Posted by Irresponsibility
Anyone (especially any woman) who says that getting hassled and catcalled on the street is “not a big deal” and that other women should “just deal with it” (i.e. that us humourless feminists should lighten up and learn to take a ‘compliment’) should try being a medium-tall white girl in Mexico for a few weeks.
I thought living in Ibiza had inured me to male commentary on my dress and person, but Mexico takes it to a whole new level. I’m a target the minute I set foot out the door. Not because I’m outrageously dressed or anything (before you ask) – usually I’m in a vest, shapeless yoga trousers and flip flops with nary a lick of make-up, a dot of nail varnish or the hint a hairstyle. Yet I cannot walk around the block without being given the kind of leisurely appraisal usually reserved for expensive livestock.
In Mexico City I got called “guera” (“white girl”) so often I started to think it was my name. Here in Merida the men tend not to say anything, just go silent and look me up and down as I walk past. Behind the wheel they are braver, they honk and hoot from the windows (including the city bus drivers). The horns make me jump but I’m learning to tune them out. Soon, if anyone honks at me in warning, I’ll be mown down where I stand.
It’s gotten so bad that when I arranged to meet someone downtown, assuming he’d arrive on foot, I snarled at him when he arrived in a car and hailed me from the kerb. When I realised who it was I felt like a jerk, but jesus, what am I supposed to do? I’ve been so persistently hassled for the last week I’m ready to smack someone. I hate that. I don’t like constantly being on the defensive. I don’t like having to walk around with a ‘fuck off’ expression on my face. It would be nice if I could smile and nod to people when I pass someone on the street. I’ve tried that, incidentally, as a way of deflecting but the men stare back even more aggressively. They don’t want to engage, just want to assert their privilege to look and judge.
Maybe some women can deal with this, or even enjoy it, but not me. It’s not flattering, it’s exhausting. It makes me self-conscious. I’ve actually started to think, should I wear this? Is this okay? Should I put on a baggier top? Knowing full well I’ll still get grief.
All I want is to be able to walk down the street like a human being; to not feel like I’m being eyed up for auction. It’s not too much to ask.
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