Chanting “¡Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina, la Marcha de las Putas por América Latina!” or “Alert, alert, alert, a walking alert: the Slutwalk is walking across Latin America,” 5,000 women, men, and children marched into feminist history—and indeed, its future—as they demanded the end of violence against women both in Mexico City and throughout the country.
By now, the Slutwalk, or as its known in Latin America, the Marcha de las Putas, has taken place throughout the U.S. in cities such as Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and one is scheduled for New York. There have been other Slutwalks throughout the world in Amsterdam, London, and another will take place in Delhi. Inspired by the original Toronto Slutwalk, Mexican feminists have their own vision for how to take down machismo.
I recently spoke to Gabriela Amancaya, the founder of AtreveteDF, which is the Mexico City chapter of the New York-based Hollaback!, about her recent involvement in organizing the Marcha de las Putas that took place in Mexico City on June 12. Like its parent Hollaback!—which kick-started the global movement against street harassment leveraging a trifecta of activism tools such as mobile technology, blogging, and policy advocacy to change the daily lives of women and LGBT people—AtreveteDF has done some kick-starting of its own, leading “put@s alliad@s” or “slut-women” and “slut-men,” to hold their own marchas throughout Mexico.
The Slutwalk is now a worldwide event. What prompted the Marcha de las Putas to start in Mexico?
It all started when Minerva Valenzuela (@ladelcabaret) wrote an article in collaboration with @diosadelaweb where she asked herself why we hadn’t held a Slutwalk in Mexico yet. She soon contacted Edith López (@feminicidios), Areli Rojas (@barbieroja) and myself (@atrevetedf) to open a Facebook group. In two days, about 2,000 people had joined and we soon created the event to confirm assistance.
In Mexico we have many reasons to march, the most recent event in our country that reflects this is the suggestion of the Mayor of Navolato, Sinaloa in which he asked that mini-skirts be prohibited in order to avoid pregnancies. This is just an example of measures that have been taken around the country to monitor and control women’s bodies and to avoid assuming adequate responsibility for sexual abuse and gender-based violence. Above all, we are quite aware of the rates of violence against women in Mexico and the impunity around the feminicidios of our sisters.
In the following weeks, the city legislature will vote on whether to typify femicide as a crime in D.F. (Distrito Federal, Mexico City). The passing of this piece of legislation will be a crucial moment, the first one in the country. So, we also marched to demand that our representatives vote in favor of it. We demanded as well that the “Norma 046” be monitored, as this federal norm establishes that women who are survivors of rape, which happens every four minutes in Mexico, must be allowed to have abortions and morning after pills at their disposal in case they ask for them. In many [Mexican] states, public health providers are refusing to provide morning after pills with the argument that they have run out of them. Again, women are not being allowed to make decisions about their bodies even if it has been established as such by law.
Can you describe how the phenomenon of the Marcha has inspired not only women in Mexico City but also women across Mexico?
Right after the two Facebook event pages were created—one page was created by us and another one was created by an activist who runs a Facebook group named No más Feminicidios (No more femicides)—people from all over Mexico asked us if we would replicate the Marcha de las Putas in other cities, and many stepped up to organize one in their communities. Marchas de las Putas will or have taken place in cities such as Acapulco, Cancún, Chihuahua, León, Morelia, Oaxaca, Orizaba, Tijuana and Xalapa. Some people from other states in Mexico also traveled to the capital to attend our marcha. I think that this reflects the national urge to raise our voices in a collective way to say enough with gender-based violence and the cowardly excuses that have been used to justify it.
In the U.S., some women of color have criticized the Slutwalks for not including the perspective of women of color. In other words, Slutwalk is seen as a white women’s movement rather than that of women of color. In what ways was the Marcha de las Putas a distinctly Mexican women’s event, with Mexican women’s concerns?
We were informed about this issue in the U.S. and personally, I think it is a valid statement. We have to acknowledge our privilege in all cases, as there is no excuse. When we decided to hold a Marcha de las Putas in Mexico City, it was because we knew that machismo exists all over the world but within different contexts. In Mexico, the rates of gender-based violence are alarming, and while the intersections of race, class and ethnicity are different here than in the U.S., and while we recognize that raising our voices against the silence that has surrounded sexual abuse is still a privilege that not all people in our country have, it is important to break the silence around it wherever possible.
The best example of this is how these marches are now taking place all over Latin America such as in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Managua (Nicaragua), Matagalpa (Nicaragua), Tegucigalpa (Honduras), etc. It is empowering and inspiring to see the movement grow and understand that this is not an imported initiative; instead, it is a worldwide recognition of an issue that pertains to us all.
In the case of Mexico, we are going through a political and economic crisis where violence in general is internalized and normalized and thus gender-based violence is swept under the rug. One of the main concerns of the Marcha de las Putas in Mexico City was the one of femicide being typified as a crime. Moreover, in the Marcha, there were people of all gender identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages, occupations and ideals, and I would say that it was quite inclusive. There were many protest signs recognizing our sisters who have been murdered all over the country and in the context of the so-called “war on drugs,” demanding that the authorities stop victim blaming. There were also some that demanded justice for indigenous women abused by the military, an issue that has been treated with the utmost impunity in the last few decades. It all boils down to unequal power relations and machismo taking different forms, it happens all over the world and we are determined to speak out against it.
What is the future of feminism in Mexico? How will the Marcha de la Putas bring feminism in Mexico to the next level?
An important thing that we mentioned in the speeches was that we hoped to leave la Marcha de las Putas ready to continue raising our voices, to care for each other, to think about ways in which we could end the sexual violence that we are victims of or witness on a daily basis. This includes people of all gender identities intervening and making it known that these types of abuse are unacceptable.
As Minerva Valenzuela says, “Now we do not have to wait until the feminists organize to speak up for women’s rights, everybody has a role in creating solutions and not only the responsibility but the obligation to talk about sexual violence in their communities.”
In regards to the future of feminism in Mexico, Edith López, another co-organizer of La Marcha, says that the established meaning of the word feminism has been confronted in order to raise consciousness in our communities, to disrupt old labels, and to create new meanings. The feminist struggle in Mexico has been disqualified, amongst other things, by stating that women already enjoy all rights possible (especially in Mexico City where abortion is legal and same-sex marriage is too) but it is impossible to create solutions to an issue that has not even been emphasized enough.
Moreover, the Marcha de las Putas sets an important example that the fight for women’s rights must be inclusive. It is common to hear, in many criticisms of feminism, that “machismo” is the same as “feminismo” and with movements like this one we can see that there are advantages to having an egalitarian society where there is the eradication of gender-based violence.
Everybody has a role in ending sexual abuse and victim blaming. Youth are playing an important role in social movements and social media has allowed for the empowerment of more people to become activists. In the Marcha de las Putas in Mexico City, these two factors have been successfully applied to the new feminist movement, which has surprisingly joined feminists of all types, including Marta Lamas, a well-known and established Mexican feminist, and who has supported us publicly on television.
What do you hope will come out of the Marcha de las Putas in DF and across the country?
First of all, it has sparked an enormous amount of attention and this has created and continued a dialogue in all sectors of society. That is how change happens, by talking about a problem and making it visible. Sexual abuse and all forms of gender-based violence are painful and have left deep scars. Our society needs community and while gender-based violence exists, this will not be possible. Since such violence takes different forms, it has generated debate around city-specific issues. There are still other marchas that will take place in other [Mexican] states, and some of them have taken the form of art and or performance and we think this is very good for the movement.
What was the most important part of the march for you?
For me, it was the moment that I arrived at the Glorieta de la Palma in Mexico City and saw people getting ready with their different signs and creative forms of conveying their message; everybody had a story to tell. The Facebook group and event reservations summed up more than 30, 000 people. To be honest, we didn’t know if 100 people or 30, 000 would attend. It was very moving to see the crowds forming, totaling 5,000 people.
When we started to walk, bystanders applauded and while there were many taking pictures in an objectifying manner, it was like that gave us more reasons to yell out, chant, and dance; we used our voices as tools for peace. I think that an impressive detail of the march was that within it, people recognized and clearly reaffirmed that sexual abuse and gender-based violence includes not only rape but also sexual harassment, and since we usually do not respond to it or are blamed when we do speak out, we were stating that we are not taking it anymore.
Support Hollaback! and AtreveteDF’s work on ending street harassment and violence against women and the LGBT community by giving to their “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign.