“Women, we really are an endangered species in this world.” No words have ever resounded with me the way these words did. I felt like someone finally put into words what I feel on a daily basis: someone was finally putting into words what I feel whenever someone on the street says “Fine girl how are you?” when I’m walking by. Finally, I realised that I wasn’t alone; I wasn’t the only one who felt like I was in danger when a guy whistles at me on the street. I am not the only one and it was comforting to know.
I remember an incident that reflected the accuracy of those words for me. I was on holiday in Nigeria and I went to visit a friend. On my way back to my estate, I decided to use the most economical means of transportation which was an ‘Along‘ (for non-Nigerians, ‘Along‘ is like a taxi pool-people headed toward the same direction enter the same taxi) and then having to walk home through the estate’s ‘koro‘ (corner) road. When I was walking home through the back road, I heard a guy saying “Fine girl, hello you, I dey talk to you” and I just continued walking, paying the catcaller no mind (I know I am a “fine girl” but I also know that I wasn’t the only “fine girl” on the road). Suddenly, my catcaller runs from behind and stops in front of me which prevented from continuing my walk home. My “admirer” (rolling my eyes) was a skinny guy and he was about 170cm tall and he smelt, no,he reeked of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. I was so scared; I thought he was going to hurt me. I tried to go around him to continue my walk home but he stopped me by moving to the side. He asked for my name and I gave him a fake name, I think I told him my name was Sandra or something like that. I then told him that I had to get to home because my mother was waiting which was true but it should not matter; if I tell you that I am not interested in having a conversation with you, it should be enough, I should not have to come up with silly excuses for you to leave me alone (sorry for the rant).
Back to the incident, I told him my mother was waiting for me but the dude did not budge. He then had the audacity to ask me if I was scared (See me see question). Of course, I am scared when a strange dude who is really drunk blocks your path, anyone would be scared in that situation. I started walking backwards so that I could get closer to the kiosk that was a few meters behind me because it was quite crowded. As I was walking back, I begged him, yes, I begged him to let me go home but the dude did not stop. At that moment, a guy came from behind him and could sense my distress and so he asked the guy the leave me alone and then I walked home. Thank God that that guy came to my rescue but I am so infuriated that it takes another man telling him to leave me alone for him to leave me alone; why can’t my ‘NO’ be enough for you? (I am shaking with anger right now)
When I got home (Thank God I got home in one piece), I decided to ‘gist‘ my friend whose house I had just visited the story. His response was so insensitive that I wanted to slap him through the phone; he said that I should be flattered because it means that I am hot and that the only reason why I was scared was because the guy was not good looking. WTF dude, seriously how insensitive can a person be to gender violence and harassment. I am a human being so if I tell a guy that I am not interested, he should back off. Accepting or rejecting anyone’s advances is my right; just because I would have said yes to Mr. A does NOT mean that I have to say yes to Mr. B.
The next time I went out after the incident, I decided to take a taxi (which was about 3 times more expensive) home because I did not want to relive that trauma. So not only did that guy succeed in making me feel unsafe, but he also made my waste my hard-earned money. Using the taxi to go home every day was not economically sustainable, so I decided to use an ‘Along‘ and walk the rest of the distance only, this time, I would take the longer route which was more populated and illuminated. On my back one day, there was no electricity on the longer route (DOWN NEPA!!!!!!!) but I decided to soldier on and so I continued walking. After 5 minutes of walking, I felt someone was following me and my heartbeat quickened and I thought someone was going to harass me again, so I decided to pretend to call me mum (my phone battery was dead) and tell her that I would so be home. I did that in case my would-be harasser was within earshot of me, he could hear me “talking” to my mum and perhaps be dissuaded from engaging with me or even if he did engage, I could use the excuse that my mum is waiting for me. Nobody disturbed for the rest of my journey and I can not help but wonder if my phone-call tactic worked or if I was just paranoid.
I decided to tell this story to tell people out there that they should respect women’s rejection and leave them alone because it makes us feel very unsafe when you continue to pursue us even after your advances have been turned down and to also highlight how street harassment makes women paranoid and anxious. I mean, I was talking to myself on the street just so no one would try to “toast” me.
Thank you for reading.