A post for International Anti-Street Harassment Week (7 -13 April 2013)
A couple of months ago I was trawling through the posts on Tripadvisor when a forum post caught my eye.
A woman was visiting Istanbul on her honeymoon. She boarded the tram as many of us do. Whilst taking in the sites of this amazing city, she felt a wayward finger in her popo (bottom). Knowing it wasn’t an innocent poke, she went to blame her husband…but it wasn’t him. She had been the victim of a disturbing touch from a man on a crowded tram and she wanted answers from Tripadvisor followers.
Most of the responses on Tripadvisor shocked me. People (mainly middle aged men) said things like, “Rubbish! It doesn’t happen here!” I chimed in and said, “Of course it doesn’t happen to you gentlemen, but it does happen to us ladies, and when it does it feels incredibly violating and leaves one feeling vulnerable in a big foreign city.” There were no further comments on the post.
It has happened to me twice in three years and more recently, it happened to a friend of mine. When my friend confessed to an erect penis rubbing on her popo in a tram (yes, I wrote ‘erect penis’) – two other female friends confessed similar stories.
Usually, it’s on a crowded tram or bus where an awkward rub might go unnoticed – but when you realise that it’s no longer innocent – it’s more like he’s mistaken you for Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (because he doesn’t watch many foreign movies featuring nice girls). The unprovoked experience leaves you feeling angry, judged and downright disrespected.
Thankfully, it does not happen often – it’s a rare occurrence and 99.9% of the time, trams and buses are pleasant experiences – far more safer than sharing the train with drunken louts in my hometown!
But nonetheless, my friends and I did not know how to deal with this situation in a crowded, cross-cultural, multi-lingual tram in a foreign land. We were unsure if it’s culturally appropriate to yell at an older man in public. If we did, would anyone assist or would they judge me as inviting the behaviour? Personally, I was so shocked when it happened to me I got off the tram at the next stop dumbfounded, but soon after I felt angry that I said nothing. Our failure to speak up or report this perhaps contributes to this behaviour continuing.
To be better prepared and support others who asked me what to do, I sought advice from my Turkish and facebook expat friends and received some useful advice.
So, I present to you the ‘Get your pipi off my popo – the 10 step guide.”
- When entering a crowded tram or bus, back your popo to the wall so harden anatomy cannot touch you. This increases your surveillance to reduce the chances of uninvited attention.
- If this is not possible, position yourself near an older Turkish lady – they are the unsung heroines of Turkish society.
- Eyeball anyone who gives you more than the innocent touch.
- If the behaviour continues, then use a couple of very helpful phrases from Canımız Sokakta / Hollaback Istanbul’s YouTube video for dealing with public harassment.
- If you wish to get all Samuel L. Jackson (PG rated) on your perpetrator – and Turkish is not your forte – then here are some simple words to use on a crowded tram that will not tarnish your reputation as a lady, but deliver optimal shame to make them stop. “Ayıp!” Meaning, “Shame on you!” “Şerefsiz!” Meaning, “Dishonourable!” “Hayvan!” Meaning, “Animal!”
- Whatever you say, make sure it’s stern, calm, direct and confident.
- If you speak loud enough other male commuters will hear you and chances are they will make the perpetrator feel very uncomfortable.
- Report the incident to Hollaback Istanbul so more ‘evidence’ can be provided to drive initiatives to stop this behaviour.
- If you’re still feeling down, then read the (humorous) messages with rather serious undertones at #safetytipsforwomen.
- Do understand that Turkish people, particularly men, do not tolerate this behaviour. They too are disgusted and extremely disappointed (as we are) that this can happen in this beautiful city.
All large cities around the world attract social problems like this and so this is not a problem related only to Turkey, that’s why programs like Hollaback and International Anti-Street Harassment Week (7 -13 April 2013) are established worldwide to reduce our chances of becoming a victim of street harassment.