(This post was written after we here at Table for 9 has a discussion re the latest TFL campaign against sexual harrasment. You can read up on that post here:https://tablefor9.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/tfl-report-it-to-stop-it-campaign/).
Hear me here girls – you think street harassment is bad where you live, I present to you : Colombia. Here, machismo reigns king, so street harassment is absolutely rife. It’s so common and considered as part of the culture that it doesn’t even warrant the title street harassment. In fact, this verbal abuse is affectionately called piropos – to the non Spanish speakers among us, wordreference that and you’ll get ‘flattering comment’ as a translation. Yeah, because I’m so bloody flattered when a man tells me he wants to have sex with me as I pass by. Finally, I’ve found some meaning to my life! Forget the degree, I’ll have sex with this random taxi driver and feel like I’m truly worth something. But back to the point, which was women feeling (our lovely Priya in this case, mentioned while we were discussing the TFL campaign) that they need to dress conservatively to somewhat avoid this harassment.
The other day I was on my way to the gym, meaning I had to leave the anti-sexual harassment long-sleeve double layered toe-covering bomber suit at home, and was forced to leave my house in…dun dun dun, lycra shorts and a tight vest. Before leaving, I thought “Shit, this is going to be a 15 minute walk full of so many disgusting remarks and animal noises I’m going to really suffer”. But what was I to do, grab a taxi to avoid some single-minded sexist bellends? Oh no no.
I headed out, ready for the worst. Starting with the avocado/banana selling man on my corner, I got a literal tsht tsht tsht cat call. Instead of ignoring it and saying all my best English swear words under my breath, I stopped and looked at him and shouted BUENAS in his face. This is just like a hey or hello, but my aim was to show him I was actually a person rather than a female body in lycra. And you know what? It worked! He looked absolutely stunned and consequently embarrassed. I was pretty pleased with the reaction and continued to BUENAS my way through the walk, sometimes even pre-empting leering remarks, causing men to purse their lips and eat their sexist comments before they had the chance to make them.
It is not okay for a man to make remarks on your appearance as you walk by. Your body is exactly that – yours. I’m all for the opposite sex saying hello or good morning, just as much as I am for women saying it too. A greeting from a stranger can be a lovely friendly gesture and can often put a smile on your face. But when these gestures turn into specific remarks relating to a female’s appearance, however “complementary” they may aim to be, I object. And from now on, I’ll express my disdain for these sexist comments in the most polite way – a simple hello, but in this I am asserting myself as more than sexual object to be gawked at. So next time anyone thinks it’s okay to throw you a pervy remark, save the shouting, swearing, or silence, and opt for a simple, direct hello instead. Much less angst and effort, yet an assertive way to tackle street harassment…not compliments, no matter what wordreference may try to tell me.