I heard the most unsettling story this week of two close friends who had gone together to a performance by a live band. The pair had known each other for over ten years. After the show they decided to get some takeaway from a popular nightspot. They were waiting for their order when a strange man started touching the young woman. Her male friend intervened. The pest walked away. But seconds later he was back, armed with a wooden cane with which he launched an assault on the other man’s head while his back was turned. The girl tried to assist her friend whose head was bleeding profusely. Screaming, she chased after his attacker as he hurriedly headed out of the late-night eaterie and made good his escape. Instead of offering assistance, other patrons at the establishment turned on the young woman, as if she had invited her friend’s attacker to touch her up and was therefore responsible for what had happened.
The recalled incident happened in Bermuda. The story reminded of a Labor Day incident in New York, when a woman was shot point blank in the face when she refused to dance with a particular individual; another stranger. Thinking of both incidents a day or two after I was told about the Bermuda triangle, it occurred to me that things were not all that different at home in Saint Lucia.
A couple of days ago a post on Facebook arrested my attention: a popular Saint Lucian had mentioned trying to get a young woman’s attention in Rodney Bay. He wanted to inform her that money was falling out of her bag. But she pretended he was invisible. Her persisted until finally the woman turned around and rudely informed him she was not looking for a man. A slew of responses followed his Facebook post, most of them references to Saint Lucian women who were “stoosh”.
One woman dared to offer a different perspective. “While you were trying to do good,” she wrote, “take a moment to imagine life as a woman. From the moment we leave our homes, we have to endure endless guys making rude and uncalled-for comments and weird noises. It’s plain harassment, annoying and too often scary. When, for a change, we encounter someone who genuinely wants to say something complimentary, or to warn us something is about to fall out of our purse, regrettably Peter ends up paying for Paul. Women just can’t be too careful these days. Saint Lucian women have it rough.”
“I was walking past some guys,” posted another female, “and one said ‘good morning.’ I replied accordingly. But then he got up from where he’d been sitting and started walking with me. “You look nice today,” he said, and I thanked him. He then asked if he could take me out that night. I asked him if it had not occurred to him that I was obviously old enough to be his mother. He said he didn’t mind at all; he liked older women. Now, if in the first place, when he pretended to wish me a good morning, I had screamed in his face that I was not on the hunt for a man, would that have discouraged his other ideas?”
I offered my own contribution to the post. I recalled a superfluous character trying to catch my attention as I walked in Castries. When he was two or three feet behind me he said my knee-length dress with a small fashion split in the back had hiked just a wee bit too high. I wondered why this strange man had thought of nothing better to do than to look up my skirt. I turned to face him, my expression screaming hell and damnation. His reaction? He threw up his hands and claimed he was only trying to help. As I walked away I thought about the countless times I’d been harassed and verbally assaulted by total strangers; the numerous occasions I’d decided to walk on the other side of a Castries street simply because I couldn’t risk being made a target by groups of boys with nothing better to do than make life difficult for unsuspecting unescorted females going about their own business. Experience has left me with the impression that too many of our local males have no idea what it means to show respect for women.
“Women should not be blamed for playing it safe,” I wrote finally. “To the good guys, I say: the woman alone knows the number of losers she’d already encountered before she bumped into you – with all your good intentions. It’s getting to the point where trying to shop in William Peter Boulevard is like walking a greased tightrope.”
I cannot help wondering why some men take upon themselves the right to talk to women, when and as they please; even to touch them inappropriately!
“The issue isn’t just women,” went another FB comment. “You can’t help but wonder about the fathers and mothers who continue not to teach their male offspring to respect females of all ages.” How many more women must pay the price for this egregious neglect? How many of us must continue to depend on illegal pepper spray and items far more lethal?