Yesterday when returning from the last day of our big capoeira workshop an incident on the city train made me really, really angry. Angry enough to delay telling you about our workshop and my batizado.
It was a little bit after 6pm, the train was not exactly full because it was a holiday and the usual mob of commuters stayed at home. I sat down opposite to a man and a woman and started to read a book. After a while I noticed the woman was moving away from the guy a little, as he had his coat laying across his lap and a little over her leg, too. Later when she even turned away from him a little I started to get an uneasy feeling and kept glancing at them until I was sure enough something was going on. So I asked the lady straight away if the guy was groping her. Sure enough she looked shocked when the guy reacted by moving his hand away from her leg in a very obvious manner. The lady came over to sit next to me, while I threatened the guy to kick him.
Le sigh. Why, why, why do guys do this? Broad daylight (okay, there was a dark, heavy thunderstorm outside, but still there was a lot of light), other passengers sitting nearby, and VIDEO SURVEILLANCE … and still this guy managed to sneak his hand on a strangers leg! It makes me so, so, so ANGRY.
Don’t tell me these things don’t happen in Europe. Maybe not as often as in the US or in countries where women have no rights, but still it does happen. I saw it with my own eyes. Some time ago I experienced a similar situation myself, when a guy kept bumping into me as if by accident, but clearly without any reason (again, not very crowded on the train), and later followed me through the station.
Don’t tell me video surveillance and emergency buttons make these problems go away. They just don’t. They just make the offenders sneakier.
Don’t tell me being careful always means being a man hater or a racist. See, this guy was black, and the woman didn’t want to judge, so when his coat touched her she tried to convince herself it was just the coat or his bag without taking a closer look at what was going on. She told me she would have been more careful if it had been a white guy. What sick kind of society is this where we feel like we have to treat minorities better than the rest and above suspicion? Discrimination means making a difference. Equality means treating people equally. White guy, black guy, red guy, green guy, who cares? Groping is groping, and even suspecting someone of doing it should justify taking a closer look or telling them to keep their stuff off one’s body. (I don’t like being touched by strangers’ coats, even when it’s just the coat without a hand!)
My heart goes out to all the women not feeling like having a chance to stand up against the thousands of little incidences making up the sum of a big problem, and to the women not meeting someone willing to speak up for them when they are in doubt. Yesterday I could help one woman, but what about all the other ones we don’t see?
I beg you, whenever you see something fishy going on – don’t look away, but observe, then speak up, and just be there for someone. You’d want someone to do the same for you, don’t you?
I’m angry that this guy ruined the afterglow of our workshop for me. Still, right now I want to thank my capoeira friends for making me feel safe when being with them, because incidents like the one yesterday make me see how blessed I am to know you. I want to offer especially to the male students my heartfelt thank you for being kind, considerate, and helpful, and for touching me – and, as far as I can see, any female students – only in positive, encouraging ways (or for practising throws and blocks, and I thank you for not taking advantage of these!). You make me not loose faith in humanity. I love you guys.
Hugs to you all,