Okay guys, time for our first ever officially interactive post! Get excited.
I’m quite familiar – as are those of you who followed my blog in the first half of 2009 – with the Indian/Southeast Asian man’s way of treating women, particularly foreign ones, on the street. I imagine it’s also similar to that in the Middle East/North Africa/large parts of Central & South America, though I base that off of other people’s stories and not first-hand experience. That is to say, to men on the street, women on the street are fair game for all sorts of harassment, particularly if they happen to look Western/foreign or not be wearing baggy, all-covering clothing (though sometimes this latter condition is waived if you are the former). It bothered me, I hated it, I wanted to punch men, and couldn’t wait to get back to Western cities where everyone would just ignore me.
My friend Michal laughed at me when I said that, and said she’d been getting harassment on the street from men since she was about thirteen; I couldn’t imagine that, remembering, at worst, only comments from skeezy homeless Frenchmen in Paris, stares and calls of bella! in Rome, and hollers from construction workers pretty much anywhere in the US. Sometimes I’d gotten compliments from homeless guys on the streets of DC and Berkeley, but it usually only made my day, because they were just being nice and hoping for some money (which, by the way, is probably one of the best ways to get someone to give you money, in my opinion).
Needless to say, since returning from Asia, I have been infinitely more aware of how men treat me – not just on the street, but in stores, offices, pretty much anywhere – and I am sad to say that I will never again be able to feel I can walk down the street ignored. Did I just not notice it before? Maybe. It’s depressing. But you get used to it quickly, and only remember the memorable ones to pass on to friends as anecdotes. (For examples, see Métro Stories.)
Which means it surprised me when I was telling Alfie about my latest encounter (On my way into the complex where my office is, yesterday, the man bringing his motorbike in before me did a double-take and grinned broadly at me before starting to chat away, saying how beautiful I was and on and on; I was in such a bad mood that I wanted to yell at him.) and he said, “You seem to get a lot of sketchy guys hitting on you here – is that normal?” To which my response was, “Welcome to the life of a woman.”
But then I started to wonder. This is where you all come in. Ladies, girls, women (pick your appellation) – do you get hit on an absurd amount? Do you just block it out? Are you so inured to it that you don’t even know? And how do you feel about the guys who hit on you? Obviously there are the one just doing it to be a pain, such as the construction workers who holler, but there are also the homeless guys who say, “Good morning, beautiful,” as well as the guys who propose marriage in the métro or genuinely think they can pick you up by chatting to you on the street. Do you want to smack them, or do you find them bemusing if stupid? Worst experiences? Best experiences?
(In other news, it’s getting cold again. Couldn’t feel my toes again tonight. Poo.)