Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carol´s Return

After an unfortunate episode during which I forgot all my login information, I have returned to the JAM Bar from Quito, Ecuador. I love a lot of things about Quito; how easily I can connect with new people, how my host family immediately started calling me their daughter and told me they loved me, the Spanish language, the music, etc. However, one aspect of the culture that I struggle with daily is the negative male attention. I have experienced cat calls, whistling, hissing, random men trying to talk to me in the street, cars stopping in an attempt to pick me up, and long and uncomfortable stares on the bus. I keep trying to tell myself that it´s not me they´re really whistling at, it´s a stereotype of what gringas, white girls down here, act like. Apparently we´re easy. Accordingly we get lots of extra attention. I try to tell myself that I shouldn´t bother getting angry with the individuals because they´re as affected and controlled by their society as I am, but somehow nothing works. I realized the other day that the reason I feel so incredibly offended every time I walk in the street is because the way these men attempt to communicate with me is equivalent to the way in which I would interact with a dog. In the streets, I´m not a human being with thoughts, a life, and a personality; I´m an object, an animal.

It hurts me to think that because of how people see gringas down here I am looked at as easy, unable to speak Spanish, wealthy, and stupid. I don´t want to accuse Ecuadorians of having a lot of false stereotypes, because many Americans who come here do not in fact speak Spanish and, after a few too many drinks, have been known to partake in questionable behavior. Americans do generally have more money than Ecuadorians. Although I hate the attention, I´ve found value in the experience because I now understand the power of stereotypes. We talk about them all the time, we all love to claim that we don´t believe them, and, for me at least, as a white middle class person living in a predominately white area, I don´t have to deal with them at home on a regular basis, or at least ones that hurt me in some way. Stereotypes do have immense power and do hurt individual people who have very probably done nothing to deserve them.

So the next time you see a tatooed guy with twenty piercings walking down the street, give him a chance. He could be a really cool dude.

1 comment:

  1. Mi Chuletita,

    It seems that South American gentlemen aren't gentlemen at all. Perhaps you should treat them as the salivating dogs that they appear to be! In my day, if a gentleman were to be a little too forward, shall we say, he could expect a "How dare you?" accompanied by a withering gaze and a swift slap across the cheek! Stay strong and respect yourself, my darling!

    Love, Momma Steele