The Inconsistency Between ‘Respect’ and Religion

It was the beginning of April in 2013, a month away from my graduation thesis show. I plopped on the floor of my small but recently cleared out art studio at school as I stared at the large Gordon Paper I had tacked onto one of the walls. I got up, took a pen, and wrote ‘Respect’ in the middle of the intimidating brown space. I stared at it, sat back down, and stared some more.

Earlier that year I had recently completed Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and could not be stopped from bringing it up in mundane conversation. While I’m sure I annoyed many, religion became, and has been, paramount in my life. Not my adherence to a religion but my own removal from one.

It wasn’t that I had been taught something foreign to me and became fascinated. It was that every question and every doubt I had about the role of religion in my life and environment, became validated by a single piece of literature. I had to get it out.

In speaking of my newly found passion with friends and family, I came to realize that the conversation on religion always ended with one similar sentiment by those I spoke with: “You just need to respect others beliefs.”

But what was I saying that had anything to do with respect?

Frustrated by the way those conversations ended, I couldn’t stop wondering what people meant. Respect? Respect what exactly? What does that mean? Is it an action? An emotional stance?

While to many the answers to those questions may seem obvious,  I’d like to challenge that notion.

I couldn’t shake that word: Respect. I wanted a conversation about the role of religion in the social world, not advice on how I should personally deal with it.

Many of us, if not all, were taught that ‘respect’ is a sort of “live and let live” mantra which to live by. “You do you and I do me”. Therefore, on the superficial level, I was being told to “you need to……” What?!

I need to do what?! I need to hold esteem or regard for those beliefs? That is, after all, the definition of ‘respect’. To admire, hold regard, or esteem for someone or something. That’s when it hit me! Once you attempt to interchange the word ‘respect’ for one of its available synonyms, its imagined meaning completely changes. Here are some examples:

Therefore, when being told to ‘respect’ religious faiths, I was expected to have a sort of positive attitude towards those beliefs in spite of my own. And while I understand what is being said, it, in its entirety, dismisses and disregards what religion is.

I could go through the sociological approach towards outlining how, by its very premise, religion is not based on a “you and me” social relationship. Rather, it is an “us and them” situation. Religion, for much that one could look to argue for its spiritual value, is organized. There are places of worship, doctrines, hierarchies, and conflicting ideologies and interpretations. But there is enough literature out there by intellectuals to complete the task.

But because of horrific events occurring world wide with the rise of Islamic terrorism, I believe there is no better time to put into perspective what ‘respect’ means when we attempt to unwrap religion. Therefore, I will use Islam in my approach but will further expand with the Christian-Catholic faith.

The Orlando shooting last weekend, once more, stirred up the political conversation as to the role of Islam in the world. Whether or not it was the shooters motivator, it became part of the conversation.

On one side, there are the Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic. On the other, there are those that do not equate Islamic terrorism to Islam. Those that adhere to ISIS or Al Qaeda are a tiny, insignificant portion of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Because the former attitude has gained mainstream status, the latter has come out in an attempt to point out that a small portion of something, does not make it everything. And while this is true, it does not make the latter all the better.

The liberal media and moderate Muslims in the West have come out in defense of their religion with fervor and passion. The phrase “It is a religion of peace” is often espoused by Muslims and liberals that speak out against those that look to demonize the religion. These are, more than not, Muslims that have become somewhat westernized and liberals who seem to want to pacify the debate on religion. And while they should do this, there is discrepancy between the used defense and the actual practice of Islam in Islamic based nations.

By basing the debate of the nature of Islam on terrorism, the conversation completely disregards the social and political practices of Islam. And while we should all be vocally against terrorism, we not need to agree with the religion itself in order to do so. As moderate Muslims put it, Islam is not about terrorism. But, I along with others say, Islam does not coincide with liberal, or even secular, thought either.

Now, this is not about demonizing Islam or feeding the Islamophobic, anti-immigration, xenophobic rhetoric. It is about accepting that there are absolute contradicting values between Islamic nations and their traditions, and the practice of separation of church and state in Europe and the United States, for example. The latter, isn’t even necessarily a liberal practice. It is a basic secular practice to ensure democracy within a State. A democratic principle that allows Muslims to practice their faith with the liberty to decide how to do so. A democratic principle which many Muslims around the world are afforded, BUT not most.

There are only a few outspoken Muslim activists who make this distinction, and even they suffer for it.

The problem with ‘democracy’ as understood by the West, is that it cannot be translated to many eastern countries. The world learned its lesson when the United States “wanted to bring democracy” to Afghanistan by the way of invasion only causing more social and political destabilization. When has imperialism ever brought about peace?

The Pew Research Center has found that most Muslims, in nations where Islam is the dominating religion, in fact want Sharia Law to be enacted. That means the law of the land should be based on the religious doctrine of Islam; the divine law within the Quran. That means that both private and public life should be guided and led by the faith.

Some of these nations and their support for sharia law are:  Afghanistan (99%), Iraq (91%), Niger (86%), Malaysia (86%), Pakistan (84%), Morocco (83%), Bangladesh (82%), Egypt (74%), Indonesia (72%), Jordan (71%), Uganda (66%), Ethiopia (65%), Mali (63%), Ghana (58%), and Tunisia (56%).

While the practice of Sharia law varies within each nation, most Muslim countries make use of it in one way or another and their people are in favour of it.

Afghanistan, for example, legally enacts capital punishment for apostasy, purdah (segregation) on women, and imprisonment for homosexuality.

What does this mean? That the Pew Research Center uncovered how most Muslims in these nations approve of the state of affairs within their own countries.

In circling back to my concern with ‘respect’ and religion, do I really have to ask?

When I’m told that I must respect ones faith, I am not being told to respect a type of spirituality. I am being told that I need to respect social values and practices that go along with it. That I should respect values and practices which go against those that have been afforded to me. That I should respect values and practices of which I am not just opposed to, but which I’ve been both socially and intellectually taught to view as negative. Values and practices which have been statistically and scientifically proven to be detrimental to society as a whole.

BUT because these are religiously based, I am not allowed to say so.

Which takes me to my general point: Because I can understand a religion, does not mean I have to respect it.

Just to emphasize that I am not being bias, I have the same problem with the religion I myself grew up with; the christian-catholic faith.

While it has been found that Mexican Catholics are in a high opposition with the church, they are still morally and socially molded by their interpretation of the faith. With 81% of Mexicans identifying as catholic, women’s sexual health, including abortion, remains a heated debate nation wide, very much like, if not more so, the United States.

Unfortunately, Mexico City is the only place which fully grants women the right to abortions (under 12 weeks only) without being subject to a penalty. All while, in another 18 states, they could be subject to penalization. In the worst of cases, up to 30 years of imprisonment.

With epidemic-like rates of teen pregnancy and domestic abuse in poverty stricken communities, along the incompetence to provide proper sexual education and resources by the public education system, I cannot respect the faith based belief that women should not have access to an abortion clinic. Let alone, be punished for it. The social and economic impact of high rates of teen pregnancy in poverty, when they have not even concluded their secondary level education, is not only detrimental to them, but society as a whole.

Not only are women affected by the Catholic faith, but homosexuals are still viewed as morally corrupt by 55% of Mexicans.

It is one thing to ‘respect’ or “let live” another’s beliefs when they do not infringe on the basic rights and freedoms of others. When they do not intend to endanger one specific demographic. When they do not look to put one citizen or believer above another based on their adherence to the doctrine. If as an adult you still believe in Santa, that’s your prerogative. I’ll think your nuts and won’t respect it but, unless you harm someone for it, I don’t see the problem. I haven’t even touched the miracle/mystical side of religion.

But it is another thing entirely to ask me to respect beliefs that do those things.

I cannot respect a faith which does not respect those that leave it, but rather kills them for it. I cannot respect a faith that does not respect a women’s body, but rather asks her to cover it as a sign of ‘modesty’. I cannot respect a faith which does not respect women’s ability to control their health and ability to choose their future, but rather forces them to a life defined by one sperm and one egg. I cannot respect a faith  which does not respect an entire community’s nature, but rather asks for the restriction of their civil rights. I cannot respect a faith that would limit my own ability to have control over the direction of my life.

 

“So with all due respect”, I cannot, nor will I, respect that as it is in my absolute freedom to do so.

 

*For those curious as to my resulting artwork: my endevour to challenge the word ‘respect’ resulted in an installation where I represented in list significant events from the 20th and 21st Centuries in where literature had been burned for ideological or political reasons. From Harry Potter to the Christian Bible, I documented the process in which I recreated the act, cataloged the book covers, and jarred and planted the ashes in potted Hydrangea.

 

 

 

 

 

The Legitimization of a Tyrant: The Tradition of Wealth in the American Politic

 

In an article for New York Magazine titled “America Has Never Been so Ripe for Tyranny”, politically conservative British blogger Andrew Sullivan, evokes Plato’s Republic. Not to explain but rather bring to ground the reason behind the current Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. In what the United States has always looked to achieve as a democratic republic, may have also prompted a susceptibility to a pseudo rogue candidate. While once inconceivable and even a public joke, Donald Trump’s rise as a to-take-seriously candidate, under the microscope, his rise is nothing but if not a cautionary tale. While not clairvoyant, as Sullivan states, Plato described how the regime of tyranny was, or could be, the direct result of a state without social boundaries and no direct authority, therefore a fully pure democracy.

This essay looks to establish how Donald Trump’s rise as a perceived legitimate political leader had a natural course through the traditional authority type, as per Weber, and his campaign’s historical significance through his use of speech acts. I look question Trump’s rise as a purely charismatic leader through the utterances of “he says it like it is”, but rather one of the traditional authority of the unity between democracy and free-market economics in America. I look to further explore how his speech acts, whether or not he becomes president, make him historically significant through what has become public consent of them. While the historical repercussions remain to be seen, his viability to be president regardless of his temperament; has opened up questions, not only about the electoral process, but that of the fundamental issues that arise out of the words “we the people”.

“And such men,” I said, “will desire money just as those oligarchies do, and under cover of darkness pay fierce honor to gold and silver, because the possess storehouses and domestic treasuries where they can deposit and hide them; and they will have walls around their houses, exactly like private nests, where they can make lavish expenditures on women and whomever else they might wish.” (Plato, 548b, Book XIII)

 

“Instead of men who love victory and honor, they finally become lovers of money-making and money; and they praise and admire the wealthy man and bring him to the ruling offices, while they dishonor the poor man.” (Plato, 552b, Book XIII)

 

Plato saw the rise of an oligarchy regime, what we currently consider to be the political power of Wall Street, the means by which democracy would follow.  A democracy in which freedom for wealth is the coveted means for a life worth living. A democracy from which then the greediness of money-making would prepare a tyrant to rise. What Plato couldn’t have had a premonition of were the coming historical events which would form the quintessential American tradition; the democratic freedom for money-making.

 

The Authority of Wealth

 

The theme of this 2016 election season is the breakoff of the political establishment. All CNN exit polls, as of now, have demonstrated that the general population is dissatisfied with the state of political authority. On the one hand, republican voters are angry with their own party feeling discontent with liberalism taking over the Commander in Chief seat, while democratic voters are disappointed with the current president’s legacy, one they view as too weak to embody the change he once espoused. On the other hand, it is the feeling of disenfranchisement the general public feels as an after effect of the events occurring between 2001 and onward, including the Iraq war, Katrina, and 2008 financial crisis. It is of no surprise that the American public should reflect discontent towards the powers that be. But it is at their own dismay that their options for president for the next four years have come down to the most disliked candidates of all time, including a wealthy celebrity with no political background.

In his essay “The Three Types of Legitimate Rule”, Max Weber delineates what he conceived of as three types of authority that are available to be personified; Legal-Rational, Traditional, and Charismatic. In order for an authority to become legitimized there must be a certain obedience and loyalty to whom holds power and a belief in that legitimacy. Legal authority is based on the normative rules on which belief on their legality rests upon. Traditional is established in the believed sanctity of tradition through which he in power will exercise authority. And Charismatic is the devotion to an exceptional, heroic or exemplary character.  For the purpose of this essay, and because I see no road for how it could apply, I will set aside Legal Authority for it has no role in Donald Trump’s candidacy and there is no law that prohibits him from being so beyond any idealistic or moral sanctions. Therefore, I look to compare Weber’s Traditional and Charismatic forms of authority for the purpose of narrowing down to which type Trump may fall under.

Weber defines the charismatic leader as the individual with attributed virtues which set him apart from ordinary men and, “treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” In order for such attributes to be observable as authoritative, they must be recognized by those subjects whom will be under such authority. “If proof of his charismatic qualifications fails him for long, the leader endowed with charisma tends to think his god or his magical or heroic powers have deserted him.” With this kind of authority, no hierarchy is required as it is up to he who holds power’s whim what his staff and corporation will look like. He stands outside of the normative and rational and “repudiates the past.” He goes onto say that the charismatic leader is opposed to the rational and traditional forms of economic considerations. Weber describes it as:

 

“What is despised, so long as the genuinely charismatic type is adhered to, is traditional or rational everyday economizing, the attainment of a regular income by continuous economic activity devoted to this end.”

 

“From the point of view of rational economic activity, charisma is a typical anti-economic force. It repudiates any sort of involvement in the everyday routine world.”

 

While this kind of authority is often attributed to figures such as social movement leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, religious figures like Muhammad or Jesus Christ, or even sect figures, it is necessary to secularize this concept. We must question what “standing apart” from “routine” really means in the context of the american secular constitutional practice. In thinking of a charismatic secular leader, initially, descriptive notions as to whom Donald Trump is as a politician all lead to the antithetical fact that he is not a politician, therefore charismatic. A man that stands against the routine of politics of which the general public is dissatisfied with. Not a politician but a businessman. He is observed as having exceptional qualities which his followers do not question. His campaign has no hierarchy, is self funded through personal wealth, has been propelled by his personal use of social media and public appearances, and bases itself on selling to the public the sentiment on which their collective consciousness leans towards, anger towards the establishment. An establishment which has now found questioning itself due to his rise to popularity within it, the Republican Party. It’s not that the Republican Party is questioning its own agenda, but its own future stability as Donald Trump rearranges and scrambles what they had previously firmly believed to stand for.

But what Weber describes as the charismatic leader also comes into direct conflict to whom Donald Trump is, in fact. Donald Trump’s wealth is the one thing on which he stands. It is a wealth acquired by the routine of everyday economizing as established by the laws of american politics and free-market economics. He is the archetype individual created by the unification of the regimes of oligarchy and democracy; prompted through inheritance and motivated by the love of money-making, as described by Plato. An individual whose past political participation has meant funding, through wealth created by everyday economizing, the everyday established routine politics. It is the very wealth on which he stands, the same reason why his followers follow him blindly. While his speech acts are a secondary aspect to his rise, which I will further follow with, it is the tradition of money-making and the spirit of capitalism that I argue legitimize him as a leader.

Traditional authority, as described by Weber, is the legitimate handing down of power on the basis of the sanctity of order. “The person or persons exercising authority are designated according to traditionally transmitted rules. The object of obedience is the personal authority of the individual which enjoys by virtue of his traditional status.” The obedience that is given to him is based on, first, the concept that he follow traditional rules which he claims to represent. If these rules are broken, he endangers his own authority. Secondly, a “double sphere” in which the leader is bound by a specific tradition but is free of any specific rules. While resistance may occur when tradition is broken, it may be justified through the claim that what is new has “always been in force but only recently to have become known through the wisdom of the promulgator.” This type of authority needs no staff or administration. Those that are loyal to him come from ties of personal loyalty, patrimonial recruitment or favourites. Bureaucratic administration is often absent and there is no basis for technical training, fixed salaries, or a regular system of appointment. While this kind of authority is often attributed to monarchies or clans, I argue that Donald Trump is the traditional leader that was to naturally arise in The United States.

In the introduction to this essay, I deliberately labeled Trump a “pseudo rogue candidate”. Rogue because his rise in popularity was not seen as conceivable by most; he goes against the same establishment which he is representing, he is knowingly offensive to many demographic  groups, and he is not bound by any moral, idealistic, or political isms. But pseudo because he is tied to one very important ism; Capitalism. While more than half of republican and democratic voters view Wall Street as untrustworthy, Donald Trump is a representation of the majority of elites whom have taken advantage of legal but exploitative loopholes in order to expand their wealth. It is the structure which his followers are angry at the very same one through which he has become now legitimized. It is the tradition of democracy and free enterprise, I argue, which has legitimized Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While he is not the traditional politician, he is the traditional representation of the legacy of capitalism, particularly Reaganomics. He is the idealized life worth living ingrained in the american collective. It is in this way that he does not require the tradition of politics, but the tradition of the sanctity of money-making and wealth. It is the tradition of corporate rules, money management, and free-market economics which decommissions any need for the traditional political resume and archetype presidential temperament. He is bound to his wealth as an authority but unbound to the rules of the establishment. His being a demagogue becomes irrelevant through the belief that his wisdom as a businessman eclipses the need for truth. It is by his wealth through which his followers rationalize untruths and prejudices as truths rather than by his own ability rationalize arguments. It is known his campaign is tied to no one but himself. His staff is tied to him by nothing but personal ties, self interest, and favoritism rather than merit and appointment. Therefore, I argue that it is the tradition of an idealized life worth living espoused by democracy and free-market enterprise the very reason which makes him a legitimate traditional authority regardless of his ability to be president.

 

Speech Acts and The Power of a Demagogue

While I argue that the rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive republican nominee had in fact a natural course, it is not to say that his campaign is free from being a possible historical event. A second aspect to his rise in popularity heavily rests upon his public persona. It is this part, a part constructed by his speech acts and performative utterances, that make him the most offensive demagogue in modern politics. And it all began on the very day he announced his candidacy.

In performative utterances, not only can reality be described, but history may change its course. J. L. Austin’s “felicity conditions” set up “rules” to determine when an utterance may cause such a ripple effect in a situation: sincerity, authority and orderliness. There are those that are “low types”, where interruption is not possible as there is an agreement as to who has authority to declare an utterance (much like in a marriage, “I now you declare you husband and wife”, for example), and are judged by simply their failure or success. And then there are those performative utterances where the course of action is muddled by their political context. Thomas Keenan uses Derrida and Arendt to further explore how it is that authority is granted in the public political arena. Whom or what gives the right to a public political utterance and does it speak to truth and justice? If they were to be interrupted in such utterances, would it work? Donald Trump’s presidential announcement speech was formulated. While he was not reading from a teleprompter, the context allowed him to say what he knew were utterances that would propel him into the public arena. And due to the context; truth became irrelevant.

His announcement took place on June 16th, 2015 inside a building bearing his own name:

Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to, believe it or not.”

“I’m doing that to say that that’s the kind of thinking our country needs. We need that thinking. We have the opposite thinking.

“We have losers. We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.”

“Sadly, the American dream is dead.

But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.

Thank you. Thank you very much.”

In an unorganized speech, where he used prejudices and falsehoods, he officially became a candidate for president in the 2016 election by declaring himself as such. It was because of the context, a podium, a crowd, posters, and an interrupted speech, that his announcement became successful regardless of public opinion. Unfortunately, his falsehoods have not been the demise of him. Even though every one of his public appearances is welcomed with protests, he has formed a context  in which interruptions have become failures. Only one public appearance was canceled due to fear of endangering the public, but since then, every single speech act has been followed through.

We could argue that his popularity is based on him being a demagogue, or as some put it “saying it as it is”; but that fact is, he isn’t. Demagogues aren’t new to the public arena. An article from The Atlantic, as early as July 2015, compared Donald Trump to Joseph McCarthy. Both opportunistic candidates that preyed on the public’s fear. While Donald Trump uses immigration and a wall to instill fear and hatred, McCarthy used the Cold War to propel fear of Communism “taking over the american value of freedom and safety”. But the article itself was calling for the end of his political career, waiting for others to denounce his demonization of immigrants. Almost a year later, he is the presumptive nominee for the Republican presidential ticket.

What makes him so different? How is he granted emancipation from truth and fact? While we may argue that it is because he has amassed so many supporters which is why he is protected by those that oppose him, I argue that it is the context of the situation that allows him to continue to promote populist prejudices through the media. This is a context, I argue, established by two facts: (1) he is running for president and therefore is given a platform and, more importantly, (2) he is granted consent as a traditional authority by the public. It is the very authority of wealth, previously discussed, which allows him to be unquestioned. It is because he represents the life worth living, separate from politics, that he is granted immunity from falsehoods and legitimized as a public political leader. He is not a politician, and more importantly, he is not one of the people. He is the “exemplary” individual that represents the American dream. He stands apart from those that struggle financially, as one who has built an empire. His failures and falsehoods don’t matter as long as he is able to promote his wealth and product. A product based on the individual, not truth. He sells the concept of “making deals” based on the concept of unchained power. The very same kind of unchained power that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

The problem then, for his followers, is when he utters “we”. Who does he mean by we? American nationals? The laborer? Farmers? Businessmen? Men? Women? His speeches are full of, if anything, contradictions. He has demonized, not only immigrants, but the country of China, for example. Freely labeling China as an abuser of a globalized economy and trade, he has, as the traditional authority would, claimed that as a businessman, it only makes sense to have taken advantage of immigration laws to further grow his enterprise. Taking advantage of EB-5 program to fund Trump Tower, it is through his wealth and elite status that he is able to do so. His claims become legitimized the moment he declares it as simply “making good deals” and therefore being able to create more wealth. It is this attitude that legitimizes him as an “exemplary” authority in his supporters eyes, regardless of its contradictions.

While he once claimed that he could shoot someone on fifth avenue and still not lose support, I argue that it is not about what he does or says. It is about what he represents. Preying on the public’s fear of the “other” has been analyzed and criticized frontwards and backwards, and failed to do anything to his popularity. He is a demagogue; a racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and self contradicting demagogue. But nonetheless, his followers do not care. He remains to be a traditional authority. The legacy of free-market economics, unchained power, a non politician and a tyrant that represents the “all-american” dream. Historical, because he  is all those things.

 

Notes and References

  1. Sullivan, Andrew. “American Has Never Been So Ripe For Tyranny: Democracies end when they are too democratic”. New York Magazine. Print edition: May 2, 2016 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html
  2. Aglesta, Jennifer. “Dissatisfaction, anger dominate year-end review of Washington”. CNN: December 19, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/29/politics/cnn-orc-poll-views-of-government/
  3. Beamon, Todd. “CNN Exit Polls: Anger, Dissatisfaction Strong Among GOP Voters in 3 States”. CNN: March 15, 2016 http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/exit-polls-voters-angry/2016/03/15/id/719244/
  1. Staff. “Here’s Donald Trump’s Announcement Speech”. Time Magazine: June 16, 2015. http://time.com/3923128/donald-trump-announcement-speech/
  2. Beinart, Peter. “The New McCarthysm of Donald Trump”. The Atlantic: July 21, 2015 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/donald-trump-joseph-mccarthy/399056/
  3. Drucker, Jesse. “Trump Tower Funded by Rich Chinese Who Invest Cash for Visas”. Bloomberg Politics: March 6, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-03-07/trump-tower-financed-by-rich-chinese-who-invest-cash-for-visas
  4. Plato, , and Allan Bloom. “The Republic”. New York: Basic Books, 1968. Print.
  5. Weber, Max. “The Three Types of Legitimate Rule”. Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions 4(1): 1-11, 1958
  6. Keenan, Thomas. “Drift: Politics and the Simulation of Real Life”. MIT, Grey Room 21: 2005

The Four Horsemen In Conversation: on philosophy, discourse, and the seeming infallibility of religion

This is a great video of great minds in discussion. In an in depth conversation of religion, philosophy, and the struggle for their cause; Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens open up earnestly about their work, their critics, and how they understand each other. It’s quite long and no action, so I suggest it as a podcast while you work, clean, cook, or do whatever you do.

I grew up in a spiritually Catholic environment and stopped practicing in my early teens. Before that, I already had begun to question my faith which caused me much trouble. When I moved to New York, I picked up Dawkins’ The God Delusion and every doubt I had was confirmed and reaffirmed. I never looked back. From there I began my research and since then, have engulfed myself in religious debate. This video is different in mood and context of which these men are known to present themselves. They are having an earnest and challenging conversation with each other. Often established as offensive and arrogant by pundits, this video honestly demonstrates the men behind the headlines.

I’ve been a long time fan of these men. Not because I hold similar ideas and convictions, I’ve become admirable to their intellectual tenacity and fearlessness towards being debated. Even if you are a believer of a specific organized religion or hold yourself to be an agnostic, I suggest you look at their work for the mere concept of being emotionally and intellectually stimulated in one capacity or another.

 

 

 

Why Support a Woman’s Right to Choose

I often find pro-life posts on my Facebook News Feed. It’s not surprising to me since I come from a highly catholic and conservative environment, while I myself am a lapsed one. This is a response to the rhetoric I find coming from that environment.

  1. The God factor: Often people will use religion as a reason as to why they oppose abortion. The language goes from something like, “The sanctity of life” to “Man is not God.” The problem with this argument is that man creates man. Whether you believe in God or not, we as biological-rational beings, choose (or not, but do) to make more of us. People choose to have children, or people have sex which results in a child. We are conscious of this. We know unprotected sex (can) = child. It’s science, biology, the fact of life and how animal in general multiplies. Therefore, to say that it was God’s doing, well…sure, but that would mean that man then, is not responsible for reproducing, which we are and we are aware of this. There’s no immaculate conception, and if you believe this happens, you’ve got bigger problems. Therefore, abortion is much of man’s decision as it to procreate. We are responsible for who we put on Earth. Which takes me to my next point.
  2. Shouldn’t be doing it if not ready: Yes, teenagers are not ready to be parents. Some adults are not ready to be parents. But guess what. It happens. It’s biology, hormones, and the way the world works. Never in the history of humanity has the repression of sex worked. To use this as an argument is to live in la-la land. Furthermore, this argument belittles the realities of the social world. Low income communities with lack of resources to sexual education and contraceptives, are the ones that suffer the most. This is also in part the government’s doing when there is maldistribution of resources, particularly for women in vulnerable domestic situations. To place full on responsability over the shoulders of a young girl from a low-income household where she could possibly have suffered abuse from a relative (which is statistically the probability), is, to me, offensive, insane, and detrimental to the well being of not only her, but society as a whole. She, herself, probably didn’t choose her own situation and she should not be punished because of it. It’s easy to place the blame on women and call them murderers. First, it’s a two way street; takes two to tango. Second, having a child is a serious responsibility. Forgive me, but I rather have a child spared the possibility of terrible life than have them be subjected to situations they didn’t choose themselves. The situation is much larger than a one night discrepancy. It’s called reality. This takes me to my next argument…
  3. They are being selfish, the child didn’t have a say: Well, children don’t ask to be conceived either. The people having them do (or don’t). I’m also sure, the child won’t choose their name, their education, their religion, their family, their nationality, their family’s income, their clothing, their government, their food, and basically anything else, until much later. If a woman, or couple, doesn’t believe that bringing up a child is the right thing for that child, or them, they shouldn’t have to. There’s many young women who have unplanned pregnancies and decide that it is simply not the right thing for anyone. Maybe she doesn’t have money, she was abused, she didn’t have the proper education, “god-forbid” she’s 14; the reasons don’t really matter and they shouldn’t have to be in horrible situations to have to argue why it is the right thing for them. When you have the child, you are responsible for that child’s survival. It’s serious business. If someone doesn’t want to raise someone else, they shouldn’t be coerced into it and neither should the child. There’s enough abandoned and abused kids in the world.

Lastly and more importantly, women deserve a safe environment where they are able to discuss their options without secrecy or fear of being personally attacked or judged. Making abortion clinics inaccessible and pushing stigma over the issue does not deter abortions as a whole. THIS IS A FACT. For example, after a Texas law restricting clinic abortions was pushed, clinics have started to receive calls from women looking for tips as to how to have a home abortion. This devastating fact has actually caused Texan home abortions to rise dramatically. This is unsafe for women, psychologically devastating and simply…terrible. They are forced to do something that no one woman actually wants to go through. No one in fact wants an abortion, but they choose to because, to them, it is their best option as they see it. Furthermore, especially in highly religious and conservative communities, women will often secretly try to find information through people and online, often fearing the social stigma that comes along with it. They are shamed into pretending nothing is occurring and don’t look for the proper support they need in a time such as this one. Pushing stigma and fear on women for the sake of an ideology is far more harmful to that woman than anything else that can or could happen in a situation where they are considering to take this route.

When people support a woman’s right to choose, it’s not that we are supporting death. We support the choice of rationality over ideology and freedom over coercion. We support the choice of safety over danger and comfort over authority. We support education and resources when needed, not an idea. We support the choice of a bright future no matter what the decision. That is what we are supporting.

Feminism: Mexico’s Dirty Word

Actress Emma Watson sat down to interview Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, about her recent documentary, “He Named Me Malala”. During the interview, both women, activists for equal rights of women, discussed the misrepresentations often placed on the word feminism. Malala explained to Watson how she initially was uneasy about adopting the label of ‘feminist’ due to the negative connotations that often trail it’s meaning. As they discussed the term, Watson was moved to learn that it was her speech at the United Nations about her work with HeforShe which made Malala reconsider her association to the word. Watson was the reason as to why Malala now refers to herself as a feminist. But the activist’s uneasiness towards the term ‘feminist’ is not out of the ordinary.

Mexicans know the term machismo well. Recently, in conversation with friends, it was expressed that they view both labels as extremists. But that, there, is the problem. It is a misunderstanding to pit both words, machismo and feminism, against each other. It is important to not confuse these terms as antonyms. Machismo has as a definition: the flaunting of what is masculine and domination over women. The term reflects a patriarchal history where women have suffered second class citizenship. It reflects statistics that demonstrate inequalities with employment, homemaking decisions, income, sexual and emotional abuse. It is a term which describes an ingrained character within our culture based on antiquated and tired social rules. Feminism is not its opposite but its end.

Feminism is not the domination of man, but its equalizer. Feminism is not a dirty word, but an eraser of a past in which women has systematically feared making choices for themselves. Choices which encompass her home life, her finances, her opinions, and her body. Simply put: feminism is the advocacy for women’s equal rights to man on the political, the financial, and social.

The importance of making clear what this term, feminism, means, is a responsibility towards the wellbeing of our communities. As women we must not fear the term itself, but our uneasy attitude towards its misinterpretations. Being a feminist is not going against man, but along with him. Being a feminist is not shutting up man, but communicating with him. Being a feminist is not raising arms and entering a war of the sexes. Being a feminist is the belief that as human, you deserve the same rights that are given to man.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), published statistics in 2008, which demonstrate the gender disparities in the various public and private sectors of the state of Nuevo Leon. In their publication, they express:

“El desarrollo humano de un país no puede alcanzarse si no se tiene en cuenta a la mitad de la población, es decir, a las mujeres.”

A country’s human development cannot unfold itself you do not take half of the population insto account. That’s to say, women.

“La discriminación, la violencia y la amenaza de la violencia que padecen las mujeres por el hecho de serlo, en prácticamente todos los ámbitos de sus vidas, las frenan en el desarrollo de sus capacidades, inhiben el ejercicio de sus libertades y, en consecuencia, se violentan sus derechos fundamentales. Atender la discriminación y la violencia en la entidad es un imperativo urgente si se quieren alcanzar mejores niveles de desarrollo que abarquen el ejercicio de la ciudadanía plena de las mujeres.”
The discrimination, the violence, and the threat of violence which women suffer for being women, in practically in every aspect of their lives, stops in its tracks their development of their capacities. They hold back the practice of their liberties and, consequently, violate their fundamental rights. Attending to the discrimination and violation is an urgent imperative if we want to reach the best levels of development of women’s full practice of citizenship.

Personally, I have women in my life whom have succeeded in an incomparable way to our predecessors. I am a feminist because my mother has, for 35 years, owned her own business. I am a feminist because I have a sister who is an architect and another one who is a fashion designer. I am a feminist because my father recognizes my place, my voice, and my vote. I’m a feminist because I observe women around me, continually break down barriers which continue to limit our advancement. More importantly, I am a feminist because there are women who live in silence. Women who fear having a voice. Women who continuously feel defeated out of fear of their own survival. Feminism isn’t a dirty word as is machismo. Feminism is our rights.


Watch Emma Watson and Malala’s great interview here

Feminismo: La Palabra Sucia de México

El 4 de noviembre, la actriz Emma Watson se sentó en Londres a entrevistar a la activista Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, sobre su reciente documental “Él Me Llamó Malala”. Durante la entrevista, ambas mujeres, luchadoras por la igualdad de la mujer, discutieron la confusión sobre el significado de la palabra feminismo. Malala expresó que cuando escucho la palabra por primera vez, sintió una inquietud por adoptar la etiqueta dado a las connotaciones negativas y malas interpretaciones que tienden a perseguir su significado. Durante su conversación, Watson se conmovió al aprender que fue su discurso a las Naciones Unidas cual causó que Malala reconsiderara su asociación a la palabra. Fue el discurso de Watson la razón por la cual Malala ahora se refiere a si misma como feminista. Esa inquietud hacia el término feminismo que sintió la mujer que se desvive por los derechos a la educación de niñas, no es fuera de serie.

El mexicano conoce bien el término machismo. Recientemente, en discusión con amigos, se expresó que observan ambas etiquetas como extremistas. Pero he ahí el problema. Es un mal entendimiento observar ambas palabras, machismo y feminismo, a la par. Es importante no confundir estas palabras como antónimas. El machismo tiene como definición el alardear lo masculino y la dominación total de la mujer. El término refleja una historia patriarcal en cual la mujer a sufrido un posición de ciudadanía de segunda clase. Refleja las cifras de desigualdad en empleo, toma de decisiones en el hogar, ganancias laborales, y abuso sexual y emocional hacia la mujer. Es un término que describe un character empedernido en nuestra cultura basada en reglas sociales antiguas y agotadas. El feminismo, no es su contrario pero su enfreno.

El feminismo no es la dominación del hombre, pero su equilibrador. El feminismo no es una palabra sucia. Es un borrador del pasado en el cual la mujer sistemáticamente a temido tomar decisiones por sí misma. Decisiones cuales abarcan su núcleo hogareño, sus finanzas, sus opiniones, y su cuerpo. Sencillamente, el feminismo es la defensa por la igualdad de la mujer al hombre en términos políticos, financieros, y sociales.

La relevancia de aclarar la realidad del término ‘feminismo’ es una responsabilidad hacia el bien de nuestras comunidades. Como mujeres tenemos que no temerle al término mismo, si no a nuestra inquietud a su malinterpretación. Ser feminista no es ir contra el hombre, si no a la par de él. Ser feminista no es callar al hombre, si no poderse comunicar con el. Ser feminista no es agarrar armas y entrar en una guerra de los sexos. Ser feminista es creer que mereces los mismos derechos que se le ceden al hombre como entidad humana.

El Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), publicó cifras en el 2008 que muestran los diferentes sectores públicos y privados en los cuales reflejan la disparidad entre géneros en el estado de Nuevo León. Expresan en su publicación:

“El desarrollo humano de un país no puede alcanzarse si no se tiene en cuenta a la mitad de la población, es decir, a las mujeres.”

“La discriminación, la violencia y la amenaza de la violencia que padecen las mujeres por el hecho de serlo, en prácticamente todos los ámbitos de sus vidas, las frenan en el desarrollo de sus capacidades, inhiben el ejercicio de sus libertades y, en consecuencia, se violentan sus derechos fundamentales. Atender la discriminación y la violencia en la entidad es un imperativo urgente si se quieren alcanzar mejores niveles de desarrollo que abarquen el ejercicio de la ciudadanía plena de las mujeres.”

Personalmente, tengo mujeres en mi vida que han logrado un éxito incomparable a nuestras predecesoras. Soy feminista porque mi madre lleva 35 años trabajando dentro de su propia empresa. Soy feminista porque una de mis hermanas es arquitecta y la otra diseñadora de modas. Soy feminista porque mi padre me da mi lugar, mi voz, y mi voto. Soy feminista porque observó a mujeres de mi alrededor romper con las estructuras previas que continúan a limitar nuestro avance. Mas importante, soy feminista porque dentro de mi pais hay mujeres que viven en silencio. Mujeres con miedo de tener su propia voz. Mujeres continuamente derrotadas por el miedo a su propia supervivencia. Feminismo no es una palabra sucia a la par del machismo. Feminismo es nuestros derechos.


Vean la increíble entrevista de Watson y Malala aquí

A Response To Critics of My Last Post

I’ve been getting a lot of heat for my last post on racism in my home town. I fully accept all criticism and commentary over my lack of citations and lack of historical references. The post is meant to be an observation and not a full fledge academic essay. When I wrote the piece I had no idea the inmense spread it would have. It’s been read over 8 thousands times and I was not prepared for such a thing. I would like to thank the readers. While I realize it lacks scientific refrences, I do believe that its spread means something. It’s opened up the discourse on class relations and that is more than I could have asked for. Thank you for your comments and criticism.

Español:

He recibido bastante critica por mi ultimo post de racismo en mi comunidad de Monterrey. Acepto todas las criticas y comentarios sobre mi falta de citaciones y falta de uso de referencias históricas. El post trata de ser una observación y no un ensayo socio-científico histórico. Cuando lo escribí, jamas pensé que seria compartido tanto. Se ha leído mas de 8 mil veces y no estaba preparada para eso. Quiero agradecer a todos los lectores. Mientras reconozco la falta de citas, si creo que se a leído tanto por algo. Se han abierto las puertas a el tema de clasicismo/racismo y es mas de lo que pude haber pedido. Gracias por sus comentarios y criticas.

(si me español esta mal, es porque no he escrito en español en bastantes años y pido perdón por ello.)

Sources: CONAPRED , Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación

http://www.conapred.org.mx/

http://noticias.terra.com.mx/mexico/estados/monterrey-es-donde-mas-se-discrimina-en-mexico-conapred,553bdcb346cc7410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html

Monterrey: The Most Racist City in Mexico

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The U.S. has been going under construction over race relations since the rise of viral videos in which police men are seen unjustifiably arresting black men (and some women) and often killing them. President Obama has made this issue his last venture for the upcoming last months of his presidency. He has become the first president to visit a prison and has begun to be outspoken about the disparity between imprisoned Black and Hispanic men versus White men. Then there is Trump.

As a liberal-progressive Mexican in New York, I often find myself taking a specific role in social media. I have made it a thing to comment, share and write on social issues that I find pressing. In school, I am surrounded by similar-thinking minds with whom I discuss current events and theorize about their social implications. But there is an unfortunate thing happening: I am speaking to the choir.

As Mexicans, we know well who Donald Trump is. We are infuriated with the rhetoric and scared of its implications. Most of us, stand against him and what he stands for. We find those that support him ignoring the facts and dismissive of the role the U.S. has had in our country’s need to emigrate. But I find a similarity between the privileged progressive Americans and the privileged Mexican communities, like Monterrey, in our role of speaking out. African Americans talk about it all the time. It’s of the fact that white privilege is there and it has a major impact in the discourse of race relations. In Mexico we fail to do this. Much of it has to do with class relations. In fact, what we fail to do in Mexico is acknowledge that our understanding of skin color is correlated with our understanding of social class. I’ll let you into a little secret, Mexico is in fact a racist country.

First of all, it needs to be said: lighter-skinned communities tend to be much better off then darker-skinned communities. This is not arbitrary. It has everything to do with our history of European colonization. But because we see it as far in the past, it is now seen as a purely social class issue. But in daily discourse this comes out in a variety of ways. Last names matter, ethnic lineage matters, and location of current address matters. Worst of all, skin color matters. We take pride in our mixed history as if it were representative of who we are as individuals. I talk about this with my mother all the time. We discuss how our community of San Pedro, in its infinite wisdom, takes pride in family wealth which has trickled down as some sort of social entitlement. Who your family is defines who you are. It is not about what you’ve done but what your name represents.

A recent poll came out in which it demonstrated that lighter-skinned people are more likely to be hired and sustain a long lasting education. Anthropologist Regina Martinez Casas noted that it is the indigenous that suffered discrimination the most but, ironically, it is these lighter-skinned groups whom are the minority. Ricardo Bucio Mujica visited my home town of Monterrey and discovered that my place of origin holds the number one position as the city in Mexico to discriminate against indigenous, women, and homosexuals. This is upsetting, not only as a fact, but because I am not surprised.

I will never forget a moment in one of my trips home in which I learned the term “nopal en la cara”. I had never heard of it and asked for clarification. It means that a person proverbially wears a cactus on their face. I was shocked. They were talking about someone they knew. As a way of putting them down, they resorted to use that phrase. It basically implies that they are some how lesser because they have darker skin. My first thought was, “Well, what does that have to do with anything?” This is where we need to begin talking about this issue. This phrase and terminology demonstrates a deep rooted issue that is embedded in racial relations in my community. What does it mean to have darker skin? As Martinez Casas noted, lighter skinned individuals are the minority. Why is it derogatory to have darker skin in Mexico?

My own hypothesis is that is has to do, again, with social class. Because its so embedded in the structure of our daily lives, we assume darker skin means less education and lesser financial standing. It is so deeply rooted, we don’t even question it. But this is a problem. How can we root for our own people in a foreign country when we don’t even acknowledge them in our own? I find it ironic that we quickly call Trump a racist when we ourselves play into it in our own communities. When the movie “The Help” came out, I am not kidding, my friends and I found a lot of similarities between the movie and what occurs in our own homes. That was the 50’s; it’s 2015. I even once tried to make it a project in one of my classes. Bringing up the subject in a liberal-progressive institution was one of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had. Not only could no one relate, no one could understand what the hell I was talking about. Why? Because it’s shocking. It’s shocking how we understand class relations in Monterrey; how we understand race relations, and how we approach it in our everyday life. It’s worth noting that it is easily visible in the service sector of our economy. I don’t know where to go from this, but I do believe it is worth bringing up. Particularly in my home town. The number one city with the most discrimination against the indigenous.

We should stand against Trump. He is creating a hostile environment for our emigrant friends. But I’d like to also put it on the table that we must start questioning what role we play as those that are better off. What do we do to help the situation? Who do we choose to give a job to? Who do we choose to invite to our homes? How do we treat those whom we’ve historically chosen to view as lesser? It’s time to talk about it. If I can suggest anything is; the next time you are in an expensive restaurant with friends or family, take a moment, look around, and think.

EDIT: For those who question my sources; look up CONAPRED, the institution which conducted the study.

http://www.conapred.org.mx/

http://noticias.terra.com.mx/mexico/estados/monterrey-es-donde-mas-se-discrimina-en-mexico-conapred,553bdcb346cc7410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html

Our Face: My Parents and Me

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Since my last post, I decided I wanted to start bringing in a more personal side of myself to this blog. Since that decision, I have had a hard time deciding how to do it. It involves somewhat unique experiences that have permeated so many areas of my life that choosing where or how to start has been overwhelming. But I have to start somewhere so I’ll start with the toughest part. I’ll begin with the people that made me, my parents. The reason I want to talk publicly about them is because we all have complex relationships with our parents, and that’s okay. Mine has been somewhat unique in that it has in part been based on my own circumstances of having been born with facial deformities. I want to share some of that relationship because the experiences I’ve had of being born that way, are not only mine, but theirs as well. I bring them into this, not only as a way of sharing with you my experiences under the knife, but as a way of expressing that I know my struggles are not my own and that they are constantly there with me.

After having been going to therapy in NY for a while, my parents started questioning the reasons behind it. They questioned the effectiveness since I’d been going for a couple of years and saw no end. In order to ease them on the idea, I invited my mother to come along with me to a session in one of her trips to NY. After having struggled to explain why it was a good thing I was going, my mother confessed something during our session that changed everything for me. She said “We’ve actually been waiting for it.” Meaning, she and my father had been waiting for the day my experiences under the knife would get to me. This not only made me cry, it calmed me.

My mother went on to explain to my therapist that when I was born, my mother told my father that they were going to do anything and everything they had to do to make me feel as normal as possible. That turned into over a dozen of reconstructive surgeries (I don’t actually remember the number now) from ages 5 to 20, travelling miles within the US, meeting some of the US’s most important doctors, weeks or months away from school, having had my mouth wired shut for two months, looking funny with weird apparatuses on my head, awkward interactions with curious strangers, and a lot of confusion about myself. I’ll be honest about something; there was also a lot of anger. Mostly towards my parents.

When I was younger I saw them as the culprit for my experiences. I blamed them not only for who I was but what was, as I saw it, being done to me. We now laugh at some of my childhood behaviour. We talk about how I would hide my mother’s keys to make her late for work or how I would say I hated green eyes (she has green eyes). But by the time I started opening up to my therapist in NY about my experiences in the surgical room, I also began talking about it a little more with my parents. When I was depressed, they were to blame, but when I felt better, they were and are my heroes.

I was often angered by the idea that they wouldn’t let me feel bad about myself. They were there and were supposed to be the ones to understand. But also, they were there. It hadn’t occurred to me how scary it was for them. Of the few memories I have (I’ve blocked out a lot), one of the more intense ones is having woken up from surgery, confused, not being able to move or properly see, and having my father shakenly hold my hand while we both sobbed. Another one is them attempting to blindly screw in a surgical screw in my jaw while a laid on their lap in pain. Another is them watching me frantically squish a fry into my wired-shut mouth out of frustration and hunger. By my twenties these were not my memories anymore but theirs. Mine now involve my experiences with having low self-esteem which continue to affect my everyday behaviour, theirs are the actual events that happened to me. I had dismissed this part.

I often become so self involved in my problems that I dismiss the reasons why they can’t deal with that fact that I have had problems. They dedicated so much of their money, time, and sanity to making me feel as beautiful and normal as possible that I can now understand their struggle. I could say that I am now happy and grateful but it’s still complicated. What I can say is that this journey of mine has made me think twice about how I deal with my situation. Yes, it happened to ME. But it also happened to them. And that is a complex relationship. For more that I have wanted them to accept everything I feel, I also have to accept what they feel. That has been the biggest lesson of having my face. When I started going to therapy, I was angered at the fact that after a while they started disapproving of it. My parents struggle to understand why I have had issues accepting myself but having had that session with my mother made me realize that they struggled too. At 24 I finally got to hear a little bit of their side of the story. It wasn’t easy either. The year after, I found myself rebelling in different ways and, I can now begrudgingly admit, attempting to get their attention through it. It made me feel petty and childish but it was based on this complex relationship I reference. It’s weird to look back at my behaviour and feelings in the past and admit to myself that much of it depended on my relationship to my parents. But this is because what happened to me also happened to them.

Some days I still struggle with myself. But that’s okay too; it’s been a long journey. But I also have to accept that the reason my parent’s struggle with this is because they love me that much. It’s been a journey of accepting that they did everything they could in order to see me be as happy as I can possibly be, while accepting that it came with a price. My parents are my heroes because they make no excuses (I have plenty for us all). While it was difficult for them to put me through the ordeal of surgery, they did it because they love me, period.

Most people in my life don’t know this side of my story. But it is the most important one. I’ve always made it about my emotional struggles and the mistakes I’ve made. But that is for me to overcome. The important part is that I can now step back a bit more everyday and see my experiences as shared experiences. It is not only about me, but about everyone that was with me during those experiences, particularly my parents. I haven’t made it easy on them and that is a fact they’ll appreciate me admitting. Unfortunately it was because they love me that much. I needed someone to blame and so I blamed the people that were there. The people that held my hand. The people that played with me in hotel rooms and called me beautiful. I needed to blame someone and so I blamed the people closest to me. For that I will always be sorry. But it was also because I love them that much.

A Vocabulary Lesson: The Real Meaning of ‘Zorra’

While on two separate dates in Mexico, with different men, they each found a moment in our conversations to point out how a woman they knew was a ‘zorra‘ (meaning slut). Immediately, I was turned off. First off, how is a woman’s sexual history of any interest to me? Second, how is a woman’s sexual history of any interest to them? And thirdly, why are they telling me? I didn’t ask. I’ve never been on a date and have, or even considered, pointing out to a guy and saying “hey, that guy is a slut”. But there is a reason why.

Personally, I don’t care. Life is difficult, relationships are complicated, and your body is yours to decide what to do with it. Sometimes we regret our use of it, but most of time, we own up to our own choices. But this concept of choice does not play similarly between men and women, or even those that straddle the gender binary. In conservative communities, like mine in Mexico, those distinctions are not only harder, but more explicit. There’s use of rhetoric familiar to all of us from there: Zorra (Slut) for women and Mujeriego (Womanizer) for men. The important thing to recognize is that those two terms both have significantly different meanings and significantly different repercussions. Let’s break them down.

Zorra refers to a woman being an easy lay. Mujeriego refers to men as being untrustworthy and promiscuous. From experience, I believe zorra is thrown around more loosely than its counterpart. Men use it; women use it. I’d like to point out that I’ve heard of instances of women I know being called zorra even when they hadn’t even slept with anyone yet. This does not happen with men. A woman’s self respect and integrity is immediately put into question when it becomes known that she has a lot of male friends. This brings up a lot of issues: First, it brings up this issue of whether or not women and men can be around each other in a non-sexual context. If you argue that men always sexualize women and therefore will always think of them as a sexual objects, then that’s one problem. We don’t think of it that way when its one guy with several women. Many actually question the man’s sexuality because of it. Not only that, but as an outdated insult (god forbid you hang around estrogen). Second, what does a woman hanging around men have to do with self-respect? In a way, it actually portrays men negatively. If she is surrounded by them, does it mean she’s putting herself in harm’s way? Pegs the question. And thirdly, being surrounded by the opposite sex does not have to be about sex. To set that label on the situation from the outside actually means that you are responsible for doing so, not the woman. You don’t know what the situation is and by choosing to sexualize it…well, it says more about you than her. 

Firsty, there’s a difference between “an easy lay” and being promiscuous. ‘Easy Lay’ suggests that attempting to have sexual relations with a woman won’t be difficult. Promiscuous implies that a person is often looking for casual sex. But the word ‘easy’ implies that it is up to the man to make it happen. It happens to the woman and she lets it happen; she’s easy (god forbid she may actually want to have sex). By being promiscuous, well, you like casual sex and have a lot of it. True, zorra is also used as a way to describe promiscuous women. But it doesn’t work conversely for men. Therefore, it empowers men and desinfranchises women.

The next thing to look at is their social meanings. Zorra does not only mean that a woman is an easy lay. It means that, again, she has no self-respect. The link society gives between self-respect and sex, I believe, is one of the most catastrophic things  to ever happen to women. When a woman has consensual sex as a single, her integrity as both a woman and person is automatically questioned by both genders. For a mujeriego, he is noted as untrustworthy to women (not men), but, his having sex is not the problem as much as the lying connotation. I’m not saying men don’t suffer stereotyping but the results are different and the social response is damning. “She was supposed to wait for marriage”, “How does she just give it away?”, “No one is going to want her now.” “He’ll cheat on you.”, “He’ll hurt you.”, “He’s a boss.”, “He can get any girl he wants.” Women are viewed as unmarriageable used socks (a comparison abstinence programs actually use!) and men are viewed as untameable by women and heroes by men. This idea of self-respect chastises women and elevates men.

The way we use these words are dramatically different. Both men and woman use zorra to denigrate her person. Her whole being is automatically tarnished. In my experience, calling a man mujeriego is usually in the context of warning a woman about a man she may show interest in. We want to protect her from harm; worse, her reputation. But the problem is, her reputation should not be on the balance on the basis of her personal sex life. Times have changed. No longer do the rules of society keep women from depending on men. We no longer marry at 20 (well, many of us) and we no longer are deprived from joining the workforce. This has dramatically changed sex dynamics. We have had women in the past fight for our place in the world and retaining outdated use of language is not only a disservice to them, but to us.

My experience living in New York as a woman is significantly different from that of Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of misogyny here. Women get cat-called constantly, they’re objectified in the work place, and taken advantage of in plenty of social situations. But there’s a difference: I’ve never heard the term ‘slut’ in my social surroundings. I have never heard of a woman being chastised or reprimanded for being sexually active. I have never worried about what the opposite sex thinks or believes about my personal experiences. It doesn’t even cross my mind. Let me be clear: I’m not saying it doesn’t happen to some degree. But the degree in which it occurs in my country is shameful. The institution of traditional marriage is still held very tightly. And that’s fine. But we must adapt the changes that are occurring in society and quit chastising women for changing with the times. Times are changing and holding on to outdated conservative labels causes more harm than good. I’m not attempting to tell anyone when, how, or with whom they should be sleeping with. I’m simply saying that at this day and age, calling a woman a zorra, says more about you than it does about her.