Once the weather warmed up, everyone stripped down. We live in a university town and it’s full of students. Any green space with a bit of sunshine is currently covered with baking bodies. A feast for the eyes only… it’s not.
I was en route to pick up the girls from school. A couple of teenage girls were walking back from the beach in their triangular bikinis and messenger bags. One of them had her bodily proportions and bikini size in conflict. Yet there she was walking confidently down a main street in rush hour with cars, pedestrians and bicycles flooding the street. I kept an eye on the car drivers, the passersby and the cyclists. Not one lingered or took a second glance and if they did, it was very discreetly. I thought to myself, now here’s Islam in practice. An odd notion some may think, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind. This young woman was safe. Safe from looks, safe from harassment and safe to walk down the street almost virtually naked. ‘A Muslim minds his/her own business’ one of the teachings of our prophet. America (0r at least downtown Madison WI)–with the opposition of many including Americans–is still a great country.
Flash back many years back when I wore a face veil (I experimented the dreaded by many Niqab for a couple of months back in the day, and I did so without the knowledge of my parents, in fear of opposition and lecturing) I too was walking down a main street full of cars, pedestrians, cyclists and donkey carts. A car stopped and opened the door for me (confusing me for a prostitute?) I took off my shoes and threw it at the parked car while cursing. The car drove away.
I was walking down the street again with my face veil, I received several cat calls and whistles from possibly all the men in the street.
I was twelve years old– hadn’t hit puberty yet– skinny with bulging knee caps and chicken legs– wearing long shorts. A grown man complemented me on my legs and tried to touch them. I ran away.
I can write pages on the amount of harassment I received through out my bodily changes and garment changes from “too exposed” by Egyptian standards, to “too extreme, backwards, covered” also by Egyptian standards. This is the story of all girls in Egypt. Fat, skinny, young, old, “covered” , “exposed”. It doesn’t matter.
The funny thing is I once got cat called by school girls confusing me for a teenage boy. I was wearing an over sized sweater and pants and had my hair slicked backwards. From a far I must’ve looked like a boy. As the metro-train approached, the whistling girls yelled in shock “Eww, it’s a girl!”
This incident confused me for many years to come. “Girls do it too!” I thought.