Blog

Share Your Story

Share your street harassment story for the blog. Donate to fund our programs!

Buy the Book

Comment Policy

SSH will not publish any comment that is offensive or hateful and does not add to a thoughtful discussion of street harassment. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, disabalism, classism, and sexism will not be tolerated. Disclaimer: SSH may use any stories submitted to the blog in future scholarly publications on street harassment.

“I am a feminist, yet I am a victim”

In Stories, street harassment | on 04.30.12 | by | Comments ( 2 )

This article excerpt is cross-posted with permission from the blog Organica: The Story of an Arab American Girl.

I am writing about my everyday experiences as a single woman living in Cairo, Egypt. I travel independently, run my own life and refuse to allow harassment or male behavior hinder my life. I am writing about the price I pay for braving the road, the protests, the streets, and the sit-ins. I am writing about how my feminism feels helpless and often afraid.

Here it goes: my name is Hana and I am an empowered victim.

When I lived in the United States between 2006 and 2011, I used to dream about the day I’d move back to Egypt so that I could yell and shame every man who sexually harassed me on the street. I thought it would feel empowering. I was wrong. Not only is it extremely draining and tedious, it quite often takes a scary turn. Sexual harassers thrive on getting a rise out of their prey.

This is not an article on sexual harassment, but a glimpse of my life.

On the Road:

Everyday my mother looks at me with terror: ‘khali balak men nafsik winabi ya benti’ [take care of yourself my daughter] before I leave the house, and my response is ‘Mami haye7sali eh ya3ni? Mate2la2eesh’ [Mom, what do you think could possibly happen to me anyways? Stop worrying!]. But in reality, I’m wrong and she’s right. She should be worried for my safety. I am often instructed to reconsider my outfits when I am driving alone and I argue that I am not going to let men affect my choices.

The driver-to-driver harassment is rampant in Cairo. One time while in stagnant 6th of October bridge traffic, I was texting on my phone (traffic was at a complete standstill).

The driver in the car next to mine said: “I hope this phone falls on the car mat, so that you may bend down to get it, and I’d drive into you, ya know what I mean?”

I yelled “balash elit adab w 2araf’ [I don’t want disrespect and disgust], which he responded “ba2a keda?” [Like that, eh?] – And then he followed me to my house all while making further obscene comments.

There was nothing I could do to protect myself from this bully – I was helpless.

Protests:

I moved back to Egypt on July 5th. On July 8th there was a million man march and the beginning of a sit-in. That Friday was my first ever protest in Egypt. I dressed appropriately and took to the streets with immeasurable excitement. Given that I moved back to Egypt for the revolution, I thought nothing could taint my first experience in a protest – I was wrong.

A man approached with his three friends and asked about the color of my bra – apparently he preferred white ones. I yelled and said that I would scream if he said anything which made him and his friends laugh loudly – at me – declaring that I am crazy but a ‘hottie,’ and a crazy-hottie combo would be great in bed. I pulled out my pepper spray but it failed to reach my monsters.

The day continued along the same lines, I got groped several times, one of which was actually from the front (I did not know that was even possible), and another by a 12 year old CHILD who I caught and yelled at. I was scared and felt vulnerable although equipped with my knife and pepper spray. There was nothing I could do and it felt awful.

The Streets:

There is no ‘that street’ story because there are countless street stories. They all revolve around the same thing: being verbally and quite often physically assaulted by men. Forget the catcalls, and the comments (I was once told that I am attractive, but would be much more attractive if I lost some weight), but the physical harassment is unbearable.

My street story is by no means special. I was walking home, turning at a corner, when a man’s hand came out of a car window and groped me (it was painful). The car had 4 or 5 guys and I could hear them laugh at my humiliation. I continued walking, feeling disgusted when the car appeared again, and one of the guys in the car so kindly suggested that it was obvious that I wanted to get groped again.

Yeah, that felt awful too.

Reality:

The worst thing that I face as a woman who refuses to let such actions hinder or inhibit her is the feeling of helplessness. I am a feminist, yet I am a victim. I know for a fact yelling back or even screaming at harassers is effective, some do actually apologize when shamed, but I also know that NOTHING will stop these men except actual punishment. I am a woman who never uses the metro, microbuses, buses and I rarely use taxis, yet I face this much harassment. I can only imagine what the women who do use public transportation face on a daily basis. I presume I’d have to multiply my experiences by a hundred.

I do not pray often, but I pray that the day comes when I feel safe walking the streets of Egypt; I walk them now anyway, but I feel weak, vulnerable and helpless and it feels awful.

-An Egyptian Woman.

Share on Facebook

Post to Twitter

Share
Share your street harassment story.

2 Responses

04.30.12

You’re incredibly brave and I really admire you for tackling this horrible crime the way you do. More power to your pepper spray. :)

04.30.12

I am so sorry that every day is so hard. I admire you for continuing to fight the good fight.

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required