Rosalyn D'Mello: To the man who assaulted me...
Thank you for reminding me of the battles I have yet to fight for the cause of my feminism. I will not be defeated by your misogyny
We had both stopped on the side of the road when you passed by and slapped my ass so hard it felt like you used a bat. Then you and your friends sped off into the horizon, denouncing all culpability. Picture for representation/Thinkstock
To the member of the male species who assaulted me while I was walking up a hill with my friend in Buyukada, Turkey: In a flash of a moment you ruptured the serenity of the woods. Asli, the girl you must have spotted with me as you were riding towards us on your bicycle with your chauvinist band of boys, wanted to take me to her favourite restaurant on the island she inhabits, Buyukada, the fourth island from the mainland of Istanbul that you had chosen to sightsee. We had spent the day working, because we are artists and, thus, are working women who earn our own keep, preferring not to rely on patriarchal set-ups for our fiscal privileges. Around 6 pm, we decided to get ready. Asli wore a lovely chequered outfit, a crop top with a matching flared skirt. The Medusa-like curls of blonde hair that form the crux of her beauty, she decided to pin up. She looked like she could have been a character from a Jane Austen novel. I wore a yellow linen dress with a scarf laden with Kashmiri motifs. When I shared with her my feeling about us seeming Austen-like, she retorted saying we were perhaps closer to Anais Nin. "Jane Austen meets Anais Nin," I said, happy about my imaginative compromise.
We had been walking for at least 40 minutes through winding uphill paths, a can of Efes beer each in tow. Just before you encountered us, Asli had laid down on a bench, striking a Pre-Raphaelite pose. I snapped a portrait of her, and so, as we were walking, momentarily content by our combined solitude in that more rarified air, she decided to scroll through the images on her phone to see how I had captured her. I was already conscious of being seen as an other.
We had both stopped on the side of the road to examine our collaborative images when you passed by and slapped my ass so hard it felt like you used a bat. Then you and your friends sped off into the horizon, as if it was yours to march into, denouncing all culpability, unaffected by my friend's protestations, unremorseful about your conduct, in fact pleased by our righteous anger. We heard the trails of your mocking, jeering laughter as you vanished from plain sight. The only evidence we had was the sting of harshly hit flesh. I was so shocked, I was paralysed. My body felt disoriented. Was I back in India? It's not that I thought this wouldn't happen to me elsewhere, but I was surprised and then angry at myself for having let my guard down, for feeling so one with the luxury of the moment that I forgot I could be perceived as the target of your hate.
It took me a while to arrive at a response to your inconsiderate, unexpected aggression. I knew I had been lucky so far, through my journeys through Berlin, Kassel, Paris and Athens. I remember the night I walked back to Exarcheia from Kereimekos with Mika, an amazing woman I had met, half Japanese, half Norwegian, and her German lover, both of whom had stories to tell me about being mugged. I was surprised when Mika was actually empathetic with the four Syrian boys who assaulted her in order to steal her belongings. She said she would have gladly given them if they'd only just asked. I was amazed by her lack of bitterness and anger.
I, too, feel no anger towards you. But I admit I pity you and your chauvinist kind. You will never experience the kind of insurmountable joy I am capable of experiencing every day because I exist on the right side of history and am an ally of humankind. And because women like us know how to turn our anger around and transform it into something holy and ecstatic. When we arrived at the restaurant in time for the sunset, the owner asked us how we were. Asli told him what happened and he was not surprised. He had urged his wife and children to stay indoors during the Ramadan holidays because of people like you. He had just one agenda, to ensure we had a fabulous time, offering us the table with the most privileged view. We drank raki and ate like queens. Optimism can be an act of defiance in the face of your misogyny.
"I do not understand that insidious, joyless thing called misogyny," Helene Cixous wrote in an essay in 'Stigmata', a book I'm travelling with. "I have tried to understand... why when the world started to recount its history there was already in the voice of narration the harsh stress on misogyny, and why there is no memory without this poison."
Thank you for reminding me of the battles I have yet to fight for the cause of my feminism, thank you for reminding me of my solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalised. Thank you for reminding me of the wellspring of strength I carry within me as an arsenal. I will not be defeated by your misogyny. I will not be made to feel victimised or subjugated. I will never surrender to your patriarchal gaze.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org