For the first time today, April 27th, 2018, I ran in public. I ran away from all the negative thoughts and ran through the bullets of stares towards me “You are a woman” “How disgraceful” “Watch your Abaya*, your legs are showing” “Respect, you show them” “Wow I never knew I will witness such a day”. I was dodging each one, smiling to the freedom I felt as I saw the wide walkway ready for the saluted paces of my feet.
To many it was just another day, to me it was a little milestone for my contributions as a Saudi woman, who wanted my community to know I am there. I wanted to be able to simply run, and speak up with my angry footsteps on the pavement, celebrating the new norm, and feeling like I had a say in it, for a change.
As I ran, I did not want to listen to my music, I wanted to be fully exposed to hear it all – the wind hitting my ears, the little drops of rain teasing my face, the potential for comments. But all I heard was nature applauding me and footsteps joining mine, slow and fast.
Then I heard a call, and my heart stopped a beat. “There it comes, a negative comment, are you ready Basma?” I noted myself whispering, now you will get that religious comment of how dare I ran and expose my feminity to strangers, or disturb the norm and traditions. I barely stopped, head racing for quick comebacks when I heard “You were awfully fast!” – My Father was behind me, beaming at me with his reflection somehow overshadowing the beauty of the waves on the corniche we were running on. I smiled back, “I’ll slow down next time, Dad!”
“It’s as if I’ve stepped through a time portal into a place where acceptance is the norm, so unreal.” ~ Jenna Roads
*Abaya: Dark coloured material that is worn to cover a woman’s figure, usually seen in Muslim countries and is currently an obligatory custom wear in Saudi Arabia