Dee Rodriguez, Reading, PA, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent
I like to walk and when the warmer weather hits, I go for walks as part of my self-care routine. I also walk to work and during work. As a domestic violence and sexual assault advocate, I sometimes have to respond to calls at our local services center or hospitals so I usually walk to these places to avoid wasting time looking for parking.
Being an advocate does not protect me from being harassed. In fact, I’ve been harassed literally walking out of work by a group of men driving by in a vehicle. Another time, I was walking back from a medical facility to my job and a guy said to me, “Why don’t you smile, ma?”
On both occasions, I did not respond. I’m actually less inclined to engage when harassed now that I am an advocate because of the violence I see every day. Many of the survivors that come through our doors are women. While the violence they experience is typically at the hands of an intimate partner, I know that women experience many forms of violence; I don’t respond to harassment due to the fear of what might happen if I do.
When I returned to the offices after being at the medical center, my coworkers asked me how my time there went. I cannot go without mentioning that many of my coworkers are women and women of color, particularly Latinx, and our organization is located in a city with a high Latinx population. While I told my colleagues about my work that day, I couldn’t stop talking about the guy that harassed me on my way back. It bothered me. My coworkers’ reactions were pretty blasé and that’s probably because they too have had their share of experiences with street harassment. When I think back to how I’ve reacted when women tell me of their experiences with street harassment, I was not shocked either.
So the day I was listening to Locatora Radio’s Capitulo 004: Femme Defense, where hosts Mala Muñoz and Diosa Femme discuss their experiences with street harassment and how they use femme defense to deal with it, I was blown away. I was blown away because never in all the times I’ve discussed street harassment did anyone talk about how to respond. Locatora Radio “is a Radiophonic Novela …. Las Locatoras make space for the exploration and celebration of the experiences, brilliance, creativity, and legacies of femmes and womxn of color. Each Capitulo of Locatora Radio is made with love and brujeria, a moment in time made by brown girls, for brown girls.”
As Mala states, femme defense is not just defending oneself but one’s community and you can be any gender and be femme.
The discussion between Mala (who is a fellow domestic violence and sexual assault advocate) and Diosa (who advocates for immigrant women) really struck a chord with me. They discussed having their bodies policed by their family (as way to prevent being harassed), being aware of their surroundings, and using techniques such as the eye gouge if one must engage in physical defense. One particular piece of the discussion that really resonated with me is the “Fuchi face.” The Fuchi face is your mean face, bitch face, mean mug, or whatever you call it, that you put on when you don’t want to be approached or messed with. I used to call it my “train face” while growing up in NYC so I wouldn’t get bothered while taking public transit.
It’s funny that while out with my “Fuchi face” I was still harassed but I felt less angry about it after listening to the Locatoras because I am not alone and learned useful tips for what do in situations of street harassment.
While we are 3,000 miles apart, we share many of the same experiences. To know that there are other Latinx women out there dealing with this and talking about it, makes me feel like I have a community.
Dee is a volunteer coordinator and domestic violence/sexual assault advocate for a non-profit social services agency and works on a project to better serve Latinx women survivors. She has a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with a focus on Latin American Culture from Penn State University. She originally hails from New York City and is a proud daughter of immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. You can follow Dee on Instagram at @missdeerodriguez.Share on Facebook