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We don't want protection, we want respect.

I live in the São Paulo metropolitan area, in Brazil. I see myself as an independent woman, and until a few years ago, I thought gender inequality was only to be seen on two very distinct situations: 1. Families with violent men, usually a scenario related to alcohol abuse, and something so far away from my reality. 2. Difference between salaries, a global issue, even if “women are dominating the market” each day. Recently, a new wave of awareness has hit me, and I guess many other women. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

Photo of Hannah De Lemos Bremberger
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I see now the violence that is a man trying and insisting on kissing a girl at a nightclub, even after she says “no”. Many men here think that you are interested until you really run away, or scream, or say something really rude. And then the girl gets mocked, of course.

Not to say the harassment on the public transportation. I was on one of my first day in my new job, and the train was really full. A man was behind me, but there was nothing he or I could do, because everyone was touching everyone. I guess I don’t have to mention what started to happen, and I didn’t want to believe that this was happening, nor even accuse him. I still wasn’t sure if the proximity was due to the amount of people in the train. I was already doing my best, turning around and trying to push him away discreetly with my elbows, but as the stations went by, and people started jumping out, I realized he didn’t move away. I was so disgusted and humiliated! I jumped out of my wagon and entered another.

I cried a lot that day and even though I know how stupid this may sound, I felt guilty for what happened, maybe because of the clothes I was wearing, maybe because I shouldn’t have stayed for so long “not believing” what was happening… After a few days digesting this story I told my boyfriend what happened and he comforted me and pushed that guilt feeling away from me.

My point, and the current discussion among other women around is that we don’t want protection, we want respect. I don’t want a female-only train wagon; this would make me think it’s OK for that man to rub himself with a woman if she is not in the ladies wagon. I don’t want to be isolated. I don’t want the “women’s police” (a special department for violence against women, ironically operated by men) to have an excuse to justify the attitude of men like these. I’m not accepting this anymore!

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Highly insightful personal reflections, Hannah. We're super excited to think what this might inspire for our Ideas phase.