Dealing With Misogyny (And Catcalls) Abroad
Unfortunately for women studying abroad, experiencing catcalls isn’t particularly uncommon in the first months in our new home, especially when our host countries have more “traditional” cultures than our own. While we cannot immediately change the cultures of misogyny, there are ways to avoid, deal with, and positively channel the feelings we experience when it comes to dealing with misogyny (and catcalls) abroad.
Dress like a local
No one should ever be sexually assaulted based on their clothing (or lack thereof), but it’s good to research your host country’s fashion rules before heading abroad.
This isn’t to say that dressing to Brazil’s standard will stop sexual harassment from Brazilians, but it will probably help you feel more comfortable when walking around.
Safety first, insult second
Serving those nasty cat-callers a good comeback will be more than tempting, but you have to remember your personal safety. Sure, comebacks are almost always good to shut down cat-callers in the U.S., but that can’t be said for every country worldwide. As a matter of fact, it can actually put you in a worse position.
So no, you will not be able to change a culture overnight. But yes, if you’re in a safe situation (in a well-lit, familiar area with friends) and insulting the cat-caller back will help you preserve your sanity, give ‘em hell.
Block out the haters (literally)
Want to walk to campus without getting catcalled by a greasy, old Italian man? Put on some headphones and blast some of your host country’s top hits.
Music is a great coping mechanism, and this way, you can enjoy the views of your host country abroad without hearing the nasty comments from strangers on the bus.
Be fair to your host country
Yeah, the international treatment of women can be pretty cringey, but it’s not fair to return home from our time abroad and say “all Spanish guys suck, they’re such scumbags.”
Even if our host country’s society encourages catcalling and inferiority of women, it’s our obligation as (privileged) travelers to remember that these things don’t define our complete experiences.
Lastly, remember to have fun while you’re abroad. This isn’t to scare you from traveling the world or studying abroad in college, but just serves as a friendly reminder of things you should watch out for while abroad. Rock your semester!