The elephant in the room

 The elephant in the room… what is that specifically you may ask? Well, it is the number one reason why I have rescinded my absolute love for Morocco. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the beauty of this wonderful country- the culture, the history, the innate kindness of people, even the way religion is interwoven intricately into every aspect of life (which is something I don’t usually admire). Each of these facets make up a country, albeit that is still mysterious to me in a lot of ways, that I truly admire and appreciate. But as much as I have a fondness for Morocco and its inhabitants- I cannot declare my love. Nor could I ever declare my love for a place that has rampant, invasive,  and unwelcome….. street harassment.

This topic has been on my mind more since I returned from my trip to the States. Although I do not deny that this kind of invasive act exists in the United States, I,personally, have never experienced it in my town or anywhere in Indiana. When I walk alone, I feel safe. I feel safe and secure that I can go out and get my errands done without being bothered. Unfortunately, I do not have those same feelings here. When filling out a recent report form for Peace Corps Washington- I was asked standard questions about harassment. The contextual relationship being that…. this doesn’t just occur in Morocco, it is a problem that exists all over the world.

Street harassment… defined by one of my favorite bloggers as….

*”Street harassment is a kind of implied violence, a tool most embraced by those who lack the power to set laws, men who are in doubt of themselves. Real men objectify women with dignity and decorum”

-Rosie Says

* discussed at length by this video blogger here

* and described by a contributor to the Thought Catalog below….

Hollering at a woman you don’t know in public has absolutely nothing to do with a compliment—rather, it’s an extremely effective way to put a woman in her place. Catcalls demonstrate to her that even if she’s on her way to an important job interview or to kick some ass at the gym, she is still nothing more than the sum of her physical parts. Whether she’s rocking a short skirt or bundled up in a down jacket, her body is still public property. It can be commented upon, denigrated, sexualized and treated as a goddamn dog toy.

Speaking of the way that women are trained to stay silent, though: it takes a lot for me to bite back at street harassers. Just yesterday, some dude in my neighborhood suggested that I walk slower so he can “watch that booty shake,” and I think I was more surprised than he was when I told him to go fuck himself. You’d think I’d float through the rest of the day on an empowered, take-no-shit high, but I just stayed angry. That guy didn’t learn a damn thing by me getting pissed off. And more often than not, getting flustered merely fuels this kind of behavior. Showing anger shows vulnerability. They hit us where it hurts, and they love it.

Even worse than feeling ineffective in our retaliation is being unable to retaliate at all. In many instances, guys harass women when they know she can’t guarantee her own safety if she stands up for herself. A deserted street, a late-night train, the back hallway of a bar: she has nowhere to go if he doesn’t like the fact that she’s talking back.

-Thought Catalog, “We need to make Catcallers Accountable for Harassment”

The most ridiculous part about all of this… is that all of these attestations of harassment were JUST updates/articles from today.

The fact that Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment are international organizations,  gives notice that this is not one person’s issue… it is something that affect’s all mothers, wives, sisters, cousins, and yes…. even grandmothers.

For my own Peace Corps service, it has meant many different things… extensive conversations with other volunteers, both male and female. It has meant being strategic when walking down the street, oftentimes like playing a game of “Frogger” to avoid either cafes or walking too close to groups of men.  At first, it meant feeling paralyzed at the idea of having to go out by myself, which makes me incredibly grateful to Tyler for going with me or for me sometimes. It means recognizing that I have not experienced the worst and feeling for those that have extreme harassment where it is a struggle day-in and day-out. It means that even attempting conversations with young boys- that I might not AND* have not seen positive responses to discussion (girls like it; they aren’t really angry; it makes them feel good). It means that there is an aspect of my service that is difficult to talk about with people at home. It has meant that for the most part, I have learned that like my fellow blogger, it is better to keep my mouth shut. It means that I might face judgement from others, when I DO* feel fed up enough to react.

I have yet to determine what this means for myself and my service. I will no doubt continue to deal with catcalls everyday, but with the freedom of my bike, I zoom past the comments and let them slide off my back, yet sometimes the anger will just not dissipate. Grappling with this will no doubt have a profound affect on the rest of my life but for all intents and purposes, I challenge you, my readers, to stand up for someone who is being harassed. I challenge you to educate yourself from either the videos or websites I have provided here today or on your own. I challenge you to break gender stereotypes and question why society may deem these acts acceptable. I challenge you to create a better world for future generations, in any way that you are able.

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One thought on “The elephant in the room

  1. Great entry, Amber! Though I can’t imagine dealing with this on a regular basis, I have experienced it to a small degree on rare occasions here in the U.S., in Indiana. It is heart-wrenching to know that fellow women live everyday without the freedom to come and go at will due to fear of the attention they will receive. Thank you for turning this into an educational piece that can help open people’s eyes to these occurrences.

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