5 Stories of Sexual Harassment that Could Be Yours

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"We have the right to speak out...

...and we have the right to walk the streets without feeling afraid."

I’m not the kind of woman who likes to have it all. I don’t need it all. But, I am the kind of woman who wants the option to have it all—and by option, I mean the access, the freedom to do whatever it is that makes me happy.

Each and every single one of us is born onto this earth equally and yet are given different levels of access to that freedom. What determines that level of access depends on a number of factors—one of them being gender. Every woman reading this was automatically born with more limited access to freedom than any of our male counterparts.

Now, I have a feeling that there isn’t one person who would say “no” to more freedom. There is not one woman reading this who wants to walk this earth and feel inferior, vulnerable, or afraid.

With each man (or group of men) who throws a vulgar comment to me as I walk by, my confidence shrinks. With each set of eyes I feel on my body as I walk, my courage disappears. I’ve become ashamed of my body, of having a body.

And that is what really launched BabyFist. I’ve had enough of the sexual harassment on the streets of Palestine. It has robbed me of my freedom to walk the streets confidently and safely—and I want that freedom back.

Now, this is a very complex issue. So, to start tackling it we have to do one very important thing: we have to first acknowledge that it is a problem. Right now, sexual harassment is a social norm, it’s accepted as commonplace for women to step into the streets and have to deal with these things, to feel afraid and to feel vulnerable. And I realized that I also became very tolerant; I would bite my tongue, keep my head down, and pretend it wasn’t an issue.

But it is an issue. And it’s time to start treating it that way.

So, I’ve set out to remind women what I myself had forgotten: that we have the right to speak out, that we have the right to walk the streets without feeling afraid. I’ve set out to remind everyone that just as these streets belong to men, they belong to women.

We asked our readers to open up and share their stories. So, here we go: 5 stories of street harassment that could probably be yours:

1.

"2 years ago, a guy made a really inappropriate comment to me while I was on my way to school. He wasn't just a guy, he was an 80 year old man who I had seen all the time. Apparently, he noticed that I had a "nice chest," as he called it, and was staring at them like he had never seen a pair before. I managed to ignore his comment since he is an old man. Though, it is really sad that I have to accept that people like this exist, but it's even more sad that I'm used to it."

2.

 ''I work with models a lot for my fashion photography, so often we'll find ourselves walking around outside (neighborhoods, parks, cities, etc.) during the photoshoot. I honestly can't think of a single time where the models and I weren't harassed. Men have stopped their cars and opened their windows to watch us, taken photos of the model with their phones or camera, tried to direct the photoshoot and "teach me" how to take photos, followed us around, asked very personal questions, etc. Oftentimes, it gets so distracting and scary that we actually have to leave our location and find a safer place to shoot. So, not only is the harassment bothersome and distracting, but it also interferes with my business. The saddest part is that the models and I feel like we can only smile and nod, in fear of possibly angering the wrong person and putting ourselves in danger."

3.

3. "I'm a hijabi and my clothing is fairly modest. I was once walking home from university, minding my own business, when a guy made this extremely crass comment about my chest. It was a shock, to be honest, because it wasn't like I was wearing anything revealing. I'm not saying that tighter clothes are bad--I mean, you do you--but it's usually the excuse people in our society use. I dealt with it by giving him a look of disgust and just walking by, I guess."

4.

"I was 14 years old when I had my first brush with street harassment. That day I was at the vegetable market with my mom. 3 older boys walked by and whispered something really nasty in my ear and touched my arm. I felt the hairs on my body stand and I froze in fear. Not knowing what to do, I looked to my mom who was too busy picking out vegetables and didn't notice what had happened. I had no choice but to swallow my fear and move on."

5.

"I have a 7 year-old sister that I like to take on coloring dates at different cafes across the city. One evening she and I were on our way home, walking on the side walk. A car full of guys drove by and I heard one of them yell something about my body. I almost brushed it off until I realized that I was holding my 7 year old sister's hand in mine. Had she heard it? I don't know. But I felt the disgust rising in my throat to think that those guys would be crass enough to yell something with a child in the picture. It's sad to think that the little girl holding onto me with a coloring book in her other hand is going to grow up very used to this."

Yasmeen MjalliComment