As part of The Pixel Project’s partnership with Stop Street Harassment, we cross-post a Street Harassment story specially selected by Stop Street Harassment founder, Holly Kearl, on the second Tuesday of every month. Today, a survivor of street harassment in the U.S. talks about how she took back her personal power on the streets to stand up to harassment.
According to The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some sort of harassment.
We have sadly become numbed to these statistics because the simplest of verbal harassment is experienced on a daily basis. Taking action is rarely an option in a highly patriarchal society where most men would blame the girl for getting herself into such a situation.
Yesterday I was at a local mall with a female friend of mine and the usual lurkers were standing by escalators staring at women. Young single men walking around staring down women are common sighting in malls in Egypt. I never feared my safety as I usually just ignore and keep walking.
As we took the escalator to leave the mall two guys hissed at us. We ignored and they did it again so I turned to look at him and he nodded as to reaffirm he was directing it at me. Something at that moment told me I didn’t want to ignore it and go home frustrated as usual so I ran back up the escalators to give them a piece of my mind.
The confrontation started and so did their denial. As if I was completely delusional, they asked me if something was wrong.
“Who bothered you?”
“Did I direct anything towards you? huh? What did I say, tell me exactly what I said?”
“Do you think you look like a person I’d want to flirt with?”
The frustrating part is that most men don’t consider hissing or staring a sort of violation and this is why he kept asking me to repeat what he said but he didn’t actually SAY anything.
I then asked a vendor to call security and they came right away asking me what happened. I explained that this was unacceptable to happen in a mall and he proceeded to explain their security policy; I could either file a report at the local police station or let the Mall security office handle the situation. Considering it was late at night and I didn’t exactly know my legal right or the process I would go through, I decided to do the latter knowing that kicking them out of the mall would be enough. The security was very cooperative and was willing to help me out with filing a report by providing me with surveillance camera evidence.
The guys finally decided to apologize to me and my friend and it turned out one of them was actually a police officer! I thanked him for serving our country the way he did and left.
I’m sharing this story not because of the gravity of the situation but because this matter is taken too lightly. When a society has a problem defining sexual harassment and young men pass their time throwing ugly words at girls thinking it’s normal then it’s time to take action. Instead of thinking twice about what I’ll wear or where I’ll walk, it’s time to focus of changing the mindset of people and understanding your rights. The more we focus on how girls could avoid sexual harassment, the more it will keep happening.
I am also sharing this to encourage other people to share their story. It seems ridiculous to take action action but empowering once you actually do it!
– Dina Hosny
Location: A mall in Egypt