So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.
Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.
A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.
He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.
What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.
Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.
Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen?
Somehow I doubt it.
And who cares about sex workers – aside from the fact that sex workers are people, that stigma hurts (like this very example shows – and hurts even non sex workers), and that sex workers deserve protections like anyone else.
But Osrin feels he’s being victimised. As reported by IOL, he made some remarkable comments worth examining.
During an adjournment, he told Weekend Argus he had wanted to speak to Joni to tell his side of the story, but had “not been given the chance”.
He was not sure “why I am being victimised”.
He’s “not sure”? I assume it has something to do with beating up a harmless, unempowered woman? And then further trying to justify it because he thinks she was a sex worker. So not only can he decide what “kind of person” a harmless stranger is, but he can then decide what that particular “type” deserves.
The married father of two, who lives close to where the attack on Joni took place, described himself as a “clean-living guy who loves sport, and who is completely involved in my community”. He also said he had never hit anyone before, and was prepared to face the consequences of his actions.
See, we love the narrative that only “bad” men, who’ve already shown how awful they are, can be awful to others. People don’t like knowing that even “clean-living guys” can think or act on sexist, racist, etc., ideas.
A powerful insulator of bigotry is the idea that bigoted ideas and actions are clearly the mark of Neo-Nazis, self-identified sexists, and so forth. But the major problem, for me, isn’t people who are so obviously awful: it’s those men who yell at women for not paying attention to them in the streets, it’s people who think being “colour/gender blind” is a virtue as opposed to recognising the ignorance of their being white or male, it’s people who claim to be not homophobic but think gays should be “less gay” in public.
Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that a man who’s never hit anyone, claiming to be “clean-living”, could do this. Such men do such awful things all the time.
I am glad he is willing to face the consequences.
“It has never even crossed my mind to hit a prostitute,” he added.
Well clearly it did, buddy.
“I hate people thinking that I am a monster because of this … I am not sure why Cynthia has trumped up all sorts of injuries either. I can only think she is going for some sort of payment, where she can leverage some cash…”
We should think he is a “clean living guy” who beats up harmless women, but don’t think anything bad?
Oh and he does a nice job of targeting her further by embellishing on the “she’s doing it for attention/money” nonsense, after beating her up.
“She’s probably thinking, ‘this white guy slapped me, great … here comes my Christmas box’. People do these things, you know.”
Tell us more, sir. I believe people also beat harmless women, but we don’t usually stand for that. People do these things, you know.
Veering between anger and remorse, Osrin at first categorically denied hitting Joni, but later said he had “felt terrible” afterwards…
But then he added: “I just slapped her once … and she did fall to the ground. She fell awkwardly and if she sustained any wound it would have been from falling. I picked her up afterwards as she had started wailing…” said Osrin.
Come on folks, he only “slapped her once”.
His neighbourhood was ‘full of prostitutes’, he said.
“I thought she was a prostitute. She was walking in the street at ten to ten in the morning. I told her to get out of my street and she laughed, and I thought she was giving me the finger again. For four years these prostitutes have been giving us the finger.”
So a strange man yells at you while going to work to get off his street and she’s the bad one?
Also: His street? Does it have his name on it?
Well, I guess “proper” women should use their teleportation spells to get to work lest they use Osrin Street.
Osrin alleged further that prostitutes in the area ‘flash their genitals at our kids, they lift their shirts and show the kids their boobs’.
Would someone please think of the children!
He said that after the incident he had seen a WhatsApp message from [Joni’s employer] Anderson saying that his domestic worker had been beaten up.
“I phoned him and said it was me. I felt terrible the whole day,” Osrin added.
A whole day?
“I just want people to know the truth, where I was coming from and what led to the emotional meltdown. It was not a racist or gender thing … nothing like that.”
The problem is that no matter how much a big white dude denies he thinks racial or gender-related things, we’re looking at him through the prism of a harmless woman of colour he abused. People who claim blindness of race or gender motivations for their beliefs are just that: blind.
Women targeted for their gender see gender; people of colour see colour. White men who say they don’t are not helping face the issues non-whites, non-men, etc., face specifically for those parts of their identity. You help by recognising your ignorance, not claiming your ignorance doesn’t exist.
Humans are complicated in their motivations: it’s probably not just race or gender that motivated this action. It was several factors. But to deny the impact of her race or gender seems to me wilfully ignorant of how abuse, bullying and intimidation and general human engagement works.
Would he have attacked a white man in a business suit? How does he know this business man isn’t a sex worker? The problem is exactly the association with a woman walking on the street and being sex worker. (Again, sex work isn’t the problem; it’s those who believe sex workers deserve punishment and hatred.)
“I just snapped. It is a result of the years of stress of having these people in our area.”
“These people”. No, this isn’t about gender or race! It’s about career options!
I guess sex workers can look forward to the “stress” of having even more angry men around them.
“I only hope some people will understand. I don’t expect forgiveness. I know I did the wrong thing. I am here at court to face the whole thing and I will accept what happens.”
I understand that this is a person I wouldn’t want my non-existent daughters around, because he might think they deserve a smack. So, yes. To that extent I understand.
If he means sympathies, he won’t get any from me. Men need to stop beating women. People need to stop thinking sex workers deserve awful things happening to them.
If nothing else, Mr Osrin has at least helped point out that even otherwise normal dudes can mistreat others with their fists and bigotry. It’s not just obvious villains who use weapons made of knuckles to target people who they think deserve it.