Some thoughts and stories about what is arguably the largest inequality remaining in the world: the sexual intimidation of women. This piece wasn't written specifically for International Women's Day, but the coincidence in timing is certainly appropriate.
Her body released a milligram of adrenaline, enough to force her heart to pound uncomfortably and a chill to travel from her neck down to her little toes.
She looked up from her computer screen and stared at the police phone number, the direct line to local dispatch. Hopefully it didn't come to that. The operator wouldn't speak English.
The thought of him knocking at the door and her trying to eek out a few words in Italian released another few debilitating shots of whatever neurochemical was starting to poison her ability to reason.
Him. She didn't even know who he was. He had shown up at her door one week past with a hard knock, the thuds demanding entrance. His voice has soon backed up the demand in accented Italian.
"Open the door." Flat, not openly angry, but you could imagine suppressed rage.
"Who are you?," her words were now flowing a little better.
"Open the door."
"No." She backed away, glancing around her room, looking for her mobile. She hasn't been completely shaken, not yet. But his next words would completely rattle her.
"Open the door."
Open the door. In Arabic. Who was this guy? Did he know she would understand, or was he just guessing from her appearance? Had he seen men enter her apartment, and now he was out to enforce his medieval conceptions of social order?
"Go away. I will not open the door," in Arabic now. She spotted the phone, half-hidden under her pillow.
He had gone away that time, but he had come back. Every couple days, the evening would roll around, and at 7:30 he would show up, apparently as pious about time as about religion. At least that was her working assumption, as his intentions remained unclear. Did he just assume she was some slut who was asking for it?
What was clear was her fear.