I stand alone on the road, waiting for my father to fetch me. It is dark, and already, several men are roaming about, leering and passing vulgar comments at any female who is unfortunate enough to be walking outside after sunset. I am scared. I wish fervently that my father would arrive soon, because any moment now, the attention of those men could shift to me, and who knows what could ensue. I shudder at the thought and crane my neck to watch for my father’s car.
I was sexually harassed that day.
It was surreal. I had always heard or read about it, but never had I imagined that it could happen to me, too. That incident was pivotal for me. It broke me, it raised many disturbing questions in my young teenage mind, and it compelled me to defy many of the beliefs I held about society.
Why, I asked myself, are females treated like second-class citizens, perhaps nothing more than a cluster of body parts, intended solely for the use and abuse of males, when there are acts and articles expressly stipulating that “all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights, including the right to life, liberty and security”?
Why, even after all the wars fought and won by feminist movements, are gender-based violence and inequalities still rampant around the world, maybe more so in some countries than others, but existent nonetheless?
Why do equal rights have a way of staying on paper?
It distressed me profoundly to find that be it at work or at home, or anywhere else really, girls and women are still largely disadvantaged and oppressed.
The ‘glass ceiling’, unequal pay, workplace harassment, rape, domestic violence, and child abuse, are, sadly, just a few of the innumerable atrocities that females are constantly subject to. I began to notice that girls and women were much more likely to become the victims of crime (and of patriarchy) than their male peers.
Are we being punished for the Original Sin that Eve had committed, I wondered. Did that give all males the birthright to bully us, repress us, and belittle us to the point that we feel utterly powerless and worthless? Was misogyny a characteristic of all men? Was that incident of sexual harassment the first of many evils waiting to be inflicted on me by our patriarchal society?
So many questions haunted me back then and they continue to do so. That is how I became a feminist.