Sunday, March 23, 2014

Five Images of (Whitish) Womanhood In Ecuador

1) I am walking down the street with my blonde friends, "Hola Princesas," a group of men calls to us.  "Hi."  "Hello!"  "Hello Beautifuls."  Without them, I have not been catcalled once.  I wonder what this means, or if it means anything, and what it is like to be an Ecuadorian woman in this city.

2) During Carnaval-  The host aunt of my friend is trying to set me up with the 23 year old guy who lives where we are staying.  We are going to the Discoteca.  "Take her by the arm.  Take her by the arm!"  she says. "Tell her, you are my property for the night."

This was funny for a while, but she couldn't have picked a better phrase to set me off.  “I will never, never, never, never, never, never be anyone’s property, including when I am married.”  I struggle to express in rapid Spanish.  I wonder what they think of my flash of feminism, and if many young women here think it is normal to be, or want to be, the "property" of men.

3) The streets are filled with flowers- International Women's Day is a big deal here.  I am wished well wherever I go, and the next day at a party, a mariachi band dedicates their performance to all the women.  They say they believe it should be Women's Day every day.  But the activism associated with the day in the international community is largely absent here.

4) When going anywhere with men, they often let me go through the door first.  This really bothers me and my friend Sarah, not because chivalry is awful and sexist, but because usually these people are leading us on a tour or something, and we have no idea where to go.  It is a very inefficient system.

5) I am wearing a skirt, so you can see the severe mosquito bites on my lower leg, already two weeks old, but pretty awful looking.  "Do not scratch," my host mom instructs me, "You don't want scars.  Men won't like them."  My body is dotted with probably hundreds of old scars, but I don't think to be insecure until much later.  Instead, I say, "If they don't like it, they are not important."  I was going to say, "If they don't like it, they can't have it," but that felt a little inappropriate for a family gathering. I spend the afternoon talking to a young man at the party about racism, cultural differences, and our respective educations. He offers to take me to a museum, so I guess he didn't mind the mosquito bites. He is the first Ecuadorian man in 8 weeks to have even a remotely intellectual conversation with me. 

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