DR’s story: Is street harassment a ‘cultural’ thing?

This isn’t a story about harrassment. Not exactly. But it is an important story to tell, nonetheless. I have a dear friend that I have known for over 10 years. She is beautiful and adorable and has a bit of extra weight on her. She decided a few years ago to put herself in situations to date latinos because they appreciated “all body types,” unlike many other cultures, such as caucasions, like us. I was and am supportive of my friend’s decisions, not because I think she needs to date latinos, but because she is happy.

That said, we recently had one of our biggest arguments that we have ever had. We were discussing catcalls or whistles from men. I noted my extreme distaste with this and complete lack of acceptibility on my part. She, however, completely defended this behavior from “certain cultures” because it is “meant” as compliments. This was code to say that it is and should be acceptable for Latino men to verbally provide “statements” to women, because they are “compliments.” In my attempts at rebuttal, I was, quite honestly, very emotional and not as effective as I’d like to have been.

I know that my friend is blinded by her insecurities and adoption of a foreign culture and love of a good man. But I am still angry with her for supporting this type of behavior from men.

At BEST catcalls may be complimentary, but still put women in a place of objectification. At worst, it is clearly sexual harrassment, and putting women in potentially dangerous situations. It is about power. And when a someone creates an environment where another person is uncomfortable, whether meant as a compliment or not, is unacceptable.

I would truly like to hear from Latinas. In my attempt to see my friend’s perspective, and explore the possibility that I have more to learn, I would like to know how hispanic women feel about this behavior. Do you feel this is a compliment? If so, do you feel any danger in these situations? Do you find that you avoid these environments? Are you offended, and if so, do you let them know?

Thank you for listening.