Women Are Not Zoo Animals

08/03/2017 17:09
Andrew Cribb

all women everywhere

As you read this, I want you to imagine your mother, or your sister, or your daughter.

Or I want you to imagine that this is happening to you.

You are walking down the street, minding your own business. You're on your way to university, school or work. You have big dreams of what you would like to achieve with your future. You're thinking about your children or what you want to do tomorrow. Suddenly a loud noise disturbs your train of thought. You turn. It's a group of young men, they're looking you up and down with lecherous looks on their face. Discomfort starts to wash over you. You feel threatened. You feel disrespected.

You put your head down and feel a large flush of anger. You feel humiliated and degraded. The insult from their absolute lack of shame in treating you this way is unbearable. What is so unbearable about it is that this is not the first time that you have been treated this way. It is not even the 400th time. This has happened thousands of times. In many different ways and many different forms. Whether it's the sleazy looks looking you up and down, having a man walk past you way too close, having inappropriate sexual comments made or being physically grabbed in the street, the constant violation is excruciating.

You experience this wherever you go, whatever country you're in. You begin to ask questions. You ask why, why are the men treating you in this way.

'Well,' they explain laughing, 'this is what they do to girls here.'

You hear stories of women being referred to as being like furniture. That women have no value, they're just sexual objects and are left to be treated as much.

You learn that this is what the street harassment is about. It's a about a public display of aggression and entitlement. A public show of men showing you as a woman, that you are worthless.

This means that they can lewdly stare at you without concern for how that makes you feel.

It's like you are just a zoo animal.

You begin to ask more questions and you learn that these violent attitudes play out in all spheres of women's lives. It happens in the home, at work and on the street.

You hear endless stories of men hitting their wives, being emotionally abusive and feeling entitled to do so. It's normal to hit women, they tell you.

You find yourself on a beach in Madagascar where it is explained to you that the sexual assault of young girls by male members of their family is so common that it is becoming cultural. In Mauritania you learn that women can face jail time for sex outside of marriage, even if they have been raped. In Colombia young girls explain how sexual assault is so common that they think it is normal.

In northern Iraq, a woman tells you a story about how a man she knew, cut off the head of his mother, just because she was seen talking to a man. In Gabon, a woman explains how it is to hard to work because of the sexual harassment. Syrian women in Lebanon tell you the same thing.

A friend from South Africa tells you how her boyfriend told her she was lucky he didn't rape her. In the Republic of Congo, they explain how girls working as prostitutes get raped and in Morocco women explain how they don't like to walk on the street because the harassment is just so bad.

In the Maldives women describe how they are loosing their freedom due to growing extremists ideas and in Iran you discover that there are women who have already lost their freedom due to extremist ideals. In the US, you learn that men who sexually assault women can get elected as President and in the European Parliament men from Poland can publicly declare that women should earn less than men because they are weak.

In France women explain how sexual harassment is a daily occurrence and in Mozambique there are girls sexually harassed by their teachers, just to pass the grade. In Zimbabwe, you find that there are women who just don't say anything at all because they have been told that good women don't speak.

In India, every single woman and girl you meet has a story of sexual assault or harassment. In Turkey a man explains to you how Middle Easterners think all Western women are whores, especially the blond ones. A Nigerian man stands over the top of you telling you to not dare compare yourself to a man.

You try to complain, to raise your voice against this abuse. But you are shut down. You're told that you are exaggerating or accused of hating men. You are blamed and told it's your fault. You have made the men treat you in that way. You have made them degrade and humiliate you.

So just be quiet.

Again, you gather the strength to go out on the street and go about your day. You'll try and ignore the lecherous stares and try to feel like your human.

But then it starts again. A man sits too close to you in the taxi and laughs when you complain. You get out of the taxi because you are so uncomfortable. You see a man looking at you up and down on the street. Another shouts at you as he walks past. Then another lecherous stare and then another.

No consideration for how this makes you feel.

It's like you are just a zoo animal.

What would you do, if this was happening to you?

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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