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"

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!

 

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