I loved that book "The men who stare at goats" but this is not about Jon Ronson's witty creation. Its more about the men who stare at women on the subway in Baku, the modern, flashing, glitzy capital of Azerbaijan.
It was around 11.30pm. After a fun evening with my friends in town, it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes, and with one more friend we took the subway. She stayed on, while I had to switch lines and that's when all the fun began. In fact, the fun began already when we got on the subway, but I paid little attention to that- after all it was the two of us and we were chatting away. Waiting for the train on the platform surrounded by only men- how do girls get back home in this town? Taxis? Rides from their friends? Family members driving them home? No metros? Really? I wonder at what time does metro as a means of transportation, stops being means of transportation for women in this city?
Apparently its all of the above. I wasn't the only female on the metro of course. There were few more, maybe four or five of us. But certainly we were a minority. And that was when "the men who stare at goats" title came to mind. I just had to alter it a bit to fit the proper situation.
The men who stare at women are men who consider their eyes a god given right to... well... stare! And its not just a quick look! Its like eyeballing! As if their eyeballs are about to fall out and they absolutely must suck in everything that's around them (preferably "everything" in a moving form of a female). It was a difficult moment- no, it was a challenging subway ride. It felt as if I was visually harassed- and there was so much of it that it felt uncomfortable.
In the meantime I examined and studied carefully every single dent on the wall of the subway station, on the floor of the subway station, on the signs of the subway. Soon there was nothing left to study and I had no interest in starting to re-count every single marble stone on the platform. Instead, I took out my book from my purse and started to read. I think it would have been ironic had I "The men who stare at goats" with me. But thats not the book I had.
I continued reading, feeling the heat of looks multiply with every second. I mean, not only was I on the subway at that hour alone, but I could also read apparently! It was getting annoying. I wanted to lift my eyes and stare back at them. But had I done that, it would have been considered inappropriate and that I was attempting to flirt with them and god knows what else it could have meant in their perverted tiny little minds. And so I read. Luckily, the stop I had to get off at wasn't too far. And so there I was. Back on the platform, quickly walking away from the train. I got on the escalator, but didn't wait and decided to walk up. I realized how deep the tunnel was on this station, slowly taking deep breaths, trying to calm my heart beat.
I was so happy to breath in the fresh air of the night. I was out. It felt nice not to be stared at anymore. I walked home, thinking how strange it must feel for Azerbaijani women to go through this experience every day. After all, it wasn't just a one time thing. This happens every day, every time on the subway, on the bus. Its like they get fixated on you, as if trying to eat you alive with their looks. Maybe its an exaggeration, but it certainly did feel that way.