Catcalls and Other Unnecessary Patriarchal Bullshit

About a month ago I was walking down the street, I had been sick for a while and had left the house only to get something for my cough. The water had been shut off in our apartment for about three days and this was day three, so I was sick, un-showered, exhausted and not in the mood for chatting with annoying strangers. I stopped to have a quick coughing fit on a street corner when I saw a man spot me and swerve out of his way to approach me. I saw the look in his eye, every woman who has ever received unwanted attention knows this look, he came over and gave me “hola, hermosa”. I glared at him shot back with a, “en serio?” between coughs and continued walking. I was literally coughing all over the street and this tool thought it was a nice opportunity to tell me I was pretty. I had a similar situation more recently in a fit of sneezes when a man approached and asked if he could get to know me better. The answer was no.

Almost worse than these situations is walking down the street and passing taxis honk as the drivers slow down and whistle. What a cop out, I don’t even get the satisfaction of telling them to shove it when they’re in a vehicle. This is probably the most obnoxious occurrence in the entire world. Street harassment. I say entire world because it is not unique to any one place, it has happened to me in every part of the world I have been so far from my home town in Vermont to the high Andes to West Africa I have received unwanted catcalls from men whose paths I have had the misfortune to cross.

The most amazing thing about street harassment to me is when I tell my male friends about it they can’t believe it. It’s like this whole other dimension they never have the pleasure of experiencing. I was recently out in town, in Cusco, with a male friend on a Saturday morning. We walked around shopping for a while and eventually said, “chau” as I continued to walk home to my apartment and he caught a taxi. I was not ten feet away from him when the unwanted attention swarmed. To second I was not in the company of a man I was fair game. I find this particularly insulting because of what this implys. That a woman isn’t to be bothered in the presence of a man and that is to be respected but if she is alone or with female friends, it’s fair game- respecting mens wishes not womens. It’s bullshit.

When I tell men to go to hell after hollering something obscene it is absolutely predictable what is going to happen next, every woman will tell you, the pig’s fragile ego will be damaged and he will immediately call you a bitch or say to his friend that what a bad temper that bitch has. How the fuck is it my fault for defending myself from being harassed? Worse than this is when you attempt to vent about such an occurrences and a man tells you, “well that’s what you get for being beautiful” or something to this effect. Oh, this is my fault for my appearance? Sorry, next time I leave the house I’ll be sure to wear a burlap sack and paper bag over my head. This is the same argument people make about women’s clothing when they say “she was asking for it”. It’s not the fault of the creep but the woman for existing. If there was no wheelchair ramp and your disabled grandma couldn’t get into a restaurant would you tell her, “well it’s just what you get for being in a wheel chair?” Probably not, you would likely blame to restaurant for not having appropriate wheelchair access for Granny. See what I’m getting at here?

I don’t know where the phenomenal confidence of these pigs comes from but I think women need some of it. There’s a serious imbalance happening. Women are somehow raised to be insecure delicate creatures and men overly confident jerks who think women owe them something. News flash, we don’t. This idea that women owe the world something is absurd and has got to go. Women get guilted into talking to, dancing with, going out with, and having sex with men they don’t want to spend time with because they don’t want to hurt his feelings. This is the most backwards normalized shit I have ever seen. I preach this to my friends to an obnoxious point. Just because some guy buys you a drink does not mean you have to do anything for him. Personally, I refuse the drinks with a glare and that usually sends a clear message but women shouldn’t have to feel as if they are being fucking hunted if they want to go out on public. Honestly.

I know none of this information is new to the world. There are probably a million blog posts about street harassment. Yet, the harassment never stops. So men, don’t be dicks, don’t yell shit at women and get offended when they don’t respond by dropping to their knees and sucking your dick. What the hell do you think is going to happen when you yell or whistle at a random chick? And women, tell men to shove it more often tell them to fuck off. Not only is it liberating, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone, you don’t owe anyone shit.

While my initial reaction is to be angry at the individuals who act overly aggressively and gross towards women I know it is a larger problem than that one person. It has a lot to do with societal standards and norms. One the makes men the hunters and women prey. What a stone aged idea. Come on, people, we can do better and be more respectful to each other.

P.S to all the haters: This is where I get called an angry feminist or a man hater. While these things do make me angry all I’m asking is to shed a little light on the actual absurdity of public harassment. In addition, I do not hate men, I am against patriarchal norms and the boxes it puts people into.

Party Imperialism

For the past two months I have been in Cusco, so I’m not exactly what you would call a “traveler”..yet. Soon, I will be one of those dirty backpackers with a look of bewilderment somewhere in a plaza toting around my belongings. To be honest, I don’t want to be one of these people, not because I don’t want to see new places, because I don’t want to be associated with a certain breed of backpackers. The party hostel packers. This specific type of culture is not unlike a frat culture but without U.S law enforcement. Everything that disgusts me about frat culture in America, from rape to racism, is present in party hostels in an arguably even more horrific way.  What is most shocking to me about this culture is the unwillingness people have to leave their own culture behind.

Two years ago I arrived to Cusco as a volunteer and some other volunteers invited me out to a hostel in town called “Wild Rover”. This hostel, unbeknownst to me, is a notorious party hostel chain that has several locations across South America. At the door you had to leave your passport number and locals, with a few exceptions, were turned away. It was almost strictly English speaking white people who were admitted to this hell hole. English music bumped through the bar as shirtless bar tenders poured liquor down willing and unwilling people’s throats who danced on the bar. “This is a frat party” I thought to myself- although I have very little experience attending such events even in The United States it resembled a culture I was familiar with. Why the hell would you travel all the way to South America to just continue to experience your own culture? Not only that, the worst parts of western culture.

I do not understand how people travel through South American countries without even trying to experience local culture in any form. For god’s sake, at least stay in a locally owned hotel and support the local economy. The wide spread tourist industry has allowed for people to have all the comforts of home while abroad. While I understand having some of these things can be nice- like familiar food, you are not in your home country so why not try to enjoy what the place you are in has to offer? How can you even say you have been to a place without experiencing parts of the culture? That’s how I saw Wild Rover’s guests. People who wanted to visit other places, but only to an extent, which is sad to me because Peru has so much to offer. If you want to be that ignorant why even leave your home country if you can’t be open to new things? I am not trying to generalize everyone who stays at these establishments but rather capture the essence of the culture behind hostel’s like this. Party imperialism if you will.

Such businesses are taking advantage of the relaxed laws and the tourist industry in other countries that will attract people with a party agenda with no return to the local community or acceptance of the local community. In fact, the local community is ostracized! Okay, you are on vacation. I get it, I like to party too. But damn it, have some class and respect for the local people and area. As an American, it’s embarrassing. These places are not enriching in any way or different than what you already know. Try something new, learn something, be a little uncomfortable, and you will grow as a person and hopefully be less of a douche bag.

Interconnectivity

One of the perks of being an online English teacher is having the opportunity to talk to people in far reaching places that I would have never otherwise have met. I get the chance to ask people about their country’s culture, language, tradition and politics which, to me, the coolest thing in the world is to learn about different cultures. It gives me direct insight to what a given country is like. The global need for English is the reason I am employed and it speaks to the fact that our world is growing to be more interconnected. I tutor a lot of computer engineers and technicians who are from Saudi Arabia, a country that is very traditional but also wealthy and educated. Tech companies are very international and English is the common language used across nations. I have always believed that people are all more similar than they are different but this job has been proving that as a truth to me. It’s surprisingly easy to find common ground with someone who seemingly has nothing in common with me. (i.e. a male computer programmer from Saudi Arabia and me a wandering American female traveler) but if there is a desire to understand each other you will find commonalities and a way to understand differences.

I was having a fascinating conversation with a young woman from Turkey earlier this week about the recent election in Turkey and what that means for the future of Turkey when she made a point that I think about often. She said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that in the increasingly global world we live in we need to think about helping people and solving social problems not fearing each other. We should be moving forward together yet there is this odd phenomenon of nationalism rising throughout the world right now and that ideology is rooted in fear and hatred for those unlike ourselves.

This is a strange paradoxical world we are living in today where I can sit in Peru and have a conversation with an educated young person in Turkey who, much like myself, is disappointed in her country and doesn’t see progress in what is happening, not only in her own country but, in the world. It’s true that we are living in scary uncertain times where war could be in the future, people fear radical terrorists which then increases racism and nationalism. This is all overwhelming and absolutely horrific. Yet, we have the most amazing technology at our fingertips and I don’t think I would be the first person to believe that this interconnectivity is a peace building tool.

The news terrifies me but I have instant access to that news, people are talking about it, people are debating, people are organizing. Not only do I talk to my friends who are in different countries about the news, through my job I’m talking to complete strangers in different countries about the state of the world we are all a part of. Borders are arbitrary and with technology we can unite and educate ourselves from our own homes.

While I used to believe that technology was a distraction, and in many ways it is, it’s also an amazing 21st century tool. It’s reaching across the globe to inform, connect and educate people. If technology is used to connect people and inform them I think nationalistic ideals can be challenged- they are being challenged. I learned from one of my Saudi Arabian students that a hashtag started a social movement for women to earn the right to drive. It’s about starting a conversation and reaching people with shared interests as well as those that are being challenged. As long as this continues I believe there is hope for progress.

For the time being, there is a backlash against that forward movement. It seems to me that in a shift of power and movement towards equality a strong authoritarian fist will try to maintain control but it will fall. People of diverse backgrounds around the globe are gaining momentum in the fight for equality and the oppressor is fighting back but in the future there will be a shift of power. I deeply believe this. After the Obama presidency it makes sense, in the U.S, that there was a rise of white nationalism, those people will lose control because we are moving forward in the fight for equality. Technology as a powerful tool and a creative one at that. A powerful, amazing, creative tool humans have never seen before, a far reaching tool to interconnectivity and peace building.

Asparagus and other global veggies

Since the growing season has begun back home in Vermont I thought I’d pay a tribute to one of the first available crops: asparagus. This vegetable absolutely delights me, I know, I’m probably a weirdo. But seriously, if you have never tried raw asparagus, I highly recommend it. Flavorful, crunchy and delicious. My first farm season started last May, and I had the delight of picking asparagus out of the field and crunching into the miracle of a farm fresh veggie. This was the moment I fell in love with farming, and I remember it clearly.

To answer the question on your mind right now, no, I have not gone off the deep end there is a reason I’m writing about asparagus and it has to do with Peru. Take a wild guess as to what one of Peru’s main exports is. Asparagus! Now, that might not seem strange to you but let me tell you, here and Cusco, I have never even laid eyes on a single stalk of asparagus. I have seen it mentioned on a menu or two but it’s unclear as to if it’s actually available and is certainly a higher ticket item than other veggies. From what I understand most of it is grown in Lima and other warmer, most hospitable climates. I am unclear as to whether it’s available for the general public to buy or not.

The sheer amount of Asparagus being sent overseas is absolutely astounding. In 2016 Peru exported 125,000 ton of asparagus that accounts for 90% of the country’s air exports followed by blueberries (that I’ve also never seen here) and flowers according to freshplaza.com. Next time you are in a grocery store and you see asparagus that isn’t labeled ‘local’ I am willing to bet it was sourced from Peru. Asparagus is a vegetable you often associate with eating in the dead of winter. Guess where it’s coming from. Not California or even close. The United states accounted for 65% of all of Peru’s asparagus exports in 2016. Americans don’t even eat vegetables! Where is this stuff going? Probably the bottom vegetable draw in our refrigerators to rot or maybe to a few restaurants to use as a component to a dish but gets picked around. The vegans? I don’t know..

The larger point I’m trying to make is not only about asparagus it’s about food, trade, and the global world. Yes, here we go again. I don’t believe the majority of Americans put a lot of thought into where there produce comes from. In the summer fresh local vegetables are available but usually still more expensive than something that was imported. Yet, the crops that are exported aren’t available to people in the country that’s producing it and if it is the price is inflated because of the trade value.

Let’s break this down. Crops are grown in so called “developing countries” and sent to so called “developed countries” because there is a demand and an available profit. But the producing country then has very little access to the crop because it is unavailable and expensive. Developed countries economic demands are then being put before the value of people’s health in nutrition in the providing countries. This is nothing new in terms of history. Warm, beautiful place, where people can provide for themselves off the resources of the land is stripped of resources by the white man. We all know this story but do we think about it when we eat things like asparagus with our dinner in the middle of February?

Now, I’m not saying Peruvian’s health conditions are crumbing because they need more asparagus. I’m saying this seems like an unequal power dynamic and I understand there is economic incentive for the Peruvian economy and, hopefully, although I haven’t looked into it, for the growers as well. Global food trade is bigger than just vegetables it affects communities and the environment but isn’t likely to change as long as there is economic reasons underlying it all. It’s true, we live in a global world but I think we need to take that into consideration more often in our daily lives.

So next time you’re in the grocery store, pick up some asparagus and see where it’s from and when you’re craving veggies this summer go local!

Language and Communication

When I first became an English as a Second Language teacher I had mixed feelings about the results of my work, culturally. Was it harmful to  be placing so much emphasis on the English language as essential for success? I would say yes. The Sociology major in me nagged away at my brain telling me, “this is imperialistic, Laura, damn it!” It’s true, people can earn more money by speaking English because it’s extremely helpful in the tourism industry in Cusco, and around the world, but it’s forcing priority of the language of people who come to visit over indigenous languages. Quechua is the native tongue throughout the Andes in the ancient Incan empire sprawling through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Quechua is so ancient it was thousands of years before it was a ever written language. Words for modern technologies like ‘washing machine’ are more like a hybrid between Spanish and Quechua.

Quechua is important to the Andes because is a key element of preserving Andean culture- not for the tourists- but for the people who belong to this ancient heritage. Therefore, placing an emphasis on English to make money off of visitors is devaluing parts of the culture that has existed here for thousands of years. That is hugely problematic. As an English teacher I felt I was contributing to a kind of modern imperialism and I certainly did not agree with it. While my students (ironically) reassured me children still learn Quechua in school.

Despite the cultural value displacement mental moral dilemma I experienced the language learning process fascinated me. People who didn’t speak a word of English could learn so quickly and put the language in action. What a cool function of the human brain to be able to express something in a foreign tongue! The functioning of language is an amazing phenomenon.

Let’s back up and talk about the main purpose of language: Communication. Being able to communicate through language is part of the human experience and sometimes we face obstacles with communication even the same language is being spoken. Other times communication barriers happen when different languages are being spoken. Lack of communication and understanding creates conflict as small as an argument with your wife to as large as war. Conflict almost always causes harm- so is there a way to prevent that? Maybe the answer is communication. So was teaching English all bad? It seems more complicated than that.

I was listening to a Ted Radio Hour podcast last week and the topic was language. One guest was explaining that it’s been theorized that in the future various forms of English will be spoken on every country on earth. Making it a global language. Creating an engine for universal communication. In theory, English would be something that would unify all people to communicate with each other. While the fact that English could be this universal language is problematic to me I  also find it be kind of a beautiful idea that it could unify people across nations.

This helped me find peace in working in ESL. The demand is not going to go away so why not someone like myself, who also understands the value of preserving ancient culture and traditions, teach English to help further my students career goals in this modern world. I am grateful to be immersed in such a rich culture and I too have learned a new language. Humans are only going forward. People are not going to stop speaking English and tourists aren’t going to stop coming to Cusco so maybe there is balance in there between communication and education about culture that can help people today gain a broader global perspective.

Expat vs Immigrant

,A few weeks ago I moved back to Cusco, Peru. On a bit of a whim and very little planning. I bought a plane ticket and was sure I could find housing and a job no problem once I arrived in person. I was right. But why is it so easy for a western woman to just up and leave and move to another country without fear of admittance through Peru’s border, without worry about finding a job without a visa? Well, I think it’s pretty obvious why PRIVILEGE.

For those of you who have been living under a rock: the United States national security turns people away at the border based on the the region of the world they come from but more so the color of their skin regardless of their situation. Someone could be seeking refuge of war torn country,  or seeking better job opportunities, an education, or maybe they just want a freakin’ vacation but before I go on a tangent about systemic racism my point is this: an American passport is basically a global golden ticket. Simply the fact that I can get on my computer and purchase a plane ticket to South America without a shred of doubt about entering Peru for the third time, especially after last time I overstayed when my visa for at least three months, is a HUGE global privilege I hold as an American. Not only can I vacation where I please but I can choose to live in other countries if I so desire.

Living in Peru makes me an “Expatriate” or “expat” which isn’t entirely accurate since I don’t plan on living here for any extended period of time but I work, have an apartment and am not a stinky backpacker so I’ll take it. But why am I, and other people in similar situations, not “immigrants”? It is in reference of the country said person has original citizenship in. Myself and other westerners are “expats” while those whose home countries are not considered “first world” get labeled as ‘immigrants’ when they move to other countries.

In The United States ‘immigrant’ has become a tainted word associated with being desperate, poor, and dare I say, usually brown or black. This is another manifestation of global privilege that’s perpetuated in subtle ways and in this case it’s through language and rhetoric. It’s a view of what is considered safe and what is considered potentially dangerous. Expats and immigrants can be found all over the world but the difference is how they are perceived. The difference is that it’s easy to be an expat, you are welcomed, and even when the system doesn’t work in your favor rules bend to do so. Immigrants are seen as a burden and are largely unwelcomed.

The best example of how easy it is to be an expat I think in relation to my own life is my job. I don’t have a work visa yet I have a job and know that is a widely accepted fact- no visa no problem. My presence in Peru is not seen as threatening but rather as helping- to teach citizens English. I think we all know what the attitude towards undocumented workers in the United States is like.

I urge other people living abroad, so called “expats”, to really take this into consideration. You ooze with privilege so what are you going to do about it? Be aware at the very least that your birthplace has allowed you to slide by wandering the world while others are receive the opposite set of tools in life.

Tourists

There’s a balcony in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco that is perfect for people watching. My roommate, Emily, and I frequent this place to take part in one of our favorite activities: poking fun at tourists in the plaza. Americans are very easy to spot-being an American myself I know how absurdly paranoid we can get which leads to extreme preparedness. Americans are the most overprepared travelers you will ever meet. We certainly do our research and follow it to a tee. If you read any guide book it will tell you how to be hyper vigilant of anything that could possibly go wrong from sunburn to mosquito born illnesses, altitude sickness to food poisoning, muggings or getting bit by a rabid dog. Your average traveling American has a remedy for each of these things prescribed by their doctor at the travel clinic and has read extensively about them so much that I have turned identifying them from a far into a hobby.

Cusco is situated high in the Andes and it is not a bad idea to be prepared for such conditions it’s just hilarious to see the extremes people will go to. A classic American tourist sighting in Cusco looks a bit like this: a middle aged American couple both dressed in all tan Colombia appeal, hiking boots, bucket hats, lathered in sunscreen, they’ve got their sporty sunglasses on that probably cost half my monthly salary here, rain jackets tied around their waists, they each have a backpack filled with other layers, water, sunscreen and- my favorite part of this get-up- they are using hiking poles! In the literal middle of the city as if the plaza was part of the Inka Trail. It’s a phenomenally overprepared outfit. Another classic: families in matching jackets, usually North Face and a vibrant color. You would be astounded at how common this is. I haven’t narrowed it down to strictly Americas but it’s definitely tourists coordinating their outerwear in men’s, women’s and children’s size.

I am not the only person who notices such characters. I mean, it’s pretty hard not to. These people are the prime market for local artists and vendors who sell artwork, tours, massages, food, give tattoos ect. in the plaza. Sometimes even children are among the sales people selling the infamous llama keychains of Peru. With an alarming number of tourists swarming Cusco every year it is no surprise the city’s economy relies heavily on tourism. At times it can feel a little overwhelming but it is simply a fact that Cusco’s economy relies on larger ones like the United States and other western nations. You as the tourist represent that at face value. It’s business. It’s livelihood. It’s unequal trade agreements. It’s colonialism. You’re your privilege and it’s a fact.

I recently had the displeasure of meeting an entitled American traveler who rejected this reality. Emily and I were perched on our favorite balcony celebrating her admittance to law school when said ungrateful, homely American man sat down next to us. Immediately his arrogance radiated around him as he spat at us, “where are you guys from?” We were in a good humor so we engaged him and told him our story. He quickly jumped into telling us about his own travels and how many times he had been to Cusco. At this point in conversation it was just the basic ‘where are you from? what do you do? Blah blah blah’ that you find yourself having constantly in Cusco. Then the tone changed when he said, “Yeah, nine years ago there used to be a lot less assholes selling paintings and shit”. It became clear this guy was a royal prick (RP) and had no concept that what he was saying was a projection of his white male privilege not to mention insanely rude.   RP was so entitled he couldn’t accept the fact that the presence of people like himself as a western tourist has changed Cusco and Peru forever, the economy relies on tourism.

Peruvian culture is very warm and welcoming of outsiders which makes it a safe comfortable country to travel. Peruvian people are very proud of their country’s ancient history and culture and generally want to share it with everyone who has the desire to learn about it. Which makes for fantastic tourist relations. RP was upset that people who live here, who at this point in American politics would most likely not be granted a visa to visit our country because of racism, are trying to make money selling their art by marketing it to tourists. The audacity! That wasn’t in your guide book, buddy? Don’t be an asshole? Recognize the position of privilege you were born with and that your passport holds. If I could change one thing about guide books it would be this, a section on global privilege and recognition of your position as a global citizen interacting with the world. This is a small example of entitlement and racism I witnessed. Don’t even get me started on party hostel culture. I’ll get into that another day.

Flooding in Peru

Friday afternoon I stepped out of my yoga class in Cusco, Peru feeling the buzz of relaxation and calmness that had settled over my body in the past hour of practice. I spotted a flier on the front desk that read “Help the flood Victims!”. Flood? Where? This was this first I heard about the flash flooding that had over half of Peru in a state of emergency. This is what I have learned over the course of the past few days.

The Facts

The Peruvian government has announced the floods are from this year’s El Nino which is a current in the Pacific Ocean the affects weather paterns. The waters became unusually warm causing tens times the average rain fall this season. “There hasn’t been an incident of this strength along the coast of Peru since 1998,” President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (weather.com)

Since yesterday the death count has reached 72, according to BBC, due to uncontrollable water slides that have swept away over hundreds of thousands of homes leaving an estimated 100,000 people homeless ITV reports. Bridges and roadways have been washed away along with homes, property and crops. This leaves people stranded in floodwaters without access to clean water to drink or cook with. While the rain has halted for a moment more is expected in the upcoming month and for now standing flood waters have taken over cities and towns across the coast in northern Peru.

Relief

Emergency response was sent by the Peruvian military to evacuate people from their homes during the initial flooding. The health ministry has begun fumigating standing water to prevent spread of mosquito born illnesses. On lists of relief items to donate bug repellent is in high demand almost as much as bottled water. Al Jazeera reported that the government has begun relief efforts involving distribution of necessities as well as setting up tents to shelter those who lost their homes in the devastation.

Outside Efforts

I have seen donation centers mainly collecting water here in Cusco. Badly needed items include: Non-perishable food items
Oral rehydration solutions
Medicines: Bismutol, cold & flu pills
Inflatable mattresses
Diapers
Insect repellents
Antibacterial gel
Water
Sunscreen

There are other ways you can help if you are not in Peru. I found this relief organization based out of California that you can donate a monetary amount to a specific cause or send requested items to. Directrelief has partnered with Peruvian based aid organizations to distribute resources to affected areas.

Donate to Directrelief below:

https://www.directrelief.org/2017/03/direct-relief-ships-critical-aid-peru-wake-persistent-deadly-flooding/

There is a lot of individual efforts happening on the internet like gofundme for relief efforts. You can google ‘How to help Peru floods’ and several such as the linked below will come up. If you would like to donate to a smaller organization or an individual this is a good option.

https://gogetfunding.com/help-the-thousands-of-victims-in-the-recent-peru-flooding-devastation/

Essalud, a Peruvian based aid organization is working to set up refugee centers in Lima and the surrounding area that resources are being sent to. I have also heard surrounding South American countries have agreed to help with aid efforts to their neighbor Peru.

 

I will be contacting people in Cusco to gather more information on fund raising events and relief efforts. More to come as information unfolds involving more potential rainfall and post rainfall aid and reconstruction.

 

Below is a list of links where I gathered my information from:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39318034

http://www.peruthisweek.com/news-prayforperu-come-together-to-help-the-victims-111408

http://www.itv.com/news/2017-03-20/dozens-killed-and-thousands-left-homeless-in-peru-floods/

https://weather.com/news/news/peru-flooding-mudslides-images-photos

http://www.essalud.gob.pe/

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2017/03/deadly-peru-floods-leave-thousands-homeless-170319074443002.html

A Feminist among Machismos

In her introduction to a collection of essays titled ‘Bad Feminist’ Roxanne Gay poses her readers a question that has tourmented me on numerous levels for years, “How do we find the necessary language for talking about the inequalities and injustices women face both great and small?”

This quote resignated deeply with me the first time I read it during my fifth month living abroad in Cusco, Peru. Gay was not referring to a language barrier but rather rhetoric of expressing often debated and denied realities of women’s daily lives. I, however, could relate this to both my life in the United States and my current life in Peru where language barriers bring me daily sources of humor, misunderstandings and frustrations. I quickly aquired several favorite Spanish phrases to fire back at filthballs who, for some reason I will never understand, feel they are entitled to cat call, holler, and inform me, and countless other women, how “guapa” “bonita” “linda” we are. I enjoy telling these men that they are disrespectful, annoying, and to shut up. Usually I am told what a bad temper I have or am insulted back because how dare I defend myself when a complete stranger sexualizes and objectifies me in the street? Daring to challenege masculinity in it’s ugliest form. I am not a “well behaved woman” in any culture.

Street harassment is not what came to mind when I read Gay’s quote. My own personal life and adjustment to a strongly machismo culture did. I have fallen in love with salsa dancing since I arrived here in Cusco last September. The very basic rules of salsa go against every feminist bone in my body. There are very strongly assigned gender roles within the art of salsa. For god’s sake there are “lady moves”! Yet, I am addicited, and I have no intention of quitting. I love that feeling of femininity when I dance, I love being spun in circles, I love wearing heels, (yes heels!) and I love playing that role of the female dancer. Simultaneously, I am aware this is putting me in a very specific place with the male dominanted social scene of salsa.

I have been unwillingly groped my drunk men on the dance floors who use salsa as an excuse to get within arms length of a woman. I walk off the dance floor in this unfortunate circumstances but not before I am told to smile, asked if I am sad or being called a bitch. Believe it or not it is none of the above! I just dont allow strangers, or even dancers I am aquainted with, to molest me. Crazy I know. Worse than that is when I observe other women in the same situation who will not walk away for fear of being “rude”. Seriously, there is nothing ruder than grabbing a strangers ass.

So how do I effectively and constructively challenge such attrocities that are accepted in a tropical “boys will be boys” fashion. How do I explain these concepts to my friends, in Spanish, who try but can’t quite grasp, why I am more than occasionally on the verge of tears of rage about this behavior? Spanish is not the only language barrier that is present in this condundrum.