Throughout history, our voices as women have been silenced on thousands of occasions. We were forced to hide our identities so that what we created would not come to light. Our ideas were shamelessly stolen from us, under the argument that what a man wrote was more legitimate. We were not allowed to have an opinion or a position on the reality in which we lived. This happened several years ago, but have things really changed? This question is more profound than it seems, because nowadays, despite the fact that there are many women in positions of leadership or decision-making, it has been very difficult because we are still usurping ideas, discrediting them, minimising our opinions and we are harshly questioned as to why we have reached these positions.
By Fabiola Mancilla Castillo
We are repeatedly made to doubt ourselves, our anger and disagreements are minimised or questioned, and when we show them, we are called “hysterical or that we have to keep our manners”. This is exacerbated if we occupy a space in public life or are at the head of a project. We are judged harshly, even more so than our male colleagues in similar positions. The most painful thing is that our capacity is constantly questioned or it is assumed that we need to consult other people on decisions. A few days ago, when I was at a dinner party, I mentioned a concerning case, and how I would like to share it with my extended work group. The immediate response associated with this was that I had to consult, or take advice because the other people, coincidentally male, inferred that they knew best how to approach the issue. On commenting that I thought the comment was offensive, the person apologised. This is just one example of how it is internalised in the collective vision that our opinion or position as women always has to be supervised or advised, as it is assumed that we do not have the necessary qualifications to do so.
That is why the question of things that have changed needs to remain valid, it will be a way of marking progress or areas of improvement to eradicate violence against women. Much has been gained, but unfortunately not for all, in many places, not only in Mexico but all over the world, oppression continues to be lived. In many indigenous communities in the Montaña de Guerrero, women who have decided to break the cycles of violence and divorce their husbands are appointed as community authorities as a retaliatory measure. The logic behind this is that if they have been self-sufficient enough to make the decision to separate, they can have other responsibilities, making it clear that it functions more as a punishment than as a recognition of the capacities they display. Despite this, women in the communities have performed the positions with great dignity.
This is just one example of what happens in remote communities where there are no media protests or mass marches, as in other places around the world. These are regions where the thousands of “likes” or “retweets” that a post may have does not make a difference in the lives of women who live with violence. It is important to remember that advocacy work has to continue to be done in all spaces and throughout most of our lives, in order to bring about sustainable change over time. In a way that benefits all of us, from women in rural or urban places, in an intergenerational and inclusive way.
A few days ago, I was reading a story where a fellow artist denounced how her ex-partner usurped her work, and now, because of their work, only he is recognised worldwide. When she discovered this, she felt let down, because she believed him. She felt that the argument “of trust” was solid and sufficient to trust the word of her ex-partner. Her surprise was strong when she saw it announced with great fanfare that whatever her idea was. This is a shameful and angry situation, the most surprising thing is that it happens a lot, more than we recognise, and the worst thing is that in most cases it goes unpunished. Public denunciation becomes our only weapon and with this, we hope to transcend more than general indignation. This is an extreme case, but on a daily basis many of us women who are creating, live it and feel it, it is common for this to happen among our work colleagues, romantic partners or even acquaintances. The most painful thing is that they abuse our trust and profit from the affection they say they have, this is undoubtedly a very low form of plagiarism.
When we denounce, we are questioned, we have heard how women who have been raped are singled out and called into question. Years ago, four women colleagues denounced an international organisation for mismanagement of funds, and without much hesitation, they faced public scrutiny and even unjustified dismissal. This perpetuated the old story that it is easier to question the integrity of the complainants than to investigate the aggressor. They sought support from various networks, however, the sorority was slow, and in most cases did not even arrive. Silence and omission were seen as the best strategy to avoid damaging the movement. This story is very similar to the family secrets that have been kept for centuries, and which, in the name of the greater good, people prefer to keep quiet, leaving the suffering of its members in the middle.
The above only confirms the importance of continuing to insist on the eradication of violence against women. Especially because the discourse of peace has been imposed on us today, without reflecting on what it entails, which is the respect and guarantee of the rights of all people. Hence the power of this commitment is to be revolutionary in our thinking and action so that we can all develop in an environment of respect where we can continue to build. This is the only way to trace the steps towards a new reality, where we are all included, and where none of us suffers any kind of violence. That must be our bet, that the same scenario of demands that was lived last March 8th in the big cities of the world can be felt in the most remote corners of the planet. It will be until that moment that we will have achieved it and begun a new journey in the construction of peace.