Dear Editor: Right to ‘soot’? Normalising street harassment is harmful to women

“[…] The first stage is normalisation. Some things normalise harmful mindsets—sexist attitudes, unwanted (non-sexual) touch, the idea that boys will be boys. The second stage is degradation—catcalling, victim-blaming, flashing/exposing. This is where sooting and other types of street harassment belong. The final stage is assault—groping, molestation, rape, and murder …”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by S. Maharaj:

Photo: Street harassment.

A man said he had the right to ‘soot’ me today. I was coming home from my morning walk. He sooted—once, twice, three times. I ignored it the first two times.

The third time I asked: “Who just soot me?” He responded: “I just feel like sooting.” I told him I did not want to be sooted. He said he could soot me if he wanted.


Didn’t he know that was illegal? That was when he said he had the right to soot me.

The Offences Against the Person Act says: “Harassment of a person includes alarming the person or causing the person distress by engaging in a course of conduct such as … making contact with the person, whether by gesture, directly, verbally, by telephone, computer, post or in any other way.” A ‘course of conduct’ means the behaviour was ‘carried out on at least two occasions’.

“You see the young girl they kidnap? That does happen when men feel they have the right to do whatever they want, regardless of what the woman want. You see all the woman getting killed? That does happen when men doing what they please! It is not right to ‘soot’ somebody.”

He told me he could do what he wanted. He could soot who he wanted. He had the right to soot. Who say he was sooting me anyhow? Was I the only woman there?

Photo by Byron Sullivan from Pexels

Yes. Yes, I was. I walked off. He was still sooting behind me.

Men and women are not equal in our society. Men have more power. That idea that men have the power (and right) to do as they wish to women is harmful. This manifests in many ways.

The first stage is normalisation. Some things normalise harmful mindsets—sexist attitudes, unwanted (non-sexual) touch, the idea that boys will be boys. The second stage is degradation—catcalling, victim-blaming, flashing/exposing. This is where sooting and other types of street harassment belong. The final stage is assault—groping, molestation, rape, and murder.

Murder and rape are not isolated incidents. The normalisation of harmful attitudes reinforces and excuses degradation and assault.

Stop ‘sooting’. Stop excusing. Stop molesting. Stop raping. Stop killing. Just stop.

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3 comments

  1. Once again, where is the data linking catcalls to physical violence? This is nonsense!
    Which is more likely: that a woman would let a catcaller get close enough harm her? Or that a man pretends to be charming so she lets down her guard, then he harms her?

  2. Sooting is the least of T&T problems when it comes to violence against women .How about we first start with the illegal taxis PH cars get them off the street or the police give them 10 days to come in and register and be part of a data bank, then when the are registered they are given a flourescent sticker that is placed on the vehicle with special decals so that women will know that this driver is known to authorities and it is fairly safe to get in this car. Also domestic abuse and violence is a huge problem not enough safe houses and ancillary support services for women to flee dangerous relationships. When we have these issues solved then we can talk about sooting . Did you know that 2 mass murderers in the US the Virgina Tech and California University shooter there reason for killing women was because they we lonely and did not know how to effectively communicate with women i.e get their attention (woo them ) so “sooting is bad and annoying on some level but some women do encourage it so if they are ok with it then by all means but like everything else there is a line to not cross so this is a more nuanced matter and also subjective one” and sooting is distinctively Trini I am not aware of any other cultural that literally does this. I would venture ours seems harmless as compared to others which can be quite agressive and absolutely right rude.

  3. I totally agree with the writer. It’s disrespectful as well as being non productive. It’s unsolicited harassment.

    Stop it!

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