How to deal with being incessantly harassed on the streets.
- Do not be a woman.
If that is not a viable option for you…
- Do not be white.
Note: This will not terminate the occurrences. It may however reduce the level of intensity from a 10 to a 9.5)
If that is not an viable option for you…
- Procure a burkha.
If you are not interested in living your public life as a fundamentalist Muslim…
- Get a tan and pretend you’re Columbian or something.
Note: This is the strategy that I have prescribed to, and it has yielded varying results. I have succeeded in being mistaken for an Ecuadorian, Colombian, and Argentinean on different occasions, which minimizes harassment aimed specifically at gringos. (Getting charged more in stores, getting harassed by street kids for money, being a target for muggings, etc.) This has however, had only a minimal impact on the cat-calling, whistling, commentaries, stalkings, and creepy eyeballings.
If the tan advised above does not give the desired results (you are blond or blued eyed for example), and even if they do, prepare for being subjected to daily and unrelenting harassment by acting in accordance to the following…
- Walk in the company of a man.
Note: This is remarkable effective, though admittedly not always practical.
- Do not acknowledge the existence of the source of the harassment.
Note: You must imagine that you have been inexplicable struck both deaf and blind. It seems to be an unwritten law in Guayaquil that once the harass-ee acknowledges the harasser, the harasser is given free reign to not only continue the offending activity, but to increase the intensity.
Example: Car honks at April who is walking down the street; April turns head, no more than 10 degree, to ensure she is not blocking someone; This slight turn of the head is taken as an acknowledgement of the honk. Driver of said vehicle slows to the speed of April’s walking (on a road with ~40mph traffic) and spends the next 10 blocks driving alongside her, begging/demanding/imploring her, to enter the aforementioned vehicle.For reasons described in the notes of the last point…
- Always walk against traffic.
Note: As frustrating, and sometimes alarming as all this harassment can be, please remember that you do not need to be constantly fearful. It’s bad for you health, and it is unwarranted. Men here don’t harass women because they are hateful or because they want to hurt you, and usually they don’t actually expect you to acknowledge them. Rich or poor, young or old, they all participate in this strange demonstration without the same cultural connotations that we Americans have come to associate with it. They never had a women’s liberation movement after women gained suffrage. No Maidenforms have been burned in front of T.V. cameras. Jenson v. Eveleth Mines was never handed down from their Supreme Court. I have met many sweet, down-to-earth, and (in every other way) respectful men here, who don’t think there is anything strange about “expressing their appreciation” for a strangers beauty. Yes it’s bullshit, but I can only argue so much in Spanish right now.
- You can’t avoid it, so just be careful and don’t take it too personally.
Original published March 31, 2011, on tumblr as “Consejo Para el Extranjero en Ecuador”.