I’ve never been intimidated by asylum seekers. I’ve never been afraid of Arabs either, not even Arabs with a beard. But I’ve been scared of men. Many times throughout my life men have given me reason to fret.
My earliest memory is from when I was about nine. A then young man looked me into his bedroom when my family visited his and used me as a masturbation tool. I was too young to understand what that hard thing was that pressed onto my clothes from the middle section of his body. He’s married now with a kid. I still meet him sometimes.
Up to 1000 men attacked over a hundred women in Köln on New Year’s and most reports concern sexual harassment. After the events Hanna Fahl’s article pointed out that the common denominator isn’t ethnicity but gender. The attackers in Köln were all men.
My next memory is from a family trip to Paris. I was twelve and feverish for most of the vacation. While my mom was checking the timetable for the metro a man came up to me and started pulling my arm and asking me about myself, smiling with his face on uncomfortably close distance to mine. My mother shooed him away advising him not to bother her daughter who was only twelve.
In high school I’d started to leave the house without the company of my parents and thus had to fend for myself. The last year of high school we had theme parties and for the sports theme I was in my A–game bouncing back home in my track and field team suit and trainers. I said good night to my classmate when we reached the edge of town and started walking home. I didn’t pay much attention to the guys about a hundred meters behind me until they started yelling after me while reducing the gap between us. Instead of going home I changed my route and ran over to my classmate’s place instead. He let me stay the night.
During uni I spent three years abroad in different countries. My experiences from the US I’ve talked about here. While in Lebanon I learnt that the Swedish passport is a treasure. I’d had marriage proposals before but the taxi driver during the day of the parade was harder than most men to get rid of. “Are you married?” he asked. Rather than entering the tiresome discussion of why that was none of his business I just answered truthfully. “Marry me! I’ll pay you!” Parts of the city were closed for traffic so he made a loop to the outskirts of Beirut to get from the east end to the west. All the time questioning my refusal to marry him for money and telling me he’d be raising the taxi fare if I didn’t come around. He put his hand on my lap. When we reached a neighborhood I recognized the last passenger left the back seat and I took the chance to jump out the front while he paid. The driver grabbed my arm trying to pull me back into the car. I threw the money in through the window ignoring his screams that I get back into the car. Eventually he yelled “Whore!” and drove off. Whore. It stuck for days.
I haven’t been unlucky. I’ve just been a girl going through life and this is how it is. Men and not asylum seekers suppress women. Don’t hijack the discussion about men’s violence against women and try to make it something that it’s not.