What was and what is.

I’ve gone awol for the past several months. I’ve updated the look of this blog. Give it a bit more personality. Try this again.

There’s something about change that makes me uneasy. It makes me stop myself from thinking about what is going on around me. It’s a self-defense mechanism, you see. If I stop to think about it, I may jump to conclusions about how I may or may not feel, allowing myself to indulge in passing emotions. I rather not.

I rather keep moving until the sequences of my day to day predetermine how I will be feeling. It helps me keep it together while I figure out what exactly I am doing. I also know that’s bullshit. I don’t know what it says about me but I also don’t really care, to be quite frank.

As long as the wheels keep turning and you continue to find the necessary amount of grease to keep them going. Blah, blah, blah.

I’ve changed homes, my living situation, the environment and the context I found myself in. It’s been okay so far. Some things I’m very excited about. Others, I just want to slap my forehead with my open palm and just close my eyes. It’s like I’ve come home and yet I don’t understand anything about this strange land I’ve arrived to.

I’m from this place I’ve returned to, yet I feel like a visitor. A foreigner that knows too much about the place they are visiting but not enough that they can pass for a local.

It’s not that I’m closed off to their ways, it’s that I just don’t understand them. You become so use to doing things a certain way, years of having adapted to one thing in one place, that realizing you have to rearrange all of that is no easy task. Not only that, you actually really liked the way things were.

Oh well. I’ll just have to remember to always make room for what was.

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What The Hell Are We Fighting For?: Mexico and “the Family Unit”

I’m incredibly privileged and sometimes I forget.

I’m not sure whom I’m directing myself towards. To write this as an attempt to have it speak to the people of Mexico seems futile. To write this in English…well maybe it can be more widely read. After all, we are a country that sends its best.

I’ve been living in New York City for seven years. I went to a very liberal university for both undergraduate and graduate school. I have surrounded myself with inspiring hard working friends. I have insurmountable support from my family in Mexico and I want for nothing except what I, only, could get myself in the way of. But sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget the environment I stepped out of. One in where the social structures in place prevent others, different from me, from forgetting where they find themselves.

Yesterday, one of several marchas, or protests, nationwide, took place in Mexico calling for the “protection” of “the family unit”.  This was a large protest. A protest for the family unit based on one father, one mother, and however many children they may want to produce.

When I speak of forgetting, I’m referring to my position as a Mexican living in a highly democratic society in which most of the time, not always but most the time, the basic fundamentals of democracy do win.

The president of Mexico, the same guy that just offensively invited Donald Trump to our country, just signed an initiative to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Go figure he’d get something right. Unfortunately, this has caused an uproar.

What I forget is that Mexico is still a very confused country. As a developing nation that suffers from a corrupt government, corrupt policing, a corrupt economy, a corrupt public education system, and bases its aspirations mostly on ideology rather than fact; manipulation seems to be the only way to mobilize its people.

We are a people that either extort or are victims of extortion. We allow the powers that be to stand on our shoulders as long as we can go through the day without being bothered. We have, to a large degree, become an apathetic people who, instead of fighting for what we deserve, rather accept and wish for the best.

And then yesterday happened.

I sometimes forget that my country does have a fire in it. A powerful passion that is rarely used. One that is incomparable to that of the country I find myself in. We are a country of happiness. A country that has offered the world Nobel Prize winners. A country that has offered medical, scientific, and manufacturing advancements that compete at a global level. Not to mention, a country that has given you the best food, beer, and tequila you’ll ever have.

We are a people that want to sit down with you, have a beer, and have a good laugh. But we are also a people that sends its best because our own country fails us often.

But what the hell are we fighting for now?

As a progressive feminist Mexican in NY, I am comfortable where I am. If I speak, I speak to the choir. I may have a debate, but its a healthy one. No one leaves offended and its all fair game. This is not the case in Mexico. That is what I forget and that is a privilege.

When I speak of an equalitarian society in Mexico, I’m often welcomed with a rolling of the eyes, a pat on the back, and a dismissive “oh well” attitude. If it doesn’t affect them, its not an issue. This is an example of the general attitude I receive when visiting the country I call home.

But if I scroll on Facebook to posts about women or the LGBT community in Mexico, the comment section is dominated by replies that refer to christian traditional values. I go through them and in a seconds time become flustered with confusion, anger, and a feeling of powerlessness. The only thought that goes through my mind is: How?

How are we the country that looks to feel accepted out of it and yet can’t even accept our own within it?

With all of our problems, yesterday, the people of Mexico stood up for an imaginary problem. Imaginary because the wood and smoke used to ignite that fire was based on nothing more than old age tradition. A tradition which is looked to be imposed over actual democracy.

Yesterday, we were not our best. We were our petty, scared, and self-manipulated selves. The ones that fear to be told our truths rather than face our own reality. The ones that stick our heads in the ground rather than stick it above the water and fight for ourselves. The ones that shiver at the thought of change. Change that may allow us to be that which we aspire. Change that may allow us to move into the future and let go of the past. Very unfortunate aspects of who we are. Aspects that we take for granted at times but get in the way of our own success as a country.

I love my country; but I often feel ashamed of it.

We laugh at our neighboring country, the one I currently live in. But it is a country where mistakes are observed and fixed, not regurgitated and repeated.

After the Orlando shooting happened, an incident where many of the queer community died, I posed the question: What kind of country does America want to be? Now, I ask my home, my country, my people: What kind of country does Mexico want to be?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Monterrey: The Most Racist City in Mexico

cara-de-nopal

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

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.