Today, as has happened far too many times since I moved to this city, I was harassed at my bus stop. This time, a guy in a Ghostbusters t-shirt reached his fleshy paw of a hand out, stupid grin on his face, and grabbed for my chest.
(Hey, asshole! I don’t exist for your personal amusement, and just because I have tattoos does not mean I am a display item, or ok with random strangers putting their hands on my body.)
Shit like that makes me really miss Sarajevo, where Ghostbusters dude would have been decked by the nearest male passerby for doing something so incredibly inappropriate and socially unacceptable, and probably pummeled and/or kicked with spiky heels by a passing group of women as well.
One of my male Bosnian friends once put it to me this way, “If a guy did something rude to a girl, whether she was foreign or local, he’d be taken outside and beaten a bit by his friends –for his own good.”
One of the many great things about Sarajevo, in sharp contrast to my current city in Rust Belt U.S.A., was that, as a woman, I could wear whatever I wanted without having to worry about being grabbed, called offensive names or followed by strange men on the street. In Sarajevo, even the leering was kept to a minimum.
This was one of the primary reasons I started clubbing so much during my time in Bosnia. I felt safe, and in control of my personal space. My experiences with clubs prior to working in Bosnia were uniformly bad.
In the United States, I found guys at clubs –the few times I went clubbing in the U.S.– to be disrespectful, vulgar, and so horny they really shouldn’t have been in public.
Australia and Western Europe were no better. When I pulled away from a guy who grabbed me from behind at a nightclub in Brussels, the repugnant shit-for-brains scratched me so hard on my right hip that he drew blood. That same night, one of my friends was kicked in the back by a drunk dude outside the club.
Never once did anything remotely similar happen to me or any of my female friends in Bosnia. Sarajevo guys are the most respectful I’ve met anywhere in the world thus far. Nowhere else have I been to clubs where guys actually talk to you, try to learn your name, find out where you’re from and what you’re doing in town, before they so much as try to shake your hand, nevermind pull you onto the dance floor.
In fact, none of the lecherous people I knew in Bosnia were from Bosnia. They were all expats.
Every time I think twice about wearing my favourite little black sundress in public, I chuckle bitterly. I bought that dress on Ferhadija two summers ago.
From what I’ve heard it’s not so great if you are gay though. A colleague was seriously beaten by a group of young men a few years ago, seemingly for a public display of affection with another man.
Though I never saw expressions of violent homophobia in public (or maybe I missed them –cis-privilege blinders), I’ve heard stories like the one you just mentioned above, and the year after I left a gay and lesbian festival was met with pretty astounding violence and intimidation. Homophobia is pervasive throughout the region, not just in Bosnia, and gay men are definitely discriminated against. Local activists are trying to change this, but, like much else, it’s slow-going.