Gender Policing Children

I’m writing this becuase I am sick of the constant gender policing my daughter goes through. She has an Avengers lunch box. She got it for her fourth birthday. It’s one of her favorite possessions, but every few days she comes home from school sad because people keep telling her she likes “boy things”. She gets the same type of comments when she wears her Batman jacket. The conversation usually goes like this:

TJ: I’m not going to take my lunch box to school anymore. Everybody tells me I like boy things.
Me: Do you like the Avengers? Are you a boy?
TJ: Yes. No, I’m not.
Me: Alright then. You’re just someone who likes those things.
TJ: They’re what makes me, me.

We have a similar conversation every few weeks. It gets exhausting.
TJ also loves a lot of feminine coded stuff, like Barbies and My Little Pony. Her favorite Disney movie is Frozen. She prefers dresses and skirts over pants. On days when she’s completely femme, there are people who are surprised becuase they’ve seen her with “boy things” in the past. These people seem to forget that children are actual people, and just like people have varied goddamned tastes.

I went with her on a field trip and the amount of gender policing that went on was mind boggling.Some girl classmates were playing and a little boy came by and asked if he could get a turn. One girl told him no because it wasn’t a boys’ game. I told him he could play. The game? Wizard of Oz match three.

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Screenshot of a board from The Wizard of Oz Match 3 game

 

Another boy said he didn’t like flowers because they’re for girls. At one point I was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of girl classmates and one another boy sat down with us. His mom came along, grabbed him while saying, “why are you here with all these girls. They’re all playing girl games. Go play with the boys”. The girls were telling me about school.

I’m constantly told not to judge parents who restrict their children’s play based on perceived gender. Frankly, I’m going to judge you. You’re raising your child to believe in harmful stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead to trans and gender non-conforming people getting harassed and killed. We have states trying to ban trans people from using public restrooms. All because we reduce people to their genitalia. Then your children spread these bigoted thoughts and make children like mine afraid to express who they are.

If gender is so innate why are cis people so afraid of a boy who plays with dolls? Of a girl who loves trucks?

I’ve seen a lot of cis parents claim that Target making their toy aisles gender neutral is silly because gender isn’t a big deal and the people asking for these things are overly sensitive babies.

You wanna know who are the overly sensitive ones?
Cis people who can’t handle their son wanting a Barbie. Cis people freaking out about which bathroom trans people use.

Apparently gender while being so innate is also very fucking fragile and anything could make children go into gender questioning chaos. And if that child tells their parents and the world they are trans, they can get killed for it. But yeah, keep making it sound like people asking to pee in peace and gender neutrality in media are the bullies in this.

Gender Policing Children
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Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

CN: gender stereotypes, abuse, SA, fat phobia, victim blaming/shaming, size shaming, r*pe apologia, uncensored use of the word r*pe, toxic masculinity, ableism

“Is he bigger than you?”, is usually the first question people ask after finding out I’m a victim of domestic violence. They tell me I couldn’t have been abused because I’m bigger than my abuser. They said I could have fought him off. I’m not believed because I’m not petite or thin.

To these people, victims aren’t supposed to look physically strong. To them, violence is always physical.
I tried fighting back but it angered him. So much so he left me with a fat lip. Afterwards he wouldn’t let me leave the house until the bruise healed. So I did everything I could to avoid the beatings. But as any victim of domestic violence knows, that isn’t always possible.

I’ve been told that I couldn’t have been raped because I should have been able to fight him off. If I didn’t fight him off then I must have wanted it. This type of reasoning is victim blaming. Whether they meant to or not, these people are saying that since I didn’t fight hard enough I deserved what happened. They’re saying there is such a thing as “true rape”.

This type of thinking is fat phobic and size shaming because you’re saying that because of my size, I should have never been a victim. Except, as previously stated violence isn’t always physical. He made me afraid by various means. This type of thinking is ableist as well because I am physically disabled and fighting him or anyone off would be impossible. It is also transmysoginistic because I am about as tall as most men and fat so I’m not seen as feminine enough. Then of course, there’s the sexism of “you’re too ugly to fuck”. Forgetting that rape is never about sex, but about power, this trope suggests that rapists rape because they were physically attracted to their victims. This trope goes as far as to suggest that fat women should be grateful they even got the attention.

Now, think about the media you consume.  Think of the Henpecked Husband and Tiny Guy, Huge Girl tropes. Why is the idea of a “domineering” woman, usually taller than her husband funny? It’s because men are supposed to be in charge. Size is thought to be in direct relation to strength and men have to be strong, otherwise he isn’t a man.  Women are supposed to be small and meek.  Are you getting the picture?

These tropes exist because we live in a patriarchal society which values toxic masculinity and enforces a strict and rigid gender binary. And so, I will continue to get these questions. And I will continue to ask these people why they think I deserve abuse. Hopefully that way they’ll understand that what they’re doing is revictimizing me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy their faces as they try to justify my abuse to my face.

Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

CN: uncensored used of the word r*pe, dv myths

I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.

It’s like when those statues of DJT popped up around the country. They were made to ridicule his body. There is plenty to criticize him for. Calling him fat or engaging in toxic masculinity when we ridicule the size of his hands or genitalia causes splash damage. It doesn’t hurt him. It hurts others. Speculating whether or not Barron is autistic, saying Republicans are mentally ill, that’s straight up ableism. Again, it causes splash damage.

Fat phobia, ableism and sexism against privileged people may not necessarily hurt those privileged. But it adds to the stigma that being fat, disabled or perceived as a woman has.

Blast Melania for her racists comments, her birther support, the plagiarism of Michelle’s speech. I understand the argument that if Melania weren’t white that she wouldn’t be so defended. That’s true. People are more sympathetic to her because of the damsel in distress trope. Yes it’s racist bullshit that white people will fall over themselves to defend Melania and Barron while dehumanizing Michelle, Sasha and Malia. But calling her out can be done without perpetuating harmful myths about DV and victim blaming.

If domestic violence and disabilities were an exclusively white issue? Then yeah, fuck it, have at Melania and her son. But these issues do not discriminate and it is possible to criticize someone without throwing other marginalized people under the bus.

For instance, let’s say Melania is a victim and let’s say she does leave. It is true that she’d have more privileges than a poor Black or Brown woman leaving an abusive situation. However, leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. And her husband is currently the most powerful man in the world. I’ve seen people say Secret Service would protect her from him. I’m skeptical of that claim.

I have also seen the claim that there is no evidence, just what other DV victims have read from her expressions and body language. Alright, so there may not be any concrete proof he’s abusing Melania. But he’s been accused of sexual assault before. He’s admitted as much on tape. We all know what he’s said about his daughter Ivanka. It isn’t unreasonable to think Melania is a victim of his. I mean, we’re told we should trust our instincts and learn to spot red flags. We spot them in him and we’re told “there’s no proof she’s being abused”. Honestly, it feels like I’m being gaslit when told I’m imagining things.

I have seen people who do believe DJT is abusing her but that she deserves it becuase she’s racist. That type of thinking is in the same vein as jokes about rapists facing the same fate in prison. It works under the assumption that there is such a thing as a perfect victim. Or that being a shitty person means you deserve to be oppressed.
As a person of color it’s been frustrating because I get accused of defending her and upholding white supremacy. No, what I care about are all these myths. As a victim of DV everything I’ve read about Melania regarding DV is shit that’s been said to me. And I’m fucking tired.

We can call out out her racism without hurting DV victims. That’s all I’m asking. These myths harm all victims, especially POC who predominantly have a harder time accessing resources unlike Melania who would have access to good legal representation and therapy.

Hate the woman if you want. Don’t believe she’s a victim if you so choose. Criticize and condemn her for the racist shit she’s said. Just don’t throw DV victims under the bus. Don’t perpetuate one form of oppression while calling out another.

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

Dads and Low Bars

September 20th is “Dads take your child to school day” at my kid’s school. Because apparently the bar is set so fucking low that a father doing his goddamn job gets a special day marked in calendar.

When I first saw this in TJ’s folder, I was annoyed but I left it alone. I wasn’t going to mention it to her because I didn’t want to upset her. She hadn’t noticed it and I preferred she didn’t know about it. Fathers are a touchy subject here.

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September 20th AKA Lowest Possible Bar Ever Day

 

Then today she comes home with this. Cue TJ feeling left out and sad because she’ll “miss out on the fun” because her dad isn’t in her life.
Way to make my child feel like shit, school. Great job.

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First off, why does any child need a male role model? What can a man teach a kid that a mother can’t? What do we need to celebrate? That dad actually showed up for once?
Second, can we stop with the gender bullshit? Some of the people who would fall in those categories aren’t necessarily male.
Third, dads literally NEED an invitation to fucking do their job?
Fourth, where is my breakfast for doing my job?

“Photo opportunity” is goddamn right.

Why isn’t there a day like this for moms and other female role models? Because moms are expected to do all the emotional and manual labor. We’re expected to do all the chores, take the kids to and from school. It’s all about gender roles and stereotypes. Moms are competent and dads are bumbling buffoons. It’s why we have “jokes” like this:

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No, your husband is just a lazy piece of shit and needs to fucking do his goddamn fair share.

 

This is ridiculous. Good fathers should be offended by this. They should be offended by a culture that expects so little of them. They should call this shit out. They should be the ones calling out deadbeat dads.

I’m so sick of shit like this. I sound bitter because I am. Parenting isn’t a part time job, it isn’t something I can decide to do or not whenever I feel like it. It’s constant UNPAID work.

What about children who do not have fathers, or who’ve recently lost whoever it was that played the male role model in their lives? How is any of this inclusive? All this does is other kids without male role models and gives undeserved praised once again to dads just for showing up.

Do better, school. Do better, society.

Dads and Low Bars

Mourning a Rando’s Dick

CN: t-slur

A man messaged me on a dating site to let me know how much my feminism was a “dick killer”. How as soon as he saw my picture he lost interest and would rather “fuck a hole in the wall”. How he thought I was interesting until he saw “feminist”, how he thought I was a “tr*nny”. And again reminded me how much of a “dick killer” I am.

Oh how will I ever go on? I have hurt this man. He was so confused. How dare my uninteresting face made him look at my interesting profile until he saw that dreaded F word.

I know this man’s pain. Many times I have walked into baseball stadiums to loudly tell every one how much I hate that game.

I once bought a cheeseburger and then angrily demanded my money back because of how much I hate them.

This poor man.

How will I ever go on knowing the hurt I caused this man? How will I ever go on knowing he won’t fuck me?

Tis truly a sad day him.

Let us all mourn this man’s dick’s death. RIP, dick. RIP.

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Mourning a Rando’s Dick

Privacy and Abuela

Privacy, bodily autonomy, personal space isn’t a thing for older Hispanics.

When I was little and there was company coming over grandma would yell at us to clean our room. It didn’t matter that it was clean. No, it had to be immaculate. It had to look like two small children (my younger brother and I) weren’t occupying that space.

If it wasn’t cleaned to her standards, she’d close the door. I’d ask why and I was told, “you know how people are. They might open the door and then see the mess.”

I heard this again when mami was teaching me how to cook rice and she’d arranged the rice in a neat mound in the pot when it was done cooking. I would never do that. She’d tell me to. I’d ask why and she’d say “presentation is important because people might open the pot”

I mean who the hell would care if the rice wasn’t arranged nicely? I only cared about it being cooked properly. (When I was learning, I always added too much waer and it would end up “amogollao”)

Who were these nosy ass people judging me about my unmade bed and messy rice?
Family, of course.

I learned family had a right to everything about me. I got my first period when I was 11 and my grandmother called everybody to tell them that “el gallo ya canto”. I got calls from my godmother in NYC congratulating me on finally becoming a “Señorita”.

I lived with my mom, my grandparents and my two brothers. My tio M* lived with is until he died when I was 8. The room I shared with my mom and younger brother was the master bedroom of the house. It had its own bathroom, but no door, instead it had a beaded curtain (no kidding!).

Grandma would walk in the bathroom all the time. It didn’t matter if I was showering or on the toilet because “we both have the same stuff”.

Sometimes, when I had the room to myself, I’d close the door. Grandma would yell at me because “decent young ladies” don’t close their doors. I was 12.

Once a boy who liked me walked me most of the way home. We passed by several older people who knew my grandpa (in our town people knew who you were by your “pinta”. They could tell who your “people” were by your coloring!)
I knew they would have all sorts of stories about A’s* granddaughter walking alone with a boy. So as soon as I got home I told my grandma that a boy from my class (and I made sure to emphasize how much I did not like this boy) had walked me part of the way home. Because if I didn’t tell her, she’d hear about it next time she went into town and I’d get yelled at.

I was forced to hug and kiss relatives I didn’t want to. I’d be shamed into doing it.

I told myself I would be different with TJ. For the most part I am, but then I have company come over and even though my apartment is clean, I start freaking out because a child’s messy room will be used as proof of how “malcri’a” TJ is; how shitty I am as a mom.

I know it’s all bullshit. I know that the people who matter won’t care about that stuff. I mean, a lot of this privacy and bodily autonomy stuff is tied into a lot of social justice issues and most of my friends are social justice minded. So rationally I KNOW that my 6 year old’s messy room won’t be a big deal. In fact, a child that age should have a messy room.

But in the back of my mind, I hear my tiny but scary grandma telling me to clean up. It’s the same voice I hear whenever I try to ignore abuelitas in the street when I have my earbuds on. It’s the same voice who tells me to keep my legs together when I’m wearing a skirt. It’s the reason why even though I’m an atheist I still ask my grandma for “la bendición”.

Because old habits die hard and disrespecting abuela is a no-no.

Note: Initials were used to protect family’s privacy (take that nosy family!)

Privacy and Abuela

Ethics in Outing Abusers

CN: SA, r*pe, victim shaming

Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone. Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.

Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.

I cannot believe I have to say this. I said it last year during the Phoenix Drake fiasco and again, this year around the same time as well, concerning Dan Linford.

In both cases before any screenshots were available some people, mostly men, asked “where’s the evidence?”. Never minding the fact that both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford admitted to rape. Never minding the fact that several people in both cases came forward with their own stories about these two.

But this post isn’t about not believing victims. Which honestly I could write a post about. No, this post is about the ethics in sharing screenshots. I’m writing this because, frankly, I am sick to death of having people not believe victims only to then shame them when they DO provide evidence. Why do they get shamed? Because apparently since both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford confessed in private messages, they both have an ethical right to privacy.

This is where I call bullshit. If they had confessed to a mandated reporter, that person BY LAW would have to notify the authorities. This is no different. In both cases, confessions were made and the people who heard these confessions did the ethical thing and warned others. As you read in both articles linked above, these men infiltrated groups with vulnerable people, several times. This is important. They were able to do so because there hadn’t been a way for their previous victims to warn others.

But it stops here. This is how women and non-binary people protect ourselves.

Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford didn’t confess to eating too much chocolate and feeling bad about it. They confessed to rape. In both cases, they made excuses, they minimized what they did to their victims. They weren’t sorry for what they did (if they were, they would have turned themselves in, they wouldn’t have made excuses, they wouldn’t have confessed to women and NB folks and used them as emotional labor). They certainly didn’t show any ethics in their behavior.

Once someone shows themselves to be abusive they lose any right to privacy. There is no moral equivalence here. The unethical thing to do in this case would be to keep the confession to yourself. Rapists lose any right to privacy the minute they demonstrate they’re a danger to others. Indeed, it is because of this privacy that they felt confident and comfortable enough to be able to abuse again and again. (As an aside: Dan teaches philosophy and ethics. Let that bit of irony set in)

Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford will not and cannot get away with this. We will not let them. We’re tired of being abused, we’re tired of being gaslit. We’re tired of giving our trust to people unworthy of it. We don’t have many ways to defend ourselves, but we have this. I will be damned if anyone is going to guilt us for doing what we need to in order to protect ourselves.

Ethics in Outing Abusers

Remembering my Tia

CN: domestic violence, child abuse, death

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my aunts. I’ll refer to her as Tia through this post. She was one of my grandma’s older sisters. We used to visit her once in a while when I was little. I remember she was always very soft spoken. She was also very short, about 4′ 9″, so I didn’t find her intimating like I did other adults. Although, my grandma was just a few inches taller, she scared me because she was tough and she was the disciplinarian in our house.
There was always a sadness about my Tia that I now recognize as my own.

Anyway, we’d go see her and her husband; my “uncle”. We’ll call him Pablo. He was this big guy, and the inside joke between Mami, grandma and I was that he was ugly and apparently my grandfather did not like him. That was the sense I got from the other adults. They didn’t like Pablo. I didn’t like him. Where as Tia was shy and timid, Pablo was loud and brash. Tia was a tiny wisp of a person and Pablo was big; about 6 feet and 200 pounds. About the only thing bigger was his mouth. I don’t remember exact conversations with him but he was that one uncle everyone has that no one likes to see.

I always regarded Tia as a nice woman. I had a lot of tias growing up, and while I didn’t see her much I did enjoy it when I did. She was nice to me. She always gave me juice and she seemed interested in what I told her. I didn’t get that from other adults.

Once I became taller than her, around my 8th birthday, everybody would joke about how much bigger I was than Tia. I was a bit self-conscious about my height. Mami, grandma and all of the other women in my family were short. Along I come and I’m this palm tree. Tia never made me feel bad it, unlike my grandmother’s other sister.

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My classmates would call me “Palma”. No, really.
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I feel you, Tom Selleck.

 

Once I left Puerto Rico when I was 14, I didn’t see Tia again for another two years. When we went back for my grandpa’s funeral, I saw Tia and went to say hello. By this time I was a whole foot taller than her. Pablo had died about a month before. I gave her my condolences and she said “ay, nena. Está bien.” She seemed relieved and I didn’t understand it. I asked my mom and she explained that Pablo was “malo“.
I knew she meant that Pablo had been abusive. At that time I didn’t understand domestic violence. I knew she had dealt with it because that what was she was supposed to do.

I didn’t see Tia again until I returned to Puerto Rico with my baby daughter TJ, three years later.
By this time, my Tia was living with my grandma. Tia was bed-ridden and her memory was going. But she remembered me. “Ah, yes. You’re my sister’s granddaughter. La nena grande”, (the big girl).
She would try to play with TJ. She was still her usual quiet self. She had two children. Of course, her son rarely visited her. Her daughter would come over every day but she’s a nurse. She couldn’t afford to put Tia in a home and my grandma would never allow that.

I would sit in the room with her watching television. I’d leave the room and leave the TV on. She’d call me to ask to turn it off. I’d tell her I had left it on so she’d have some form of companionship. She would insist. So, I would turn it off. The whole day would pass and Tia was content spending it in silence. I asked grandma about it. She finally told me everything.

Pablo was abusive to Tia and the children. Pablo hated noise and demanded the children be silent. He didn’t let Tia watch television. She’d only listen to the radio, set to the station playing “Canciones del Ayer”. These were old Spanish language ballads.

By now, I had been through my own abusive relationship. I finally understood my Tia. Then I realized that the sadness I sensed in her, was familiar to me because I felt it. I remember my Tia’s sad eyes and recognize them as my own. I felt closer to Tia after that.

Our vacation was over and we said our good-byes. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she wished me a safe trip. “Dios te cuide, nena”
Tia died a few weeks after.

I remember my Tia and wonder what kind of woman she could have been had she never met Pablo. I remember the soft-spoken woman who didn’t say much but when she did she never had an ill word to say to anyone. I remember the woman who would call me “nena” and always had something kind to say to me. I remember her and I wished I had known her better. I realize now that she was strong. She endured and survived Pablo. She protected her children.

I remember you, Tia. I wish the world had been kinder to you. I hope I leave this world a kinder place for people like us. I wish I had known you better, but I’m glad I met you.

Gracias, Tia.

Remembering my Tia

Feminist Awakening

CN: ableist language, sexist double standards

Ariel India recently released this commercial:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xogBz71IHAo

It reminded me of my childhood. Seeing my grandma get up at 6AM every morning and tend to the chickens, the dog, the cat, her grandchildren, her husband. She’d cook every meal, every day. She’d served my grandpa who was always in his rocking chair in the living room in front of the TV. When everybody was fed, she’d go downstairs and start her chores. She’d water the plants, start the laundry, she washed a lot of it by hand and used and old wooden board and scrub brush to get tough stains out. If the cars needing washing, she’d wash them. She was the one who painted the house when it needed a fresh coat.
She drove my grandpa around.

Sometimes, she’d climb up on the roof to sweep up. Many times I saw her walking along the edge of the house to clean the windows. My brothers never volunteered to help her. I would sometimes volunteer but most of the time, she told me to help. I needed to learn this stuff anyway since I would be a wife when I grew up.

My grandmother would be running back and forth, and my grandpa would yell to her to bring him some water. I asked mami why he couldn’t get it himself. She told me not to ask him or grandma because I’d get in trouble. Then she explained that she wondered the same thing when she was my age, that she even told her father to get the water himself. Grandma hit her because mami was being “disrespectful”.

I noticed the disparity in the chores I and my brothers got. My older brother didn’t do anything. My grandma did everything for him. To this day, he doesn’t do his laundry or serve his own meals.
My younger brother had a few chores but once he was done he could go use the PlayStation. Once, I cleaned the room and bathroom I shared with my younger brother. So mami said that my brother had to clean the bedroom windows by himself. He thought that was fair.
So, there I am playing some Namco game and in comes grandma yelling at me and calling me lazy. I explained that I had done my chores. She made me turn off the game and help my brother wash the windows.

In kindergarten, we had a large classroom and at the back was the play area. One side was “the house”, it had a bed, a kitchen, table and a small sofa; the other side was “work”. It had tools and hard hats and work vests. I never liked playing house because it wasn’t fun to me. I had these chores at home, when I’m playing I wanted to get away from that. So I went over to the “work” side. The boys there told me I needed to leave because “girls do not play with tools”. I told them my grandpa had taught me how to use tools and mix cement. I told them they were “stupid” and went back to the house. One boy comes over and asked one of the girls for some juice. I tell him he could get it himself. The girl was “busy” washing dishes.  All the boys and girls told me that that’s how marriages work. And so they made me the baby, because babies don’t speak. After that I spent play time a the art table.

I didn’t know the word feminist. I just knew that the way I was treated, the way I saw women were treated was unfair. I didn’t learn the word feminist until I was in my teens. And then I realized, ‘THAT’S ME’. I had always felt like maybe there was something wrong with me because why couldn’t I just play along like everyone else? But no, I was fine. There was a word for what I was and discovering it was a life changer.

Feminist Awakening

Street Harassment and Me

CN: street harassment, catcalls, sexualization of young girls

 

 

I was 11 years old when I was first cat called. I remember it vividly. I was on my way to school when two men in a red sports car started yelling at me and honking the horn. I ignored them, they drove up to me and slowed down. They were commenting on my body and asking my name. I kept ignoring them. I was about 10 minutes away from school. I had my uniform on, I think at that time I was carrying my Rugrats backpack. I knew if I stopped walking they might have gotten out of the car. But if I kept walking they would know where I enter school. I was afraid they’d be waiting for me. I wanted to cry. These were grown men and I was just a little girl. I screamed that I was eleven. The guy driving said, “damn!” and then they sped off. They only left me alone once they realized they could go to jail.

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Clearly, a preadolescent girl in a school uniform carrying this bag was the ideal target for cat calls.(image is of a black, maroon and plaid backbag with three cartoon characters from the kids’ TV show Rugrats.)

I told mami and grandma later that day. They told me the usual; not to get in cars with strangers but to also not worry. I should worry once men stopped looking at me. That day I learned men’s pleasure was above my safety.

I stopped telling anybody about the street harassment I got when I walked to and from school.

Up until I was fifteen, the harassment was just verbal. Then it became physical. It was Halloween and I was out with a friend. We walked past some men and one of them grabbed my arm and asked “trick or treat”. Ever since, I never walk past a large group of men. I usually cross the street or wait until the group has dispersed.

I would tell my friends and the girls would commiserate with me, but also tell me I was being overly sensitive. There was nothing we could do, so we might as well endure it. The boys would tell me they wished they got cat called by girls. I wondered if they really meant that? Did they want to spend extra time on an outfit to determine whether or not that particular pant or shirt would get them more harassment than usual?

As a result of the daily street harassment, I started hating my body. The men who cat called me would comment on my thick thighs, my big butt and wide hips. Once, a man told me “tanta carne y yo sin arroz” (literally “so much meat and I don’t have rice”). That man literally said I was a piece of meat. That’s how I felt too.
People told me that I shouldn’t worry about street harassment since nothing would happen to me becuase I was “jailbait”.

I wanted to believe that was true. When I turned 17 the big joke was that now I couldn’t cry “jailbait” at cat callers. I was on the train once when I noticed this guy staring at me. He got off at the same stop I did. He walked alongside me. He was asking me where I lived, what I did, if I had a boyfriend. I figured I would lie about my age and he’d leave me alone. I told him I had just turned 16. He said it didn’t matter, that we could still be friends. I told him I was too young. He said, “with that body it doesn’t matter. You could kill with that body”. I held on tighter to my messenger bag. I needed to get on the bus and was afraid he’d follow me. I lied and said I was on my way to my boyfriend’s house. He eventually gave up and walked away. I stayed on the station platform for about 30 minutes just to make sure he wasn’t waiting for me.

And again when I told anyone, they’d tell me to be flattered.

The harassment has only gotten worse as I age. I may have a “baby face” but my body’s shape gives me away. It took me a long time not to hate my body. It was those men and the rape culture I should hate.

Walking with my mom or grandma doesn’t stop the harassment. In fact, the men think if they’re nice to mami or grandma they have an “in”. Walking with TJ also gets me harassed. I’m asked if I’m looking for a daddy for her. Once a man commented on my dimples and said he was sure we’d make “beautiful light ‘skinned babies together”.
The only time I’m left alone is when I’m with other men. It pisses me off that I’m only respected as some other man’s property and not as someone autonomous. As stated above I’ve been taught the only feelings which matter are men’s.
“Be flattered!”
“Don’t be rude!”
“Say thank you! It’s a compliment!”

I’m not safe from any age group. When I was 14 some boys, no older than 10 passed by me and said something about my ass. When I was in college, some teens hollered at me about how slutty my dress was. Another time, a man old enough to be my grandfather, told me I had a “great rack”. And yet another time, an elderly man actually used TJ to get to me. TJ was three years old at the time. It was a hot summer day. I was wearing shorts. The old man was walking towards us and said TJ was very pretty. I said thank you and kept walking. Then he said “she gonna be tall”, looks at me “just like her momma, she got legs for miles, hmmm”. I picked up TJ and ran away. I was disgusted and it got me thinking, how old will TJ be when she first experiences street harassment directed towards her?

Thinking about it fills me with dread. I don’t know what I will do, but what I do know is that she will know street harassment is unacceptable. She will most definitely know that her safety is paramount. She’ll know she can come to me and I won’t dismiss her fears.

Street Harassment and Me