Pásale, güera, amiga, linda, nena. Sin compromiso. ¿No necesitas reparar estos lentes?
If I were to walk down calle de Motolinia in Mexico’s Historic Downtown this is what I would hear. I would agree with the salespeople that I do need to repair my glasses, but I’m holding out til I return to Canada. Scratch that. Maybe they could fix the places where the coating seems to have come off. Next time I go to a museum, church or library that is what I will do.
These are some of the many words that people use to call out to me (white person, friend, pretty, baby). Some others are vulgar, so I will not repeat them. Mexicans selling things use words like this to get people’s attention. They use the same words to call out to Mexicans. In Nicaragua, people gave each other nicknames based on appearance, or some physical feature (they said they were funny, I did not get it, but, humour definitely has cultural boundaries that are not easily crossed).
These tendencies point to a system that lets people such as myself gain status, and that makes me uncomfortable. I think that hard work should pay off. By acquiescing to this system, because, on occaison, it has speeded up paperwork, am I just working the system to its advantage? Other times, when I face a woman on the other side of the desk, I sense they view me as a threat because things seem to take way longer than they should.
The words that come out of the mouths of salespeople are a shade away from the vulgar things men say on the street – aka sexual harassment – that there is no way of avoiding if you want to leave your housein Mexico and walk down the street or use public transit – and I am reminded me that there is an underlying expectation that a certain class of women are not to leave their homes – the things people say about the way women dress, or dance, or walk.
Hearing this kind of language reminds me, again, that in Canada, where I stand out less, and where I feel comfortable actively swearing at men who say these things, and telling them that my body is not availble for public commentary, we live in the same system where men feel comfortable telling women what to do, and some women feel comfortable acquiescing because it’s easier, becase the paperwork goes more quickly, because they’ll get free snorkel equipment (I turned that down today).
Men feel like they are losing power – indeed, women without children vastly outearn men (other than men of their same level of education). Do I feel badly? Do I feel badly that regardless of my qualifications I am guaranteed to earn less than a man with the same level of education, particularly if I get married (my status goes down, his goes up), or have children (whoah, career disaster)? It’s time for people to move beyond the expectations of their sex/gender. No one is more of a man or a woman (yes, keeping the gender binary for this one) because of how they look or act or where they choose to work (at home, outside of the home, freelance) or what name they choose for themselves. These are choices that should be availble to anyone. Women have so many options (most of what I have mentioned typically apply to women) and so many preoccupations (according to the internet, women focus on work, family, friends, “fitness” while men focus only on work). I think it’s time to share the bounty.
(The inspiration for the post came from my life and this article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/opinion/sunday/the-myth-of-male-decline.html)