St. Olaf Institute for Freedom and Community

St. Olaf College

Oles on the Election

My body, my property

By Karla Ruiz October 16, 2016

Originally published on the Star Tribune Blog.

I will not give you a complicated article to read; I want to give you a short story that represents the experiences of many women. I remember being 12 years old, walking with my backpack and my school uniform, and I still remember the fear that invaded me. A man was biking and he showed me his genitals in the middle of the street. I was 12 and hence very confused. Needless to say, I was gripped by fear and said nothing. Next, I was sitting down in a public bus when a man pretended to take his phone out of his pocket, when he actually rubbed my legs; I was 15 then. This has happened so many times that I lost count over the years. It crossed cultural-national boundaries since such incidents happened in Peru, in Europe, in Asia, and in the United States. Harassment, sadly goes beyond borders because some males still believe that my body belongs to them. This is not just my experience, this is the experience of million of women everyday, women who are followed in the streets, who are harassed, who are raped, who are killed. The fact that some people go through life without this invading scrutiny and arrogant claims does not prove its absence but most often, quite its contrary, the silencing and shaming associated with being the victim of such assaults.

Listening to Trump talk about Mexicans, muslims, soldiers and women has been disgusting. His descriptive words made me furious and it has made millions of americans and foreigners stand up against him. Unfortunately, the prevailing ‘success’ of Trump’s message simply represents millions of people who still think that female bodies belong to them. I know that many women will be sympathetic by my story; we females and some males too, have faced harassment as early as their childhood. Trump’s words are actually a political representation of what we live everyday. Trump represents that group of people who believe that female bodies are public property, and thus are free to touch and grope without consent. At times, I find myself in denial about the fact that there are people trying to justify his words. Jokes about females and their bodies are a daily reality and we are deeply offended by Trump’s words because he reminds us of the sad and misogynistic society that we live in.

Many women are coming out accusing him of sexual assault and people are still skeptical about it. These women have been in silence for many years and finally they see light and a chance to open up about it. Ask yourself, why have they taken so long? You will realise that in this society we are not taken seriously. We have normalised harassment and assault to absurd and primitive point: Donald Trump Jr. has remarked “women who can’t handle harassment do not belong to the workforce”. We are still expected to stay silent and be submissive to physical and verbal abuse, we are allowed to talk but not freely, we are allow to work, but not protect ourselves.

Donald Trump will be gone in a couple of weeks, I want to believe that soon he will be a closed chapter in American politics. Trump will be history, but the “macho society” will still stand with all its allies and supporters. The reality is that Trump has been the active and public voice of rapist, assaulters and sexist people. The hardest task will be to end this talk in our private and public spheres. Harassments is not a joke, touching my body without my consent does not have any justification; this is not open to debate because it is so fundamentally wrong. I can not vote because I am a foreigner, but I do want to raise my opinion because I am not a foreigner to the embodied Trumps that have cat called, touched and insulted me. I am not a foreigner to common sense and respect for my body and for the bodies of other women. Now, it is your turn dear voter; please do not be a foreigner to this reality.

About the Author

Karla Lorena H. Ruiz is a St. Olaf College senior from Piura, Peru majoring in Political Science.