Sexism in the streets
Until when am I going to endure men’s sexist remarks and stares?
My choice of transportation is my feet. Every day I walk a mere two-and-a-half kilometers from my house to my office. I walk because in a city where people have become desensitized to the traffic situation, I choose not to sit in a car wasting precious time. When new acquaintances find out how close my house is to my office, I normally get the “Wow, sosyal!” comment. But my everyday ritual is light years away from being glamorous.
Plying the streets on foot has introduced me to what real urban living means. Almost daily, I get a catcall. A whistle. A lascivious wink. An intrusive “Hi, miss!” A whispered “Ganda mo, ate.” My daily societal interaction on the road has been a hefty serving of sexual harassment from men—old, young, rugby-sniffing, deranged, jeepney drivers, motorcycle riders, porters, vendors, name them. I become furious every time it happens, wishing that I can just jump at the man and beat the life out of him. But I always end up dumbfounded and upset. Often, silent.
I have done nothing about it—except today. This morning, lacking sleep and running late for a 9 a.m. meeting, I snapped at a truck driver who had given me a lewd head-to-toe stare. I cursed at him. Much to my disgust, he just scoffed at me. My action felt both like a release and a stab in the gut. I was violated. I felt betrayed—by my male counterpart, by society, by my country.
This patriarchal nation is so obsessed with blaming the woman whenever she becomes a victim of sexual harassment. When we cry foul, society is quick to say, “You shouldn’t dress like that.” Or “You shouldn’t have been out late at night.” Or “You should’ve walked faster to avoid bystanders.” Or “You should’ve just put makeup on when you’re in the office.” Really? My choice of clothing is my fault? Blame me when work schedules require me to come home late at night? Run for my life whenever I see men standing by the sari-sari store on my street? Take it against me that I wear makeup?
I do not owe this society anything just because I am a woman. It is not my fault that I am an independent and liberal female able to make decisions for myself. I refuse to live in fear thinking that at any given moment, I may be raped, groped, or verbally harassed by men. I refuse to accept “cultural machismo” as the answer to why men do these vulgar acts.
Our country is in transition toward a new administration. Am I hopeful? I wouldn’t say I wholeheartedly am. But I’m also not dismissing the idea that it may spark change.
I’d like to believe that I belong in a progressive nation that sees men and women as equal counterparts, no double standards. But then that may be a utopian dream.
LA Yamsuan, 29, is a copywriter for an advertising agency.
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