Lost in Translation

Recently I had the experience of traveling to Turkey with a university team. Being Canadian I was extremely excited for my first trip beyond North America. Overall it was a very pleasant adventure, and I could focus on one of the many positive memories that resulted, but there is another that always gets me.

Istanbul has a decent transit system, or at least the impression of one for tourists. After a day on the town we had accidentally timed our return on the train with rush hour. As warm bodies squeezed in, we huddled together as it can be uncomfortable isolated speaking only English and being the only white person to illicit stares. As the train started moving again I thought I felt something. I shrugged it off at first, with everything so packed the jostling can be confusing. Shortly after, my bum has been grabbed.

I was a little in shock. I moved quickly, to see an unassuming business man acting as if nothing has happened. The pervert just touched my ass! Not only that, he assaulted me in front of my friends AND boyfriend. I couldn’t believe it, told them in English, and everyone just stood confused. I wanted to punch him in the face, but by the time I had worked up the courage it was too late. If someone touches you and it is unwanted, that is physical assault, the end.

The worst part is that I started asking myself what I could have done differently. Knowing we were in a conservative country, we girls had dressed to show minimal (as in none) skin. I had a coat on at the time. Were my jeans too tight, was that asking for it in Turkey? I felt like it was my fault for trespassing with Western fashion in their country. Like the man just thought all white women were harlots. As if it was okay the man figured a woman should hide herself under swarths of cloth or be fair game for attack.

Even months afterward I still feel unsure of the incident. Am I bigoted for hating any Muslim stricture that has a line about being humble? I know that Islam is not exactly a feminist’s favourite religion, but we can’t liberalize such a widespread belief system by fighting it by banning minarets in Switzerland or whatever. But it feels right because I am so angry. All because some middle-aged pervert couldn’t keep his hands to himself, my views on so many issues have been changed.

That being said, I am thankful to be Canadian. There’s a long way to go, even here, but I can appreciate my daily commute far more now.

Mary

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