On 30 March 2013 HarassMap presented their annual report on harassment in Egypt. The report was issued during an event that included musical and artistic events at Darb1718. The event included an artistic exhibition of photographs and illustrations about harassment by young artists. The exhibition also showcased a few short stories about harassment written by women from their own point of view.
One of the short stories exhibited is printed below.
They prefer her naked
By Rasha Sayed Kenawy
My name is Gameela. Do not look at me like that. I know I do not bear any of my name’s connotations; something to please your eyes and superficial glances of feminine beauty. My mother named me in the hope that the name would colour my face with its meaning. My name only gave me a devilish plant that grew mistakenly on top of my head; beautiful hair that bears the sins of a name I have not chosen.
As I grew up and became aware of the world around me I kept seeing those eyes that cannot stop comparing between what I bear as a name and what my face shows. So I insist that my name is a trait of my mind and soul and reading is my world and internal beauty is my goal.
My studying colleague –we travel back and forth together– derives her beauty from my ugliness. I do not care but laugh and tell her: “Maybe it is my own method so eyes and hands do not harass me, maybe it is my own shield to protect myself from hands that violate anything they can reach.”
I walk with more confidence. I extend my form as if it was a sword I wield in faces that leer at my clothes and what is underneath them. I recite in my mind the poems I know and I imagine being the heroine in all the princesses’ stories I have read. Then there is that hand that comes to pluck me away from my imagination in spite of myself, and it soils me with the polluted dirt of reality. He touches my body and helps himself to what is mine… can’t I stop this scandalous invasion? I screamed, I shot him with my blistering glances and took my polluted body and walked away.
Don’t men harass beauties? Why me, then? Maybe he was mistaken. I forgot the incident and continued to protect myself from others with my ugliness, as if I was writing a warning ‘Forbidden to Approach or Touch’. The incident is repeated and what is mine is violated… my body, what makes me a female.
I thought my clothes identified that body, so I made them looser. I thought my freely-flowing hair (which I miss) drew attention, so I tied it down. I thought it was my voice, so I remained silent. I thought it was my face with its defiant look, so I coated it with kindness. I thought it was the crowd, so I stayed away from any human gatherings that allow this filth to touch me.
With every attempt to protect my sacredness, the hands stretch and become longer. Tongues flog me every time I scream to defend myself, as if I was the reason for this festering filth that touches me and everything around me.
Until the day came when I had to be within crowds to share in a revolution with the people… our revolt against corruption, ugliness and violation; not only for women, but for the whole country. I did not hesitate to be part of it.
Here I am screaming in defence of my country with the same zeal with which I defend myself. My voice grows louder against every harasser of me or my country. The revolution is a women’s revolution, for their femininity is the homeland, before it was a man’s revolution. Every time my voice grows louder, I feel like I am avenging those hands that left their prints on my soul and made me wish to discard my femininity.
Here I am today, proud of being a girl that revolts, chants and screams, getting back her dignity from the clutches of those who touched what it is not theirs…but… what is that? Oh God, let those tentacles go away. What are they doing? Why are they penetrating our ranks so barbarically? They are brutally dispersing us… our screams grow louder… they come closer and closer. Each group captures a prey. I am dragged to a corner. I look at them; maybe they will go away. No one cares. I scream, but my screams dissolve in their noise and their celebration of their prey. I try to resist, but I fail.
They press me between them… they unclothe me… they barbarically take off my clothes… every corner of my body is violated. They devour my body like hungry wolves. I scream again, but cannot find my voice.
Aren’t they ashamed? We are revolutionaries… save us. Save a country whose women are raped because they fear them. Save a country where, when it revolts, its women are violated because they are cowards who cannot face the men. Save a country whose protests are destroyed by the destruction of women’s hymens.
No one hears me… stupidity colours the surrounding faces. They do not realise that we are being raped and with it our freedom, dignity and humanity. Do you hear what I hear and see what I see? On the opposite pavement there are women cursing our ‘sexy’ clothes, saying we deserve what happens to us. There are men over there lusting over us with their eyes, but they go away because there are too many people around the feast, us. Others just ignore us; it is none of their business. They are finished with us. I return home to gather the bits of my soul and body. I collect my clothes and remember what happened in my mind. I try to regain my shredded self, but I cannot.
Why did they undress me? Why were they sticking their nails and fangs inside me? After hours of thinking, I realised the reason… maybe. I returned to the square in which they ravished me. I undressed and stood naked in front of them without moving, like a memorial statue to their horrendous act.
You know what happened? Women’s curses became continuous mutterings for forgiveness. Men’s lusting eyes turned from me as they said “One God”, and those men that unclothed me removed their clothes and put them on my body while praying that I will find guidance.
I understood why they unclothed, dragged and raped women yesterday. It seems “they prefer her naked”.