The Cost of Street Harassment!


I have had it up to here… from here on out anyone that says sexist or racist things to me, is going to get an earful!

I am so sick and tired of being a society where people are devalued and depreciated.  I am sick and tired of being viewed as a thing that is here purely for the amusement of others.  I am sick and tired of people’s ignorant, racist, sexist selves rearing their disgusting heads and attacking unsuspecting people for no reason.

I don’t want to blame an entire nation or culture for a problem that at least some people acknowldege.  But it really gets hard to do when you have to deal with bs all day every day. And to be honest I really don’t.  But every once in a while, the comments, the stares, the taunts add up and I ready to cuss someone out.

The funny thing is when I point out to these random gawkers and harassers the fallacy or irony in their statements, their not even able to understand what I am getting at… and that has nothing to do with the fact that I am speaking Arabic! …. it reminds of a saying in Egyptian Arabic

هم يضحك هم يبكي

it’s those situations where things get so bad that you literally start to laugh.

A few weeks ago some construction workers decided to start yelling Africa and hey dark-skinned girl as I walked down the street with some friends.  I stopped and asked them “What continent are we in right now?  What continent do you think Egypt is on?”  …. their responses were priceless “We’re in Alexandria”  “Do you need directions or something”…. Wasted my breath, and I couldn’t even be mad at them… I was mad at myself.  I just laughed at myself.

One of my friends who was with me, who is Lebanese, and so I think a little more daring and hardcore in her harsh analysis of Egyptian society and Arab society in general simply said “Gazelle, why are you wasting your time on trash? don’t waste your breath on trash… it’s not worth it.”

ouch! Was she right?

Those same guys who thought nothing of hassling me, were ready and willing to give me directions as they thought I was lost…. Just a few days left and this country still does not cease to amaze me.

What brought on the latest wave of having it up to here with street harassment?  I had a wonderfully tasty meal at the home of my language partner.  She’s 100% Egyptian woman, doesn’t even speak English, veiled, from the villages not too far from Alexandria and yet we click!  she’s so open-minded, doesn’t judge Americans by her Egyptian cultural scale and will blatantly acknowledge all the things that are wrong with this society, while pledging her love to her homeland.  I really respect her for her genuine friendliness and curiousity… she might just be the first Egyptian that has said “you are like a sister” to me and actually meant it.

After meeting her mother and brothers I really like her all the more.  It was a wonderful 4 hours at her house (and did I mention tasty?  I haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks…. Allahu ‘adl wa kareem, that meal was just what the doctor ordered…. I’ve never eaten so many stuffed grape leaves in my life… yum!)

But as I walked to the Cornish to catch a microbus, and as I walked to my friend’s house to work on some test prep and as I walked home after meeting her, I just got fed up with all the racial and sexist comments.  Sometimes I wish people would SHUT THE HECK UP!

Nothing will make you sick of Egypt like the vast majority of your interactions with random Egyptians will.  And it’s even worse when it’s the way you end a day of great chemistry/interaction with some of the few Egyptians that you do know well.

This is what annoys me… I’m almost certain that if I personally knew most of the men that say nonsense, they would never address me that way.  But because of this lack of personal interaction they think it’s ok to taunt, jaunt, threaten and belittle me?

nothing less than f*^&@ up… sorry no other word for it. I hate to say it, but sometimes I do look at the Egyptian men that I know, that treat me with respect and wonder, does he harass women? Did he ever at some point in his life harass women?

And I still haven’t found the answer to what do I do in the meantime? I’ve decided to walk around with my hand in a fist ready to strike, and my tongue sharpened with well prepared comebacks such as

“oh look! and Egyptian!  and Arab!” whenever someone says “hey black girl ” or yells out the name of some random African country (they love to say Burkina FAso, apparently because Egypt won a match against them decades ago) or Jamaica.

“oh look it’s Nancy Ajram!” (she’s a famous lebanese singer) whenever someone calls me Shishkavella (the name of a popular African footballer who for whatever reason plays on an Egyptian team… ha, ha.. I wish I was a shishkavellla, I would be living in the lap of luxury and not have to deal with this daily b.s.)

and my personal favorite, for the numerous rude Egyptian women who just stare, and stare and stare at me “why are you looking at me?  is it because I’m cuter than you?” انت بتبصي عليا كده لي؟ عشان أنا أحلى منك بكتير ولا أيه؟

ha, ha…. trust me they all sound much better in Egyptian Arabic… especially people aren’t neccessarily expecting you to say something…

But this won’t happen all the time, I can’t fight every battle…. I know that….In the words of one woman who had enough and a very scary encounter with some Egyptian men who literally tried to put her in their car “I can’t taze a whole country!…. I’m going home!”… yup.

16 days and counting.

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