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Posts Tagged ‘cultural treatment of women’

One of the more unfortunate aspects of walking as a solo woman on the Camino is the perception that you’re easy game. I’ve read recently on the Facebook forums that I follow of women being harassed by men; naked men who chase after these women whilst masturbating, men waiting under secluded bridges till a woman comes along then yanks his pants down to expose himself. Men follow along behind the pilgrims and make lewd comments, or just hang around making a general pest of themselves.

Many of the women quite understandably get quite frightened, or as in one case was so badly upset by the whole thing that she packed up and went home. It’s a real issue and seems to be escalating somewhat. There are often discussions about how to deal with these incidents with some folks suggesting pepper spray which is banned in Spain, or whistles, and various other suggestions, none of which are really acceptable and could lead to further problems.

I recently read an interesting article about the escalating harassment of women in the Middle East regions, that although not specifically about the Camino, does talk about the harassment of women in middle east countries. Interesting, although unfortunately they don’t mention the biggest factor in these countries; women are viewed as 2nd class citizens…ergo men can do what they like coz they’re superior. Perhaps they should look at the cultural issues from the cradle up….men treat their wives in an appalling fashion, often abusive. Boys witness this and think its okay to be abusive towards women. Its pretty much the same in every patriarchal society. It won’t change till parents teach their kids about respect.  Reading this article I get the distinct impression that the author/researcher is making excuses for why boys harass girls. These young men “have high aspirations for themselves and aren’t able to meet them,” he says. “So they [harass women] to put them in their place. They feel like the world owes them.”

Harassing women is not a new phenomena in the Western world; its as bad and has been for decades in our society where morals are loose and again, men are disrespectful towards their wives. Frankly those men’s magazines and light pornographic magazines, sexually explicit films, advertisements with half naked women spread across cars et al, all play a part in the sexual harassment of women. I remember with clarity, as a young girl developing breasts and having to start wearing a bra, the boys, would come up behind me or my school mates and snap our bra-straps or try to undo the hooks – behaviour they STILL indulge in 50 years later. We were always, without fail told to ‘just ignore it’. In fact I recall very clearly telling my daughter much the same thing 25 years later….either that or wallop the boy in question….which of course would then lead to her being punished for ‘assaulting’ the little shit.

However, there has been as is a shift being made in this area. I recently read where a Mother was called into the Headmaster’s office because her daughter had punched the boy who snapped her bra-strap. The Headmaster and the parents of the boy tried to make an issue of it, but the Mother neatly turned the tables by reminding them that what he had done is actually sexual harassment and that she would be happy to call the Police and lay a charge. Problem solved. Frankly I wish I had done that for my daughter, how much more empowering it would have been.

But, and here’s the thing…..it is sexual harassment, and the problem begins at home. Until all of society begins to see women as equals and deserving of respect, until parents unanimously teach their sons about the boundaries and how to treat a woman with respect, women will continue to be harassed on the streets….no matter which country we live in. I, however, am not holding my breath.

And if any man, young or otherwise even attempts to give me grief while I’m walking the Camino, he will live to regret it.

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