I have cleavage. I have breasts. I have nipples. I have curves. I have a vagina. They were awarded to me by God when He decided that I was to be born a female into this world.
For 20 years I covered myself from head to toe, showing only my face, two hands and feet. I lived as a good Muslim, an obedient wife and a quiet member of society. I never spoke unless I needed to. I kept myself busy attending to the needs of my husband and my children. When I walked down the streets, my head always hung low, my eyes never gazed upon strangers.
During those 20 years, I have had men staring and smiling at me. Occasionally there were shoulders brushed against mine while walking down the street; caressing of hands during transactions and exchange of materials; body parts rubbed during crowded bus trips and a few times I even had my buttocks fondled.
I had my aurat covered yet I was harassed.
Five years ago, I started a new chapter in my life as a divorcee. I had to play both father and mother to my children while I struggled to make ends meet. In the course of doing so, I met men who only saw my eligibility as a ‘janda’.
Once a taxi driver who knew of my status said, “Cik ni tak teringin ke? Jadi janda ni susah sebab bila dah terasa seks, mesti keempunan kan?” (Miss, don’t you have desires? It’s tough being a divorcee because once you’ve experienced sex, you long for it, right?)
Then there was a businessman from the East Coast who offered to pay my monthly house rental and car loan if I agreed to have him visit my bedroom every time he had business in KL.
I was fully covered yet those men only saw me as a sex object.
Three years ago, I decided to remove my headscarf for personal reasons. About the same time, I joined a company as a Marketing Executive. Although I was advised to dress in pants/skirt/blouse for work, I chose to wear ‘baju kurung’ because it was the only attire I was comfortable in.
One day, during a trip to meet clients, my boss placed his hand on my lap while his other controlled the steering. Shocked, I removed his hand politely and made it clear I wasn’t interested. He smiled. My boss then took my hand and placed it on his groin. The next day, I sent him my resignation letter.
I was decently dressed yet he took advantage of me.
Today, I no longer hang my head low when I walk on the street. I no longer cover myself up fearing what people might say about my attire. I wear what I feel like wearing. Sometimes my cleavage shows and sometimes I display my curves. But you know what – no man has ever taken advantage of me since I claimed ownership of my own body.
Syerleena Abdul Rashid was right when she wrote “rape is about power”. However, it is not merely about men wanting to exercise their power against women.
The truth is, when women are powerless, men take advantage – predators are always on the lookout for women like these. So what should we do?
STOP ACTING LIKE A VICTIM.
Whatever you wear – be it a ‘jubbah’, ‘baju kurung’, jeans or mini skirt – remember to keep your chin up and hold your head high. When women empower themselves, men do not dare cross the line.
To the group of white bearded men with ‘kopiah’ who seem to get a kick coming up with ridiculous pieces of advice to keep women suppressed, please note that just because women have vaginas, it doesn’t mean we asked to be raped.
Besides vaginas, cleavage, nipples and breasts, women have brains.
Perhaps it’s time men started using theirs.