Am i intimidating to women
He was sweet; his suit looked a bit too big for him, and I immediately thought of the quintessential photos you see of male Latino pensioners. “Mi princesssa…” he hissed with a wide grin, turning his wrinkled and liver-spotted neck to keep his gaze on me as I picked up my pace.
My head was swimming as I marched along the street, thinking disgustedly about how many grandchildren he probably had.
Despite being foreigners and strangers, women often connect with local children, young mothers, and old ladies with an immediacy borne from an innate trust in our gender.
We are invited into Indian wedding ceremonies and Thai family kitchens, and given privileges that a male stranger could rarely hope to receive.
How on earth could a grandpa ever think it was socially acceptable to leer at a young woman like that?
As I spent more time in the continent, I quickly came to learn that this wasn’t an isolated incident. The machismo element of Latino culture seems to practically demand that men make these types of comment, and I received them so often that I almost stopped noticing.
The one and only facet of Latino culture I have still not changed my opinions about, because it tapped straight into a core part of my belief system.
So after eighteen months travelling through Latin America, I thought it was necessary to address the biggest issue I faced there.We were both dressed for the July humidity; denim shorts, a thin, loose, sleeveless top, hair tied back, sunglasses over our eyes, umbrella on an arm. I wanted to see what treatment she received from the occasional groups of boys and men that punctuated each corner. As we approached a group, I saw their eyes switch to her body.I saw them look her up and down, lips stretching into smiles.Well, I was either alone or with other women, for starters.Any time I walked with a man the behaviour either disappeared, or shrank to such a minimum that I didn’t register it – although when I was with a man, he sometimes noticed instead. One of the factors that often arises in sexual harassment cases is also often referenced in terms of a traveller, because there are so many cultural boundaries you might be overstepping with your dress sense. There, women of all ages are dressed in much less ‘modest’ clothing – particularly in the hotter, more humid countries – and I wasn’t about to sweat in jeans and jumpers for the sake of not getting catcalled.
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In India, I was respectful to the point of deference, because I knew how important the act of covering a woman’s shoulders, cleavage and knees was to the local culture. I can easily say I’m probably more self-conscious than most women.