What you need to know about the fight against women violence
Mexico just lived through a momentous international women’s day. When almost every other country in the world celebrated women’s rights, mothers, sisters, and wives; Mexican women took to the streets and demanded a better future.
Every day, at least ten women are victims of murder in Mexico. Be it from a family member, a stranger, or a relationship; women are trapped, incarcerated, and, most of all, women are not being heard. Mexican women are being abused, overworked, raped, underpaid, and their demands and worries are not being listened to by the government. These situations happen every day, to many Mexican women, in all the social classes. So this year, Mexicanas said, “no more.” No more violence, no more abuse, no more undermining their work, no more undermining their presence, their importance, their deaths, their disappearances, their rapes, and their voices. On March 8th, 2020, Mexican women were heard.
Most women marched in peace, but what got the attention of the government, the media, and the world was two things. First, a group of women that painted and destroyed buildings burned the streets and used violence. And secondly, on March 9th, 2020, almost all the women in Mexico did not show up to work, school, supermarkets, social media, or gyms. It was a day without women to demonstrate Mexicans what the disappearance of ten women every day represents. Women took a stand to say: “If ten women are going to disappear in one day, then we are going to disappear tod.” And their absence was felt.
Now, how did it get to this?
Femicide. A word that should not be used lightly has become part of the daily vocabulary for girls and women all over Mexico. In case this is a new word for you, femicide is the murder of a woman just for the fact of being a woman. In 2019, approximately 3000 women were murdered in Mexico; this is equivalent to all of the women who graduated from Harvard University in 2019, imagine that. Only 762 of these deaths were reported as femicides, and this made women very angry. By the end of the year, many women took to the streets and started using violence. They were desperate and needed to be heard; their friends, daughters, and mothers kept being rapped, abused, disappearing, and tortured, and what was the government doing? Remaining silent.
In August 2019, Mexican feminists protested in the streets of Mexico City. They did the unimaginable: they destroyed, painted, and insulted one of the most symbolic monuments of Mexico, our representation of freedom The Angel de la Independencia. This sign of what some call vandalism created outrage between the government and many machos. And not only them, other women did not like being represented in this way, but for the first time, be it in a good or a wrong way, these desperate women’s cries for help were heard.
The day after this, Mexican women fell silent. They wanted to have an impact on the male-led culture the country has and show them how hard it is not to have the presence of a woman in a day. Offices, schools, stores, supermarkets, public transportation, and social media missed women, some of them even closed for the day because they were under capacity without the help of women. With this shutdown, they wanted the government and corporations to feel a sense of absence, of silence, just a fraction of what many families feel every day when ten women do not come back home because they are murdered. And it was felt, women’s silence was heard.
The wave of feminism started to grow that week, not just on social media; the students at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City decided to get on board and not let the movement go. These students created the “tendedero” (clothesline). The idea of this was quite literal; as a clothesline, women could write the name of their abuser and the story of their abuse and hang it on the clothesline so that the entire university could see it. This form of accusation was meant as a way for the victims to feel safe, denounce their abusers, tell their stories, and have a safe environment surrounded by other women in the same situation. The “tendedero” created a lot of controversies, first around campus, then locally and eventually nationwide.
The fact that students that are part of a macho society took into their own hands to denounce their abusers in these ways caused a lot of noise. It was not well received at first because a lot of the names written on that wall denied the accusations. It is a delicate topic because even professors of the university were on the “tendedero” and the movement began to grow. Since it was on the aftermath of the march and the “paro,” it was impossible to remove names, even if some of them did not belong on that clothesline.
Socially, a lot of men were shamed, and this created controversy. A debate began where some said that if names were going to be there, they should be there with the story and the facts; and that some women can exaggerate or be vengeful and not take the accusations seriously. Others said that every name belonged on the wall and that if a name was there, it was forcefully of an abuser.
In such a delicate time, with feminism at its peak in Mexico, men had no control whatsoever over the situation. If a man’s name was on that wall, it only took ten minutes for someone to take a picture and put it online, so the rest of the university and eventually the city would find out.
So, even though this became a forum for victims to talk about their experiences, it was also used by anti-feminists to undermine the movement. The “tendedero” showed the importance of taking the victims seriously, and not undermine something as essential and as delicate as abuse and as defamation of others.
Amid this movement came the Coronavirus turmoil, and the feminist effort was silenced. That is why I decided to publish this today, so women and men do not forget the effort that has taken the victims and their families to get to where they are today. The pandemic is a crisis, but so is accepting the death of ten women everyday and turning a blind eye. Mexicans have to come together and not forget the effort of these women, their suffering, their pain, and their hardships for the last months. They spoke up; they marched, and they disappeared so we could live today.
Femicide is an epidemic in Mexico, it is real, and it is here. Help us get rid of it.