Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Okay, my plane leaves when? I'm ready!

Okay, completely forget all the sentimentality of yesterday's posting. I'm ready to leave.

Reason being? During my enormously long walk home from work (that consists of walking past three houses and crossing the street), I have -yet again- been the unwilling recipient of unsavory comments.

Okay. I live in Bangladesh, home of 150 million pairs of eyes, all of which relentlessly stock foreigners. Over the past year and a half, I've become accustomed to the staring. (I'm told that it's not rude.) And please let me quote from my imaginary Bangladeshi guide to dealing with foreigners. "Constantly scan area of potential target. White skin and unfamiliar clothing design are clear signs. Start from 20 meters away. Glue eyes on target. Advance. Never release gaze. Do not blink. Once you approach the target, face the target and stand 5-30 centimeters away. Continue staring. If so many Bangladeshis are already encircling the target that you can't see him or her, push in closer and continue staring. If for some unfavorable reason you must continue walking past the target, do not- in any circumstance- remove your eyes from the target. Continue walking or cycling while turning and twisting your upper torso and necl to allow your eyes to keep the target in focus. Do not worry about oncoming traffic or pedestrians. We all understand that imprinting an image of the target into your brain is crucial for survival. I repeat- do not remove you eyes from the target under any circumstances."

I even gotten used to the fact that, when outside the diplomatic neighborhood, my presence can create a roadblock of oblivious starers in 10 seconds or less. My glaringly white skin alone can draw whole rural villages to me in less than a minute. I've even gotten used to men taking pictures of me on their cell phones as I walk by in my normal, boring, and totally covering clothes. I like to do a little self manipulation to make this bearable. I like to tell myself that I take pictures of them (ie all Bangaldeshis because I find them interesting. Thus it suffices to say that they might find me interesting as well. I also conveniently ignore the fact that the picture takers all fit the same age and gender criteria. )

But this- today- is different.

This is the third time in recent weeks that unsavory words have been lobbed at me. I guess the first few times I was slightly annoyed, a little surprised, but otherwise emotionally untouched. I credit this to the fact that the verbal assailants had rather poor English pronunciation skills and I could understand enough to know it was unsavory, but not really get the whole phrase. It was also very passing- a crud afterthought sliding by in mangled English- This bastard today rolled down the window of his black mini-van (yes, you read correctly- mini-van-) slowed down to a near stop, casually slung his forearm and head out the window and- once I glanced his way- ever so slowly, ever so intentionally, ever so clearly- the slimy words, "Can I lick your pussy?" dripped out of his mouth before he raced off.

I wished I had been carrying a giant rock that I could have jettisoned at his obviously malfunctioning brain- precisely because this particular pussy-owner has pretty decent aim and does not care to have her body parts invited for certain activities. I wanted to throw off his words and allow something to smack his face just as he had just done mine. I AM ANGRY! I feel invaded (and overly protective of my crotch at the moment.) Who gave him the right?!

Given the country, I guess words aren't the worst thing to be thrown at a woman- really- there are so many options- bricks, furniture, acid- but I feel that the underlying problem, regardless of the extreme, is the same.

And I'm disgusted! Who gave him the right to verbally assault me?! (Well again, there have been an increased number of muggings in the neighborhood so I guess, words are the least of all evils available.)

I guess these recent incidents of sexual harassment shock me even more because I haven't had to deal with this level of grotesque and unsavory behavior in a relatively long time. Minus one incident last year, I've been assault free for quite some time. Yeah, back in Maryland, there were also guys (idiots) in cars that thought is was cool/ assuming/ acceptable to yell what I'm sure were unsavory comments at me. I say I'm sure- but I didn't actually hear the comments due to the speed of the vehicle. I would just snicker and say to myself, "idiots who don't understand sound and the doppler effect," and keep walking.

I know this all comes back to one of my major themes: Respect for women. Every time I look out into the world, I see more and more disrespect and subjugation, assault and disregard. And for all of you who think there really is 'equality' in the world- or that inequality far removed from you doesn't effect you, I disagree. If you can respect the person who birthed you- or people like her- then there is no hope for world peace.

And back to the smaller world- mine- I'm grossed out! I'm pissed! I'm angry! And what really bothers me is that there is no way to level this back out. As far as I can tell, he has no identity (minus evil driver of black mini-van with Bangladeshi plates) and I have no recurses. And he can just keep on slinging ugly unwanted invitations at women because no one is going to stop him. No one is going to stand up to him. Part of me wishes that I could have flung something at him- but really- what good would that have done. Part of me wishes I could have acted like I didn't hear him and save from giving him any satisfaction from the incident- but the look of shock and disgust on my face were unmaskable. And I cringe to think of what other acts he might go on to commit, having already gains satisfaction from degrading one woman.


And for all you who had a thought like, "well, big deal, it happens much more frequently (insert place). just shake it off." All I have to say is that social acceptability or frequency doesn't make it right or my anger any less valid.

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