The eight letter word that some are recently treating as a four letter one. A word that I didn’t used to identify with. A word that I thought meant I wasn’t allowed to wear skirts or shave my armpits. A word that I thought meant men-hater. A word that I thought meant that all CEOs in the world should be women and Hillary should be president. A word that I thought meant I don’t support women’s rights because I sometimes (lots of times…) ask men to lift heavy objects or open pickle jars for me. A word that initiated lots of, “Irregardless, ex boyfriends are just off limits to friends. I mean that’s just, like, the rules of feminism!” quoting. A word that almost doesn’t exist in this machismo country that I love so much.
Recently, I’ve seen this word pop up more and more on my most-used outlet into the world, Facebook. Slowly, my views on feminism started to change. Men-hating should instead read “women-empowering.” Shaved armpits get the green light. And I totally do the bulk of the work by loosening those pickle jar lids before handing them off. Feminism: two thumbs up.
Then, this past weekend, I started seeing a lot of “#YesAllWomen” and thought, Huh. I’m a woman. Wonder what that’s about. (Seriously the amount of news that trickles down to JilliWorld is astonishing.) And I started investigating. (As in, I turned to Twitter.) Dear Twitter, thanks for always being available, even in JilliWorld.
Yesterday, I was driving to a children’s home. I was alone in my pick-up truck with the windows down, blasting Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” (and yes, I was nailing all those high notes.) As I passed a little green car, the driver catcalled in my direction. I got in the other lane, not paying him much attention. I turned Whitney up a little louder and kept driving. A few seconds later, the green car appeared in the lane to the left of me and blew me another kiss. I ignored him, staring straight ahead at the car in front of me. After the third “mamacita” and kiss that he blew at me, I rolled up my driver’s side window. A few seconds later, the same little green car appeared on in the lane to the right of me. I finally looked over at him, more pissed off than I dared show, only to see that he was now flipping me off.
The above story is not an isolated incident. At stoplights, I am reguarly approached by men who tell me how pretty my eyes are. I get called “mi gringuita,” “mi mamacita,” “mi princesa,” etc. by strangers regularly. It’s almost impossible to walk towards a group of street kids without getting whistled at or kisses blown towards me by men that I don’t know. I can no longer dignify, “You should take it as a compliment!” with a response that doesn’t involve telling that person to rot in hell. My “annoyed eyeroll” look that I perfected as a 17 year old seems to have zero impact on these men. Ignoring these advances is usually interpreted as encouraging them. I don’t dare tell the man to you know what because, yes, I’m scared of their response. I’m scared that a rude and misogynistic verbal response might be the least of my worries. Because I’ve been taught that I am responsible for how a man reacts. So instead, I lie.
I lie a whole lot. Sometimes I’m married. Sometimes my boyfriend is Honduran and sometimes he’s North American. Sometimes I’m in a rush to get home to feed the children. And you know what these lies do? They make these men shut up. What is this culture? And I don’t mean Honduran culture. I mean this culture where women are preyed upon and men are respected by other men. (And yes, yes, yes, I’m fully aware that men also suffer from sexual harassment. It is also very, very wrong and should not be tolerated. But I, a gringa in Honduras, don’t experience that. So I’m sticking to what I know.)
Last night, I was on the street visiting some kids. When he thought I wasn’t looking, a boy that I love so, so much made an obscene gesture behind a girl. This girl, at the age of 13, either didn’t notice or wasn’t phased by what had just happened to her. This girl, who spends every day on the street, has undoubtedly been a victim of this type of objectification in the past. She will undoubtedly continue to face it in the future. There is a good chance that she doesn’t even know she is being objectified and harassed. And without wanting to make excuses for his behavior (because it is so, so wrong), there is also a good chance that the boy who made this gesture isn’t aware of the impacts that his actions have. They’re following the lead of older men around them who should know better.
It’s a known rule that if, while riding in my truck, a young teenage boy makes a kissy sound or in any way objectifies a girl, he must get out of the car, approach the girl, and apologize. The boys that I know are more than aware of my feelings toward catcalls. They don’t fully understand why, but they respect my rules. It’s not an end-all solution to the problem. It may not even be a dent. But it’s teaching that women deserve more. Because the dent has to start somewhere. Because it’s ridiculous that it’s 2014 and this is an issue. Because treating women like humans doesn’t take away anyone’s manhood. (Let’s not even get started on my opinions on that word.) Because since starting this blog post, 3,440 new #YesAllWomen tweets have been posted. Because, yes, all women have a story about being harassed or objectified, even 13 year old girls. And yes, because Hillary should be president, but not because she’s a woman, but because she is a freaking badass.