On my way back from NYC to San Fran, flying on Virgin America, I stumbled on the movie 678 in their Foreign Film/Documentary section. There was a small intro about three women who’s lives interconnect through sexual assault and harassment and it instantly caught my eye.
The movie starts off with Fayza, a hijabi,that’s a low income govt employee that constantly faces some form of sexual taunt and abuse in her everyday journey to work. Regardless of her hijab, her everyday reality is the constant struggle to fight men from rubbing themselves against her in overcrowded buses, to ignore the sexual stares of leering taxi drivers, and to fend herself from the common bum off the street that shout out sexual innuendos as she walks back home.
Then we have Seba, a wealthy beautiful Jewellry designer that has it all: a doting and loving husband that’s a prominent doctor and a stress free lifestyle. While celebrating the victory of their favorite football team, in an overcrowded football arena she is suddenly grabbed by a group of men and dragged away from her husband. Even though the consequences of that event did not result in rape, it did however cause a heavier strain on their marriage.
Last but not least, is Nelly, a middle class woman in her 20’s that’s aspiring to be a stand up comedian like her fiancé. They are the epitome of the average Egyptian youth, struggling to make ends meet while trying to juggle their careers so that they can eventually get married.
I wont get into the whole synopsis of the movie as it’ll just ruin the plot. However its a definite must see and an eye opener to how the lives of these 3 women, from different statuses and backgrounds have one thing in common, each are fighting their personal battles against sexual assault.
I felt compelled to write about this movie because it attacks the social stigma of sexual harassment in so many ways. As a hijaabi, I like to think that my hijaab protects me from being sexually molested by men with perverted thoughts, but this is the sad reality for women in places like Egypt, Morocco or Pakistan. Regardless of their conservative attire, sexual harassment is a daily occurrence. Men, usually Muslim men, usually defend their cases of sexual harassment by accusing the woman by what she wears. But what if she’s fully clothed and covered ? What’s the excuse then?
The truth of the matter is, assaulting a woman sexually, regardless of what she’s wearing, depicts a man that lacks decency, morals and respect for the opposite sex. He may claim that he’s too poor to get married, or that he can’t find a girl to settle down with, or whatever pathetic excuse that may be, and feel that it’s acceptable to grope a woman, while she’s shopping, or standing in an empty corner. Yet, if the same thing were to happen to his sister or mother, all Hell would break loose.
Men that sexually attack other women feel like it’s their personal right to satisfy their perversions yet God forbid if anyone tried the same with the women in their family! The hypocrisy is undeniable and sadly so is the truth that every day, a woman that has been sexually abused has to fight and overcome her battles on her own.
A woman that’s raped is shunned and hidden away. If she’s married, the social stigma of what occurred is unbearable and depending on her social background it could mean life or death. Her husband may never be able to look at her the same, if she’s single, then the possibility of her getting married is slim to none. As if to say, hey ‘I asked for this’?
In a religion that’s placed women so high, it’s sad and sickening, that in reality, what is being practiced is quite the opposite. One may say, oh but incidents like these only happen in under-developed countries, where they lack education and normal interaction with the opposite sex. But the truth of the matter is sexual harassment does occurs and when it does, it occurs within your safest environments: your home or work. The attacker isn’t some random moron on the street, but an uncle or a close family friend, in a lot of cases it could even be the Qur’aan teacher, it may even be your boss. We’ve heard of incidents like this and although it may stir up dissent and anger, it also isn’t unheard of.
Silence is the biggest disease of sexual abuse. And unfortunately it is the one thing that is expected of every sexually abused victim, their silence. Your mother doesn’t want to hear about it, your father/husband/brother can’t face it, society may look at you and blame you for it, and so you look around and feel as if the problem is you. This isn’t to say that it’s only women that are attacked. Sexual abuse has no preferences. It can happen to your brother, your best friend, the neighbor down the street.
And yes, people will look at you differently once you start talking, some will call you a liar, others may say you provoked the attacker, the worst are those that hold their silence against your defense, but as long as you hold your silence, your attacker walks away free, on the lurch for other victims, another victim just like you.
Life can’t change what happened to you, but voicing out on your attack can keep these predators conscious of their behavior and it can make them think twice before assaulting another innocent. It lets them know that you are not afraid, that you may have been attacked but you’ve put your foot down on being a victim!