The one and only facet of Latino culture I have still not changed my opinions about, because it tapped straight into a core part of my belief system.
Being treated differently, simply because I was female.
In India, I was respectful to the point of deference, because I knew how important the act of covering a woman’s shoulders, cleavage and knees was to the local culture. I can easily say I’m probably more self-conscious than most women.
I often feel people’s eyes on me – or rather, I continually notice where the people around me are looking – and I knew that I was often being stared at.
We were both dressed for the July humidity; denim shorts, a thin, loose, sleeveless top, hair tied back, sunglasses over our eyes, umbrella on an arm. I wanted to see what treatment she received from the occasional groups of boys and men that punctuated each corner. As we approached a group, I saw their eyes switch to her body.
I saw them look her up and down, lips stretching into smiles.
Despite meeting numerous men who’ve gone out of their way to treat me with kindness, I’ve also encountered stares and shouts, lusting eyes and flexed hands from car windows and unwelcome heavy steps echoing behind me.
Depending on the country, I’ve averted my eyes and refrained from ‘upsetting’ the perpetrator, or I’ve stared back sternly, raised my voice and made sure the surrounding people are aware of my discomfort.I saw their mouths move in unheard mutters – ‘’ – and their shoulders start to sway.From behind, you wouldn’t even know that she’d registered their presence.Well, I was either alone or with other women, for starters.Any time I walked with a man the behaviour either disappeared, or shrank to such a minimum that I didn’t register it – although when I was with a man, he sometimes noticed instead. One of the factors that often arises in sexual harassment cases is also often referenced in terms of a traveller, because there are so many cultural boundaries you might be overstepping with your dress sense. There, women of all ages are dressed in much less ‘modest’ clothing – particularly in the hotter, more humid countries – and I wasn’t about to sweat in jeans and jumpers for the sake of not getting catcalled.The cat calls and ‘complimentary’ phrases in Spanish of “” were actually preferable to the more silent advances; the lick of the lips and teeth, the sneer and accompanying grin which left no doubt, in my mind at least, of what they were thinking. The times where I turned around to glare seemed only to prompt further shouts.