Think about the last 10 women you’ve seen.
Can you remember their faces? Their eyes? What they were wearing?
In Mexico, we do.
We always remember their faces and the way they were dressed, not because we want to, but because we know that if they disappear we’ll need that information to tell the police.
Statistics show that 10 women are killed every day in Mexico. It seems that, with every femicide that’s committed, we develop a new form of self-defense to go out on the streets.
“Don’t wear that skirt. Those red lips are too provocative. Walk with a pair of keys in between your fingers in case anyone tries to assault you. Don’t act rude to your Uber driver. Don’t act too friendly. If someone is raping you, just let them finish. Don’t fight back. Run, run as fast as you can.”
We have heard all these phrases since we were little girls. We’re tired of living in a country that seems like a normalized war zone — where the only constant targets are us, the women.
In recent days, we saw a lot of front page headlines related to two femicides. One was the murder of Ingrid Escamilla, a 25-year-old woman who was brutally killed and skinned by her boyfriend. The other one, Fatima Aldrighetti, was a 7-year-old girl who was tortured and killed by a married couple. The wife claimed she “needed to commit the crime” in order to prevent her husband from raping her own children, since he told her several times that “he wanted a little girl as a girlfriend.”
Two different cases, both shockingly vile in the way they were committed, and both clear representations of everything that’s wrong in our country.
After these crimes, our President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told the press in one of his morning news conferences that “feminists shouldn’t paint the institution’s walls as a way of protest.” That made a lot of people on social media criticize his response.
For many, the same concern that he has taken to conserve the integrity of buildings should be channeled instead into developing effective plans of action in order to eradicate violence against women.
We’re facing a crisis that for many years has gone unsolved and year by year seems to get worse. That’s why a feminist collective in Veracruz convened all women around the country to carry out a national strike on March 9 under the hashtag #UnDiaSinNosotras — a day without women.
The goal is for women of all ages to be absent nationwide. The idea is that, since the government is not hearing our needs, the economic disruption caused by the women’s strike will make them wake up and listen. Everyone will experience “a day without women” and finally realize what the loss of women’s lives means.
When the femicide of Ingrid Escamilla was committed, a sensationalist newspaper leaked explicit photographs of her mangled body, proving that, even after death, a women’s identity can be reduced to a gruesome news story.
But I guess — until now — that was part of growing up as a woman in Mexico, a country that constantly calls us the weaker sex, that objectifies and sexualizes girls on their telenovelas, where femicides are renamed as “crimes of passion” and perpetrators are defended by the laws that were made by and for men, where people socially punish a naked body more when it’s alive than when it’s found in a bag on the streets.
The same country that forgets that we, “the weak ones,” were the same ones that helped to reconstruct an entire city after the earthquake of 1985 and then again in 2017; the ones capable of not only saving lives as scientists or doctors, but also the only ones capable of birthing life. The ones who are in a daily war zone and yet are out there constructing amazing and inspiring lives.
So, if they forget who we are, we’ll remind them. We will paint walls, we’ll conduct strikes, we’ll yell hard, and, if it’s needed, we’ll set the entire city on fire, until they remember, until they never forget, until we can go out without having any fear, until we can remain alive, until, as women, we can finally be free of this terror.
The writer is a student from Mexico City.