By Reem Gaafar

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. Trapped in patriarchal societies judged from all sides for what we wear, what we say, how we say it, where we go, what we think and even what we dare to dream of being. Subjected to all forms of violence man has had the imagination to come up with. And when we speak up against it all, who is the first to come at us with their dissidence-bashing clubs? Women.

When following discussions about stupid things like FGM in different fora, online and off, it never ceases to amaze me how those defending these practices the most vehemently are women. Women whom themselves have been suffering their entire lives – literally – from these practices. Sometimes I wonder if their insistence to put their own daughters through such a horrific experience is done just out of spite, so that they make sure everyone else will know their own suffering.
When discussing sexual harassment that women in Sudan are subjected to on a daily basis, those defending these actions (among the men of course) are – believe it or not – women. Apparently, men are these primitive animals let loose on the streets who have zero control over their barbaric animalistic instincts, and just the sight of a female, even if covered top to bottom, is enough to unleash his raging reproductive hormones. Women are primarily and solely responsible for men’s overwhelming needs to harass them. Also, the only way to overcome this harassment issue is to herd everyone into that animal barn of an institution called marriage as soon as they have the very first inkling of puberty (regardless of age). And by everyone, we mean women of course. Men can frolic around as they like until they are financially and mentally ready to throw their lives away.

As we are so intensely urged to understand, it is the undoubted right of men everywhere to act as they wish, because assaulting women is not the same as, for example, stealing. No one asks a victim of theft if they left their window open, or failed to hire a guard, therefore inviting the thief in and therefore justifying the thief’s actions. No one asks that, because sexual harassment is not seen as an infringement on another person’s rights or space. No one stands up for a victim of sexual assault when the inevitable question of ‘what was she wearing?’ comes up, regardless of what she was actually wearing. And no one cares how subjective ‘appropriate’ clothing even is: for some its long sleeves, for others its covering the hair, for many it’s a flowing abaya, and for many more it is a full niqab. Every day we hear bearded clerics warning us that even covering our faces and wearing black from top to bottom isn’t enough to ‘protect’ us from ‘those ill-hearted’ people – if our beige socks and coloured bags were showing, we only had ourselves to blame. I kid you not. And who defends that argument the most?

Its time this nonsense is ended once and for all. Women are not the helpless, voiceless victims of the past. They are leaders in all aspects of society, breadwinners in the strongest households, and their most important role is the one they are shirking the most: lifting other women up, instead of crushing them into the ground. After all, if it isn’t women who lift other women up, who will?

*Image from Pinterest