There is a lot of anti-street harassment activism occurring in the Middle East region, from anti-harassment cartoon character Salwa in Lebanon to pending anti-harassment legislation in Egypt. Today I learned about objecDEFY, a grassroots anti-harassment group based in Jordan. From their website:
“objecDEFY Harassment is a tool that empowers women to object to and defy harassment. This Jordan-based proactive grass roots initiative, designed to trigger and perpetuate behavioural change, is made up of a series of public service announcements (PSA), a documentary film, and a series of regional workshops.
objecDEFY Harassment is an expression by and on behalf of women who are being harassed. By expressing their cultural concerns, objecDEFY Harassment itself becomes a cultural tool that unifies, empowers, and implements while continuously reinforcing a regional and global message: the power to curb harassment lives in the power of women.”
“We were always taught to ignore street harassment:
‘If you tell him off, he will feel self-gratified since you acknowledged his existence. He doesn’t care if your reaction to his catcalls are positive or negative, as long as you make him feel he exists. Just ignore him. Stare straight ahead. Walk it off.’
I listened to my elders and followed the technique above until one day many years back I just couldn’t shut up anymore.
That day, in my coldest, calmest voice, I stopped dead in my tracks across from a group of sneering construction men and told them to have some self respect or I will call the cops.
They were shocked.
From the looks on their faces that day, I realized that they were used to their lewd remarks being unacknowledged. Ignored. Mtanasheen. If no one tells you its wrong, how would you know?
Immediately, they turned their backs and furiously went back to work, embarrassed.
I have never kept my mouth shut after that incident. And it works every time.”
I am very heartened to learn about their work!