Be Aware of These American Women Stereotypes in Mexico
No matter where you travel, it’s important to understand that locals have certain expectations of American women. Instead of protesting against them, it’s better to accept them.
A typical stereotype about American women in Mexico is similar to that of other places. People think that women travel to Mexico to ‘have fun’–to spend their spring breaks in Cancun, drinking, partying, and having sex.
Unfortunately, that stereotype has spread to other parts of Mexico as well. Some men think that women from foreign countries are ignorant and naïve, and that we should not interpret their slights because that’s ‘just the culture.’ Well, that’s not right. Just as I know not to shake hands with a religious Jewish man or to have my hair out in the open in a Muslim country, others should be sensitive to a foreigner’s culture. Plus, there is no excuse for acting inappropriately.
Some men think that women from foreign countries are ignorant and naïve, and that we should not interpret their slights because that’s ‘just the culture.’
While living in Mexico, I’ve learn a lot about how American women are perceived. While on their way to work at 7:30 AM, two of my female coworkers were groped. While walking through the street, Mexican men have stared at my friends–without even trying to be subtle. And a coworker at my school sexually harassed me, knowing that he could not be fired because he had worked there longer than I had.
I reported the incident two months ago, and after a week, the director asked me, “He hasn’t touched you again, right?” I was also told that there needed to be a thorough investigation because “It’s Mexico.” I have also seen countless other teachers get fired for trivial things, while this man faced no repercussions.
When I asked a former coworker about this man, she told me, “Yeah, he’s been doing that for years.” He never got suspended or fired. Instead, he got a new office so that I could go into the teacher’s lounge where he used to work. Also, I was promised that someone else would fix my computer if needed (he’s the tech guy), and that he would no longer take photos of me. Well, bravo. That seemed like the perfect solution for a man whose kids attended the same school, and who had been getting away with his behavior for years.
Be Aware of These American Women Stereotypes in Mexico.
In the last two months, my boss and I brought up the situation many times with my director, trying to push for action. We were told that, “We need physical evidence,” and that “this time we can’t do anything, but if it happens again, maybe.” When asked, what if this case of sexual harassment in the workplace happened to another woman, like the director’s wife or the vice principal (who both are Mexican), the director said, “it would be different.”
Recently, the man walked into my tiny classroom meeting with his camera. I stormed out and called out my director for his lack of attention and action. He said, “Well, he hasn’t approached you has he?” He also told me, “He’s not taking pictures of you, Hana,” and “Well, we need other people to come forward in order to do something.” Also, he let me know that “Mexican women are a lot more ashamed to come out about those kind of things than American women”–which is not true! The director asked this man not to take photos of me anymore and to leave work for the rest of the day, as if that was enough of a punishment.
It felt as though I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Even other women at the school reacted by saying, “Oh, well it really wasn’t a big deal that it happened,” and that, “He only came into the room for a minute, and then left.” Other women have admitted that he is too “touchy, touchy,” while others have said, “It’s just the culture.”
I can deal with a man staring at me on the street, but I can’t deal with how my workplace handled my sexual harassment case so lightly.
Here in Mexico, as well as in other parts of the world, it is not uncommon for women to be treated inappropriately and then to be forced to deal with it. I can deal with a man staring at me on the street, but I can’t deal with how my workplace handled my sexual harassment case so lightly.
When you go somewhere, be aware of how others might perceive you. Continue to be yourself, respect the culture you are in, and don’t EVER settle for someone telling you to accept something that you know in your heart is wrong.
Be Aware of These American Women Stereotypes in Mexico photo by Unsplash.