#METOO 3 stories. 3 countries
#metoo 3 stories. 3 countries
I was 19. I decided to travel to Israel to work on a kibbutz. It was near the end of my trip when I had an incident which stood out in my mind and I haven’t forgotten. It happened in a market place in Jerusalem. In the middle of a crowded alley way I spotted a better than been there and got the T-Shirt Hoodie. It was blue with hebrew writing on it. It would tell the world how cool I was, I had to have it.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” the store owner asked as I bargained him down another 10 Shekels.
“Yes,” I said.
This wasn’t true, but I was not about to give the man any reason to make moves. He was giving me vibes. All I wanted was the hoodie. I didn't want a conversation. I didn't want a date.
“Good,” he replied, paused and then continued to say, “just make sure you let him fuck you in the ass.”
Thanks for the relationship advice.
I was drinking beer with a guy friend on my first night in Hanoi. A young Vietnamese guy sidled up next to me.
“I show you Hanoi city,” he offered and sat down down next to me on the bench.
I yawned, it had been a long day and I was dreaming about bed.
“No, thanks. Not now.”
I remember noticing his nails were long and dirty. I wasn’t used to boys with long finger nails. It made me feel strange.
“Don’t be tired, we will have good time!” The boy assured me. There was something about his smile I didn't like.
“Under the table the boy reached his fingers onto my leg. I pushed them away and moved down the bench. Three minutes later his fingers and his long nails were back. This time, he pushed his hand along my thigh and up to my crotch.
I stood up.
“We need to leave!”
“No, no don’t leave, I have a sister. Very pretty. You want to boom boom?”
I did not want to boom boom him, or his sister.
I work in an “up and coming” area of Cape Town. Our offices, although clean and safe, are around the corner from a Shebeen (a small informal liquor seller). Sometimes, I walk from my office to meet my friend at a cafe 100m down the road. I pass by the Shebeen corner. Every time I pass it, I avert my gaze. I hold onto my bag and I walk very fast.
“Hey Sisi, where you going?”
“Hello Sweetheart…” A drunk guy meanders out the doorway, nearly trips and beckons towards me.
I walk faster. I run.
I live in a world where I can’t work 100m down the road on a lunch break because I’m not safe.
The #metoo movement began on social media in response to the countless allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. If you haven’t seen #metoo scattered across the Facebook walls of the women in your world, I’m going to have to assume that you are one of the rare souls who aren’t on Facebook, or ignores it because you have better things to do with your time (you do!).
Alyssa Milano who initiated the hashtag wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
I don’t think we need a hashtag to tell us the problem is everywhere.
If a woman tells me they have never been sexually harassed, I don’t believe them for a split fraction of a second. Really? Really? No hooting cars when you walk down the street? No whistles when you walk around the corner in a skirt. No drunk colleagues you don’t want to be left with alone. Really? Can you tell me what planet you live on (and what their immigration policy is), because I’m THERE.
Here’s the thing, many of us don’t recognize harassment because it has become so normal. Sexual harassment is such a common part of the interactions between guys and girls that it is seen as…life.
Comments and inappropriate moves are something men do to women, right? It’s natural for men, right?
What is it with us humans? Even though we have big brains, our default stance is to wiggle ourselves into a comfortable position in a cosy group of similar friends and never think about anyone else’s world.
Many times I’ve thought, “hey, that actually wasn’t cool. I didn’t feel comfortable,” or “Yeah, that dude. I don’t like his vibe,” but instead of actually thinking it through or doing something, I’ve brushed it off and bought myself another drink. We shouldn’t brush things off without asking ourselves why our internal response said No.
I’m sure many of us have stood in circles where we don’t agree with what has been said but we haven’t done anything. I’m sure many of us have felt uncomfortable and not spoken up.
We have a cultural responsibility
I’m not a man-hater. I know lots of great (and respectful) guys. All of us, though, are strongly influenced by the culture and environment we are a part of. So, somehow we have to create a counter culture where harassment isn’t normal or acceptable.
What should we do?
I guess, awareness is the first step towards change? And awareness starts with a conversation; thoughts in places or circles where they may not have been before. Essentially, you and me standing for what is ok and what isn’t.
Change comes with respect. Respect for personal boundaries and respect for Nos.
Yes, guys hit on girls and girls hit on guys and if we didn’t there would be no babies. Listen, introducing yourself to me in the right setting and sensing if I want to have a conversation is ok. If I’m not interested, persisting to talk to me is not fine. Groping my ass as I walk past you in a bar is not fine. Pressuring me into sex, when I’ve said no, is not fine.
We have to do more than write on Facebook walls. If we want to take lunch breaks without catcalls, we have to start by saying something to the guy who slips his hand onto your leg when you don’t want it there. We have to change what we have pencilled next to men in our heads and put a new picture in its place. Change is everyone’s responsibility.
So tell me, because this is your story as much as it is mine, so #HowIWillChange?