Women in Mexico are marching not only against sexual violence, but also against the excuses for it and the impunity that surrounds it. The “March of the Whores,” as they called it, represents a fresh step in the development of Mexican feminism, taking its cue from an earlier protest held in Canada.
Women, men, and children, about 2,500 in all, marched through Mexico City on Sunday, June 12 in what they called the “March of the Whores,” a protest against violence against women which is so often justified by saying that the woman caused it or the woman asked for it. Or simply saying, “The woman was a whore.”
The march in Mexico was inspired by a similar one in Canada where 3,000 women participated in the first Slutwalk in Toronto on April 3. Canadian women and men were protesting the remark by police officer Michael Sanguinetti that if women wanted to avoid rape they should not dress “like sluts.” He subsequently apologized for the remark.
“Listen, You Fool, I Choose Who I Screw!”
Women in Mexico City marched to the Juárez Monument on Central Park, some of them shouting, “Listen, you fool, I choose who I screw” (“!Escucha, baboso, yo elijo a quien me cojo!”). At the rally speakers demanded that women victims of sexual violence have access to health services which must include emergency contraception and the right to interrupt a pregnancy. They also demanded administrative sanctions and civil and criminal penalties against any public servant who committed institutional gender violence.
As one woman speaker said, “Women are not objects, we are human beings, and we deserve to have our rights respected, above all by the government.” Women in Mexico are frequently accosted by police officers, and several women were sexually abused or raped by police officers in actions against social movements in the last few years. Police officers are seldom investigated, tried, or punished for their actions.
Who’s a “Whore”?
Gabriela Amancaya, an activist in Atrévete DF, said that the point of the demonstrations was to make it clear that “We are fed up with abuse in the streets in general and with the silence that surrounds this issue.”
As Marta Lamas wrote in the Mexican magazine Proceso:
Using the stigmatized word “whore” demonstrates a defiant and liberating attitude. “Whore” isn’t only used to name sex workers; it is used to describe women who don’t behave “decently” (whether that’s because they have sexual relations as they please or simply because they dress in a suggestive way); but also some men use the term as vengeance against a woman who resists their unwanted advances. Some men use the word “whore” as an insult and socially it is used to control women. The fear of being called “whores” predisposes them to put up with bad treatment and with the restriction of their desires. So, the arbitrary and sexist use of “whore” when women’s behavior is not what’s expected of them means that at any moment women can be stigmatized as “whores.”
Enforce the Law
Speaking at the Marcha de las Putas in Mexico City, Yuriria Rodríguez, a member of the Citizens’ National Monitor of Femicide (OCFN), demanded that the federal and state authorities implement Mexico’s Official Norm 046 on Family and Sexual Violence against Women which, she said, though it was published two years ago in the Diario Oficial de la Federación (comparable to the U.S. Federal Register), is “systematically ignored.”
“The norm is the result of a long fight to guarantee legal access to health services when women are the victims of sexual violence, when they become pregnant as a result and require an abortion, cases in which the government should provide immediate urgent attention,” she said.
Dan La Botz is a Cincinnati-based teacher, writer and activist.