Imagine you’re going for a run after a long day at work. You are in your own neighborhood, in a place you have lived for about two years. You’re alone, you’re a woman and it is daytime. You see a group of men on their bicycles coming in the opposite direction. You put your head down and ignore them. You hear one of them call you a name meant to describe female dogs and the incessant buzz of more names being spewed at you. You continue to jog and look at your watch to see how close to home you are. You know that if you pick up the pace, you can be home in five minutes. You casually glance behind you as your hear the whir of a bike and notice one of the men is following you. He speeds up, gets right next to you, calls you a name, and spits in your face. He is angry that you did not initially respond to him and make eye contact. And you’re not surprised this happened. You get home, wash the spit residue off your t-shirt and your hair, and hop in the shower. You don’t even consider telling your friends about this incident until later on, because you don’t want to bother them when they’re trying to relax after school.
Later, when you mention what happened–your friends are outraged, but not surprised.
“Yeah, I was walking home from school yesterday when someone driving a hearse stopped the hearse to call me a cunt,” your friend adds to the conversation. Other women chime in with everyday stories about everything from being called names on the street, to being slapped across the face in broad daylight in the park for asking a man to stop bothering her friend.
I am a white woman living in Cofradia, Honduras working as a teacher at a bilingual school. I have white privilege that other people living here do not and that needs to be acknowledged.
Machismo is a prevalent in this society; women are not as respected as men in work, school, and life. That is not to say that this is not the same for parts of America, but there are aspects of sexism here that are more imbedded into the culture than what I experienced in the United States. I have talked to many Honduran mothers of my students who have been catcalled and also do not like it, but for them, it’s almost an expectation. One of my student’s mother’s told me she ignored the men, but she knew as long as she walked down the street, she was going to experience harassment and there was nothing she could do about it.
I think that street harassment is part of a larger culture of sexism that is systematically embedded in our society and also largely linked to racism. I don’t know if I have one solution to solving this issue. I believe that it can best be solved by the power of partial solutions. People need to acknowledge that it’s a HUGE problem and not just something women should “take as a compliment.” People have told me that we have bigger things to worry about, and that I should ignore it when people yell at me on the street. But if it makes women feel uncomfortable and unsafe, I think that it’s something we really need to worry about.
This post is part of a series of contributed posts about individual experiences with street harassment. If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please submit.
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