As a caucasian girl from Raleigh, North Carolina, I have been fortunate enough not to have endured the annoyance of being gawked at by strangers. If I walked into a grocery store in a 17th century costume, people would probably will stare. However, the correlation between the amount of times people stare at me and the number of times I’ve worn a 17th century costume is equal. Well, since I came to Ecuador, the amount of times I’ve been gawked at has quadrupled. I have noticed that I have changed because of the staring and overall interactions I receive because I am a white, foreign girl. The numerous cat calls I receive daily has changed how I walk down the street. Normally, I walk briskly with my head held high, making eye contact with people. Now, I walk rapidly with my head down, not making eye contact at anyone. I don’t believe that this change has been a change for the better.
Here are some examples of times that I was catcalled, stared at, or bothered by strangers.
One day, while I was waiting at a stoplight, a bus pulled to a halt at the intersection. I looked up at the bus and saw three men with their heads out the window staring at me. I quickly looked away, but with my peripheral vision, I could tell that they were still staring at me. I glanced occasionally, only to receive the same picture of the three men staring emotionless at me. They continued to stare until the bus sped off around the corner.
Another example occurred one night in early October, while I was waiting to be picked up by my parents at the bus stop. Before I could even see the group of teenage boys, I could hear the whistling and the cat calls. It was dark and five teenagers crossed the street to where I was standing and proceeded to surrounded me. My Spanish was still pretty weak when it came to listening in conversations, so I was pretty intimidated by the five guys who I couldn’t understand talking rapidly to me. I gave short responses and put on my “Brianna is annoyed or silently mad” face. However, my actions and attitude did not turn the boys away. Luckily, about 5 minutes after the boys approached me, my parents picked me up.
Finally and probably, the most disturbing to me are the difficulties I experience while riding the bus 3-5 times a week. When I get on the bus, ideally I try to sit with a woman. Realistically, I find the first open seat before the bus lurches forward and I stumble over into someone’s lap! Normally, when there is an open seat next to me, a 16-25 year old male chooses to join me. Typically, he proceeds to ask me personal questions, and as respectfully and politely as I can, I answer with a sharp, flat tone, hoping that they get the hint of “I really don’t want to talk”. They never get the hint. During this brief minute conversation, one of the first questions is “Tienes novio?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” The first couple of times I was asked, I would tell the truth and say “No”. However, this answer seemed to make them sit closer, lean in and flirt. This is made me so uncomfortable that now, when I am asked that question, I lie and say “Sí ”. Every time, I feel awful for lying, but then remind myself how pushy and clingy the strangers typically become when I told them the truth.
I’ve been trying to understand why am I being treated differently? Now, I highly doubt I am being stared at because I have something on my face. A logical reason is that I look different. From my perspective, it’s because I am a caucasian female. However, to declare that statement as accurate, I would need to question the hundreds of people who have interacted with me.
In America during the 1960´s and 1970´s the women’s right movement was very strong and popular; however, women have fought for their equality since the nation was created, with events such as the Seneca Falls Women’s Right Convention. Within the past decades, there have been many movements to push for equality for women. Catcalling and sexually harassing women is considered wrong in our society. As a child, I was taught that I am equal to a man and should be treated equal. I easily believed that this was a rule of life. However, as I grew up, I began to realize that many people did not treat others equally. Although people in America have been fighting for equal rights for women, African Americans, Hispanics, and LGBT people, we haven’t socially or legally achieved that goal. On average, women still get paid less. Women typically don’t honk or whistle at men walking down the road. America is considered a first world country with a highly progressive momentum. Ecuador is a third world country, which normally suggests that their social movements are different as well. America is still having difficulties treating women equally. Before I came to Ecuador, I have never been directly affected by discrimination. I understand that my point of view is greatly influenced from my upbringing in the United States. When I talk to my Ecuadorian family and friends about it, they shrug their shoulders and say “It’s life”. They don’t like it either, but they have accepted it.
Despite my knowledge, I still get frustrated when I get catcalled walking down the street. I feel like I am a product for purchase when men stare at me. When I lie about having a boyfriend, I use it as a weapon of protection. Which is ridiculous because whether or not I have a boyfriend shouldn’t impact how someone interacts with me. These interactions that I have received have given me a little insight into how many people who are treated differently because of their appearance. Throughout my time in Ecuador, I learned how to be a blue person in a world full of green people. One day, hopefully in my future, women in America, Ecuador and all over the world are treated equally.