Imagine being uncomfortable because of who you are. The skin carrying you making you feel unsafe. The frustration, the build up and they go on to say ” why are you soo angry?”.
Imagine living a life where you feel like every street corner , not even the hidden places, just out on the street in plain sight is a warzone for you. Anyone could hurt you, even the friendly faces can’t be trusted. That old guy smiling at you who makes you think of your grandpa, yeah him too. Paranoid right? , yes yes most of us would describe it like that until you find yourself in such a situation.
Carefree, joyful, ever smiling and all giggly that’s how most of us were growing up. The pangs of adult life catch up with you way faster if you are a girl and then everything changes. Thé cat-calls in the streets, the glaring eyes that start following you around, the inappropriate language they start feeding your ears and then your young mind forced to mature, you begin to see life with the eyes of a woman and that little girl is just buried deep within mourning her premature demise.
Ten years ago l would have denied there are places that still had it this bad, l mean after all the awareness and work that has been done over the years to establish the rights of women you would think the whole world is on par. After having lived my whole life in my country and never having travelled l realised how shielded l had been and how grateful l was for having been a citizen of my nation. Of course we had our problems but respect for women was still very common.
I remember my first week the mixed emotions, the thrill of starting a new life in a foreign nation as well as the sweeping sadness that came with realising what l had left behind and how alone it could feel without family. Fear, well fear was not part of the bouquet until one day a couple of us got out of the residence on our way to church and we encountered two man who exposed themselves right in front of us, shocker right, yes we thought so too without realising that was going to be our new normal. As if that wasn’t enough for a 19 year old in a foreign nation without family the day spiraled even more as l was harassed by some guy as soon as l got into the bus because l had a dress on. What shook me the most was the idea that there were men and women right in front of me who could see how this guy was trying to touch me inappropriately but they didn’t say a word.
Okay enough of my stories, if l would retell them all l would need to write a book. I believe every girl in this country has countless sexual harassment stories from inappropriate exposure, being touched without consent, being called names and the most famous one ‘combien?’ which seems to be the only word most Algerian men can think of when they see a black girl. ‘how much?’, that’s the greeting ladies and gentlemen, being a black girl in Algeria your normal is being asked for sexual favors in return for money.
When we get to a point where perversion is the new normal then we can say humanity has finally lost its cause. Many times we complain and the answers are just infuriating. One time after speaking up after being harassed one guy answered me smiling ” c’est normal, c’est Algerie” he said, and yes l couldn’t do anything after that l just walked away feeling helpless and just so angry, so yes we are angry black women but we have every reason to be!
I remember one time a group of us describing our experiences of being in this country and would realise that the way our male counterparts saw the world was way different from us. Trying to explain how you are scared to go for grocery rounds just at a nearby market because you will be walking in a street with men exposing themselves and masturbating in the street, how you were scared you would be touched inappropriately while trying to buy a bag of rice or how you are scared of taking a bus because if a man stands next to you you are sure to get out of that bus a victim of harassment, how taxis scare you because you don’t know if you will reach home.
After last week’s incident of what happened at one of the student’s residence and how one of us stood up to start the conversation l realised just how deep this thing goes. I saw many women coming forward speaking their stories and l realised even our fellow Algeria sisters have been enduring this kind of animosity and perveted behavior. What can be done? Being angry doesn’t cut it because believe me we have been but nothing changed. How can this society be mended?
It’s more pitiful when l see young boys engaging in the same behaviour ,it doesn’t shock me though since that’s all they have known. Their mindsets moulded the wrong way, l wish there was a way this society would begin unlearning its ways and teaching its young the value of a woman and how she is to be respected just like anyone else.
I wish the generation preciding us would have it better than we have. In the global society not just here most men they find sexual harassment, cat-calling , tapping all harmless and playful to them but we ought to understand the mind is a malleable thing, it can be easily moulded by experiences. These action are traumatic to women and they always leave a taint on your soul. Most girls would confirm that after having such encounters they feel dirty and less comfortable in their skin. Feelings of shame, anger, embarrassment flood your mind and the worst of it all fear, you live in fear.
Sexual harassment is a real issue, a pervasive problem with a devastating toll on mental well-being and it should be treated as the crime it is because often times society downplays it. Most victim get into a phase of depression and anxiety. This unacceptable behavior deprives women on a daily basis of social and economic participation. You can’t relax and enjoy yourself without worrying about what will happen to you in the next minute. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) has become a new normal to a number women and girls in the world. Anytime you get into a bus and you feel someone close to you panic strikes because it has been a setting for many unpleasant incidents. There are a lot women in this society especially among us foreign students who are now living in some sort of induced paranoia state, even the friendly, decent people around us we can’t give them the benefit of doubt because of the countless horrors encountered.
One other problem that could be just as terrible as the harassment itself is the idea of bystanders watching all this happen and not say anything. Most times as a bystander you are in a position to help by making your presence known as a witness. Let’s not pretend as if we do not see what is happening or should we be in a position to judge the victim as well. Remember when you choose silence in the face of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Some would argue and say you provoke men by what you wear but countless women everywhere in the world have experienced harassment even I’m in the most decent of wears. The victim is never the problem, as a woman never feel like you deserve the injustice because of how you look it is never your problem when the society over sexualizes women. You can’t control how anyone feels or react to you being you, never blame yourself.
Men in the audience might be tempted to say ‘not all men’, when we gain the courage to start these conversations they are not meant to be an attack on all men but the perpetrators and a society that allows this behaviour to manifest and persist. A woman can never know you are not one of the creeps when she sees you in an empty street, she will just be scared. Make an effort as a man to make women feel safe around you we are already treading on eggshells most of the time.
It’s ironic that men feel they must protect women but for most part women must be protected from men…
Now after shedding light the question still remains, how can we mend a the global society so infested with pervesion?. How do we instill the ideology of respecting women and their bodies? How do we teach the young and how do we help the old unlearn their ways?
I sure do not have all the answers but all l know is when we come together as the informed part of society and take a stand against this monstrosity we can make strides in the right direction.
1. As a man be accountable for your brother, friend and other males around you. Do not condone bad behaviour
At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to provide for and protect women in appropriate ways….
2. Never pretend like you don’t see what is happening when you witness sexual harassment
3. Don’t blame the victim, it’s never about what she is wearing or how she walks or her God-given structure
4. The authorities should always take complaints seriously it’s not trivial even if l wasn’t raped
5.Lets not focus only on telling women to not walk around alone, or to always call a friend when they get into a taxi but put more focus on making the streets , homes, schools safer for them.
6.Awareness! Awareness! Awareness!. Never be silent even when the topic gets people uncomfortable. Let’s keep the conversation going until we see change.
The best protection any woman can have is courage...keep speaking up sis
I do believe all of you have solutions or ideas that might be put into effect into our societies that could help make women feel safer and respected. Your opinions will be greatly appreciated so do share in the comments section.
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people….
Compiled by Melissa Mungoni. Website https://justthosecerebrumhiccupsmoments.wordpress.com/2021/07/27/stop-it/