Anna’s Story: “[Harassment] doesn’t stop, it only gets worse.”
I live in Guatemala City and I cannot walk down the street alone without getting stares and comments. When I walk with my boyfriend, nobody ever says anything. But alone, every 2 or 3 men I pass on the street feels he has the right to call out to me, and it makes me angry and scared. Angry because it’s so disrespectful and they don’t have the right, and scared because as a woman walking alone, it could be so much worse than an obnoxious comment. I want to react, to call them out, but though I speak Spanish well (I’m from the States), I’m not so comfortable as to be able to challenge a random stranger on the street, especially since I can’t predict the way he’ll react. That feeling of powerlessness to call them out on their behavior puts me in an even worse mood. I tend to walk around on the street now *trying* to look angry enough to do some real damage in the hopes that it will scare some of them off. Today I finally lost my patience. I screamed the only Spanish-language obscenity I know at an employee of a fancy restaurant who called to me from the door, “Hola amor, where are you going?” (in English) It’s not the worst thing I’ve heard, but it’s what I get so many times a day it’s like a broken record. I’m not sure he heard, but the man on the street certainly did, which I felt a little bad about – it was not directed at him. And then not even 20 seconds later, a man on a motorcycle stopped at a light tried to get my attention with “ch ch! ch ch!” (The sound is used to get people’s attention here, and I cannot begin to fathom how many times I have heard it). Still fuming from the last guy, I flipped him off as I walked by, and then when he sped by he yelled something angry at me. I know that my reactions were immature and probably not the best way to deal with it, but I actually felt a little better afterward. I don’t have the energy or the responsibility to explain to every man who catcalls me why it’s inappropriate and offensive. And most of them probably already know it anyway. I get so frustrated not being able to react, and today, I *was* able to react. I’ll work in better responses, but I’m proud of myself for not feeling helpless in today.
Reading the entries on this site have made me so angry about street harassment, and given mine more context, but it has also helped me feel stronger to do something about it. Ignoring it doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop, it only gets worse, and the people who do it will just keep doing it if nobody tells them off. If they think will get away with it, there’s no incentive not to catcall somebody. Even if you just scream something at them, they know at least that it’s not appreciated nor tolerated by their target and maybe, eventually, they start to think about that… hopefully.