|Men in Yaba Market (Nigeria) harassing a woman for demanding an end to street harassment.
Credit: Market March
Most women have been sexually harassed one way or the other. This could be in the market, at work, in schools or just walking down the street. Some women have come to expect it as part of their lives. Before I go on my rant – and this is going to be a rant – defining what it means to be sexually harassed is the first call of duty.
1. Sexual Harassment:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment
The Free Dictionary by Farlex
Uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student)
Merriam Webster Dictionary
2. Street Harassment:
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, gestures, honking, wolf-whistling, catcalling, exposure, following, persistent sexual advances, and touching by strangers in public areas such as streets, shopping malls, and public transportation.
I have a couple of stories to back this up.
I went to Sabo Market in Kaduna recently with my sister Enigbe. The walkways were packed full with people doing their shopping. As we passed by a man selling clothes, I felt someone pat my butt and grab my hand. ‘Baby…come to my shop now.’ I was so mad in danger of popping a vein. I didn’t care that I was in the market. I went ham and warned him to never touch me. The idiot removed his hand and went, ‘Who touch you? If I want touch person, na you I go touch?’ to which some of the men around guffawed. He went to further to say, ‘you no even happy say I touch you. As you dey like this, you no happy say I touch you.’ This elicited more laughter from his fellow market men. I kept ranting which seemed to make them even happier. The women on the other hand looked away. Not only did the man harass me and lie about it, he made a U-turn, admitted to doing it and tried to shame me for not basking in his repulsive and wanton behavior. It wasn’t until I got to the shop I wanted to go to that a woman said, ‘My sister, no mind them. Na so them dey do.’ That statement made me even angrier than I could have thought possible.
In another instance, my friend Ruth and I were walking under the Ikeja Bridge to go do our hair. As we set out to cross the road, we were cut off by this bus which deliberately swerved towards us. We stood where we were and the bus slowed; almost to a crawl. The conductor was saying stuff in Yoruba – which I didn’t understand – but seemed bad enough that Ruth cussed him out. The laughter from the bus driver and conductor made me ask what was said. ‘The goat was talking about what he will do to me with his penis.’ Ruth retorted. I asked her why she had even bothered to answer them but then realized I was also playing the game of ‘unlooking’; like the women who didn’t say anything when I was being harassed.
When I was in the university, we had this Chemistry Lecturer that was known for his randy behavior. Rumor had it that he chose specific types of women each semester; light skinned, dark skinned, Muslim, Christian, Tall, Short and the list goes on. What wasn’t a rumor was what I witnessed myself. We were writing examinations in 100L and he was invigilating. He would randomly walk about and touch girls inappropriately. I was sitting with my friends Grace and Hasiya when he came by us. Grace had warned us about his reputation and told us not squirm or risk becoming his victim. So when he touched Grace’s hair, she smiled and said ‘Well done, sir’. He came to me and touched my arm and I said, ‘Good morning, sir’. He moved away and touched Hasiya on her lower back and she squirmed and frowned. When he saw this happen, he laughed. Unfortunately, Hasiya’s phone was in her pocket and though switched off, the man reached in to her pockets, pulled it out and said he had caught Hasiya cheating in her exams. Knowing Ahmadu Bello University, that offence was punishable by expulsion or rustication at best. We went to beg him but he laughed at our faces. He said Hasiya should come and beg him alone or lose her phone. When Hasiya realized he hadn’t made a formal complaint, she left the phone with him and didn’t get it until after two semesters. That was just one of the harassments I witnessed with this man.
While this may not classify as harassment per se, I still label it as such. Ever walked into a restaurant or hotel or event location where there are predominantly men and get stared the hell down from your very first step until you fall (thankfully) into your seat? I hear men say it is a compliment to stare at a woman like that because it shows she is hot. Ermm…NO! It isn’t a compliment unless a woman loves the attention. But even at that, it is wrong to just stare at someone when you can glance at them and look away. Staring is rude! I know even the most confident men would not appreciate been stared at if they walk into a room full of women. If a man can get uncomfortable, why do you think a woman wouldn’t?
Recently on Twitter, women across Nigeria and Africa complained about the sexual harassment they have been subjected to in the office, at school, in the markets, at restaurants and just about every other place. The stories were horrifying and quite frankly, scary. It seems that where statistics say one in every three women has been sexually abused, everywoman has been sexually harassed. It seems like something that is so easy for men to do. The question is, why?! Why is it so easy for men to sexually harass women?
|Women staring at man walking the street.
Image: Pure Progress
I am not going to say that women do no harass men because women do; a lot. What I am asking is why it seems easier for men to do than women? In either case, they are wrong but men always seem to get away with harassment. A man’s world? I am sick of that line! Can we stop encouraging vile behavior with clichéd-out lines? This is just too much. What would happen if we tapped a man’s arse when he walked into our shops? Or rubbed his head when he was writing exams? Or grabbed him by the penis as opposed to Trump’s plan? What if a man was walking past and a couple of us started catcalling, whistling and telling him how we want to suck his man titties? What if we started rubbing our vaginas as a sign of what we will do to a man when we ‘catch him for corner’? You know what? We will still get blamed! We will be called all sorts of names, and attacked even. A man’s world? That is some messy bull crap!
This behavior has to stop. Men cannot continue to take advantage of women in the name of ‘men being men’. If you don’t know it, such behavior is disgusting, vile, nasty and unbecoming. It speaks of bad behavior and terrible grooming. If you don’t have game to ask a woman out, get some. What we would no longer take are men who think that they have a right to our bodies because they are men. It is disgusting and reprehensible! If this continues, we may begin to attack men who try to take liberties with us.
Dear women, what should we do when these nasty men harass us? I am advocating for a healthy dose of mace sprayed in their faces. What do you think?