Dear Male Peace Corps Volunteers,
As much as I don’t like to admit it, we need you. As much as it pains my independent feminist streak, we appreciate when you’re there in all your macho glory to save us from what is another cross-cultural fiasco. You’re big, burly, and can lift heavy things. For that, I am thankful.
You see, the Peace Corps is not like America. In America I would never ask you to step in. I’d never look your way and with pleading eyes mouth “help me!” I’m strong, I’m smart, and I don’t put up with bullshit. In America, I would threaten to sue for sexual harassment and emotional distress and watch as the men slunk away with their tails between their legs. But like I said, this is not America.
This instead is a place where I fight every day to not be treated like an object. I tried to count the marriage proposals, I really did, but even the best of us lose count here. What even happened to the days where ‘I love you’ really meant something? Just yesterday I rebuked a man who told me it was love at first sight while riding in what amounted to be the worst car I’d ever sat in. You should have seen him pout when I told him I would under no circumstances give him my phone number. “But I want a white wife! And white babies!” Ashia, my friend.
… and we both know that’s a milder situation. Remember the time that chief put his hand on my leg after you left the room and told me how beautiful I was? Or that time the man wouldn’t let go of my hand at the bar? Or when that guy told you he had plans to come and profess his love at your house because he knew I’d be there? Oh, and jeez, what about that man who told me he would bomb me because I wouldn’t be his 12th wife? Or how about that time a woman told me that she liked the comfort of a woman’s body, and that I was going home with her or else she would steal my fake fiancé, become pregnant with his baby and force me to raise their lovechild? Most all, remember how you were there all of those times to tell them to stop, leave, and never treat me like that again? I do.
I am a tough lady, but in a world like Cameroon my lack of a Y chromosome effects me in a myriad of unfair, stressful, and
disrespectful ways. You are our heroes out there, and we notice when you stick up for us. In the country you are our brothers, our best friends, our protectors.
So, when we’re walking it is okay to put your arm around me. Sit next to me at the bar. Walk me home, check on the door for me, and when noises happen when you come for a visit, grab the closest heavy thing and head towards the dark. I fight all day, every day when I’m here. You fighting for me sometimes makes all the difference.
A Female Peace Corps Volunteer