3 angry women

After my blog post discussing how Parisian men treated me abroad I received an influx of emails.  Via Twitter I decided that I would talk to 3 girls my age about their experiences across the world.    TONIGHT, I BRING YOU… feisty, fun Fiona, notworthy, naughty Nina and krazy kool Kayleigh (alliterations not accurate, nor very good).  I would LOVE to hear your comments.

1)  Fiona finding her freedom in Avignon and Granada

Fiona is 21 years old and from Leicester. She studies French and Spanish at Leicester University. She blogs as CroissantsandChurros!

“Women need to stand up for themselves, but it’s easier said than done”

“For the first semester of university I was in Avignon, in the south of France, and I currently live in Granada in Spain.  I chose both because I felt they had very were very typically French and Spanish, [with] strong traditions.  I was aware of men being more forward [in these countries], so I was a little bit intimidated about them before I arrived”

“Both myself and many friends have experienced harassment in Spain and France.   In Avignon we were constantly beeped at and shouted at from cars full of young men who would usually shout ‘Hey bitch! You want a French kiss?!  Also there we had men in clubs touching us inappropriately.  On one particularly bad night I watched a man follow a friend around all night, then come behind her and put his hands all over her chest.   When and while I told him to stop, he picked me up and carried me around the dance floor.”

“In Avignon I knew that every time I walked past a group of men they were guaranteed to make a comment or go silent to intimidate me.   One night a homeless man kept hassling me and a friend while we were drinking in a square.  He came up behind me and started to feel my bum and only backed away when I really shouted at him”

“On a trip to Paris I was stood at the metro with my boyfriend and felt a hand on my bum, assuming it was my boyfriend even though it was very unlike him.  I turned around and it was a man who stood behind me.  He refused to look at me, mumbled ‘excusez-moi’ and then walked to a different carriage.  I wish I’d have shouted at him but I was too shocked.  I felt so paranoid to be on public transport after that.”

“In Granada I had similar problems.  We faced constant comments on the street while men stopped and stared and made hissing noises.  On a night out a man grabbed my friend’s chest and laughed at her when she shouted at him.  Men always watch and make comments about me going into my apartment from a night out.  It makes me feel intimidated and I shut the door very quickly now

487493_10151351864115905_710664406_nOne time in Granada my friend was followed home by a man.  He came all the way to her house and was let in by someone in the apartment after he rang all the buzzers.  She had to run to her room because she was so terrified and tell her landlady the next day.  The Landlady said to dye her hair brown because the men in Spain prefer blonde girls

“In all these occasions I tried to protest but sometimes I feel too shocked and just try and get out of trouble instead.  I’m quite slim, with pale skin, dark blonde hair and blue eyes.  I stick out a lot in warmer places.  I refuse to change what I wear because I know that isn’t the problem, even if sometimes I’d suffer the heat just to escape the stares.  I like to wear dresses and skirts but notice an immediate difference in how men act towards me if I’m not just in jeans and a top. ”

“I consider myself a feminist in that I believe in equality and freedom.  In one way the sexual freedom in France made everyone a bit calmer and liberated, but I still felt men then thought they could behave in a vulgar way with women.  The way to combat this problem is Education.  It did seem that the men who acted the worst were less educated, and felt superior for being male.   I think that countries could promote women working in high-position jobs in companies so that boys grow up respecting women.  Women need to stand up for themselves too, but it’s easier said than done”

“These experiences have sometimes shocked me and it has been worse than I expected, but it hasn’t put me off the countries or the people.   I also find that women can be very judgemental and even enjoy the idea of being a princess and a housewife and so play up to the machismo a little.”

“In the UK men are generally less forward but I have been shouted at and beeped at from men in cars, and touched up in clubs.  But I could never generalise and say that all men in France and Spain are sexist.  I met my current boyfriend, who’s French, in Avignon, and he’s lovely.  He hates that we have these problems with foreign men, and was surprised to hear that our view of French men is more creepy than charming nowadays”

2) Nina nesting in naughty Portugal
Nina is 20 years old and from Cornwall.  She studies Spanish and Portuguese at Manchester University and can be found on Twitter @NinaClarke

“I used to have quite a girly style, but I’ve actually changed the way I dress since living here.”

“Because of my studies I split my year abroad between Spain and Portugal, as I felt they’d be safer than Latin America, and liked the idea of being able to get home easily if necessary.” Having spent a lot of time in the past in Spain, I was aware that the male/female dynamic was different in Mediterranean countries. However, I did not expect to be made to feel intimidated and uncomfortable by random men in the street. My Spanish flatmate also warned me about Portugal before I left, saying that Portuguese men are renowned for their backward attitude towards women.”

“Although once even in Spain a policeman wound down his window and told me I was “sexy”, which wasn’t very reassuring for my safety, as well as men sometimes made remarks and wolf whistled, having lived in Portugal since February that now seems tame.  I am often harassed in the street here [in Portugal], and not just shouting, whistling and cat noises.  I have been touched inappropriately on the metro, as has my friend on the street.   We have also both been followed on separate occasions.”

One particular incident that stands out is when I was walking home from Uni.  One of the roads near my flat is currently undergoing some building works and I remember that afternoon a group of builders of all ages shouted obscenities at me the whole way down the road, not just as I passed, bearing in mind that this road is approximately 100 metres long.”

“Incidents have occurred in the street, on the metro, as well as in bars and restaurants.  Just this weekend when I was on my way home from the metro a group of men, probably between 50-60 years old, blocked my path and started to say disgusting things.   Another time a man approached me, no joke, and my friend while we were having a meal in a nice restaurant and gave us his business card, asking if we would take him out for drinks and then have a “ménage à trois“.  It is also common for a man who is with his wife/girlfriend to make you feel uncomfortable in the way he looks at you.”

Nina 2“Unfortunately, as much as I would like to tell these men to get lost, I worry about provoking their anger and so I do nothing. I often feel like telling the older men to go home to their wives and children but tend to stay silent and power walk the hell out of there!”

“To an extent I do think it’s about the way I look.   I am physically different to most Portuguese/Spanish women in that I have paler skin and light eyes. I do not consider myself to dress provocatively.   I used to have quite a girly style, but I’ve actually changed the way I dress since living here.   Whereas before I used to love wearing pretty dresses or blouses with shorts, I now only ever wear trousers. I also avoid bright colours in an effort to blend in to the crowd. In the morning I specifically pick out something plain, and never choose anything tight.  I have also learnt to avoid certain areas where I anticipate that there might be trouble”

“I have met some nice men, though. I made some lovely male friends in Spain who I could have a laugh with and who had refreshing views about women in comparison to some of the idiots who yell things about my “culo” (bottom) when out and about. In Portugal, however, my male friends are not Portuguese but fellow Erasmus students. Whilst I don’t want to stereotype, I think that some Portuguese men have difficulty in establishing friendships with women – perhaps because they do not consider us as equals.”

“It would be naïve to deny the existence of sexism in the UK and I’ve had my fair share of vile, balding builders who wolf-whistle at you.  However in my experience it is much less common.

I have never been made to feel unsafe or intimidated at home, and don’t think twice about my clothing choices, for example. Compared to their Mediterranean counterparts I think British men tend to be much more forward-thinking with regard to women/sexism. I feel that Portuguese men see women as daughters, sisters, mothers and wives.  If you don’t fall into one of these categories then it’s absolutely acceptable to disrespect [women] and ogle you in the street.”

This situation will only change when men start accepting women as equals and not as sexual objects.  I always defend my rights as a woman and think that gender equality is a necessity. I am aware that discrimination still exists today and would like to fight this, but I’m not a feminist in the sense that I belong to an organisation or go on marches.   Saying that, I would have loved to get involve with the SLUT movements (protest movements against people considering rape as a result of clothing), which look fun, as well as being a great cause of course. Some hard-core feminists do frustrate me with their extreme man-hating views such as Germaine Greer – in my opinion, feminism should be about achieving equality, not rejecting the opposite sex.”

 “Also I’m not sure if people will agree, but I’ve found there to be quite a stigma against English girls.   There is a widespread idea that we are all easy so I don’t know if that has something to do with the treatment I have received… although these men rarely hear me talk, so it’s hard to tell.   I guess it’s a stereotype that exists because British women are more sexually liberated in many European countries.  Without a doubt, these experiences have put me off foreign men. I have now learnt to appreciate the English gent!”


3) A Holiday in Paris

Kayleigh Tanner
Kayleigh is 21 and from Brighton. She works as a freelance journalist and a content writer and just completed a degree in Linguistics at University College London. She is a close friend of mine and we recently went to Paris together, which inspired the aforementioned post. Her main blog is SoupduJournalism

“Women shouldn’t have to face relentless comments based on their gender, and neither should men.”

“I went on holiday to Paris for a weekend jaunt to escape London and I hadn’t even thought about how the men would treat me!  I was on the Paris Metro one morning when a man got on behind me and started standing uncomfortably close. I tried to shuffle away as best I could but it was incredibly crowded and I thought it might’ve been an accident. However, he then started actively groping me and putting his hands on my hips, back and thighs and pushing himself into me as he stood behind me. I felt incredibly intimidated and disgusted but there was nowhere I could move and I didn’t want to say anything and cause a scene in case he turned nasty.  In Paris in general, comments were thrown at us relentlessly all weekend, nothing sinister, but certainly intimidating and tiresome. You would think that these men would have given up on harassing women in the streets after realising that nobody likes that sort of attention, but it really did get frustrating having people shouting after us no matter where we went.”

“Most of these men, funnily enough, were older!  The teenage boys were, generally, the best behaved in terms of shouting sexist comments. It was mostly those men in their late 20s and older who found it acceptable to shout comments. I’ve never been anywhere in the countryside in any country where this has happened, but it seems as though in Paris (and Rome to a lesser extent) it is fairly commonplace to encounter this sort of comment no matter where you go.”

“We mostly walked away or ignored them completely.  Even after a polite ‘non, merci’, there isn’t a lot you can do unless you walk away. It’s exasperating having to change your route to avoid people likely to make comments and it can be quite scary when they just won’t take the hint but they eventually give up if you don’t react.”

Kayleigh at the Louvre in Paris

“The men seemed to ramp up the comments when they realised we were English and I didn’t notice any French girls receiving the same treatment. Maybe it’s something to do with thinking that tourist girls will be in a more vulnerable position. My style tends to be pretty covered up, so there’s not much more I could do to deflect attention away from myself.  Even if I dressed exclusively in crop tops and hotpants, though, I wouldn’t change my style [for these men]. The problem is theirs, not mine.”

“It hasn’t put me off men from abroad, at all though.  In the vast majority of places, the men haven’t been a problem at all. It’s just a shame that there are a few who think that this sort of behaviour is appropriate. I have visited Scandinavia several times, which I love, and have never had a problem with any of the men there or elsewhere in Europe.   I think it’s just a completely different culture and the ‘done thing’ in certain European cities – not that that makes it OK, of course!”

“Unfortunately I don’t think the problem can be tackled as such – it’s more something that the men in question will need to grow out of.  Hopefully the younger boys who seemed to be able to hold their tongues will stay as dignified when they’re older!”

“Sexist comments in the UK tend to be a lot more subtle. It’s never comments about my appearance, it’s more to do with my abilities and things that I ‘can and can’t’ or ‘should and shouldn’t’ do as a woman. ‘I’ll help you with that because you’re a girl’, ‘Isn’t that a bit dangerous for a girl?’ It’s a different sort of sexism. It’s an assumption that my gender dictates my capacity to perform certain tasks, rather than the blatant, explicit admiration of ‘a female’. I don’t understand how anyone can not be a feminist in this day and age! Women and men are equal and should be treated as such.”

One thought on “3 angry women

  1. Pingback: Are you a feminist? | LANGUAGE TALKS

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