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On not just walking past

It’s Sunday. I go to a mall to get some art supplies. It’s an ordinary mall, outdated even, with strange linoleum flooring and an assortment of second-hand stores and haberdasheries. It’s the type of mall your gran goes to for wool, or other assorted items needed when growing older.

So imagine my surprise when I walk past a new framers and see the worst poster I have ever seen. It’s A3 size and pale pink: the sort of pink you see on little girls’ birthday cards, or pregnancy cards. It’s amongst a host of other coloured posters all with sayings made up by the framers’ staff. The font is serif, bold and large. The content of this particular poster is so shocking that I scream “WHAT!” very loudly, causing my boyfriend Mike to come spinning back to see what has happened to me, concern etched on his face.

“Keep calm and slap that bitch hard” is what the poster says.

I don’t even give Mike a chance to comment. He’s shaking his head and following me, as propelled by rage and shaking with it, I go to the door of the framers and bang on the door. It takes a few times for them to hear me because they’re drilling and building what I presume are the shelves where all the marvellous frames will go.

A middle-aged, dark-haired, white sweaty man comes to the door smiling. He thinks I’m about to ask when they’re opening, his eyes are filled with information just waiting to come out for potential customers. I don’t give him the chance.

“I’m incredibly offended by your poster. It is ridiculous that you would ever think something like that was funny. We live in South Africa for heaven’s sake — we have such high levels of violence against women I can’t even begin to understand why you thought this was OK. I mean, come on, every eight minutes a woman is murdered by her intimate partner. What were you thinking … ”

He interrupts me, his smile is gone and in its place is a rather stern frown.

“I’ll take it down. You’re the first person to say anything.”

I walk away, still shaking, unable to really focus on art supplies and trying to choose a pen unsuccessfully. When I walk back, the poster has been taken down. I go back to say thank you, he says “It’s a pleasure”.


  • Jen Thorpe

    Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing project called 'My First Time'. It focuses on women's stories of significant first time experiences. Buy the book on the site or via Modjaji Books. Jen's first novel, The Peculiars, came out in February 2016 and is published by Penguin. Get it in good book stores, and on