How Mexican Women Witnessed Their Everyday Struggles Become a Major Cultural Moment

Mexico

It’s now been over a week since the International Women’s Day. And I think we can all agree that a lot has happened since, the world is in a weird place right now.

I would lie if I said that I haven’t been thinking a million things all at once, and feeling a million more. I’ll just say this: I’ve even gone as far as considering buying some of those post-apocalyptic/zombie video games, even if I’m not entirely sure they’ve actually served us well. Just for research, you know! However, if there’s one thing that managed to make me feel the most alive I’ve felt in a while, I can safely say it was the women’s march I witnessed last Sunday.

On March 8th 2020, women from across the world got together to show how badass we can be when united to speak out and make a stand against gendered violence. And on March 9th, Mexico saw its women show the consequences of said violence by disappearing for a day. Yes, an entire day with barely any women on the streets. This is obviously not anything new, however, the movement is one that has grown exponentially in my opinion over the past couple of months.

Now I can only dare speak for myself in regard to gendered violence. As a woman, growing up in Mexico put me way too close to this topic. And getting into the gist of it is far more complex than just pointing fingers. Because the sort of things women can experience, regardless of their culture; they have ways to travel with us.

I can only dare speak for myself in regard to gendered violence. As a woman, growing up in Mexico put me way too close to this topic. And getting into the gist of it is far more complex than just pointing fingers.

I’ll put it like this. When I moved abroad, naively, I thought that leaving the country that made me insecure about showing my legs and making certain clothing choices, would free me. And then life was quick to show me that this was a worldwide battle.

It was hard, I was sad to see I had made of the outside world a fairytale I’m still failing to see come true. I was sad to see that things that should just be normal were instead the object of what seems like a utopian reality. Sad to see that for the longest time, this fantastic world only seemed plausible outside of my own country. Because there’s so much more to love about Mexico than the amazing spicy cuisine and colorful streets, and I was failing to see that about my own country. No one should ever be pushed to stop appreciating such things, trust me.

Unfortunately, as women, we all fear our own countries for similar reasons. And I know this isn’t how I want my niece or my kids to feel; this isn’t a mentality I want lasting for generations. Don’t worry though, I’m truly not here to lecture anyone…this ain’t my thing – plus any of my friends could tell you Professor Sathya is far more serious and scary that whatever I might lay upon this article.

Instead, I want to showcase what reflecting on all of this did for me. I’d like to showcase how incredible it was to see women of all ages come together to try and put an end to something that shouldn’t even be a thing. How empowering it was to see little kids scream at the top of their lungs for justice. And more importantly, because the fight against gendered violence affects solo traveling women everywhere, I wanted to show three conversations I was able to have with Mexican women abroad, about their experiences in regards to this movement and what it meant for them to see it become such a big cultural moment across the world.


Alexia Toscano:

Student. After living in Canada and Paris whilst completing her media studies, she moved to Barcelona where she currently lives.

As a Mexican woman, would you say that the different situations we can be set to confront have impacted how you live abroad? If so, how?

I’ve lived by myself in Montreal and Paris too. And the truth is I’m at a point where I cannot see clearly what has fed my fears and need to be cautious abroad. I’m just not sure how much of it comes from my personal experience and how much of it has been influenced by the different stories I’ve heard and keep hearing. I’ve lost track of where to draw the line.  

Have you traveled alone? If so, does the continent or country you go to change how safe or insecure you feel solo traveling?

I haven’t traveled much alone. Even though most of my journeys abroad are done by myself, I always stay over with someone I know. I like to travel with friends or people I know, I think sharing trips is always an incredible experience. Although I do admit there are some places I wouldn’t travel alone to. This may steam from various things, however I am also aware that some of these fears and doubts do come from being a woman and traveling alone.

  Personally, how have you experienced the current empowering movement we’ve seen in Mexico? Has being abroad changed the experience in any way? 

Even if being away from Mexico definitely doesn’t stop me from participating in this movement, I’ve definitely felt out of place sometimes. More than anything because the fight Spanish women are leading seems to be at a different stage than the one Mexican women are leading, even though they both fall into the same context. I think we’re definitely waking up in our own ways and that excites me.

It is clear that this isn’t something exclusive to one country. If you had the chance to march on Sunday, what about the women round inspired you? What would you propose so that healthier conversations could be started by these shared experiences?

I attended the march in Barcelona with my mom. In the beginning, I felt a little out of place. There were a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was really emotional to witness such unity amongst women. And on the other hand, I had this weird feeling of uncertainty on whether my “battle” was as valid as theirs. 

I feel that as women we have different battles within one same movement, and it’s a hard and complex thing to make them all fit in at the same time. However, we can all try and come together to share them. During the march, having the opportunity to find a Latin-American group and share that moment with them as well as with Spanish women and people from all over the world did give me a different perspective.

Sofia Espinosa (25):

Media and film student, currently finishing her Master’s degree in Paris.

As a Mexican woman, would you say that the different situations we can be set to confront have impacted how you live abroad? If so, how?

As a Mexican woman, traveling and moving abroad means carrying feelings and fears you grew up with, with you. Not being able to walk alone at night anywhere is the sort of event that doesn’t go away completely. However with time, leaving your country allows you to face them somehow, because the chances of them repeating themselves abroad can be fewer as time goes by.

Have you traveled alone? If so, does the continent or country you go to change how safe or insecure you feel solo traveling? 

Yes, I’ve traveled alone, and it does change things – gendered violence is not the same across the world.  

Personally, how have you experienced the current empowering movement we’ve seen in Mexico? Has being abroad changed the experience in any way?

Personally I’ve been having different debates with family and friends about the different stages of the movement. It is something that is global so I’ve been getting different perspectives. 

It is clear that this isn’t something exclusive to one country. If you had the chance to march on Sunday, what about the women round inspired you? What would you propose so that healthier conversations could be started by these shared experiences?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to go to the march here in Paris but I think we are moving in the right direction. It is obviously a slow process and I also believe it is a constant personal and collective battle.

I think the tricky part about initiating debates like this one is the fact that it can be hard to know which battle to prioritize at which given moment – because each battle comes with a different fight.

Amaranta Zermeño (22):

Currently living in Lyon. Came to France for her Communication studies in 2016. Is currently on a Journalism Masters.

As a Mexican woman, would you say that the different situations we can be set to confront have impacted how you live abroad? If so, how?

Without a doubt. I learned to grow up with caution in Mexico. And even after coming to France, a country that in my mind should’ve been “safer”, I still can’t help to be vigilant when I walk home alone or when someone gets too close to me on the metro. These feelings have definitely toned down in France but not entirely.

Unfortunately, Europe is not spared from gendered violence, however I personally do see it with less frequency. I’ve experienced it less during my 4-year stay abroad than whenever I go back to Mexico for the summer.

 Have you traveled alone? If so, does the continent or country you go to change how safe or insecure you feel solo traveling?

I haven’t gotten the chance to travel alone entirely, but I’ve traveled with another female friend, just the two of us. We went to Italy and traveled with full independence.

I do think the continent or country you go to changes the reality of the trip you have to plan. In Europe moving is a lot easier, not just because of the different agreements that exist within countries here but also because it is far more common for large or small groups of friends to travel around Europe. It seems to me that for people here, traveling within Europe does not often carry a sense of danger – at least that’s what I’ve noticed with my French friends who only foresee danger when they’ll be traveling to a different continent.

  

Personally, how have you experienced the current empowering movement we’ve seen in Mexico? Has being abroad changed the experience in any way?

Being away in such a crucial global moment is definitely hard but I also feel happy to see how the movement evolves in my country. Seeing how even people here in France are talking about it makes me feel proud.

I think being abroad has allowed me to gain perspective. Looking at things from a more exterior outlook allows me to compare and analyze, which has definitely broadened my views and opinions.

 It is clear that this isn’t something exclusive to one country. If you had the chance to march on Sunday, what about the women round inspired you? What would you propose so that healthier conversations could be started by these shared experiences?

The march in Lyon was quite calm, even if feelings were obviously all over the place as well. I saw a lot of mothers explaining the movement to their kids and showing them what was happening. And I felt inspired by how women of all kinds celebrated how Latin American women in France were protesting. We all respected each other’s reasons to be there and that was extremely heart-warming.

When it comes to these debates, I think I would encourage people to hear all and any point of view they can. It is important to question what is happening all over the world and not just around us. Opening up to different cultures and perspectives is something that seems essential to me so we can be ahead of such ever-changing movements.

 

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