Belgian Documentary on Street Harassment

By Juliana Jimenez


 

Next on your to-watch list should be Belgian filmmaker Sofie Peeters’ documentary about women being verbally harrassed in the street. She also filmed herself in her neighborhood where men call her “whore” or ask her to have sex with her repeatedly.

Unfortunately, not to sound too Romneyesque, but I think culture plays a major role in street harassment. As I’ve written before here, when I go to Colombia I brace myself for some intense stuff. It didn’t happen in the eight months I lived in China –only until I travelled to Hong Kong where there’s huge migrant African populations did I get the “I’m raping you with my eyes” look again.  (That’s the expression in Spanish, “me violó con la mirada.” It’s usually accompanied by placing arms over your chest and scurrying away somewhere. Somehow, the expression hasn’t come in as handy here in the US; this is the first time I’ve used it in English).

I mean, I’ve had it happen here too; hell, I just came back from a run wondering about this same thing. The other day, some old, stocky guy walked by me, staring with eyes half-closed,  and said, “Molto bella.” Sounds romantic enough, right? but believe me, it was gross. But it wasn’t aggressive or insulting. But it was still wrong. It still creeps me out as I re-read it and remember. Why do men feel like they have to say something, like they’re entitled to comment on women’s bodies as if they were public property? I wanted to say something, but… what? rant at some gross balding/hairy-armed dude who could be my dad and who will never understand? “But what, is a gooda, you are very beautiful, women so beautiful like flower, like work of art! You don’t want to be treated nice, you want us to be rude, eh?” Blegh. I was basically channeling any of my uncles except with an Italian accent. And I tell myself, next time some guy says something gross, I’m gonna talk back, I’m gonna tell him I am a person–a person trying to walk somewhere, trying to get shit done, that I don’t want to be intimidated, that even though very few women will tell him so, it’s scary and it is not cool — I WANT TO BE THE BIGGEST BITCH, and just snap, and say, NO, OK, stop. You’re gross. SHH.

But I never do. Maybe next time.

In any case, it is nowhere near as bad here as it is in Latin America, et al. Did I mention Mexico City had to get separate women-only buses because of this?

Check out the links below, they are le interesting and mind-opening.