Street Harassment: Be a “Bitch”

I recently discovered the Hollaback Project, “a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology.” Street harassment is a reality women face in varying degrees, depending on where in the world you live.

The first time I remember experiencing this I was 11 — I was living in Bogotá, Colombia, at the time, I should clarify. There you get constant bullshit like this from about the tender age of 10, or even younger if you’re more “developed” (shudders). It can continue until you’re about 60, or whenever you stop looking like what Colombian men consider a “woman” and more like a grandma, when you become this senile yet sweet asexual being.

Last time I was there, in May 2010, I was walking down a busy, very central street, in broad daylight, when a man selling cellphone covers or whatever, yelled at me,”what a delicious little ass.” My first instinct was to laugh, like, WTF was that? Seriously? But I just kept walking, and I kept thinking about it. What is up with that, really? I include the verbatim translation not to be crude, but because I think it might be enlightening to think about the language these men use, and how men and boys refer to women in general.

I also want to think about my reaction to the “piropo“, the Colombian euphemism for street harassment. It’s a strange mixed reaction, because in a way, I must admit, you do feel flattered — for a second, but then you feel ashamed, of something, of yourself –you blush and feel observed, you feel strangely self-conscious and feel like hiding somewhere, or covering yourself. Oh, what was I wearing, you ask, what did I do to provoke this spout of unsolicited male lust? I was actually wearing some oversized pants my mom passed down to me, so no, I was not “asking for it.” And that’s the thing, “slut” or no “slut”, miniskirt, or burqa, if you’re a woman, you’re gonna get objectified and possibly harassed, no matter what you do.

After I recovered from the mild shock, I regretted not saying anything back to him. How awesome would it have been to turn around and say, “Stop being so disgusting, mind your own business, fuck off,” or something similar. But I never did, and I vowed to do it the next time it happened. (More…)

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