An article, published in the Antigua Breaking News last week has garnered a lot of attention. It was written by a freelance journalist who came to Barbados on the Welcome Stamp, but only stayed for four and a half months. She did not feel safe enough to stay longer after experiencing instances of harassment and men following her. The interesting part of this story is the reaction to the article.
Every woman I have spoken to has experienced some form of harassment here in Barbados. Catcalling is an ongoing issue that women find disgusting but put up with in the name of “culture.” Here are some questions that I intend to explore further:
Why do women put up with this (and similar) behavior when they say they hate it? Have they grown up believing that it is an affirmation of their sexiness? Does this translate to their worth? Do they not feel empowered to stop the behavior?
What is it that men hope will happen when they do this?!
For me, it is like being hit on at a bar and politely refusing someone’s advances or trying to get away from a conversation. But the aggressor is too drunk or too awkward to pick up on that. This leaves me in the difficult position of needing to be firmer, sometimes called the “bitch.” I resent that the onus is now on me to do this in a way that does not hurt the man’s ego, when I did not initiate the interaction in the first place. It is a commonly held belief that a failure to deal with the situation in this manner could make the man aggressive and put me in an unsafe position. Why isn’t my discomfort considered equal to their need to save face?
Let me be clear: this shit happens in other countries. At home, I told a guy I knew from volleyball that I just wanted to be friends. He later hit on me (hard) and when I told him how angry and disappointed that made me, in a bewildered response he said,” I thought you were just playing hard to get.” Somehow our culture has encouraged a dysfunctional dance where women are not direct about their own needs and so the man’s needs trump.
In response to my question of why we love Canada so much, a friend wrote that she has always been grateful for how women are treated at home. Love him or hate him, when Trudeau was asked why there were so many women in his cabinet, he responded because it is the 21st century!
Vanessa, a Torontonian with whom I spent a lot of time in July, got me thinking about feminism in our many spirited and thoughtful conversations. A commonly acknowledged definition of feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. It is about equality, not a bunch of women busting guys’ chops. It is about respecting my words, my actions, and my needs as a woman as equal to yours as a male.
I am a visitor to Barbados, and I am not here to educate anyone on respect for women. This experience, however, has opened my eyes and got me thinking about feminism. For me, this means being treated with respect and as an equal in any country that I am in. As a privileged person, I get to choose that country, which is something that I am exploring. This is one more lens to see this decision through.