Recently I watched the movie Cairo 678. It is a great study of sexual harassment in Egypt and its psychological effects. At the beginning of this movie a car passes by a girl, the driver grabs her by her blouse and pulls her with him, then pushes her to the ground. I cannot imagine what I would have done if that had happened to me. But I am afraid that I would have been too surprised to react. The girl in the movie, however, – and it is based on a true story – jumps up, runs after the driver, stops him, starts beating him and eventually takes him to the police station. She was prepared. She was prepared by years of sucked-up anger, ignored insults and bruised honour.
In the book ‘Shantaram’ Gregory David Roberts writes that most of the time when we do not talk back, do not help someone else or defend ourselves it is not because we are cowards. It is because we just aren’t prepared. I remember the first (and fortunately only time) that young boys in the street did not just bother but actually touched me… I was so angry afterwards. Not mainly at them, but at myself, because I had had no clue about how to react. They were young boys of maybe 12 or 13 years. I had no reason to be scared of telling them off. And so – as Roberts says it: “What we call cowardice is often just another name for being taken by surprise, and courage is seldom any better than simply being well prepared.” Continue reading