Ask a Mexican, Gustavo Arellano, February 28
I am writing with deep concern about the February 28 Ask a Mexican. In it, Gustavo Arellano answers an inquiry from a young woman who has been harassed by young Mexican men in her workplace. Arellano describes the men's behavior as part of a Mexican courtship culture and advises the young woman to "roll with it and be glad [they're not carrying out] another Mexican courtship ritual: kidnapping."
The young woman's letter describes being constantly catcalled, whistled and winked at, being showered with unwanted gifts, and being "walked home" (followed) despite her firm protests. She states that she has clearly rejected these advances but "he won't back down." Arellano's responses are inappropriately lighthearted and dismissive of her concerns. He excuses this behavior as a Mexican ritual without regard for the fact that behavior such as this is entirely inappropriate in our country and actually illegal when continued after a clear request to stop.
At the age of sixteen, my daughter went to a local restaurant which she had frequented and which was staffed by a number of young Mexican men. She had engaged in lighthearted banter with some of these young men. On this particular evening, one of them became aggressive in his intentions despite her lack of encouragement. He followed her into the parking lot when she left, making inappropriate sexual comments to her. She tried to get into her car and leave, but the man forced himself between her open car door and the body of the car, continuing his advances. My daughter, terrified, accelerated and drove out of the parking lot with the car door hanging open. She arrived home extremely upset, and we called the police to make a complaint against the young man. The (female) police officer went to the restaurant and reported the incident to his employer.
The behavior described in Arellano's column is entirely inappropriate in our country, where women have the right to be free of such harassment, in contrast to Mexico. Arellano's attitude demeans the young women who are frightened of or offended by the behavior, and encourages young male Mexicans to engage in behavior that may land them in significant legal trouble.
And Arellano's closing comment about kidnapping being another Mexican courtship ritual is terrifyingly ominous.
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Gustavo Arellano's advice to the "American girl" receiving unwanted attention from "young Mexican men" was asinine. Such behavior is sexual harassment and has no place in the diner where she is employed.
As the father of three attractive young women, I know that sexual harassment is not to be taken lightly. Never mind the potential liability of her employer and the perpetrators; after all, sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. To advise the young woman to "just roll with it" and be glad she hasn't been kidnapped is less a humorous cultural insight than the brain fart of a clueless columnist.
Westword should change the title of Arellano's column to "Ask an Insensitive Asshole."