We’ve heard about street harassment in Cairo and Brussels; now let’s hear about street harassment in Lima, via the Stop Street Harassment blog.
When I arrived in Lima, Peru, as an American exchange student about two months ago, I thought I knew about street harassment. I had read about it, I had experienced a few catcalls here and there, and I had even had an egg thrown at me out the window of a moving car. But it had never been as constant as what women here experience every day. During my first of many ten-minute walks to school, I experienced endless “piropos” – honking, whistles, and of course the infamous kissing noises that Limeña women are forced to endure each time they walk down the street alone (and sometimes otherwise).
But apparently Kotex Perú can’t tell the difference between street harassment and a nice compliment. Through the Facebook page of “Paremos el Acoso Callejero,” a Lima-based organization for fighting street harassment, I came into contact with the following Kotex Peru ad with the caption “¡Los piropos me alegran todo el día/tarde/noche!” (Catcalls cheer me up all morning/afternoon/night!)
Here’s that Facebook page.
“Kotex Test: If you are walking down the street and you are cat-called, you:
- Laugh at the situation and keep walking
- Stop and give a look that could kill to whoever is catcalling you
- Take your lipstick out of your purse, put it on, and blow him a kiss”
Clearly, the sentiment of this ad is that “piropos,” or catcalls, are a compliment, and something to be appreciated. Listen, Kotex. This is not flirting. This is street harrassment.
A “piropo” isn’t It’s not about the fact that this man thinks I’m pretty. He’s not trying to brighten my day. He’s not trying to pay me a compliment. The smirks and laughter that often accompany these expressions make it clear that they’re meant to make women uncomfortable for the harrasser’s own entertainment.
The sentiment of this ad is even more than that. Choice # 2 is clearly meant for the prudish sex-negative humorless feminazis who just don’t know how to take a compliment.
The disconnect is bizarre. We’re supposed to see combinations of clothed men and naked women as “human sexuality” and we’re supposed to see barrages of jeering sexual harassment as something cheer-upping and flattering. Oy.