São Paulo, Brasil. Pre carnival Friday: I left work and changed into shorts and put on a gorgeous pear+flower carnivally tiara. I parked my car on a street and walked a few blocks to the manicure parlor.
That is right! I put on such a carnivally tiara only to go get a manicure! It is carnival, I wanted to play.
As I was crosing a major avenue, a guy inside a moving car yelled “hey pussy cat”! And drove by.
At age 38, going through a crisis feeling fat, old and ugly, for a fraction of second I almost liked the “compliment”.
Almost. At age 38 I have learned not to take crumbs for a compliment. That was not a compliment. That was harassment. Verbal harassment. After that first fraction of second I actually felt humiliated, ashamed and invaded.
Compliment is when a person looks at you and says that he/she liked your look. Not while passing by, not anonimously. For a compliment to exist, it is necessary to have existed some kind of permission for the approach.
I did not leave work wearing shorts and that tiarar to be subject of a stranger’s comments from a car passing by. Yes I was playing. Intending to cause admired looks, smiling glances, a few laughs from my girl friend who met me at the parlor “girl you are crazy”! The unexpected. That was not a permission for strangers to think they have the liberty to approach me like that.
I couldn’t help think about the sexism inherent to carnival, the objectification of women. That story of blaming the victim “you left wearing that, what did you expect?” which becomes exacerbated this time in Brasil.
Other women have had it worse this carnival, that is for sure. However, the root of the behaviour – the catcalling and the beating or raping – is the same: it is the belief that women are there at the disposition of men, for them to say things to, use, to touch, grab and have.