I felt his hand on my ass, and I was having such a good day until then.
I was in Istanbul – far away from everything and feeling a kind of freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was in a city with endless water and open streets, my two favorite things.
And then, in a moment, I felt like I was back home in Pakistan all over again with his hand on my ass.
Everything I wished my country wasn’t a culmination of – the incessant male gaze, the need to be conservative, the degradation of the female gender – came back to me.
I jumped towards my brother and screamed out.
I glared back at the man thinking, did I imagine this? Is this just the way people are?
I refuse to believe the latter because I know there are good people out there. I glared at him, and he just looked at me. No sign of remorse, almost as if it were his right. Almost as if my body was his right. It reminded me of what my mother would always say, wear something long when you go out in public.
But I wasn’t home, and I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing. This was all him. This was all them.
In that moment, I clung to my brother as we moved out of the tram and on to the vast cobblestoned street. But it didn’t matter. I still felt it. He had already made me feel small. He had already made me want to disappear.
Why today? Why here?
There is never an answer because men like this will always believe they can do whatever they want in a woman’s presence. They will continue to diminish our confidence for the sake of their egos. They will continue to push us further towards the sidelines. I kept walking, replaying the moment over and over and still feeling his hand there.
I wish I had stared back at him and asked him what was going through his sickening head that made him think that he could do that. That made him think my body was there for his use. It is my body and it is my choice but the world around us makes believing in that very taxing.
A caress here, or a smack there is not nothing. Anything that makes you feel less worthy than you are is an insult and downright degrading – do not stand for it – now, or ever.
Sexual violence and harassment go hand in hand with silence, especially in a country like Pakistan. He was inappropriate, she’ll say. Just ignore it, she’s told.
And when she doesn’t want to be silenced, when she is willing to speak up for herself in a place that is constantly putting her down, they claim she’s lying or after something.
She’s that girl you smiled at on the street. She’s that girl who’s outfit you eyed at that party. She’s that girl that works in your doctor’s office. That girl that sits next to you in class. That girl you call your best friend. Your sister.
She is everywhere and yet at the same time, nowhere. She is invisible.
Hidden behind closed doors and quiet whispers.
There are too many women to name who have been through this phenomenon time and time again. And the fact is, there are only a few rare cases that we know about.
To all the women out there, don’t let their silence hold you back.
Don’t let that one hand, that one touch, define you because you are so much more than that.
Don’t let his hand on your ass affect the power of your voice