Who’s Streets?

Sometime last summer I was walking home from visiting a friend when a man yelled “Uko na nyonyo poa” (Swahili for “You’ve got nice boobs”) as I walked past him. I turned around and gave him the dirtiest look I could. I felt so disgusted, so embarrased, so violated.

This was definitely not the first time this happened. Neither was it the last- unfortunately. Many of my friends have experienced the same- sometimes worse.

So I was delighted to see this video on my timeline last week.

There have been various criticisms of this video, which I won’t go into right now. But being a woman who’s been harrassed many times on the streets, I resonated deeply with this video. The main question for most people was “Is this really street harassment?” Sit back, that is not the point.

Rape and sexual harassment is rampant in this day and age. Because of this, you find yourself constantly looking around to see if you’re being followed. Most women have been taught to always be on the look-out. You are often scared. Mostly anxious.

So I’d like you to imagine what it’s like when a man makes loud, obnoxious comments about how you look or how you are dressed as you walk on the streets- you panic and wonder what he could do next. You pick up your pace. You repeatedly look behind. As if you are not uncomfortable enough.

Let me state categorically that I do not speak for all women- some comments are genuinely kind and I agree. However, it’s not about determining what counts as kind or what counts as harassment. It’s about an appreciation of the context and society we live in. It’s about respecting women and being aware of the fact that your comments could potentially make her (more) uncomfortable.

It upsets me that men are conditioned to think that they own the streets. That it’s okay to shout obscenities at a woman as she walks. That a woman must respond to your advances. That it’s okay to slow down your car and follow a woman as she walks. As if you are not uncomfortable enough.

Grrr.

T

© Tessy Maritim

New Beginnings

There’s something so refreshing about being able to start something again. Clean slate. No residue. That’s how I feel right now, as I write this new post for my new blog.

I started writing for my first blog in October 2011. I started strong and with vigor, as you tend to, when you embark on a new project. But over the years, I slowed down and other things began to take up my time.

I’m here because I want to start again. I’m at a very different space in my life right now both mentally and emotionally and feel like I need a fresh start with this blog thing. My thoughts have matured and I hope that’ll be reflected in my writing.

My blog was cathartic to me and as I soon learnt, for others too. That’s, for me, the best part of having a blog- being able to connect with people you have never met or spoken to. It’s special.

I actually wanted to delete my other blog before I started this one. When you look back at writing that represents what you once thought or felt, it can be a little uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing. But I met a friend of mine this week who taught me something- you don’t need to erase the past to start afresh! Your past is just that- the past. It does not and cannot dictate who or what you can think or be.

 

So here’s to the past, to the great and not-so-great times that will be shared here and to the joy of new beginnings. Yay!

T

© Tessy Maritim