Saturday, December 09, 2006

Street Hassle

OK- I haven't put a moan in about this yet- but it has to be done. There are LOTS of policemen standing about the streets, outside banks, hotels etc etc. And they do, I believe, 12 hour shifts. Just standing there- can you imagine it. I pity them- I really do.

BUT.....

That does not mean they don't piss me off totally by commenting, whistling and occasionally even following me up the road. Really- I am sure I probably am the most exciting thing they have seen in the last 12 hours.... but the lack of self respect or restraint is depressing- and at times even threatening.

Through Ramadan it was easy- if a comment was made- especially through daylight, I would reply with 'Ramadan Kareem' which often made them remember themselves and stare embarresingly hard at their own shoes..... one guy even went into huge apologies- guess he felt that way he wouldn't have to add on another day of fasting in apology to God.
But now... to be honest- I try to ignore them..... but it is so hard and humiliating. Back home if someone make a sexual comment to you in the street you (well I anyway) wouldn't hesitate to tell them to get a life. Maybe once I am more comfortable and confident that my arabic won't be another cause for mirth I will get the courage to give them back what for- the way an Egyptian woman would!

Lots of the journeys I make by taxi are purely to avoid the street comments if I were to walk, and thats with lots of layers on- I'm not walking about in a vest top!!! I guess the fact that I am a) western and b) walking about on my own (therefore obviously 'lost' cause!) means that they think somehow if they comment I'll take it into my head to jump behind the bushes with them or something..... makes me sick.

... and thats just the policemen........ the people who are supposed to protect you and make you feel safe. I guess someone in training didn't explain that part of their job to them very well! So I won't waste time even commenting on the young boys - even as young as 6 or 7 who do the same... what else can they learn from their fathers i guess...............

Rant over....... Thats for letting me get that one off my chest!
Love to you all- unless you are a big mouthed policeman!!!!!!!!!

4 comments:

Anna Louise said...

Don't be afraid to answer them back - even if their English is bad they know what 'f%@k off' means from the movies!A few choice arabic swear words also take them by surprise. They like to see how much they can get away with. I always challenge them. In the UK if you did this to someone who hassled you they would probably follow through with a knife.That has never happened here to me in 12 years. Here they look surprised as if they have no idea why you are challenging them, then look over their shoulder ('wasn't me - must have been the guy behind me!')then deny they ever did anything. That is before you remind them God is watching and how would they feel if their sister was being hassled. They hate the thought of a 'scene' and the more aggressive your reaction the more they grovel.They worry who is watching. Plus not really good to get involved with a foreigner -the senior police would have to take the side of the foreigner in the interests of PR. This goes for both the police and the general hassle on the street. !

Lorna (aka BellyLorna!) said...

Thanks Anna Louise- Fair comments.......... although I don't see why I should lower myself to their level by swearing at them... I just want them to think twice before they open their mouth, and show some respect for themselves if not for me!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lorna,

It's Sophie from Swansea. Just thought this might help, in sha'allah...

Tell them 'IHtaram nafsak' (lit. 'respect yourself')or 'Akhras ya Haywaan' ('shut up you animal'). Got a palestinian friend who spends lots of time in Egypt and she said you should challenge them and make a fuss, or they'll just keep doing it to every woman they see. It apparently makes them feel ashamed...

Hope that helps!

O. said...

I SOOOOOOO understand how you feel! Had that experience myself and it drives me nuts! Don't think swearing will do any justice (yes, there is an issue of lowering yuorself plus if anything it may be unsafe should those men decide to feel rejected and therefore aggressive). Must remember the 'IHtaram nafsak' in the previous comment - that sounds like a good answer! (thinking of heading to Morocco in a couple of months.)