This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. It is something limits my life. I developed somewhat of a phobia of walking the streets of Port of Spain after moving here because of this. The leering looks, men staring directly at my breasts and private parts, men making comments to me or about me. I rarely ever walk the streets anymore. I don’t even like walking around the Savannah. The men in the cars hiss and whistle. I cannot stand it.
I remember being on Frederick Street one day, the busiest street in Port of Spain. I was having a conversation with someone on the pavement and a construction worker high up on a building was incessant, whistling to get my attention. At first I ignored him but eventually I lost my temper. “Why you whistling at me so!” I shouted up at him. “Whistling is for DOGS! Say good afternoon!” The entire block burst into laughter and the man was visibly chagrined. He smiled lamely, apologized, and told me good afternoon, to which I responded politely.
I was walking up the street to my parents’ home in Maraval one day and two secondary school boys were crossing the intersection as I approached. One of them made a comment and I shot him a look. The second boy digged him in the ribs with his elbow. “Say good afternoon say good afternoon!” The first boy blurted out, “Good afternoon miss.” I smiled and told them good afternoon and we went on our ways.
I avoid walking the streets here. When I do I make it a point to respond politely to men who are polite to me. I cannot do much more than to encourage them when they do not act like cave men. But sometimes the nasty leering look is all I get. It makes me feel as if I am walking down the street naked. I am being violated by their eyes. It disgusts me, but you have to be careful who you talk to and how in Trinidad. I could get a positive response or I could cussed out. Thankfully the latter has never happened to me. But I still have to gear myself up mentally every time I have to walk on the street. I still cross when I see a group of men. I always wear loose fitting clothes, walk fast, make no eye contact. It’s ridiculous. Because I get it all the time even when I am driving my car. And I always wonder… has this ever worked for you? Has a women ever responded positively? I know men who insist that women like it. That we feel complimented and not ignored. I’d like to ask you on behalf of all the women who DON’T like it, that since you can’t tell the difference, then please just be polite and say good afternoon if you have to say anything to us at all. I am not a body or a face. I am yourdaughter, sister, girlfriend, mother, wife.