It's infuriating, humiliating, and in the last two cases, scary as all hell; but for the most part, the best thing I can do is just ignore it. Feeling all these emotions and strangling the things I would like to say is extremely difficult, but often the men are looking for rise out of you, either positive or negative, so even if you blow up in their face (as I have on a few occasions), they will just think you want to play. One of the advantages of my position is that I've been able to talk to a lot of young men about piropoing, and how it can make women feel. Some of my guy friends have countered that it is a complement (including the rape comment), but I've at least made it clear that if they want to hang out with me, they need to cut it out. It's a small victory.
I try to tell myself that change, especially behavioral change, is slow, but that I'm working on making a small difference. Some days it makes me feel better as the comments fly at me from the street; some days it doesn't. Today was one of those days, and while shouting obscenities at men who piropo is never really effective, shaming them is, as evidence by what happened not a half-hour ago.
As I was walking the long way from the health center to my house, I passed a man who hissed and called at me. It has gotten to the point that I just automatically block out most of these piropos, so it wasn't him, but a chocolate cupcake I spotted in a bakery window, that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had completely forgotten him in my joy at beholding such a beautiful pastry, until I saw him walk into the bakery and stand uncomfortably close to me. He then started whispering to me as I stood at the counter, basically telling me how awesome it was going to be when we were having sex tonight. If I had followed my current path of open discussion of gender rights, I would have said something like, "excuse me sir, but your comments are making me very uncomfortable, and I would appreciate it if you showed me a bit of respect."
Instead I thought, two can play this shame game, and in my loudest voice I said, "excuse me, but DO I KNOW YOU?" Everything went silent, and everyone turned to stare at us, as the man stammered and shook his head. I should mention that this bakery is a annex of the local women's shelter and it raises money for their work to prevent domestic and gender violence. Many of the looks he got were less than friendly.
"Chill out," he kept whispering as everyone continued to stare, "chill out, just chill out." It was as if I'd bought an awkward pie, and forced it down his throat. I know it's hypocritical to fight humiliation with humiliation, but sometimes it just feels so good. Tomorrow I'll be better, I promise.
Check out this video:
Then check out the awesome cupcake I got: