Alcohol, Harassment, and Crisis in Kiev

Last week, in Kiev, my cousin was in the residential neighbourhood of Obolon’ with a friend when it happened again – some drunk guy decided to go in for the kill, screaming obscenities and trying to cop a feel. His friend attempted to restrain him, telling him to “leave the girls alone.”

“Girls?” He screamed back. “Can’t you see they’re not girls? They’re whores!”

My cousin is a gentle soul, so when these things happen, it’s especially hard for her to deal with. She says that with the economic crisis, things are getting worse. Acting out is suddenly becoming more tolerable again. People don’t check themselves, and she said she was even surprised that this particular guy’s friend was attempting to check him. A younger woman is an especially convenient target, as when you attack an older woman, bystanders might actually think you’re doing something wrong. A younger woman, however, is attractive in one way or another, so obviously, you can write it off on her “asking for it.”

A male cousin of mine has lived in Obolon’ his entire life, and he also thinks that it’s becoming more dangerous for both men and women. In many cases, alcohol is the catalyst, or else a convenient excuse – “what can you expect from someone who’s wasted?” people mutter. The crisis also makes for a great cover – “well, he was fired, he got drunk, he can’t be held accountable.” Continue reading “Alcohol, Harassment, and Crisis in Kiev”

Upskirting and Downblousing: Stay Classy, Guys

I read this feature on upskirting and the legal issues surrounding it on Salon, and felt a chill crawling up my spine the entire time I was reading it.

Walking around in Amman, I stick out like a sore thumb. People notice me, and sometimes they follow me, and sometimes I think I’ve noticed several people trying to photograph me (it happened so quickly, that I wasn’t sure what was going on). I feel especially vulnerable on escalators, even in a fairly conservative below-the-knee skirt.

The situation is even worse in Ukraine, where men just aren’t afraid to get caught doing this sort of thing. The only time I know I don’t have to worry about it, is when I’m walking around with a burly cousin or a male friend – because we all know that a woman only deserves basic respect if she “belongs” to another man. The rest of us? Fair game.

When harassment happens to me, my usual response is to laugh it off. I laughed for about an hour after some guy grabbed my ass on the metro in Kiev this summer, probably due to the fact that I had just been wondering why crude harassment of me had recently stopped.

But there is something particularly creepy about a guy getting so close, and then being able to take away a memento – a flash of panty, a bra strap, that he can then store on his hard-drive, wank off to, send to his friends, whilst bragging about the experience. When I put a picture of myself out on the Internet – I am in control, to a certain extent. Others can still wank off to it, or photoshop it, or whatever – but it’s still my picture, I created it.

“What about paparazzi? Or plain old journalists? Of which you are one?” A friend asked me recently. “Wouldn’t you say that invasion of privacy is already the norm in our society?” Continue reading “Upskirting and Downblousing: Stay Classy, Guys”