Asking for it
Eight months ago I left my comfort zone. I packed my life, my hopes and my expectations into a suitcase and moved to a new city, a new continent altogether. It has been an adventure and I have not looked back since. As I continue to adapt to a new city, language and culture, I have also have had to grapple with my race and gender.
In the beginning I wanted to laugh it off, brush it aside as curiosity- they mean no harm, it is just staring, and a black woman appears to be a rare thing in these parts.
But then I began to notice more. The persistent glares that went past curiosity and lingered... lingered over my body, assuming an invitation. This was on my way from work, broad daylight, rush hour traffic, children skipping from school. This was on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon on a main road.
It didn’t matter if the only skin you could see was my neck or my arms. Even when I wrapped my head up and half my face in a scarf I still got it: the ‘eye rape’- the sexual stare down.
You could be quietly reading a book in a park. You could be all dressed up on your way to a party. It could be anywhere in the world. Any city, any place. You could be wearing anything.
That did not matter. Standing, walking, waiting...your presence is perceived as an open invitation for all sorts of characters to assume anything. An overtly sexual stare-down, a gesture, passing words, deliberate actions, moments when you are reminded, made uncomfortably aware, that your gender singles you out and makes you a target.
On paper, we have it down- there are countless UN resolutions and government pledges to back it up. And really what does this mean for the day to day? Everything, anything, nothing? Where is the change if oppressive behaviour is pardoned, justifications are still invoked and women still feel they stand alone. Broken promises and empty rhetoric.
This is why the sisterhood, the family of World Pulse, is so important. A fraternity of women from all corners of the globe creates a forum where we understand that we are not alone. We are together in this and we can reach out to each other and learn how to transcend the pledges on paper to mean something in our day to day.