Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cultural Sensitivity? Or Putting Yourself in Danger?

Whenever someone catcalls me, I find it annoying. But when someone gropes me, I don't take it lying down. My parents taught me from a young age that, while violence for its own sake was wrong, it's never wrong to defend yourself. In addition, throughout my upbringing, people put emphasis on self defense, carrying my keys in my hands, ready to strike, all they believed a young woman should know. Girls especially needed to know how to defend themselves.

So, how come, when I go to a foreign country (specifically Kenya), people start acting as if none of that mattered? As if YOU'RE at fault for being "culturally insensitive", should you dare to fight back? As if these guys are so conditioned by their culture, they just can't help themselves? I mean, isn't that another way of saying these guys are incapable of respect?

Here's the thing. If a guy dares to grope me, I don't know if he's going to stop at that. Men have tried to grab me, tried to pull me into cars and matatus, all manner of things, in public. In broad daylight. How do I know if he's going to stop at that one feel? He dared to touch something he KNOWS he shouldn't have. Who am I to risk my personal safety? Thus, I will push the guy away, maybe punch him in the arm to show I'm not going down without a fight, and yell and cuss as loud as possible. I don't do it to hurt him as much as to call attention, as to show that this WILL NOT be tolerated. If I had to get even more physical, I would. It's not that I look for trouble, it's more that I won't accept my own violation. Not from an American, not from a Kenyan. I like to believe human beings are capable of both respect and restraint.

Sadly, not very many here seem to share this attitude. All I hear are how I'm too rude, too confrontational and too insensitive. But what? Should I accept it if a man tries to put me in a car, take me far away from a safe place and do God knows what with me? Should I accept it if a guy (or girl, women aren't intrinsically non-violent) anywhere assaults me and gives me a disease I have to live with for the rest of my life? Should I accept it if someone tries to kill me and no one knows what happened to me?

I'm sorry, but I find myself surrounded by little girls who look up to me, no matter where I go. While I don't want them becoming bullies, I do want them to realize that they are not objects. They are people and they should NEVER accept it if someone tries to hurt them or otherwise cause harm. Same goes for the younger boys. If people would just learn to not act like animals, we would not be forced to react as such in the name of survival.

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