It isn’t so innocent anymore

I would be lying if I didnt say I haven’t been a victim of discrimination against women. This has happened to me quite a bit to me over the years but recently it has evolved a bit more than just a playful request.

Frequently at school, the same set of guys, who are in fact, ‘my friends’, keep asking me for a threesome and they are more than serious!

I’m not the type of girl to just give myself up so easily to anyone, at anytime. I feel completely pressured. I know that my answer is ‘NO’ and I have no intention of giving in but you know guys, they don’t give up that easily. They are very persistent individuals.

It confuses me to know that all these guys seem to want from me is sex, nothing more. They treat it as if it has no consequence at all, or they don’t even consider me or my feelings at all. I feel like sometimes i’m sometimes only good for one thing ONLY. I can only feel that way because of the way guys treat me. The first impression of them is always sweet and like they care about me, but i’ve realized in the end of it all they have an agenda.

What this does to me sadly, is it eliminates the trust I have for any guy and for that I think that all guys are the same. However all guys are not the same, so I keep giving another guy a chance, but then it happens all over again. How can I ever be able to have faith in another guy? How can I build up enough strength and self esteem? How will I ever be able to change my mind about all guys being ‘dogs’? Is it so simple as to change the type of guys I like?

ConfusedGRL

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Good Morning

Street harassment was taken to an all time new level with an incident that lasted about a little over a month in 1989. After this incident, I changed my entire perspective on the way in which I say Good Morning.

On my way to Secretarial College, just another Monday morning walking up Frederick Street with my sister, a tall lanky man, many years my senior, told me Good Morning with a pleasant and seemingly genuine smile. I looked directly at him and acknowledged his gaze and replied with a smile – “Good Morning”. I was 17, never had a boyfriend and was none the wiser that one Good Morning could cause a fear to haunt me for a very long time.

He waited for me the following day, and the day after that, just to say Good Morning. Of course, I stopped replying or crossed the street whenever I saw him. To my surprise I noticed that he began waiting higher up the street every morning, and realized he would eventually figure out where my school was. I began to take different routes. This sometimes made me late for school. So I would have to get up even earlier on mornings to take a taxi to avoid this idiot. In retrospect, I really don’t remember ever telling anyone. I did not want to worry my already nervous mother, for fear of her promptly having me attend a similar school closer to home. I was grown, damn it, and I loved being in Port of Spain.

Unfortunately many days I just did not wake up early enough and the shortest route to school, up Frederick Street, was my only option. This man began to follow me up Frederick Street at least 2 or 3 times a week.

The thought of this man following me now consumed my entire morning. Which street to take? Where would he be if I walked here? When and at what point on Frederick Street would be best to cross the street? Then he started getting closer. Mind you, he said nothing to me, just followed me. Until one day, after about 3 weeks, I looked back and there he was, right behind me walking into the school yard! I could hardly breathe. Without even realizing it, I was now running inside the school compound. I was lucky that the Principal saw what was happening and stopped him immediately. She saw me quickly getting in the door – I guess my body language spoke the fear that I could not speak.

After the Principal made him leave, she asked me what was going on and who he was. I told her I didn’t know him and gave her the entire story. She alerted our security guard. For months after, I changed my route to school. I didn’t even know which street I would take to get to school till after I got out the taxi.

The incidents lessened but completely ended when I saw the said older man on Carnival Monday by the Savannah, and told my brother that this was the man following me to school. This man towered me. I am tall and he seemed a good foot taller that me, though in retrospect fear makes you envision a person to be bigger than they really are. My half-brother, half my height proceeded to spew curse words at the coward and without a fight he said sorry and I never saw him again.

Of course had I told my brother months earlier, I might have been spared so much grief. It’s good to speak up and to speak sooner rather than later. If that man had ever gotten me alone, I am not sure what he would have done. But thankfully, it was not worse.

To this day, if a stranger says Good Morning, I never look him in his eyes and I never smile. But I will, 9 out of 10 times, still say Good Morning.

 Tricia

Trinidad

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Woman vs The Street

Tracey Chan, Woman vs Street, 2011, digital illustration Every day I am out of my house I have to deal with vile creepy men (VCM). (I am thus very much of a hermit) However, this is my neighbourhood, my life, my islands. I’ve never grown used to it.It has formed the way I deal with males, and is deeply connected to the experience of being a Caribbean female.

In Grenada I’ve had the opportunity to experience a slightly different culture to Trinidad’s in the realm of the VCM. Now there are those who will make a comment, but they usually attempt to be charming (absolutely failing), or they hide in the corner and shoo shoo among their friends. The Grenadians tend to be a touch less bold,  less racist, and try to be charming (sigh. no. just. no).

As you might guess, the VCM tends to appear out of nowhere, when you least expect it. They are everywhere. Their eyes are everywhere. Especially in small villages, it’s more pronounced. Now I must make the distinction between pure small village “maco” behaviour and the VCM. They are connected socio-culturally, but I won’t get into that.

This is simply my experience on the street. Every. Bloody. Day.

I stand at the side of the road,  the bus terminal, anywhere, and I see them driving along, walking, heads turning, eyes moving. Gross gross gross gross. SPIT. HISS. Excuse me while I vomit a little with a smile on my face. They tend to get aggressive when you do not respond and I’m not really up for that drama. Unfortunately my face does not lie and they pick up my revulsion. Oops.

I am sorry men. I know some of you are not VCMs, and I know many very charming wonderful humans and these idiots put you to shame. Oh well.

Tracey Chan is a Trinidadian multimedia visual artist living in Grenada. She is Co-Curator of WOMA “Women Make Art” – an exhibition featuring exclusively women artists, organized in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. Learn more about Tracey on her website at  http://www.traceychan.com/

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Tek Dat For Wha Yuh Worth!

I was 16 years Old walking home from school one afternoon..he drives by and slows down..

Psssttttt…

Ay Gyal!

Pssstttttttttt

Princess!!

Ay!

Big Girl! 

Ay you nuh see me try tark to yuh!

Aye Gyal!!!

*Schuppppps* 

He then proceeds to reach into his pocket and fling a 25 cent coin on me…

Tek Dat For What You Worth!!

*Funny I still remember that…Im almost 27 now. 

     She Rox Lox 

     Antigua

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One night stand… can I call it that?

In my mind I think of it as that. I never thought I’d have one. I’m the kind of girl that only has sex in committed relationships – it must *mean* something if you know what I mean…

I had one last January though going into it I didn’t think that that’s what it would be. I’d gotten out of a long-term relationship some months before – my partner had cheated on me (3 strikes and you’re out). I was lonely in that way where you’re accustomed to being with someone – able to share yourself, your thoughts, your body – and then not having that outlet.  Around this time an old friend? boyfriend? acquaintance? got back in touch with me. We’d gone out a few times some years back but it had never led to anything serious. Phone conversations led to in-person conversations. Talking led to mild flirting to serious flirting. It felt good – to have someone that listened and cared and made me feel needed / appreciated / beautiful.

It all led to sex one day – after my workday but before his – and I will not lie – it was really great sex. What was not so great? The call that night from his (rightfully so) enraged girlfriend. I didn’t even know he had one. Or that they’d been together for years. Suddenly, I was the one that someone was cheating on their partner with.

Fall-out – had to accept the feelings within myself: guilt even though I honestly thought he was single (I still wonder if I missed signs that he wasn’t), hurt because apparently all the convos and time spent was mainly to get me into his bed, disgust because he called me the day after to ask if we could ‘meet up again’ because ‘he’d hide it better from his girlfriend’.

I’ve been single since that time… and celibate. Trust is something that I need in a relationship… and right now I’m not sure I can let myself.

Renee R.

Trinidad

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harrrasment on the job

I work with mostly men and although I am a married woman, this fact does not seem to bother any of them.

Juniors like myself started by making rude comments about my butt. Once, after a work lime, I was getting a ride home from my senoir and his wife and another worker was also getting a lift. Half-way into the drive he squeezed my breast. I was in total shock. He said he was drunk and apologized that day but when next I saw him he said it feel nice and smiled. There was even a time my senior touched me on my neck. I spoke to him instantly an told him don’t let it happen again.

What gives men the right to treat us this way? I never give the impression that I’m interested, so why does it start? All of them are this way. I even tried confiding to another co-worker about it and he said – that is what I like. 

Men need training to respect women. Why must I use obscene language for my voice to be heard? It should be understood.

Simone

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Abroad

I had gotten off the metro and onto the bus…the same bus that takes me too and from campus. A male Indian student jumped on and sat next to me, chatting in an overly enthusiastic manner. I was balancing some art materials in front of me, trying to stop them from toppling as the bus swayed so the first time he brushed against my breast I thought it was just an accident …the effects of the motion of the bus. The second time it was a gentle nudge against me his arms were  folded and it was his hand sticking out that touched my breast.  I thought…I must be imagining this. By the time it happened a third time I was in such shock that I didn’t know what to do. No time. His stop came. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Of course this wasn’t the first incident of this nature but it was the first in a public space. The first was when a lecturer fondled my butt.

Mariegold

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A visit at the gynie’s

Going to the gynacologist is always a bit uncomfortable for me still. Even though I am almost 30 years old, I remember when I was a naive 20 and a gynie examined me with my mom in the room. He then sent her out to pay the bill and had me, now alone, “examined” again.

He moved so fast that I did not know what happened till afterwards when I was recounting the incident to my mother. She is the one who made me aware of what had taken place and that he was, as she put it, and as I now see for myself, perverted. But more than that, he absolutely violated me and I never went back to him. 

Recently, I went to another “vagina doc” for my post-natal visit. He said to me that I was a gorgeous woman and that I could get pregnant again easily. This comment seemed very matter-of-fact and not out-of-place at all. Only in retrospect though, he had his finger inside for a bit too long, using that as a reason to have me feel my healed womb.

See, the thing is, I feel like, (even hope), that I could be wrong in that I don’t know much about my own body as a woman and I rely on these men to tell me. I always wonder why men become gynacologists in the first place! I do empathise with them to some extent, because, via social conditioning and, possibly nature, women are objectified, and it must be difficult to be seeing one setta vaginas in front yuh face whole day and not have some kind of sexual thoughts, right?

So I think there are two issues here- (1) feeling violated and vulnerable to violation, and (2) the male-female relationship when the man seems to have the upper hand, ie, the information/ knowledge.

So my point is: Women need to teach themselves about their bodies so they know what is medically correct from what is unnecessary touching, AND they also need someone to tell them specifically to be on their guard at the gynacologist’s office. Women need to speak about these incidents and make it known that some things are absolutely unnecessary and violating- and that they most definitely could and should tell the doctor what to NOT to do.

We have the power, even in these situations, especially if we ever begin to feel uncomfortable; doesn’t matter who holds the medical degree. Remember too that you can always find a female gynie. The FPA is a good place to start, once there is a doc in. The nurses perform basic procedures too, so if it’s just a pap-smear, save yourself the hassle- and the bill! Share to become aware:)

Tamara

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Silenced

I thought I had run away.

After spending close to two years at a company rife with old dirty bastards at every water cooler and coffee machine, I was offered another job at what I considered to be the industry’s version of “greener pastures”.

I impressed at the interview, and pretty soon I signed the contract and happily said my goodbyes as I headed off to a brighter day. Man, was I wrong.

Within mere weeks at my new job, my boss cornered me into a hug one night we were in the department alone together, sliding his hand under my jacket as he tried to kiss me. I instinctively pulled away, only for him to pull my face to his with even more force.
“Why not?” he had the guts to ask.
“Why?” I mustered.

Footsteps in the distance saved me from whatever his next move may have been.
I was a wreck that night. I called my closest friend in inconsolable tears and relayed to her what happened. She stayed on the phone until she thought I had calmed down.

I kept my distance for days after, until he called me in his office to ask me what had become of our “camaraderie”, and apologized for “whatever he had done”.

Was this man SERIOUS????

I told him that he should know what he did to change our relationship, and I would never really feel comfortable around him again.

I stayed in the job, and every time I am in close quarters with my boss, I shudder…up to this day as I hope and pray that he never makes another advance at me again.

Annalise

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A Walk Down the Street / A Walk through the Jungle

I was twelve years old and had just started secondary school. My friend and I had decided to go for a walk to get something to eat. Walking about with friends, unburdened by parents, was a new and exciting thing for me. Looking back on it now, I am appalled by the kinds of things people said to me that day… does it seem so awful because I am looking back as an adult? Men… grown men, men old enough to be my father… commented on my breasts, my stomach, my shape. The security guard of the restaurant we went to even told me that he likes blue (the colour I was wearing) and that i must have worn it just for him.

At the time, that short walk felt like I was stumbling through some kind of jungle. I felt threatened and objectified at every turn… like prey. I always look back on that day as the day I realized how men could see me… not as a child, the way I saw myself.

More than ten years later, I have come to see that men on the streets harass young girls in a much more aggressive, more overtly sexual way than they do adult women. Furthermore, I notice that when I am dressed in work clothes, the comments I get are far more respectful and polite than those I receive when I am in jeans and a t-shirt. Is it because I look younger then, more vulnerable and attainable? What does this say about men, about society?

Danielle 

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