Honestly, since I’ve come to Sweden one week ago not a single man has catcalled me on the street, looked at me in a disturbing way, harassed me or even flirted with me.
I told my friend here it feels so strange since men I don’t know in Kosovo catcall, slow down their cars, honk the horn, stare, shout, comment, harass and flirt with me on a daily basis. I’ve gotten so used to it so that I feel completely invisible to men when I get back home.
And then it finally happens! I get some male attention.
I’m sitting with my computer in the bar and a man comes up to me and ask if he can tell me something. I say yes and he says he thinks I really look like Noomi Rapace in the Millennium series.
I was like “Really? Isn’t she bald, a punker or have black really short hair?” And he just said it was not about the looks, but that I reminded him about her with my serious look in front of the computer.
I laugh and don’t really know what to say. Then he just says he thinks I look like such a character and that he really appreciates characters. And then he puts up his fist, we fist bump, he says if I ever need him he’s in the next table and then he wishes me me a good night and walks off.
And I just sat there smiling, laughing to myself feeling surprised by the encounter.
Because not for a second he made me feel uncomfortable or stressed. His flirting was just very fun and sweet. I didn’t even have to tell him I’m not interested. He just made me laugh and then he gave the opportunity to take the next step if I wanted to.
And this man was not even Swedish so my point is not that Swedish men all flirt like this respectful and fun way and don’t harass women, unlike men from Kosovo. They surely do.
Swedish men harass, sexually abuse, beat, rape and kill women in Sweden. Rape and domestic violence is a HUGE problem in Sweden. Femicide too.
So many Swedish men terrorize, beat, rape their women and way too many of them kill women. In Sweden 315 men have murdered a woman, they have had an intimate relationship with, since 1 January 2000.
And (according to BRÅ) of the reported rapes in Sweden only 5% lead to a conviction. So even if women in Sweden report a lot today we still have so many issues with impunity and the flaws in our law and justice system.
But anyhow I just want to share this observation that strikes me so hard traveling between these two societies, experiencing how differently men treat women in public spaces.
Based on my many conversations with my female friends both in Sweden and in Kosovo this particular problem with catcalling and sexual street harassment from random men is so much more widespread in Kosovo than in Sweden.
According to a study from UN Women from 2018 74% of citizens of Kosovo blame women for “provoking” the sexual harassment they experience.
Meaning it’s not really seen as a crime.
Meaning the blame is put on the victim and not on the abuser.
= The definition of VICTIM BLAMING.
And according to many of my female friends in Pristina they experience catcalling and sexual harassment on a daily basis just like me. And many of them also experience that no one takes the crime for real.
Whilst at the same time most of my Swedish female friends have experienced sexual harassment and abuse at their workplace and/or different forms of violence by a male partner during their life.
I have so many Swedish female friends that have been beaten by their boyfriends/husbands. So men’s violence against women definitely exists here and is one of our most severe issues.
Men’s violence/sexual harassment in Sweden is just more hidden here in my experience. And sexual harassment openly is way less accepted.
What is your experience of catcalling and sexual harassment in your country?
(Just wanna add it was awful in New York too. Men catcalled and sexually harassed me there too on a daily basis.)