Multi-culturalism vs Universal Respect for Women

I had recently moved into an immigrant neighborhood in NYC. I was excited about moving to this neighborhood because I love the diversity of immigrant cultures. I have always wanted to live in a multi-cultural society that respects the differences certain people’s backgrounds. However, after a few months I have drawn a different conclusion.

Unfortunately, I was harassed by Hispanic men on a daily basis. I suffered hissing, sucking noises, and even physical touching every day often more than once. I was not harassed by the Chinese, Polish, or African immigrants who also lived in this neighborhood.

I despise racism and think it would be wrong to say that all Hispanic men harass women. I know it is only a small percentage of them who harass women. I also met many wonderful Hispanic men.

However, I have learned that sexual harassment is more socially acceptable in Latin America. I have also learned that Latin American women from some countries are taught to be much more careful about walking alone, and dressing modestly to counter balance harassment.

I think it is incredibly important that Hispanic men are taught that this part of their cultural heritage is not acceptable in the United States. If we deny that certain cultures have a higher incidence of sexual harassment because of their machismo cultural norms than we will put political correctness above the rights of women. I think we need a movement to educate new citizens about respect for women.

– anonymous

Location: New York City

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


5 Responses to Multi-culturalism vs Universal Respect for Women

  1. Patricia says:

    I agree! I am currently working very hard to finish my post-graduate degree in Bethlehem, PA where I am CONSTANTLY harrassed everytime I step outside. It has gotten so bad that I purposely avoid walking at certain times of day and dress very carefully, to no avail. Without fail it has consistantly been by black or Hispanic men. Why are these “cultural differences” tolerated when they are so obviously damaging?!

  2. obzervi says:

    You can’t pick and choose when it comes to multiculturalism. In a multicultural societies ALL values are deemed acceptable, not just the ones your culture has validated as appropriate.

  3. Hypatia says:

    It happened to me today, the hissing. I’d been reading about it on blogs like this. I was walking through a plaza space in Northern Virginia when a guy started following me. It was just my luck I happened to walk out of a building when he was just about to pass by. He followed me all the way to where my car was parked, hissing the whole way, like a leaky tire. Then when I got something from my car and was walking back to the building he was sitting on a bench in the plaza where I had to walk past and hissed the whole time.

    Because I’d read about it here, I knew this was the El Salvador equivalent of a wolf whistle. I ignored it the whole way. I could tell the guy was content to harass me from a distance. If he’d tried anything, though, I would have taken action against him and made him sorry. When guys catcall me, I tell them to fuck off. But this hissing left me unsure how to respond. Although I knew what it meant, it didn’t fit into my experience or cultural template of how to fight back against it. Do you get what I mean?

    There is a lot of racism in Northern Virginia against the Hispanic population here which has grown rapidly in recent years. I have stood up and participated in anti-racist actions in my hometown. I liked how the contributor said “I despise racism and think it would be wrong to say that all Hispanic men harass women. I know it is only a small percentage of them who harass women. I also met many wonderful Hispanic men.” Many Hispanic gentlemen have treated me with perfect respect and courtesy. I don’t suppose they like the bad apples who are giving them all collectively a bad name.

    Cultural diversity has nothing to do with women’s right to walk in public free of harassment. What idiot culture would claim such a thing? I bet if you publicly asked Hispanic community leaders, on the record, if their culture approved of street harassment, they’d say of course it doesn’t. It’s a disgrace to them. They have an interest in putting a stop to it.

    I get angry when “culture” or “diversity” is used as an excuse for tolerating misogyny or abuse of women. It is no such thing. There is no excuse for harassing women. None whatever. It is not a Latino vs. Anglo thing, or a Muslim vs. Christian thing. That clash of civilizations meme is racist bullshit. Latina and Muslim women after all have just as much interest as we do in putting a stop to this. Why aren’t their voices given equal weight? Why should the misogynist oppressors get to claim “culture” for their crimes? Those cultures include the voices of women. I want the women to be listened to for once.

  4. Queens, NY says:

    I cannot stand Latino men and want nothing to do with them for precisely this phenomenon. No culture is perfect but some are far more misogynistic than others. The justifications for this based on culture are especially ridiculous, i.e. “In my country, the women like it when we catcall them.” This is America (did they not get the memo?) and it’s called sexual harassment/acting like an animal.

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