Looking to collaborate? I’m your gal! Quirky Globetrotter is an award-winning, international travel blog that
Trigger warning: this article will discuss sexual harassment and sexual assault.
After a few mere hours in San Pedro, I was already in love with the food, the historic Belize culture and the people. Well, that’s until I heard a man catcall me from the sidewalk. It was split-second moment, where I zipped over the cobblestones, that again, I, a female solo traveler, encountered sexual harassment.
It was a hot, humid day in Belize, and my thighs were starting to stick to the leather seats of my golf cart, which I cleverly named Peditro. I whipped my gas-powered golf cart around the speed bumps in the streets of San Pedro, Belize. I was careened down the streets riddled with bike, motorcycles and golf carts like my own on my way to a food tour. Minding my own business, I was sexually harassed abroad, again.
During my time in Belize, I heard the phrase, “Hey girl,” with an elongated “i” sound and rolling of the “r,” far more times than I can count. (In internet lingo it would look something like “Heyyyyy giiiiiirrrrrrrl.) In Latin American, “Hey girl” is a common greeting, but is also a catcall.
Sometimes it’s hard to decipher between the two. There were times where Defence Force soldiers and police officers would call out, “Hey girl” to me. It was their way to grab my attention. After all, I was a female solo traveler and that was apparently taboo in Belize.
Other times, I’d be climbing the Mayan ruins or driving slowly through a Belizean village with my windows down. As I passed by I’d hear calls of “hey girl” followed with toothy grins and salacious stares. This is what this greeting felt like.
In San Pedro, this particular “Hey girl” was a sexual invitation. As I slowed to creep over a speed bump, in hopes that I wouldn’t skyrocket out of my seat and crash my noggin into the cart’s ceiling, he catcalled me. The young gentleman leered at me as he yelled, “Nice legs.”
I ignored him, which is what I always do when I get catcalled. He apparently was not happy with my response. The message was clear, I was declining his invitation.
He then shouted, “You have a lot of mosquito bites anyway.” After a pause, he added, “Your legs are awfully hairy.”
How did I take it?
I laughed. The man was insulted that I wasn’t wooed by his sultry greeting. How frail was this man’s ego that he had to ridicule me to prove that my rejection didn’t hurt his feelings?
Frankly, I could care less what this stranger thought of me. His opinion was never wanted or needed. He could call my legs scaly, bumpy, pale and every other insult, but I wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t let his petty words or his “compliments” affect me.
I’ve learned that catcalls are not a compliment. Nor are they something that I should acknowledge. Catcalls are nothing more than demeaning comments that belittle me to being an object. I’m an object that people can own and fantasize about.
My body is something I celebrate. Yet, I do not need catcalls or any other forms of sexual harassment to make me feel worthy or desirable.
Looking back, did he expect me to slam on the brakes of my golf cart to accept his invitation? Probably, but I wasn’t interested. I was far more interested in feasting on more garanches.
My story is not unfamiliar. It’s the same story told time and time again by women. Virtually all women are sexualized and it starts at a young age. The first time I recall being catcalled was when I was 8 years old. I remember being sexually harassed as young as age 5.
No, this story is not to make you pity me. If anything, I hope it’s a wake-up call to listen. Listen to the truth that survivors of sexual assault and harassment tell and believe them.
After a wave of survivors coming forward and publicly condoning predators and their abusers, it’s finally time for survivors to take center stage. It’s our turn to speak. It’s your turn to listen. #TimesUp
Sexual assault is prevalent and is not an issue that should be kept silent anymore. No longer will victims continue to be victimized by not speaking up.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault, or are an ally and want to become more educated, there are many websites you can find support and information. Also, if you are inclined, share your #MeToo story in the comments. If not, take an oath to not only listen to survivors but believe them as well.
There are numerous hotlines for sexual harassment victims and sexual assault survivors. The United States Department of Education also has additional resources for those wanting to learn about sexual harassment and the Center for Disease Control has resources pertaining to sexual assault.