“I don’t know how to handle this.”

I live in an underdeveloped country working at a local NGO. I’ve had to deal with men staring and saying things for a long while but now I work between two construction sites and things have become really difficult. The men put their English to good use by shouting things like, “What a beautiful body!” or “Good pussy!” at me.

I complained to my boss, who is a local with a masters in gender studies, and she was very nice and supportive and tried to call the construction supervisor about it, but the harassment still continues and it makes me nervous about walking home every day. I can come home and commiserate with my room mate but it’s very difficult, especially given the poverty and the political/cultural situation here.

I know it’s never right to take abuse, but I struggle with the part of me that knows this is partially a product of the society I live in that’s been so oppressed for so long – that I could leave the country at any time but they cannot.

It’s not just me.. we hear them from the office catcalling women all day. As an international, however, I am singled out for abuse because they “know” I don’t have brothers or husbands handy. If I’m walking down the street with a man, this never happens. I don’t know how to handle this.

– Anonymous

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2 Responses to “I don’t know how to handle this.”

  1. rungrrl says:

    I have had a similar experience, and often considered holding up a giant sign, written in their language, detailing the way in which their harassment affects all women, and that essentially, men who harass women on the street are harassing their own mothers and daughters.

  2. Emma/Nufanglenesse says:

    It’s all too easy for someone as compassionate as you to worry about their poverty – but actually it’s nothing to do with their poverty, or the situation in the country, and all to do with them being male jerks. Happens in the richest and the poorest countries, whenever men think they can get away with it. Sadly I think the best feeling is contempt: their poverty deserves understanding, their misogyny does not. Although I don’t want to make a value judgement about developing countries in general, and I don’t know where you are anyway, you might be in a place where if you retaliated, and that provoked violence, the police wouldn’t care. Violence against women is often given a blind eye, even mzungu women! So I’d stick with private contempt: think anything you want about the men, however mean, and remember how strong you are for doing this and how they are holding their country back by perpetuating misogyny. Good luck!

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