Couple of days ago I was out in the night. It was, if my memory is correct, around 12:30 past midnight, and I was walking on one of the main streets of Tbilisi, Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue, behind a girl for around 10 minutes. I was simply following her.
On the corner of the metro station, she turned left. And I followed. She crossed to the other side of the street. I don’t know why exactly, but I could not dare to cross the street with her. But I kept following.
We passed one street. Another. Another. In front of a Russian Orthodox Church, she stopped. Knowing not what to do, I took my mobile out of my pocket and checked as if someone would call me at that hour. She made the sign of the cross to show respect, which apparently is a newly invented Georgian tradition, and went on walking – with me behind.
She, in the end, took one of the streets. I waited there for a minute or two, watching her walking probably to her home, and started walking back to my guesthouse in the end.
I did not say a word to her. I did not touch. I did not try to do anything to her. I was following two other guys, who actually were following her, in case that they would dare to do anything to her. Yes, it was around the center of the city, but who would know?
I’m in a foreign country. I don’t know Georgian. I have some experience in fight, but over the years I rusted. I sure would take one man down, but the second was bigger than me and I was not sure. Yet I followed them, only to protect the girl if it would have been necessary. When, in the end, the two gave up following her and started walking down the street this time, I waited a bit for the other two to go, and I went back to my own way.
On the way back, I saw a begging woman in front of a market. A drunkard approached to her. I, again, stopped across the street and started watching. She said something to him, and changed her place. The guy did not talk or move. There were three other guys, all friends of him, and they also were watching. When the guy went on his way after she managed to shoo him away, I also did.
Yes, it is true that men try to, and sometimes (many times?) manage to harass women. Yes, it is true that harassment can be psychologically devastating, and it most of the times is. Yes, most of the time it is men that try to sexually abuse or harass, and woman rapers and harassers are comparably almost none. I know and agree with all of these. But I cannot manage to understand two things:
1- I also was tried to be harassed, and actually kinda harassed too, but the reactions I received were threefold. Some took it as serious as if I was a woman, which is what ought to be, I believe. Some others laughed at, and even pitied, me as I should have considered myself lucky. I had a girl coming to me, I should have taken advantage of it. The rest were the gender people, if I may call it, and argued that what happened to me is not important. I should take it lightly. Women face more serious things, and I should be silent. When they agreed that harassment is harassment, they said that it is not time to talk about what happened to me, as the focus is, as always, on women.
2- The third group, generally, are those that tend to, at least in their discourse, say “men altogether are the problem”. Yes, I agree that violators are almost always men. But I cannot understand how the violators almost always being men mean that all men are the animals which need to be tamed. Above I told what I did just some days ago. I don’t know if I managed to “tame” those that I was following and watching, but don’t I deserve any credit with no buts? Should I, another man, be appreciated, with no hesitation, with no doubts, with no pauses, with no second thoughts, for what I dared to do? The dare – maybe getting into a fight, or even worse, in a foreign country, where I have no protection from my “own” country also?
Being forced to feel the penis of a guy in the public transport is harassment, but being forced to feel the breasts of a woman is not, right? When I was tried to be kissed, and managed to “defend” myself, I am not tried to be harassed?
So far I have always argued for this very simple thing: if we try to come up with a “universal” argument, we cannot include sex there. It is not acceptable, or less ethical, when a man is harassed, receive less salary, or be discriminated. Otherwise we will rule out some other people who face the same problem, and it cannot be universalized – at least in the perfect world we try to reach.