchal norms whereby the woman is made to be a defenceless object.
The notion of the empowered and independent woman is far from new. Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox sang the signature womanpower song titled Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves. Countless other anthems followed by contemporary singers. I think I am not alone when I call for a radical change to the way we raise girls and boys.
I wake up from my self-reflection only to disrupt the group discussion asking if it is anti-feminist to use the word “bitch.” There’s a shrill silence.
“I am always hesitant to tweet the word. Has the word been liberated?” I muse.
The group looks at me reflectively. Some have expressions of sincere compassion as if I have just achieved catharsis.
“We need to interrogate this subject, good question Erick,” Eva says while swiftly moving on with the programme of the day.
I look at each of the group members and I am astonished that there are so few of us. A demure looking lady in a grey woollen suit smiles broadly at me and only then I notice the broach she’s wearing. I strain my eyes only to read, “This bitch bites.”
I found that very appropriate.