by Des Seebaran 

He leered at her halter-top and fitted pants from the doorway.    
“Mi waan fi talk to yuh,” he drawled.
“Well, I don’t wanna talk to you,” was her firm retort.
I rolled my eyes to the heavens, wishing I were somewhere else.
“Come ‘ere!” he demanded.
“No!” she replied and walked out of the room.

See nothing wrong with this conversation? Well, then it’s probably just me.

I studied at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. Often, whenever I would object to the overtly suggestive and often rude comments made by some of the men on campus, women would leap to their defense, saying sweetly to me, “Well, is so man stay” or “Yuh mustn’t tek dem on”, or my personal favourite, “Ah joke him a mek.”

A joke? What is it about women that makes us so willing to swallow disrespect from men? We could very easily tell them where to stop with us. And they do stop. I remember sitting next to a female classmate when a male classmate came up behind us and tried to tickle me. Having just met the gentleman two weeks prior, I told him point blank to leave me the bleep alone and didn’t bother to be polite about it. He (politely!) apologized and proceeded to tickle the girl next to me. She did not resist his caresses. About a month later she complained to me that she disliked the fact that all of our male classmates now took every chance they could to touch her familiarly. I believe the phrase she used was, “Give dem ah inch and dem tek de yaad!”” Men, in my opinion, will always try to see how far they can go, especially when the inches they are taking are on your body.

Now I can see those masculine hackles raised, mustaches bristling; I hear some mutterings of ‘who she think she is’ huffed out with eyebrows raised. I am a feminist, but I like men – my father, brother, husband, numerous male friends and ex-boyfriends and I wouldn’t have gotten along otherwise. Not all men think like Neanderthals. For every rude campus male I met, there was a decent chap who respected the boundaries I set for my body. He could carry on a conversation for more than five minutes without having to resort to small talk and/or flirting, and took my opinions seriously.

Lest you believe I am advocating that every woman take up ju-jitsu and kickboxing classes, drawing the line does not have to become a bitchy quarrel. You can do it as charmingly as the woman I observed. The guy, creepy as he was, took no offense to her refusal.

So ladies, the next time you are on the receiving end of a comment or action or T-shirt you don’t feel comfortable with, speak up. Say “No, stop doing that right now! No, I can’t accommodate you at all. No, I don’t feel comfortable with you there.” It might save you from having to face a situation where ‘no’ is the last thing you say. But then, maybe that’s just me.

Des Seebaran is often left wondering. You can catch more of her wonderment at