The Trials of Being a Female Traveller in Mexico
While being a female traveller in Mexico can be amazing, poor perceptions of women can sometimes cause problems and uncomfortable situations. Realistically though, you can’t change the world with one smart retort or during a four-month backpacking adventure, so learning how to deal with these situations is half the battle.
One of the biggest disadvantages of being female in Mexico is the sheer volume and crudeness of street harassment you may experience on a daily basis. I was entirely unprepared for this when I arrived and it definitely opened my eyes to something that in my country seems remarkably out of place. As men pass you on the street, they will whisper bonita or que guapa in your ear. But don’t think proximity is crucial here, as I’ve even been heckled at from a man driving a car. He literally craned his neck backwards to shout at me. It was a wonder that he didn’t cause a road accident,
You can’t change the world with one smart retort or during a four-month backpacking adventure.
While the age-old–and ridiculous–argument is that these are just compliments, the truth is that they can leave you shaken especially if you’re walking alone. Interestingly, whenever I was with my boyfriend, who is Mexican, the unsettling street harassment died down – I was no longer a target.
The best way to deal with street harassment is to ignore it. It happens so often that there’s nothing you can do – particularly if you don’t speak Spanish and have no way to shout out a pithy, cutting comeback. To protect yourself, especially if you’re alone or if there’s no one around, don’t give them the reaction they’re looking for. Alternatively, hang out with some male Mexican friends at all times and you’ll see the catcalls dwindle significantly.
On the flip side, you’ll find that you’re subjected to benefits due to people’s misinformed perceptions. For example, as a white, female traveller in particular, people assume that you’re wealthy and looking to sleep around. Whether or not these things are true, Mexican men will regularly buy you drinks in an attempt to flirt. Accept the drinks you feel comfortable accepting and don’t be afraid to say no or buy them one in return. Don’t feel like you’re obliged to do or be anything other than what you want and who you are.
Mexico is the land of the “ladies drink for free” night, otherwise known as ladies enter for free but men pay MXN $100. Although I regularly took advantage of such promotions, they always made me feel incredibly conflicted. These offers are clearly in place because bars recognise that young, attractive women are going to get them more customers than their music and their drinks prices. As a feminist, should I be enjoying and taking advantage of such blatant sexism? Probably not, but nobody’s perfect. To get around the underlying feeling of guilt that this can cause, offer to buy some drinks for your mugged-off male compatriots and try to forget about the often ingrained sexism that exists in Mexico.