I was going to stay quiet on this subject, but I think it deserves a little bit of (controlled) noise.
When I first arrived here, I noticed that I received a lot more stares and interested glances than when I’m in the States. That makes sense — I’m a white-skinned, blue-eyed foreigner. I gradually stopped noticing and started ignoring it; however, I’ve been noticing again, more recently, how many of these stares are coming from men. People say that this, along with catcalls and such, is just part of the culture, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a fact that should be shrugged off and accepted.
The other night, I had a conversation with a couple other girls from my program here, and we all agreed that we had never really felt unequal to men in the United States — we’d just heard of other people feeling this way. One of my friends pointed out that, since arriving here, she had found herself feeling insecure about being a woman at times. Which sounds ridiculous…
But imagine yourself being a white woman walking home from dinner in Santiago (which may not be a far walk, but it’s dark out), and a man on the sidewalk watches you walk by and maybe says something as you pass. You are a confident woman who knows how to handle herself in the city, but that man has just made you feel a lot more visible to the world — a lot more like a target.
I have never personally felt unsafe because of a situation like this, and I don’t often walk by myself in the dark, but why did that man (or other men like him) feel like it was acceptable to make a solitary woman feel like she needed to pick up the pace or hold her purse even tighter? I’m starting to think that maybe they don’t actually understand the effect of their “harmless looking.”
The culture that you are surrounded by can teach you what your identity is, and I want every girl to know and really understand that she is worthy of respect and that she is equal to all men. God created the female after the male not because she is less important but because she completes the scene — the world is not right without women. There are a many issues in this world, and I think a lot of them stem from misunderstood self-worth.
I want every man to know the he is worthy of respect as well, and his identity is not in his world-defined “masculinity.”
Every person is equal to every other person. None of us are perfect. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. We were all created under the same sun by the same God.
Respect should be universal and mutual: women should respect women should respect men should respect men should respect women. Being that we do not live in a perfect world (by any stretch), I do not expect every person to always meet the standard of respect I believe in (including myself), but I do hope that every person would be given the chance to truly understand what respect means and what it looks like.
We should not be content with women feeling like they have to walk with their stank faces on and their heads down all the time. I don’t know about you all, but I try to think positive thoughts, which creates a non-stank face. I don’t like finding myself scowling as a formed habit… That’s just not how I want to live my life.
Peace and Blessings x
(From Santiago, Chile)