Who Am I?

I wonder who I am? I’m a woman. I get told I can be anything I want. I can achieve anything I want. However, who am I if I’m not in control of my body? Who am I if I’m not in control of the prying eyes and lurking hands? I look up and everywhere I see is those dirty looks, and intentions that go with it. It leaves me wondering what would be my fait if only few of them found me alone somewhere where I couldn’t call for help.

Don’t think I have not been in that situation once or twice before. I knew how to get out of it. Even their smiling faces scare me now. Smile back really quick and move on. That’s how it works right? You don’t want to get noticed by not smiling. Or by “being rude”. You don’t want to be THAT gutsy girl or woman who knows or thinks too much. That one is sure to get comments or more looks.

I want to apologize to the good ones out there in advance because it seems like an attack on all men, but it’s not. As women, we would not survive in the world without your help. It’s high time we admit that. We are too quick to judge and point a finger. It’s also important to acknowledge, and thank them because those are the ones who make the world go round for us whether we want to admit it or not. There are places in some parts of the world I don’t want to go without the men of my family. I walk right behind them. If you know me even a tiny little bit you know I’m not the type to walk behind anyone. And they are kind enough to let me walk behind them because they know that this is just for my comfort not to fulfill some need they have, no matter how it might look.

I’ve been told not to write about this topic because the blame would probably fall on me. I am a woman after all? Was I alone when these men were ogling me? What was I wearing when I got offered the bottle of water that I didn’t ask for? Some of the people tell me this “for my own good”. We have heard it all before. What I’m trying to say here is not the same thing what we’ve all said over and over again. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not JUST a woman, I’m a MUSLIM WOMAN. I’m the one you see with a headscarf. You assume men don’t mess with me. People see this scarf on our heads or a long dress and think that we are a different species. That we don’t have the same problems. No one would harras us. No guy would dare look in our direction. As I sit here alone and write this, my friends, you have no idea how many eyes are on me. Am I the most beautiful thing in the room? Uh, I could show you a lamp or two that are more attractive and are not wearing a head covering. Jokes aside, we’re all facing this. We get asked the same questions. Those of us who don’t wear an abaya are told, “well, maybe if you wore your clothes differently”. Those of us who work are told, “Maybe if you stayed home”.

What about that man? That guy whose eyes lingered too long in the wrong place? What about that guy who kept telling me “I was too pretty to be out by myself.” No, nothing on him. It was all me. I should have known better. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I should have done things differently. As I write this my fingers shake because there are so many examples I’m afraid to write down that get too personal. What’s more I know that I’m about to be told “but why would you compare these examples to people who have actually been assaulted? This is not real assault?” And these words will come from folks near and dear to me.

I shake because no one will say good on you for speaking out for Muslim women, for talking about the “everyday ness” of this crazy thing.

You don’t have to be touched and caressed to feel assaulted, not always. Sometimes just a look, just a word or a phrase can do the job just fine. It can break you. And people who are supposed to support you and stand by you break you even more by looking you up and down and asking “what are you wearing?” Or “Men will be men, you need to be just a little more careful.”

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