What happened on that cruise was shocking, and I had never experienced anything like it, though I know I'll have to deal with it on a frequent basis the rest of my life. I wasn't physically harmed, but it's changed my view on the world, and how I feel about certain issues.
When I was younger, I didn't really see the whole issue with catcalling and sexual harassment. I thought they were like compliments, albeit ones shouted from passing cars by strange men. I didn't mind it, because that meant I was beautiful, right? At least, pretty enough to be noticed. This is the reasoning used by many, when they say it isn't an issue, and aren't sure why it needs to stop.
But as it happens to me more and more daily, I don't enjoy it, and can't imagine why I ever did.
My first incident within the three days we were on that cruise: we were having dinner at a two person table, and were about done with our meal, when an older man sat next to us. As with most restaurants, you typically follow the waiter to your table, but looking back, I'm not so sure the seating choice was chosen by the waiter.
He was friendly, joking that it was alright if we didn't like Italian guys, and telling us about his son - though he was alone, and didn't have a wedding ring. My initial impression was that he was a little loud and irritating, but harmless, and probably just lonely.
My first red flag was when he started touching my hair, saying how it was pretty, but "natural black hair is much more beautiful, this isn't you. You should own who you are" - basically all the frustrations I vented about in this post. Of course I told him off, saying I know and love who I am, and the color of my hair means nothing, I'm not trying to be white. I should have also added not to touch me, but I was so flustered by this talkative, imperceptibly callous man.
I regret that I didn't do anything at that time. He became even more pushy, plunking down his menu on our table, telling us to order him whatever because he didn't care at all. He tried to spoon feed us his meal, and wanted to share a bottle of wine. He kept asking what race we were, and had an inappropriate fascination with the fact that we were Asian.
It didn't stop there. He began to make lewd comments as to what he though my dining companion and I should do, and I was so horrified. She was a little tipsy and hard of hearing, so she could only nod and smile, thinking he was a polite stranger inquiring about normal, acceptable things. I was speechless, and couldn't say anything.
I ended up telling him off about a comment that I said was racist (in actuality it wasn't terribly so, I just needed a reason to release my feelings). He tensed up, going off about he had fought in the DMZ in Korea, I was just a little girl, and he was the farthest thing from racist. I turned away from him, and he touched my arm, trying to get me to listen.
After that encounter, I was so shaken up. Up until that time, I had a naive belief that men were good and chivalrous at their core, though obviously I understood they weren't all like that. Although this is clear to some, this isn't the case, and often times, you're alone in standing up for yourself.
Thankfully, nothing happened. I never saw that man again, but that night, I was scared out of my mind. My friend went out later alone, while I huddled in our room, and when she didn't return as quickly as I thought she would have, I worried he might have found her and done something. I worried he could have somehow found out our names, or followed us back to our room. I dreamed up terrible situations. And all this was after a 15 minute conversation.
I'm no stranger to places where vendors call to you constantly, trying to get you to look at their wares, and maybe purchase. Many malls in China have recordings set up that advertise their products to passerby, so you're constantly bombarded.
Ensenada is a port city, and it mainly depends on cruise ship visitors. I can understand how the locals really need to make sales, and we're the best option. So I was prepared and understood the many peddlers that called to us, but what I wasn't expecting was the catcalling and inappropriate things they said to us.
This one bar, "Papas & Beer" was terrible. They were on a cross street, so we had to pass by a couple times, and each time, they shouted things like: "How many Mexican boyfriends do you want?", "Come on, you guys aren't doing anything else, you know you want it!", "Hey blondie, come here!", and "Honey, you know you want a piece of this."
Walking away, I could feel their eyes on me, and it was definitely not pleasant. I felt violated, though none of them actually physically harassed us, it was tiring and disgusting.
There are many who don't support catcalling, and dozens of videos of to show what it's like to men, but there are also those who say, "It's a compliment". I used to be one of those, who believed it wasn't a bad thing, when men called out to you. But I've realized, a compliment, a real one, doesn't make you feel like your insides are twisting up, like they can see you at your most vulnerable. It should make you feel warm, light, like a hug from one of your best friends.
I don't know if catcalling will stop becoming acceptable or tolerated in my lifetime. It's not an optimistic view, but it's my personal feeling that we have so many issues everywhere now, I'm not sure catcalling is at the forefront of people's minds. Harassment, assault, those things, yes. To the casual onlooker, those things seem bigger, more permanent, more damaging than catcalling. But that's not true.
I hate the way I feel when it happens, how I can't do anything. Most of the time, it's from cars or bikes, and I don't have enough time to respond. I can't think of a witty retort, and I don't even have the time to raise my middle finger, I only have enough time to stare, and blink at them. Not exactly a powerful sign of "no".
So, I'm hoping this'll be an open dialogue about feelings you have, experiences or tips to share. I understand this is a sensitive topic, and am completely with you if you would rather not share your own experiences or if you don't agree with my opinions. I only ask that you do so respectfully.
Please talk with me.