Sonia Said: Harassment is anything you don't like
By Sonia Hadj Said
I think I've recently had a million dollar idea. Here is how I got there.
It's Sunday afternoon and I'm walking to a local cinema. Wearing nothing special, in old baggy trousers, an old jumper and with unwashed hair, I walk because I try not to be lazy by getting on the bus for just a few stops. I walk because the weather is nice and I thought, okay, let's pretend this is my afternoon stroll, something more romantic than walking in the fumes of all the cars rushing by next to me.
"Psst, darling baby. Psst, come on, baby."
No, this is not a bad Pitbull song. This is what I hear around two minutes after leaving my house. I keep on walking.
"Come on, I'll get you a nice breakfast, baby. Come, come."
The predator is walking close behind me, as if I were to change my mind, turn around, smile, take him up on the offer, and maybe even offer to pay for breakfast since he behaved in such a gentlemanly manner. Instead, as I'm sure many women have learnt by now, I slow down, almost stopping, check something on my phone and wait for him to overtake. If that doesn't work you just go across the street, speed up and well, run.
That's ridiculous, isn't it? Running away in broad daylight because you can't bear the thought of the predator's eyes on your well-covered bum is the last thing you might feel like doing on a Sunday stroll. Or any stroll. Any day. And right there, in the midst of thinking about deadly scenarios concerning a man whose face I didn't even see, the idea struck me. Let's create an App! Everyone creates Apps now. So I thought: in the same way that Tinder locates you, this app (HARASSApp...? we can work on that) would enable both sexes to register. Women for when they need help, and men if they are willing to become that wonderful knight for a lady in need. Basically, what you do, if you're in need, is you send a signal with your location, and anyone nearby who wants to step in can find you and help you. Beat the guy up or just pretend to be a friend, or say something - whatever. Ah, think of all the love stories that could come out of this. Why doesn't this App exist yet, seriously.
"Laws are not strict enough and we're not as strong as we should be"
Now, here came Saturday evening and I had to walk no more than thirty seconds to get to my bus stop. I'm more dressed up this time and mere two steps outside the gate, I feel it already. Yes, I think we can feel it by now. Someone slowing down behind you, staring. I speed up, stop at the bus stop and he stops as well.
"Hey, give me your phone number."
This is just wonderful. Who taught them that this is all you need? That anyone has a right to just come up to you and basically demand your phone number. Not that it would be of any help after you pretty much stalk someone beforehand, but where is a fucking "please"? Where is some fucking humanity?
I shook my head, and he still stood there, very close.
"Wanna go out?"
I ignored him and he still stood there. You know, when it's dark and late and someone is being this creepy, you do kind of feel uncomfortable. When someone is so direct and disrespectful of your space, you feel endangered. I took my phone out and the man smiled. He smiled and took his phone out.
"No", I said. "Police."
He spit on the ground and walked away muttering something. At that moment I had a different idea. When there is any extra cash coming into my pocket, I will invest not in the HARASApp, but in proper defence classes. No, not just defence. Kick-ass classes. Because if he wasn't obviously terrified of the possible trouble, let's just say it would turn out badly for me. No police car would get to me on time. But because I don't know how to fight and I don't have the (maybe not so amazing) HARASSApp, I only prayed that he wasn't completely insane.
Would I have done something had I felt confident? Hell, yeah. This was pure harassment. Because harassment is anything you don't like, you don't feel comfortable with. It can be words, actions, movements (I will never forget a man sticking his tongue out while I was jogging in a park one morning). It's at work with the idiotic jokes and on the street with a simple "give me your number." The moment you show some strength, it gets worse. So you run, ignore. "Just ignore," people say. Yes, ignore by all means and stay safe, because as funny as it sounds, it is not at all. The idea of men still feeling safe enough to do this during the day only proves why they do much worse at night. Laws are not strict enough and we're not as strong as we should be. There will be no knight coming to your aid (goodbye HARASApp) and there will be no police coming in time. And it doesn't matter what you're wearing. Have you seen Wonder Woman? Just imagine how much harassment she would get and how she would handle it! So isn't it time we get our own armour and serve justice on our terms?