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Dealing with unwanted harassment

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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I served in the US Peace Corps in a country where aggressive harassment of solo women was not just tolerated, but culturally celebrated in stories, jokes and song. If you reported it to the police, they were likely to come onto you, too. I developed my own way of responding to this behavior that worked most of the time when I lived there, and I've been successful with this strategy elsewhere, too. I'm NOT saying it will prevent a rape or attack if that is the true intent of the harasser, but it seemed to diffuse many uncomfortable situations (and these are far, far more likely to happen than violent attacks) and to prevent them from escalating. Let me add that if I pulled out mace or some kind of weapon, there is no question in my mind that in most cases I would have made things much worse.

When a man would follow me, sit suggestively too close, try to touch me, not take "no" for an answer, I didn't treat them like a venomous snake I had to kill. I also didn't act submissive, fearful, embarrassed or try to be polite. But I looked them in the eye as a member of my own species who was acting in a way that was completely unacceptable.

I don't know exactly how to describe this attitude, but it involves being firm, reasonable, but not humiliating (which I think could escalate things in some instances). I even smiled and had a confident sense of humor about it if the man got too defensive (in that culture, humor went a long way in diffusing conflicts). My demeanor said, "No, you can't be serious! I can't believe you'd try something ridiculous like that. You know as well as I do that I'm not going to put up with this creepy behavior and shouldn't have to. You must think because I'm not from here that I'm weak and foolish, and I'm offended by that, too. Well, it looks like it's going to rain so I'm going to be heading out. Have a nice day."

I didn't say all this every time, but it was my attitude of confidence, no fear or overt anger, and a "I'm as surprised by how you're acting as you must be too. You're probably embarrassed, now that I've pointed it out. I wouldn't try that again, if I were you."

Maybe I was just lucky that I didn't get raped or attacked while I was there. But, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I had to walk through areas in the middle of the night (to catch a bus) that US military members stationed there were not allowed to drive through because they were considered to be too dangerous.
 
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking.
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I agree overall with what you are saying, Jill, but the emotional state of each woman is different, the potential perpetrators are all different, and the customs of the countries are all different. I would like to "think" I could react with your confidence in such a situation, but have no idea if it would be possible for me to display that kind of self assurance. A self defense type class could probably help with insecurities.
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I agree overall with what you are saying, Jill, but the emotional state of each woman is different, the potential perpetrators are all different, and the customs of the countries are all different. I would like to "think" I could react with your confidence in such a situation, but have no idea if it would be possible for me to display that kind of self assurance. A self defense type class could probably help.
It might help for women to practice this, even in role-playing skits with each other. If she doesn't feel that confident at the time it is happening, she might consider, "How would I act if I WERE self-confident and unafraid?" and then act it out. This might sound crazy, but I have used this strategy to break through many barriers in my life. My skiing improved dramatically when once I was frightened at the top of a very challenging, steep ski slope, I thought to myself, "Of course *I* don't have the skills to ski down this. But how would it look if I WERE an expert skier? What would that look like?" And I did it almost effortlessly.

And not only does this kind of response to harassment often protect the woman being harassed at the time, I really believe it may, in some cases, serve to make the man think twice about continuing this behavior in the future with others.
 
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truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sept-Nov 2016)
Camino Podiensis/Le Puy (Sept 2019)
Camino Frances (Oct 2019)
I agree with Camino Chrissy's sentiment.

Quite frankly, I don't know if I would take the time, nor would I have the emotional resources or energy to do what you're suggesting. I have literal trauma in my body from past experiences. I'm really tired of having conversations about how women need to handle men in these cases. Tired tired tired. I'm tired being the firm, reasonable one and goodness we don't want to humiliate the harasser, do we? I don't want to handle them with kid gloves anymore. This doesn't mean I'm going to kill, attack or whatever, just means my emotional labor is tapped.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
I agree with Camino Chrissy's sentiment.

Quite frankly, I don't know if I would take the time, nor would I have the emotional resources or energy to do what you're suggesting. I have literal trauma in my body from past experiences. I'm really tired of having conversations about how women need to handle men in these cases. Tired tired tired. I'm tired being the firm, reasonable one and goodness we don't want to humiliate the harasser, do we? I don't want to handle them with kid gloves anymore. This doesn't mean I'm going to kill, attack or whatever, just means my emotional labor is tapped.
Oh, I totally understand how wearying this all is. And how outraged we can and should feel about it. I'm just suggesting another tool that might help in some cases. I'm not talking about kid gloves. The kid gloves are when you act frightened, apologetic, embarrassed and just try to figure out how to slink away. The overreaction is violence as a first response. I am talking about a technique sometimes called "Verbal Judo." If these men were addressed more often in ways that acknowledge that they are human beings who should know better than to act this way, and we are calmly but firmly telling them that we won't accept it, maybe a few will think again before doing it. That's my goal and it's worked well for me so far (through decades of international solo travel). And yes, I've been lucky and there are of course predators and offenders who will not be put off, no matter how "expertly" women respond to their unwanted advances. This appalling behavior is not the woman's fault.

VNWalking, that old man in Castrojerez followed me and pinched my butt. It is just amazing how many women walking the Camino know about and have had experiences with that old man! And he IS an old man who has somehow lost his sense of boundaries and maybe sense of reality. I was very surprised when it happened to me. I looked him in the eye and said, "Oh, come on, Grandpa! What if somebody did that to your daughter?" I don't know that he quit doing it after that, but he seemed at least a little sheepish. A drunk man once stroked my leg while I was asleep on a ferry. I woke up and kicked the shit out of him. I could have broken his shin. This response of mine surprised me, too. But I know what you mean. Really sick of all this stress that we as women have to constantly deal with.
 
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Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Is there such a thing as wanted harassment?
You beat me to it. I'm beginning to see why you get credit for my best work here.

Your comment (which would have been mine) reminds me of an interview with Joe Orton (playwright), who wryly recounted that someone complained that the play, Loot "was unnecessarily filthy, as if there really was a necessary amount of filth," (see the interview 8 minutes into this excellent documentary about Kenneth Williams):

Similarly, in 2013, Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary resolved to try not to "unnecessarily piss people off" ... as if flying customers around required some degree of pissing people off.

To the OP - I'm impressed by your experience but I wonder if it works for everyone and in every culture I don't think I'd be able to strike that perfect balance to reprimand without humiliating, or push back without escalating.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Camino Portugues, June 2019
To the OP - I'm impressed by your experience but I wonder if it works for everyone and in every culture I don't think I'd be able to strike that perfect balance to reprimand without humiliating, or push back without escalating.
Oh, no, it doesn't work for everyone in every culture and in fact my responses don't always work for me in my own culture. But I did perfect it in Jamaica and it served me very well there! I have just been lucky not to encounter a true sociopath sexual predator yet, and I'm truly sorry and angry for those of you who have.

Let me add that my life is strewn with examples of me responding spectacularly inappropriately and ineffectively in a variety of instances that called for tactful communication and emotional maturity. But when recounting personal experience, I prefer to focus and highlight the stories in which I am the hero.

Here's one in which I believe my response saved my life. While working in a backpacking store in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was once held up at gunpoint by a mentally unstable robber. He held a gun against my back, told me to get him the money and threatened to shoot me. I was never that scared in my waking life with that kind of disabling fear you feel in nightmares. But somehow I looked him in the eye and convinced him I was on his side. I told him it was his lucky day, as it was right before Christmas and we had made more money that day than in any recent time. We hid most of it in the back throughout the day, but I happily went and got it for him and even put it in a bank bag for him. He then tied me up face down on the floor and stood behind me for some time. I was completely sure that he was going to shoot me. I told him how to get out the secured back door and suggested an escape route through the neighborhood behind us instead of exiting onto the busy street. He actually said, before leaving, "Are you going to be okay?"

The police didn't have a suspect until the next week when this same man robbed a store a few miles away and shot two employees. Apparently he had shot people in California before he got to New Mexico, too. I got a reprieve.

For many months later, I had an uncontrollable negative adrenaline rush if a man walked up too close to me. I was so angry after this happened to me, I would have supported a death sentence for the guy. It messed with my head in a big way for a long time. I cannot even imagine how people recover from physical attacks or rapes.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
@JillGat , what a story! :eek:
You're talking from experience.

I appreciate what you've offered us - because these days many people are recommending violent reaction (mace, knives) instead of wise action. In some cases (that old guy in Castrojerez being one example) a 'look,' accompanied by some version of 'really?!' is enough to stop the harassment. And in others, even where there's danger, a cool head doesn't escalate the situation into something potentially lethal - as your example shows so well.

The middle ground between overreaction and kid gloves is something we all can learn and become skilled at. It doesn't make us passive, and it doesn't mean we don't trust our gut when we are actually in danger. And that's when we need a cool head most of all.

Horny old men are not dangerous, by and large. They (and many like them) are hugely tiresome, and that's the way it is. And bad things happen. We chose how to respond, and I love how you aren't carrying a 'victim' label, but have learned how to defend yourself in a sensible and balanced way. A wonderful example for all of us.
Gracias!
🙏
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Similarly, in 2013, Ryanair's CEO, Michael O'Leary resolved to try not to "unnecessarily piss people off" ... as if flying customers around required some degree of pissing people off.
It wouldn't surprise me if flying customers around does require pissing people off sometimes. Things happen. Despite best efforts, departures can get delayed or flights can even have to be cancelled. You may try and compensate people to reduce the amount that they are pissed off, but the company's finances may not support compensation to the level where nobody will be pissed off. So you try and reduce it as much as possible so that it only happens when it is completely unavoidable. What's left is necessarily pissing people off.

There is nothing in the phrase "pissing people off" that implies "unnecessarily". People are often pissed off by necessary things. I'm sure I am, especially when it comes to transportation.

However, I think there is something inherent in the word "harassment" that implies "unwanted". If something is desired by the recipient (and that includes not just what it is but how it is delivered) then it is not perceived as harassing.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
It wouldn't surprise me if flying customers around does require pissing people off sometimes.
I like your argument.
I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about the distinction between the inevitable irritations of air travel and the irritating things that Ryanair chooses to do. But I won't pursue that discussion here. I feel that I strayed far enough off the important topic with my first post.
 

CAJohn

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept/Oct 2019
I found Jamaica very tense and scary. There was no sense of the stereotypical laid back Jamaican.

Some folks were nice, but most everyone else seemed about to get violent with each other. I was anxious to leave as soon as I could and very worried about my son and my safety the whole time. Nothing bad happened, but I was only comfortable out on the water or among foreigners. I can’t imagine going back

I can’t imagine staying there for a Peace Corps stint
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
I agree with Camino Chrissy's sentiment.

Quite frankly, I don't know if I would take the time, nor would I have the emotional resources or energy to do what you're suggesting. I have literal trauma in my body from past experiences. I'm really tired of having conversations about how women need to handle men in these cases. Tired tired tired. I'm tired being the firm, reasonable one and goodness we don't want to humiliate the harasser, do we? I don't want to handle them with kid gloves anymore. This doesn't mean I'm going to kill, attack or whatever, just means my emotional labor is tapped.

I just wanted to say that I love your response. I really do. It sums up perfectly why I find this kind of help unhelpful. Women endure so much. Have had to endure so much. And always it comes back to "if we just do this one more thing with strong conviction" then it would be so much better! We all know it is more complicate than that. This isn't about women needing to be stronger in dealing with crap. This is about a world where we are expected to run into this crap and deal with it. That, I find, is unacceptable. My advice: how about the men start holding the men accountable for bad behaviour. Women don't need advice on how to manage a bad situation. Women need men to stop acting entitled to it in the first place.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
My advice: how about the men start holding the men accountable for bad behaviour. Women don't need advice on how to manage a bad situation. Women need men to stop acting entitled to it in the first place.
@Elizabeth Cheung: If you are currently or soon walking in Spain or Portugal and find yourself unexpectedly in one of the situations described, in what ways do you think your advice will be of immediate help?

Discussing necessary change in attitude and in society, whether it’s where you live or in a foreign country that you are visiting for a few weeks, is a fine thing but when you are confronted with a situation of „bad behaviour“ far away from home - and where you may not even speak the local language well or at all - it can only be beneficial when you are prepared and thought about it beforehand as to how to deal with the situation and how to defuse it or how to get away from it quickly.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
This is about a world where we are expected to run into this crap and deal with it. That, I find, is unacceptable. My advice: how about the men start holding the men accountable for bad behaviour. Women don't need advice on how to manage a bad situation. Women need men to stop acting entitled to it in the first place.
Of course that is totally unacceptable.
But the reality check is that people who are jerks will not stop being that way just because we're tired of it. Demanding that the world be different than it is is useless and exhausting.

But things might begin to change if we take the energy of that outrage not to preach, but to open the hearts of the good men out there to the pain that's under the outrage. Messages delivered with anger don't get heard as well as the ones that work through emotional connection - and strong but respectful clarity works better than demand.

 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
I find this whole thread troubling. The belief system here is that women are responsible for how they react to a difficult situation that involves men behaving in entitled and agressive ways. Is advice on how to mitigate these encounters helpful - yes. Is showing up and telling women (again) helpful in dealing with this level of entitlement? No. This plays right into the underlining misogyny that dictates "oh that's just the way men are" and places all responsibility for morality, reasonability and diffusion of a situation squarely on women's shoulders. I get the intent here. I do. What I don't get is why as women, we think its a badge of honour to walk around in the world tough enough to look a man in the eyes yet in control enough to defuse or cajole him into de-escualting. As someone who has done that for years and convinced myself that "I" have the solution to not getting harassed, I can tell you there is cost to that. It's exhausting. It means as a woman, I am constantly doing the work to keep my surroundings safe in a way men never have to consider. It means that the part of myself that really could and should exist in a place of compassion, freedom, empathy, etc are muted in exchange for being the "tough by not too tough gal" who can "handle anything". My emotional labour on a trip - or just being in this world - should not have to be taken up navigating space men feel entitled to control. And yes, that angers me. It should anger every woman. As for the nice guys? In my experience, the nice guys don't need me putting in more emotional labour to bring them into the fold to do the right thing. They step up and do the work themselves because its the right thing to do - not because I, or any woman, was "nice" to them.
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
You're totally right, Elizabeth, and it sucks that misogyny is still with us, and that we women have to tiptoe around the fragile entitled men in the world. I'm certainly not advocating passivity or saying that men shouldn't step up and do something. But I know from sad experience that resenting the way things actually are is exhausting,, unproductive, and completley optional.

women are responsible for how they react to a difficult situation
It's not just women. Every one of us is responsible for how we react to a difficult situation.
It's never what's happening outside that makes us suffer, it's how we respond that does that.

This plays right into the underlining misogyny that dictates "oh that's just the way men are" and places all responsibility for morality, reasonability and diffusion of a situation squarely on women's shoulders.
My emotional labour on a trip - or just being in this world - should not have to be taken up navigating space men feel entitled to control. And yes, that angers me.
'They shouldn't be that way,' or 'I shouldn't have to do this,' is a pointless response when that's what's actually happening here and now. I don't disagree with the substance of what you're saying and completely share your frustration. But resenting unfairness and getting angry at the way the world is wastes a ton of energy. And when you try to change the way things are from a place of anger and resentment it just makes people turn away and roll their eyes. And that's not the point, right?

Things are as they are. That absolutely doesn't mean they're right or are fixed forever. But if we want to change the bad things that are happening, how we go about doing that determines our success, and whether we burn out or not along the way.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Santiago
"But resenting unfairness and getting angry at the way the world is wastes a ton of energy. And when you try to change the way things are from a place of anger and resentment it just makes people turn away and roll their eyes. And that's not the point, right?"

You might want to explore the degree of privilege a response like that conveys and is endemic in how and why these problems exist. I'm not apologizing for being angry and frustrated that in 2018 we are still doing this one sided dance. And again, it is not mine, or any woman's , responsibility to "calm down and be reasonable" with this issue so you and everyone else are more comfortable with how its being handled.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I've been of two minds about whether to attempt to contribute to this discussion. I generally try not to (except to respond to other men posting who provoke a response). It isn't my place, as a man, to tell women how they should respond or feel or think in these situations. On the other hand, if the discussion is purely left to women to participate in it reinforces the perception that these issues are not men's problems and they should be left up to women to solve. I don't believe that, which is why I am typing now. I fully agree that the best way to address the issues of sexual assault and harassment is generally to alter the behaviour of men rather than women. (I say "generally" because, while it is much more likely that the victim of sexual assault or harassment is a woman, it is not universally the case.) The best and most just solution is not for women to do X, Y and Z to avoid being assaulted but for men not to assault. That doesn't mean women should not do or think or feel whatever works for them in this world were men are not universally stepping up and providing that best and more just solution. And I'm not going to presume to say what that should be.

While I am here, I can't resist responding to a bit from VNwalking's post above. She writes:
It's not just women. Every one of us is responsible for how we react to a difficult situation.
It's never what's happening outside that makes us suffer, it's how we respond that does that.
This really speaks to me. I've always been particularly fond of Stoic philosophy. I absolutely agree that we are each responsible for how we act, and that includes how we react. But looking at the second sentence, I think we also need to acknowledge that we are all human and not all capable of that level of self-control all the time. I know that if I were a proper Stoic, I could face the death of my child with complete equanimity and not suffer at all. I am not that person. I'm not sure I want to be that person, despite my leanings towards Stoicism. If someone were to kill my child, I don't think it is unfair to say that they caused my suffering rather than that I caused it myself. In summary, I agree that we are responsible for our actions and reactions. I agree that the attitude and approach we bring to our experiences can affect what we get from them and how much we suffer. But when people do things that can be reasonably expected to cause suffering, I don't think we can take them off the hook for that suffering and put it all on ourselves. It strikes me too much as a "blame the victim" approach. That said, if the Stoic approach works for you in these cases, more power to you. As I mentioned above, I'm not going to presume to tell you what solutions should or shouldn't work for you.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
You might want to explore the degree of privilege a response like that conveys
Thank you for that suggestion. I have, more than you presume to know.
What I'm saying has nothing to do with privilege. It's just pragmatic.
You're welcome to demand that the world be different than it is. And you can be as angry as you like. There's no need to apologize for that, nor am I saying you should. But whether you suffer or not on account of these things - and on what life is presenting - depends on how you use them.

I know that if I were a proper Stoic, I could face the death of my child with complete equanimity and not suffer at all. I am not that person. I'm not sure I want to be that person
I don't either, David. And being stoic and having equanimity are two vastly different things...
It is totally possible to be balanced in the face of pain without shutting down.

But when people do things that can be reasonably expected to cause suffering, I don't think we can take them off the hook for that suffering and put it all on ourselves. It strikes me too much as a "blame the victim" approach.
Which is not at all what I am suggesting, and I think this may be where Elizabeth and I are speaking past each other. All I am trying to say is that if we add our own inner reactivity to what is already painful, it compounds the suffering.

Power differentials and privilege are always painful for those of us who don't have the power or the privilege.
If I add resentment on top of that only hurts me. And it has. So I'm so done with that - banging my head against the wall of reality only made me angry, bitter, and burned out.
Which doesn't mean I have to like the way the world is, or stop trying to change it. But there are many other ways to effect change than poisoning myself first.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
The way I read the first message was this: what is considered acceptable behaviour in the interaction between men and women may not be the same in a cultural environment that is different to the one you are used to. On a camino in Spain, we may experience this for very short and rare moments where this becomes evident: when we meet the odd weird person from rural Spain or when we are in contact with pilgrims from around the world, for example. And btw I’ve lived long enough to know that in what I regard as my own cultural environment, there have been changes in what is considered as acceptable behaviour in this respect. Monumental societal changes, and they are still ongoing

Is this a premise for this discussion or not? I have difficulties in relating this discussion to the Camino/pilgrimage environment and experience.
 
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C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I've been of two minds about whether to attempt to contribute to this discussion.
Me too.
You might want to explore the degree of privilege a response like that conveys...
I have been privileged in many significant ways. Does this disallow me as a woman (unprivileged) from expressing contrary opinions about this issue?
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Is this a premise for this discussion or not? I have difficulties in relating this discussion to the Camino/pilgrimage environment and experience.
I'm not so clear what message you're referring to, @Kathar1na , so I can't say for sure.
But I'll specifically address I was talking about - how to we relate to any events or people that are difficult - because that can apply to any unpleasant camino experience, from harassment (the topic of the thread) or misogyny, to the early riser going through their plastic bags at 5 in the morning. People will do all sorts of things, from the merely inconsiderate to the downright evil - it's inevitable that we encounter them. Sometimes it's possible to do something about them and sometimes not. Regardless, cultivating resentment and carrying that as we go out the door doesn't do anything but hurt the person who carries it.

With harassment, the bottom line is to report it whenever it happens. We don't have to get angry, but we don't have to put up with it either.

I have been privileged in many significant ways. Does this disallow me as a woman (unprivileged) from expressing contrary opinions about this issue?
As if it's stopped me, @C clearly? ;)
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sept-Nov 2016)
Camino Podiensis/Le Puy (Sept 2019)
Camino Frances (Oct 2019)
I find this whole thread troubling. The belief system here is that women are responsible for how they react to a difficult situation that involves men behaving in entitled and agressive ways. Is advice on how to mitigate these encounters helpful - yes. Is showing up and telling women (again) helpful in dealing with this level of entitlement? No. This plays right into the underlining misogyny that dictates "oh that's just the way men are" and places all responsibility for morality, reasonability and diffusion of a situation squarely on women's shoulders. I get the intent here. I do. What I don't get is why as women, we think its a badge of honour to walk around in the world tough enough to look a man in the eyes yet in control enough to defuse or cajole him into de-escualting. As someone who has done that for years and convinced myself that "I" have the solution to not getting harassed, I can tell you there is cost to that. It's exhausting. It means as a woman, I am constantly doing the work to keep my surroundings safe in a way men never have to consider. It means that the part of myself that really could and should exist in a place of compassion, freedom, empathy, etc are muted in exchange for being the "tough by not too tough gal" who can "handle anything". My emotional labour on a trip - or just being in this world - should not have to be taken up navigating space men feel entitled to control. And yes, that angers me. It should anger every woman. As for the nice guys? In my experience, the nice guys don't need me putting in more emotional labour to bring them into the fold to do the right thing. They step up and do the work themselves because its the right thing to do - not because I, or any woman, was "nice" to them.
Gahhh, I just died and went to Camino Peregrina heaven reading your words.
 

truenorthpilgrim

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (Sept-Nov 2016)
Camino Podiensis/Le Puy (Sept 2019)
Camino Frances (Oct 2019)
I've been of two minds about whether to attempt to contribute to this discussion. I generally try not to (except to respond to other men posting who provoke a response). It isn't my place, as a man, to tell women how they should respond or feel or think in these situations. On the other hand, if the discussion is purely left to women to participate in it reinforces the perception that these issues are not men's problems and they should be left up to women to solve. I don't believe that, which is why I am typing now. I fully agree that the best way to address the issues of sexual assault and harassment is generally to alter the behaviour of men rather than women. (I say "generally" because, while it is much more likely that the victim of sexual assault or harassment is a woman, it is not universally the case.) The best and most just solution is not for women to do X, Y and Z to avoid being assaulted but for men not to assault. That doesn't mean women should not do or think or feel whatever works for them in this world were men are not universally stepping up and providing that best and more just solution. And I'm not going to presume to say what that should be.

While I am here, I can't resist responding to a bit from VNwalking's post above. She writes:


This really speaks to me. I've always been particularly fond of Stoic philosophy. I absolutely agree that we are each responsible for how we act, and that includes how we react. But looking at the second sentence, I think we also need to acknowledge that we are all human and not all capable of that level of self-control all the time. I know that if I were a proper Stoic, I could face the death of my child with complete equanimity and not suffer at all. I am not that person. I'm not sure I want to be that person, despite my leanings towards Stoicism. If someone were to kill my child, I don't think it is unfair to say that they caused my suffering rather than that I caused it myself. In summary, I agree that we are responsible for our actions and reactions. I agree that the attitude and approach we bring to our experiences can affect what we get from them and how much we suffer. But when people do things that can be reasonably expected to cause suffering, I don't think we can take them off the hook for that suffering and put it all on ourselves. It strikes me too much as a "blame the victim" approach. That said, if the Stoic approach works for you in these cases, more power to you. As I mentioned above, I'm not going to presume to tell you what solutions should or shouldn't work for you.
I really appreciate your contribution, thank you.
 
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chinacat

Veteran Member
A self defense type class could probably help with insecurities.
Depending on the quality and scope of the class, and of its instructor, a self defence class can definitely help provide a woman with skills and confidence to enable her to deal with, or avoid, threatening behaviour.

Many of us have trodden the path from fear and submission, through resentment to outrage ... and for many women, in the 70s and 80s, our response was to work together on a political level (in the sense that “the personal is political”) and, at the same time, to ‘arm’ ourselves with the self-defense skills that would give us the confidence to manage the world as it actually was ... as opposed to the way it should be. (eg the WAVAW conferences)

@JillGat
Thank you for your original post and your subsequent comments.

The state of mind you describe and its subconscious effect, upon both you and anyone who is looking out for a woman to intimidate, terrorise, or attack, can make the difference between personal danger and personal empowerment.


And thank you too, @VNwalking , for your wise words. 😊
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
And thank you for yours, @chinacat:
The state of mind you describe and its subconscious effect, upon both you and anyone who is looking out for a woman to intimidate, terrorise, or attack, can make the difference between personal danger and personal empowerment.
Many of us have trodden the path from fear and submission, through resentment to outrage ... and for many women, in the 70s and 80s, our response was to work together on a political level (in the sense that “the personal is political”) and, at the same time, to ‘arm’ ourselves with the self-defense skills that would give us the confidence to manage the world as it actually was ... as opposed to the way it should be. (eg the WAVAW conferences)

@David Tallan, I just read your post again and appreciate it so much. Especially this part:
I fully agree that the best way to address the issues of sexual assault and harassment is generally to alter the behaviour of men rather than women. (I say "generally" because, while it is much more likely that the victim of sexual assault or harassment is a woman, it is not universally the case.) The best and most just solution is not for women to do X, Y and Z to avoid being assaulted but for men not to assault.
I can't imagine how we get from here to there in the world as it is today, and I know I'm hardly alone in that. Hence the emphasis on what to do to deal with harassment and to avoid assault - and our inner responses to whatever arises.
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
I'm not so clear what message you're referring to, so I can't say for sure.
The first message. The one that started the thread. The one that says: "culturally celebrated in stories, jokes and song".

Although I've visited Spain many times, my knowledge and exposure to contemporary Spanish society is very limited, and I know even less about some of the countries around the globe where camino pilgrims come from. That lack of basic knowledge applies to many if not most pilgrims. We walk in an isolated bubble, most of the time and some more than others.

Most of what I know comes from reading, often through the filter of non-Spanish media. I know that Spain is a progressive and modern society in many ways. I read up a bit yesterday. A headline claimed that both feminismo and machismo is on the rise in modern Spain. I read a bit on machismo, a word that tries to describe something that is definitely different from what the word macho tries to describe that was coined in the late 60s elsewhere because machismo is clearly culturally bound to (quote) Iberian language-speaking societies and countries.

A general observation: It often happens in a forum discussion that a word gets picked out by a poster and first and subsequent comments appear early in the thread that have nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at heart. Or a poster reads only the subject line without paying attention to much else. This thread is no exception.
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
the word macho tries to describe that was coined in the late 60s elsewhere
Oh, my memory! It wasn't macho I was thinking of, it was mcp of course.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
Oh, my memory! It wasn't macho I was thinking of, it was mcp of course.
Many campaigns to stop violence against women in Spain use the word "Machista" (or in this case "Machis NO!" So it's a useful word to know if you want to talk with Spanish people about the need for societal change.

20101125elpepivin_1.gif
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
In Spain there are quite a few foreigners involved in violence against women cases (inmigrants and tourists ).
 

Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way - voie de Tours - camino francés - Biskaya - Manche)
In Spain there are quite a few foreigners involved in violence against women cases (inmigrants and tourists ).
Yes. However, what is referred to in the first message are "uncomfortable situations (and these are far, far more likely to happen than violent attacks)".

The choice of "unwanted harassment" has been criticised but I felt that it is appropriate to describe these diffuse situations that can make you uncomfortable. They are not easy to describe in words sometimes. I myself have not experienced this but a number of women have described situations of being touched or kissed by, strangely enough, quite old local men along the camino and how uncomfortable it made them - or just them coming very close. I recall reading about four such different cases in different locations on the Camino Frances and the Camino Norte, with different old men (very roughly 65-80 years age group), with multiple reports about the same man in each case. No male pilgrim will have experienced this and probably also not witnessed it. Just one example to make it a bit clearer what we are talking about (I think).

It is also a well-known fact that the distance between two people talking to each other and the amount of touching another person, or the way of touching another person, during a conversation or at the end of it can be culture specific. This can make the person who is not used to this feel uncomfortable, and even more so when it is a man who touches a woman or is trying to reduce the physical distance. Just another attempt to give an example to make it a bit clearer what we are talking about (I think).
 
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Angelina B

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017
Of course that is totally unacceptable.
But the reality check is that people who are jerks will not stop being that way just because we're tired of it. Demanding that the world be different than it is is useless and exhausting.

But things might begin to change if we take the energy of that outrage not to preach, but to open the hearts of the good men out there to the pain that's under the outrage. Messages delivered with anger don't get heard as well as the ones that work through emotional connection - and strong but respectful clarity works better than demand.
They also might stop being an issue if we stop taking your oh so politically correct and 'open' view about this kind of behaviour - its just wrong and totally unacceptable. And if you were a woman you might just understand that. Or do you think its OK for men to behave in this way because of gender and historically thats just how it is?
 

chinacat

Veteran Member
They also might stop being an issue if we stop taking your oh so politically correct and 'open' view about this kind of behaviour - its just wrong and totally unacceptable. And if you were a woman you might just understand that. Or do you think its OK for men to behave in this way because of gender and historically thats just how it is?
There are so many assumptions in this post, concerning @VNwalking.

Pssst .... (whispers) ... they’re all wrong.
 

Wovoka

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April, 2015
May another "guy" join this conversation? Now this story goes waaaaay back over 40 years to another wife when we lived in-town Atlanta, and she had gotten concerned about our teenage daughter's safety while out partying with girlfriends. She signed both of 'em up for a self-defense course. They came back all enthused about one technique related to, say, if a man catches them alone somewhere - the example in the workshop was a ladies' room but could be almost anywhere. The group leader advised the women to engender anger by getting really, really, furious at the man and to shout words to the effect of "How DARE you!" The message the leader wanted to impart was that since ALL men have a mother, and most (if not all) respond instinctually to being shamed by an assertive woman.
There are bound to be naysayers regarding this technique - every situation is unique - and it's not likely to work unless you PRACTICE it (hah, on a husband or boyfriend?). All I can say is that my two girls came home from the workshop so pumped that I was ready to back off if they so much as questioned my request for a soda.
And hey, if you disagree with the above technique, there's always (ouch!) that knee in the groin...
 
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