BEING A WOMAN
 
Anger. Every word in the following text is saturated with incomprehension and rage. Also, two weeks after I wrote it, I can still feel the anger fresh in my stomach. I leave this text as it is because this is part of travelling alone as a woman. However careful you are, travel long enough, and it will happen to you, too. Not to write about it would be unworthy of my travel documentation, and I would feel dishonest. I have talked with many travelling women about it, and everyone has lived with similar or worse things. (Which doesn't make it better.)

***

Women in Armenia are seen as either saints or whores. And since European women cannot be saints per definition, they are whores. Neither inclination nor age plays a role. The difference between the rural and the urban population is huge in this regard. In Yerevan, I often feel like I am in Berlin, in the provinces constant honking reminds me, that you are seen. An unpleasant feeling.

Because I miss my bus from Alaverdi to Dilijan, I decide to put myself in a taxi. At first, I am friendly with the taxi driver, who showed me his trustworthiness by giving me the correct price (or was that his first flirty attempt?). In broken Russian and equally broken English, we keep up a relaxed conversation. We speak about family, music and Armenia. Fascinated, I stare out into the mountains. The landscape gets plainer the higher we go into the hills. It's like an inverted world. The first elevated plain I see in my life. I feel safe in this taxi with a driver, who could well be my father. When he asked me just before a tunnel, if I wanted to sleep with him, my breath stopped for a second. I had reckoned with everything, but DAMMIT, not this. Confused, I look at him and say "Njet." He does not stop asking, wants to know, why not? "Because I'm Armenian?" "You're only sleeping with Germans?" "How much money do you want?" And before I can collect my thoughts, it's suddenly dark around us. We are in a tunnel, and only one of his front lights works weakly. (No tunnel lights, we aren't in Europe, after all.) He doesn't turn on the light in the cab. He continues to talk as if nothing had changed, trying to convince me. I start cutting into his pleas in a rather aggressive tone. Sometimes it doesn't matter if the other person understands the words, the tone he knows and falls silent. I spend the rest of the ride beside him. I had felt safe. This had been a simple transaction. I wanted to go from A to B and pay for him to take me there. There is no room for interpretation. Why would he even think asking would be ok? But asking in that way, not excepting a simple no?

I boil with rage. The accusation of racism echoes loudly in my ears, and I'm furious. I'm not sure what makes me sicker, the allegation that I only sleep with particular nations, or the manner in which he tells me: "but I find you pretty, come, I sleep with you!" as if he were the Savior himself. If it weren't so uncomfortable, I would find it funny. The truth is, I would love to yell at him, but my Russian skills aren't enough. And yet, I prepare a speech to myself. I must get the anger and the indignation out of my stomach. Again and again, I am looking for my mistake in the scenario, but I don't know how he could get have gotten the idea that this would be OK. In addition, the context of our conversation leaves me baffled. We talked about his wife and children, and then he comes out with something like that. It's disrespectful to all women in this scenario. Asshole. I see red and wish I was far away from Armenia. I don't want to have to deal with this every time I take a taxi. It becomes clear to me that every honk, every kindness, every help is an attempt to "get in touch" with the free and available foreigner. It disgusts me, and will for a long time tarnish every seemingly friendly or hospitable gesture, which the Armenians are so proud of. It will take a long time before I get back into a taxi.

Later, the few Armenians with whom I talk about what happened, tell me that nothing would ever happen to me. No one would touch me without my permission. There is no rape here (literally what they told me.). There is plenty of dirty talk, but I would be absolutely safe. Such claims always make me laugh maliciously, especially when they come from men. I really don't know how these things are connected. My problem is not that I was hurt in any way, but that I feel constantly threatened and NOT for no reason! That I have to be prepared to be sexualized and that nothing I do will influence this. I can resist physical attacks. I learned that growing up. I know how my body reacts in panic and what it takes to jerk it into action from petrified paralysis. I am neither weak nor fearful, and once I have decided to hurt someone, that person will feel pain. I am irritated again and again that there are people who don't understand that the effect of verbal harassment can be as great as that of physical attacks.


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