Some years ago I was hired to supervise an urban pipeline repair as a young engineer in a difficult city called Caracas. It didn’t take long before the construction workers started cat calling any woman who’d walk past the site. There was no touching, but the vulgar language and signs were embarrassing.
I could see the discomfort and anger in the faces of all these young (and not so young) ladies and was covering my own face, lest they associate me with this kind of sleaze. I thought about ways of talking some sense into these guys. But I knew that the typical argument of “what if she was your sister/mother/wife/daughter?” would cause them to burst out in laughter and becoming confrontational would have made it even worse. Until another approach came to mind – the conversation went like this:
Me: Hey, I’ve noticed you’re cat calling the women who walk past…
Him: Sure… hahaha
Me: Why do you do it?
Him: Well, haven’t you seen that ass?
Me: I have. I presume you’d like to get some
Him: Of course!
Me: So tell me, when was the last time you went out with one of the girls you cat-called?
I’m not saying that this changed his mind, but it did give him a long time to think about it. I don’t think that the psychology of sexual abuse is straight forward, but it does help to challenge the foundations of an enabling culture with simple questions. On the spot.
Igor is a Latin American who continues trying to make his home in Uganda. In his spare time he created Gente Depinga as a means to link Sub-Saharan Africa with his native Latin America through video and photography.