harrasment


I heard about it ofter and thought it was a myth, but it was real and not only was it real… it was FANTASTIC! What am I talking about? The Cairo Metro.

The Cairo metro gets you to most places in the city for One Egyptian Pound. Yes you read right, 1 Egyptian pound. But that is not the beauty of this metro system. Nor is the cleanliness of the stations of the cars, since they were clean. Not a piece of rubbish in sight! The best thing about this metro system was the two women only cars! The thought of being in mass transit and not be harassed, jostled, touched or grabbed by a man was such a relief. I was so happy about this that I took pictures of this amazing idea. What was even more surprising was that I learned today that there are other places in the world where this is implemented.

Now this makes me both happy and sad. Happy that I can ride the metro in peace. Sad that it is necessary. I dream of a day when we wont need to segregate men and women for fear of violence. Until then, I will ride the women’s car when I can and complete my journey with one less thing to worry about.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Car

The Car- text on top reads "Women only until 9 pm"

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This morning, I decided I would take pictures of the waves crashing on the shores of Alexandria since the winds were high and that usually means dramatic waves.  Innocent enough, no?

However, this morning, and as I started my walk on the cornish the first encounter was lets just say expected. Having been in Egypt before I was no stranger to the harrassment on the streets of Cairo or Alexandria. Add to that, I had just seen the Egyptian film 678 last night in the cinema and, yes, you guessed it, it was about harrassment.

You may be thinking “What happened?” Well, let me tell you. An older man with white in his hair was standing behind a bus stop bench, and he had his penis exposed and he was massaging it and looking at me.  I stop and I tell him in my best Egyptian Arabic and sternest angriest voice something along the lines that this is ridiculous, put your shit away, what is this stupidity, besides there is barely anything there. And sure enough a second later as I look back (having walked away) he had zipped himself up again. I see a man in uniform a couple of steps away and I shout out to him and tell him there is a man playing with his dick and point him out to him. I keep walking.

Later and after some reflection and talking to my friend about this I made the following observations:

a- I was expecting this to happen.
b- Seeing an exposed man did not faze me in the least.
c- I was not upset by what happened but rather that I didnt have my camera out to take his picture.
d- I have learned to normalize and deal with sexual harrasment as a daily occurance.

My observatoins upset me because I believe that:

a- I have a right to go out into the world with the expectation of no violence.
b- I have seen so many unwanted exposed penises in the streets that it no longer shocks me when a man exposes himself to me in public.
c- The idea that I missed an opportunity to document such an occurance is upseting because I missed it. But also because the idea that I wanted to document it disturbing one and I am not sure why, I will mull that one over for a bit longer.
d- It upsets me that the normal state of my world and that of many women around me is one of sexual violence and harrassment.  And that it is so normal that I have with me an arsenal of tools and skills I use to combat it and not a day goes by with out the use of at least one of those strategies.

I have written about harrassment many times before and I will continue to write about it. The silence needs to be broken. Our bodies are not public property, they need to and should be respected. If you too have been harrassed you can have a voice too. There are many initatives around the world about this issue one that is in the making (and I work with) is objecDEFY, you can tell your story there too!

I was very disturbed about a month ago when I saw in my Facebook feed the following:

“Don’t ya just LUV when you’re walking in BROAD DAYLIGHT & some GUY runs up behind you, CHOKES you, RAMS his hand UP YOUR ASS, DIGS his fingers in SO HARD you’re STILL SORE hours later, DRAGS you to the ground so you CUT YOUR LEG & PULL a TENDON & he RUNS AWAY like the fucking COWARD that he is & you (think you) CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE DON’T LIVE IN THAT KIND OF WORLD… don’t ya luv when that happens?”

The first thought in my mind when I read this was this must be a story she came across when doing research for OD. This can’t be real, this can’t have happened to her. But it was real, it did happen to her and this is her story.

I am angry, I am tired and I am frustrated of how unsafe and unforgiving this world is for anybody who dares to claim her or his space, her or his rightful space in this discriminatory world. Especially when that space is one outside the “norm”. I am tired of walking out into the street in a bubble that is prickly and made of steel, ready to burst at the simplest provocation. I am tired of the friendly neighbor that had become a threat, the grocer that crossed the line with snears and lustful good mornings, the man on the scooter that thinks it’s OK to ogle you. And if you let your guard down, or forget your bubble and they get too close, they touch you emotionally, psychologically, and physically and scar you.

I have a right to my integrity as a being, to be here un-harassed, unharmed, to walk in the sunlight and enjoy the moonlight without worry of being followed, grabbed, pinched, catcalled or worse. I want to be able to walk down the street without my smile interpreted as an invitation. I want my rightful space and freedom.

I have spoken about this before and will continue to do so, Jackie and I have worked on ObjecDEFY (OD) for over a year now and we encourage you to break the silence as well and defy our daily objectification, let your voice be heard, share with us your stories and here is the starting point:  www.objecdefy.com. And if you can tweet the story, repost it on your blog, and tell everyone Jackie’s story because we need to break the silence.

Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Mouthing off- Anita Kunz

Yesterday I was in the elevator about to leave the office, I pressed GF to go down but instead it went up. It opened on the 5th floor and there a man was waiting. He was a construction worker and it was clear he thought that because of our varying class difference he should wait till I was done and call back the elevator. I thought that was silly, we both want to go down to the ground floor, and what a waste of time and energy. We are both human, what is this silliness of class and gender! But it seems the invitation to the ride the elevator meant that it was an invitation to harass. He looked me up and down, his pelvis made the slightest move closer and with a sly look on his face he winked. I shouted at him in the angriest and most assertive of my voices “NO”. His body crumbled and his demeanor became that of shame, he looked away and mumbled “Istagfur allah”, god forgive. We left the elevator.

This is the latest incident of a lifetime of incidents. I have normalized, and for too long, the harassment I endure at the hands of men. Growing up I have been stared at, touched, called out at and, and, and… but I learned to ignore, and become oblivious to it. I lived in a bubble where, in my mind, I was not objectified. Two years ago that changed. A friend of mine came to my house and started a conversation; she asked me “what do you do when you get harassed?” And I immediately said “I don’t get harassed.” What a farce, I get harassed on a regular basis, everyday is an assault of some sort, I just became very good at using defensive tactics that made me invisible, protected me, or just allowed me to disassociate from the stares, the following, the “accidental” brushing, the catcalling…etc.

Throughout the last two years I have worked with my dear friend on an initiative to combat this assault and take a more assertive stand on harassment. We are still working on it. While on this journey I have taken myself out of my bubble and taken notice of every transgression on my body, my being, my soul and I have reacted. I no longer disassociate but instead I engage by being more vocal, more aware and more assertive. Not just with the offenders but with other women too, learning from them and exchanging with them strategies, ideas and tools for dealing with the abuse. For example, last year I was walking down a street in downtown Amman. This man looks at my breasts lustfully and says in the sleaziest of tones “Shu hal ibizaz” (look at those tits). Had I been in my bubble I would have just kept walking without even hearing or acknowledging what he said. That is not what happened. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. I filled my lungs with air and started to tell him off in my loudest of voices, the point was to turn the shame towards him and attract attention to him (shaming the offender and exposing him was one the strategies we talked about and it worked). Being the coward that he was he quickly lowered his head and with a fearful and stricken look on his face he scuttled along quickly like the rat that he is, people were looking at him rather than at me and wondering what did he do, rather than what did I do. I walked away head held high knowing that I stood up for myself and countless other women. I knew that next time, as I am sure there will be a next time, this lowlife will think twice and maybe thrice before calling out at a woman.

These daily acts of violence and aggression, whether physical or not, mean that I have to change how I deal with the world and I hate it. I hate that men like the two I mention leave within me a bad feeling of distrust, anger, and aggression towards mankind. I hate that every time I try to be nice to a man he takes it as invitation to assault my being or body in some way or form. I hate that I have to always be on alert, on guard, suspicious of acts of kindness and withholding acts of kindness. But I have decided to turn that hate, anger and mistrust in to an act of empowerment.

I have experienced firsthand what the power of sharing, talking and exposing these acts of harassment can do, and so I am going to write, talk and expose these acts every time they happen. I will not be silenced, I am not a victim. It is my right to walk down the street with the respect and rights due to me and my body. And when those rights are taken away I will not wait for someone to “rescue” me or fight on my behalf. I can do it myself.

 

I had arrived at my doctor’s clinic on time and as is the case in any doctor’s clinic you wait. The appointments are packed back to back without any real thought to how much time an appointment requires. But that’s not my gripe today.

 

So knowing as we all do that there is wait, I took a book. I sat myself in a chair and strategically placed my backpack on the chair next to me, ensuring some space from other patients who like to sit close and start conversations about their ailments. And there I was pretty in my black suit, sitting cross legged, totally engrossed in my book when these two women appear in the waiting room. One sits across from me and the other thought about the seat next to me but takes the one to the far right. Immersed as I was in Iranian history and politics I barely notice her come up to me until she was upon me. Her big black coat open on either side of her like massive black wings of a bat. She stood over me and enclosed me with her coat and told me with an innocent smile on her face that I might want to modestify myself! And so I was accosted by a veil wearing coat wielding woman.

 

I was expecting this, overzealous moralists had tried to pull that on me before; and so I looked up at her and without batting an eyelid I told her thank you but I am fine the way I am. Her smile was immediately wiped off her face, her chest fell and flustered she slinked back to her chair. I turned back to my book and continued to read until the nurse called me in for my appointment.

 

What I had really wanted to do was to lecture this woman at how inappropriate her behavior was. What right did she have to impose her moral beliefs on me? How would she feel if I went up to her and told her I thought the way she dressed was inappropriate and that she shouldn’t cover her head? Who knew that the fate of this upright society rests on my bare legs?


This woman, in my opinion, has a filthy sex obsessed mind such that when she sees skin that is what she thinks. And its not her its everyone and anyone who constantly watches innocent people doing their own thing yet think the worst of them. They are constantly pointing fingers at others accusing them of immorality or indecency, yet to me, they are the filthy, dirty–minded and immoral ones.

 

Next time a woman comes up to me and tells me I am immodest I will ask her for her veil to cover my legs maybe that way we will both be happy!

 

I woke up yesterday to an inbox full of emails and postings about an article in one of our dailies. The article headline read something along these lines: “Campaign to counter homosexuality and the arrest of four gays”. I was appalled at the headline and was angered and disgusted by the article as I continued to read. Half way through I stopped reading. I couldn’t believe what this paper was doing. It was taking a case of prostitution and making it an anti-gay campaign all with misinformation and bigoted comments.

 

I cannot believe how irresponsible the writer is, calling him a journalist would be giving him a title that doesn’t befit him. He made it out that gay men are being rounded up, all of them are feminine and dress in drag or are taking hormone therapy and becoming transsexuals or as they are known here she-males. He cites a doctor who propagates more misinformation. Not only is story completely biased with no other opinion or side to it. It is full of misinformation and ignorance. I also think the editor-in-chief of this daily is very irresponsible for allowing such hate, such intolerance and such a piece of journalistic crap be put on the front page of his paper.

 

But am I surprised? This is the third incident I come across for this daily that has made me shake my head. There was the article about the genpets which my fellow blogger Humeid commented on extensively. There was the sexist article about women not being feminine enough because they don’t take care of their hair or cut it short, are fat or have gruff loud voices.

 

With every day this daily discredits itself in my eyes. It has proved time and time again that their articles are badly researched, biased, sexist, full of hate, misinformation, and sensationalism. I don’t understand how they think this will help them sell more papers since with each article they alienate, anger, and misinform a public that has many online and offline alternatives.

 

Back to the issue of the article, Jordan has no law against homosexuality so under what code it is rounding up gay men or women I don’t understand? Does the writer not know this? Does the writer not know that this a human rights violation and if this were the case this is truly where the story is? How the article misinforms the public that anyone who is gay has been raped as a child, and grew up with a domineering mother and a weak father figure, how every gay man wants to be a woman with a swish of hips, makeup, long hair and female names is just so ignorant of this community, laughable and sad. It is creating such hate, and misinformation that it is dangerous.

 

This daily needs to go back to school for Journalism 101 and really think about the messages they are sending out to our society and our people. Hate, sexism, ignorance, intolerance are not how you sell news, it’s how you destroy a society, it’s how you breed and perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, anger, intolerance and everything ugly we fight against.

 

If you want read these articles and some other responses to the postings follow these links:

 

Homophobic article:

http://www.alghad.jo/?news=370031

Sexist Article:

http://www.alghad.jo/?news=367942

 

Genpets article

http://www.alghad.jo/index.php?news=367113

 

Genpets Blog posts by Humeid

http://www.360east.com/?p=1063

http://www.360east.com/?p=1064

http://www.360east.com/?p=1066

 

Responses to Homophobic article

http://www.mohomar.com/mohomar/66323/2008/10/27/103843-

 

http://thewebsessed.com/2008/10/28/who-stole-your-cheese/

 

http://www.questler.com/explore/quest/view/1036

 

After reading these and the other comments and posting on the topic do something about it. Here is one quote I got in my inbox in relation to this article. I want to thank the friend who sent it. It is a powerful message that makes us all think about the world around us and the power we have as individuals to make a difference, even a small one.

 

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me. – Pastor Martin Niemöller

We have all received them those lovely letters that declare love, friendship, and eternal bonds, good fortune or bad… blah blah blah blah! Don’t you hate those chain letters, messages, Facebook posts…etc.? They are everywhere, and it’s annoying.

I remember being a child and receiving them in my school bag, let there anonymously and even as a child I was unimpressed. I played the game once or twice handwriting the 10 copies that we were supposed to send out before bad luck befalls us, or wait for our true love to reveal themselves. Today they have become a bit more sophisticated with issue relating to health, internet viruses, wealth and even Microsoft shutting down. 

What amazes me is the fact that so many adults continue to press the forward button and send these annoyances into the world. Well the letters die here. Any chain letter sent to me no matter how mushy, cute or touching comes to its final resting place with me, the recycle bin. If something is legitimate I don’t need something devised by a complete stranger being sent enmass from stranger to stranger to stranger until it reaches someone I know and I receive it! If I want to express anything I can do it for my self thank you very much. 

To all my wonderful friends who keep sending me that crap, know that I love you dearly, but I will NOT send back a friendship chain or forward any hacker, virus, money racket letters, or any mushy made up stories about cancer or otherwise. You can continue to send them even though I vehemently detest them (yes I am aware that these are very strong words), but they will not be returned no matter how special you are. So I love you dearly but cut the crap, and don’t feel the need to send this on. 

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