I’ve discovered that here in South America, sexism is a cultural thing, but it’s a cultural aspect I don’t enjoy dealing with.
At home in the UK, I’ve experienced sexism before, though not to extremes. I can’t stand sexism, I don’t like the idea that women are still often treated as second class citizens, especially in fully developed countries with a great education system, like the UK.
Here in South America, sexism is very prominent in every day life. I guess given the fact that they’re still a bit behind on the times and not as developed as the UK gives them an excuse to some extent. But if you’re a woman, walking down the street can be quite difficult/annoying/frustating. I am finding it increasingly difficult to hold my tongue and not say anything back when I get a sexist remark. I think as well, because I’m blonde and have very pale skin and am clearly not hispanic in any way, that makes me more vulnerable to sexism.
In Cuzco in Peru, when I’d been away for two weeks and laundry day was long over due, I had nothing left to wear but a summer dress. It’s just above knee length, so it’s not the shortest dress in the world, but I found it attracted all the wrong sorts of male attention. To the point where I even got asked out on a date by a tattoo artist who was trying to hand out leaflets in the street. Maybe if I had been wearing tracksuit bottoms he wouldn’t have even tried to talk to me.
I didn’t notice a lot of sexism in Brazil, but as I’ve been in Argentina more than a month now, I am very aware of it here. I walk down the street and get ‘hola bonita’- ‘hello beautiful’, ‘que preciosa’- ‘how beautiful’, ‘hola linda’- ‘hello beautiful’. There are too many different ways to say beautiful in Spanish, I’ve discovered. Then on my train ride home from my volunteer project I often get stared at/ogled at by men. On one occasion a man kept looking at me so much it made me move not only seats, but also carriages. I’ve also had the train ticket inspector trying to flirt with me and calling me ‘linda’ too.
In queues to get on trains and buses, men often let women go in front of them. On trains and buses, they will also often give up their seat for a woman. And they hold open doors for women too. In a way, I see this as sexist too. You should just be a nice person to everyone, not because you’re a man, but because you’re a nice person. And women should hold doors open for people too- other women, and for men.
It really would be nice to be able to walk down the street and not get what I am classing as abuse off strangers. More to the point, off men. I shouldn’t have to put up with it, and I definitely wouldn’t put up with being spoken to like that on a daily basis in the UK.
I would like to mention though, the sexism doesn’t apply to ALL men. All the men I know here personally are perfect gentlemen, it’s just the strangers in the street giving the general male population a bad name.