Thursday, May 27, 2010

Now Lebanon Article: Pervert paradise

Written by: Hayeon Lee
Tuesday, April 06. 2010

There was an amazing explosion of energy Sunday at the Sports City Center as one of Ethiopia’s most popular singers, Teddy Afro performed to a sea of female Ethiopian fans. Hundreds – maybe thousands – of Ethiopian women working all over Lebanon came in with their best hair and colors, ready to shake it.

But there was a darker side. Many of the men at the concert, whether they were random Arab bystanders or “security” guards, were taking the opportunity of the Teddy Afro craze to touch and grab Ethiopian women. Under the pretense of holding back the crowd from initially going near the stage, security guards, as I observed, brazenly and unnecessarily hugged the bodies of these women and groped them, one after another.

Nearby, a random guy with thickly gelled hair in his early thirties kept close to two young Ethiopian women, who were dancing and generally enjoying themselves. He walked up to one of them and put his arm around her waist and tried to pull her toward him. She waved her hand and moved away. He followed her and tried again. Again, she refused and moved away. This happened three times before he gave up and moved on to other groups of dancing women, who were too ecstatic to be on guard. I walked up to the harassed woman and asked her if she knew this guy. Looking scared and angry, she said, “No. He’s crazy. I said no.”

I guess some men there just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Even more galling, was an older man with a walkie-talkie who kept on getting too close to women who were jumping up and down and singing along. Some women noticed, got annoyed and moved, but this didn’t deter him from leaning against other, inattentive women. His expression was one of lascivious bliss, as if he were saying, “Ah, this is the kind of place I want to be when I die.” I felt disgusted.

How sad that even when a whole event is dedicated to the 40,000 Ethiopian women who live and work in Lebanon, it is still tainted by leering men, driven in equal parts by exoticizing curiosity and blatant lust, who somehow believe that they are entitled to touching and enjoying Ethiopian women’s bodies anytime they want. These men would likely have no problem endorsing the sentiment I heard one man outside the sports center saying to an Ethiopian woman: “Yalla [Let’s go], Sri Lankiyyeh*!”

* Literally, this means “Sri Lankan woman,” and as women from Sri Lanka are the first and most populous of foreign domestic workers in this country, the term, “Sri Lankiyyeh” has simply become a derogatory and racist term for “foreign maid.”

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