Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Heart-shaped stone in pavement on walk from market some days ago

This morning as I went for my walk I noticed a few men along the route staring at me with x-ray vision to penetrate clothing. This look is akin to a silent "pssssssssssssst". I kept walking, bought papers and began the trek back home.

On the way back I passed by the guard booth I pass every morning. The guard there has one of those faces with droopy, "bedroom" eyes and a mouth that looks like it's always ready to sweet- talk some woman. Kind of like how The Mighty Sparrow looks. He always says "Good morning" to me in a smooth, Cassanova-ish way. Nothing wrong with that if it's his manner. I always respond with "Good morning" and keep walking.

This morning as I passed by, he shouted out: Sexaaaaaaaaaaay!"

I walked on a few steps, stopped and wondered if to address it. A part of me thought "that's how he is and he didn't mean any harm by it". But the part of me that could not ignore it won over. I turned and went back to his booth. He came outside, smiling - maybe thinking I was coming back to chat him up.

"Hi," I said. "You know, I prefer if you just say good morning like you normally do."

He looked somewhat confused and said "Good morning."

"Not that anything is wrong with thinking "sexy", but don't call it out like that to women in the street. It doesn't show respect for us."

"Oh gorm, it does be in me from small!" he explained, a look of mild shock and embarrassment on his face. "But ... good morning. Good morning."

I told him good morning and went on my way.

Nothing wrong with looking and appreciating. Women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, but we are not sex objects placed on earth for men's ogling and cat-calling pleasure. It's easy to ignore pssssssssssts and "sexaaaaaaays", especially as they don't hurt anyone physically, but at the end of the day, it's disrespectful and unfair. I've heard many women mention that they've stopped walking (basic right to exercise) because men along the way keep calling out to them and psssssssssssssssting. I myself have stopped walking at times or along certain routes to avoid this.

Recently some female friends of mine told me of things that happened to them when men "psssssssssssted" them and they ignored the men. One was chased by a man and pelted with stones for asking him to leave her alone when she was enjoying herself at the beach. One had a beer poured over her head for ignoring a man's "sweet talk", etc. And it really starts young, as evidenced by one acquaintance who was walking by some school children in a park and overheard one of the students say "Lewwe go play de rape game."

In response to what I'm saying here, some may comment: "Oh gorm, buh wha wrong wit she? Dat is how men does be!"

Others may say: "Be careful" or "You mustn't tell men things like that."

I think today is the last time I will say anything about it - whenever the situation arises (which it will, being in Trinidad). I'm not out on a crusade to transform men and I do understand that, due to the male ego, not everyone will take kindly to a female pleasantly requesting that they show respect for women.

As the guard said: "Oh gorm, it does be in me from small ..." This is the behaviour that many males learn as little boys, having had examples set by men around them who behave just like that or worse.


Lynn Cohen said...

Oh MY G-d!
I praise you for going back and talking to the guy...setting him straight. I hope it sunk in.

But I am blown away hearing the incidents that happened to the other women, beer poured on head, stones thrown?

and "the rape game"?

This is oh so sad. and frightening.
Lots and lots of education needed in this world. You are a great teacher. Be safe.

Jenny Berkeley, RN, Health Educator said...

Good for you. Mothers need to teach their young boys/men to respect women. And we as women must conduct ourselves with dignity and modesty.

Thanks for following me on twitter.

Jenny Berkeley (@sproutqueen)

Kimberlie said...

When women stop walking because they are afraid of, tired of or uncomfortable by these comments and cat calls, it is time to see these men's behavior as anti-social. Anti-social behavior is a community problem and a community solution is needed. Individual women can address the situation as you did, but it is too vast a problem foro any one women to be successful at creating a more safe environment.

Elspeth said...

I wonder what that community solution is.