Women’s March: When ‘No’ Isn’t Enough

“Do you want a lift from me? I can drop you off at the train station anytime.”

“No, thank you, hahaha. I prefer to sleep on the train.”

“Are you sure? Let me pick you up, then you can sleep at the train station.”

“Nope, that’s okay. But thanks for the offer!”

Imagine someone you never met telling you this two days after getting acquainted. Can you imagine how weird and uncomfortable it was for me? Or the countless and almost guaranteed instances where I receive not-so-discreet stares from motorists and drivers alike whenever I’m waiting at a bus stop? 

Don’t even get me started on what I wore whenever I go out– to work, for school, or for an outing. I could be wearing a worn-down potato sack and, still, men have the AUDACITY to OGLE at me, laser-focused and determined to find my ‘hidden treasures’. 

I could still remember this boy from my English tuition class who was practically training to become a certified stalker and creeper. No, it wasn’t an innocent attraction. He was obsessed with me. Upon every opportunity to pair up for a project, he insisted on being my partner. He would stare at me whenever he could as if I was a prized object. When I told him, “Don’t touch my things!” he would purposefully stare at me while doing the very thing that I forbade him.

I was grateful my classmate Emily (bless her) would always protect me from the creepy boy. Even though he was tall and lanky for an 11-year-old boy with bowl hair, he was no match with Emily, who was strong and athletic. Yet, with Emily around, I still felt unsafe. 

And the last straw happened when that boy followed me all the way to the toilet. He stood at the entrance, and I remembered this clearly in my mind when he said, “Remember me?” while blocking my path. Of course, you dumbfuck! You gave me a lifetime’s worth of nightmares!

You’re the reason I get easily shaken when men are being insistent towards me when they throw unwanted advances despite the million ‘No’(s) I gave. It’s like no matter how discreet or blunt my no is, nothing can stop a man from saying or doing things that cross the line of harassment. 

You can’t tell a woman, “Oh, maybe if you explain to them nicely, they would understand.” Yeah, I can personally vouch that that sentence works in only one out of every million scenarios. 

If this was the case, then, how come we still come across news where women were murdered, raped, burned alive, fired from a job, humiliated when they say ‘No’ to a man? 

HOW MANY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY(s) DOES IT TAKE TO SLAP THE SHIT OUT OF SOCIETY THAT THIS IS STILL A PERVASIVE ISSUE EVEN IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

What’s even more mocking is how we still dedicate just one day every year on 8th March to celebrate and honour women for their achievements. It’s even more hypocritical when this celebration only extends to certain ethnicities and nationalities. 

And you know damn well how annoying it is when someone who belongs to a majority, comes up to virtually give a ‘pat on the back for less fortunate women on this day, yet simultaneously ignore, perpetuate and justify misogynistic practices and lashes out when someone counters with, “Yeah but have you ever looked closely at why women of color face more discrimination daily?”

No shit Sherlock! This is the reality that assumes its place once 8th March ends. 

Yes, I appreciate and am delighted to see women are increasingly being recognized, honoured, and celebrated on this day– so much so that we’ll fill up our social media timelines with ‘Shoutout to my girlies’, share inspirational stories about women, and even gift each other with material things because ‘It’s your day.’ But why stop at just one day out of 365 days in a year? Why not every day? 

Fine, if we can’t celebrate every day, all I ask for you, dear readers, no matter what your gender or race is if you see someone being harassed, please stand up to them. When they confide with you and share how uncomfortable and terrified they are, don’t interject. Listen. Believe their words. Don’t shame them.

Written by Elly Zulaikha

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