A Wee Serious Post
Warning friends. Beyond is a serious post.
To go ahead and preface everything, I should say (so my mom doesn't freak out) that I am fine. I am physically completely fine. I am just angry. I am shocked. And mostly I am angry.
Today while I was at a cafe that I frequent every weekend with some friends, I decided to go my own way and take a local taxi company (a well-known taxi company) two minutes down the street to meet my husband at the souk so that we could enjoy our weekend ritual of cuddling puppies for sale, eating sweets, drinking tea and reading our books.
It was broad daylight. People were around. I am not a stranger when it comes to going places and doing things on my own. However, this taxi driver, in five minutes, demolished my views about an entire section of a country I highly regarded, mentally disturbed me and made me sad for every woman who has ever walked this earth.
To put it lightly and to make a long story short, he grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go and then proceeded to pat my thigh in a very suggestive manner. I grabbed his hand and said "no! I'm calling my husband!". I'm telling you this because it makes me sick to say. It makes me sick to know that I even have to say that. That a woman should even be put into a position where she has to utilize her partner in life as an impermeable membrane from other men in society. Protected and saved. The fact of the matter is, if Justin had been there (which he couldn't have been and obviously it's not his fault) then this wouldn't have happened because the man would have seen my husband. Why must a woman have to be attached at the hip with her husband in order to keep men's advances at bay? It makes me sad that a woman cannot simply get into a taxi in the middle of the day and go two minutes down the street without having sexual advances, glances or comments. I'm telling you what he did and said because it needs to be out in the world.
I sat in the front seat.
People say, "you shouldn't have sat in the front seat of the taxi." I should be able to sit wherever I please.
That's getting very close into slut shaming/rape victim territory. You shouldn't have worn that dress, you shouldn't have made those suggestive remarks, you shouldn't have made it look like/sound like/intend as if, etc.
Whatever the case may be, a man has zero right to touch a woman or say things to a woman if they are completely unwarranted/unwanted. Obviously it goes the other way as well.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not a giant deal. I think of women who are sexually assaulted their whole lives or women who are raped and in comparison this is infinitesimal. I can't imagine the amount of anger and pain they must feel because I was filled to the brim with rage. And you know what? The first thing I did was blame myself. I shouldn't have sat in the front seat..but you know what again? It shouldn't matter. It's not okay what this person did. It will never be okay. A woman should be able to walk down the street/ride a bus alone/sit in the front seat of the taxi, etc. without worry they'll be harmed. I feel as if I am culturally sensitive here in that I cover up. I wear loose, baggy, covering, sleeved, cardigan'd outfits all the time in order to be sensitive to the religious culture here rather than a personal feeling of modesty. But honestly...what else is a woman to do? Never leave the house without her husband? Hide behind closed doors? Absolutely not.
I felt like my head was going to fill up with air and float away. I was in a daze. I wonder if everyone could have seen it on my face. Justin and our driver met us at the souk to pick me up and take us to the police station to file a report. Our lovely, friendly, amazing driver (a man from Sri Lanka) has taken me to the grocery store for ginger when I was sick, shown us his favorite restaurant, shared a tea with us and finally drove us to the police station to translate and show us what to do.
I felt like he was our beacon through this stupid sea of official looking corridors, lines and waiting rooms.
I was feeling torn because I knew that with this police report I was sealing this man's fate. He would most certainly be deported and would no longer be making the money he was making here. I felt like I was destroying him.
Justin brought up a good point. What if this is the beginning? What if, a year from now, this person does something worse and I could have done something to head it off? Our driver was right in saying that it doesn't matter. It was the right thing to do to file a report. The thing I will hate is that I have to go back to identify him and most likely they'll just pull him out of a room and say, "is this the guy?". I have to look into his eyes as they cart him away.
Why should I care?
But I do care. He is still a human.
And so am I.
And so are you.
Why can't we see one another as such instead of less than human objects? When I Google "women traveling", I hate that it comes up "safe ways to travel in _____", "how to safely navigate ______", "what to do if you are____ in _____".
I am still angry. I am still sad. I am still shaken. I am still disappointed.
I know this will go away. I know it will replaced with my usual zeal for people, places and experiences but for the moment I just want to pretend I live in a world where a woman (or a man) can walk down the street, ride in a taxi, take a bus without fearing anything.
So, no poop jokes in this post but it needed to be said.
But I will leave you with this:
“It is in all of us to defy expectations, to go into the world and to be brave, and to want, to need, to hunger for adventures. To embrace the chance and risk so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free.” – Mae Chevrette