Obscenities large and small join in one pattern of overarching systemic oppressions. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and the various prejudices and cruelties by which we destroy our natural cooperation and support for one another.
In Mesoamerica, a series of brutal murders are taking place against women. But even more “micro” aggressions — inappropriate jokes, groping, intolerant comments, casual use of slurs, and unwanted sexual advances — fit that same pattern.
Society permits sexism. Sexism is embedded, enmeshed, in every aspect of every institution in our society. Sexism is internalized by all the members of our society. We must confront and acknowledge this in ourselves, deliberately, repeatedly, every day, each of us privately and publicly.
The Guardian reported recently on the obscene oppression taking place in Mexico and environs right now:
[Nadia] Vera was the 36th women’s rights defender – community leaders, social activists and journalists – to be murdered in Mexico since 2010, according to the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders of Mexico (RNDDHM). She was the third victim from Veracruz. However, the most dangerous place by far is Guerrero, the state where 43 student teachers disappeared last September after being attacked by drug cartel hitmen and corrupt police. Nine women’s rights defenders have been murdered in the state since 2010.
The problem isn’t confined to Mexico: at least 20 women were killed in the same period in the dangerous triangle of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador amid a toxic mix of gender violence, organised crime, corruption and impunity, where rights defenders are under constant threat.
In 2012 alone, 414 other attacks, including threats, psychological harassment, excessive force and sexual violence, were registered in the region, a study by the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders found (pdf). State forces – police, soldiers, and government officials – were responsible for almost 90% of attacks.
In Mexico, those defending women’s rights, environmental campaigners and women searching for missing loved ones are most vulnerable. More than 23,000 people have disappeared since 2006, and families are often left on their own to investigate.
The critical approach to this would point out that Mesoamerica is not alone, nor is it anomalous. It is following a normative pattern recognizable from most patriarchal, male-supremacist societies.
Probably the most searing moment in that article for me was the point that state forces — the authorities — were responsible for the vast majority of attacks. Those who have some knowledge of the world, gained so often at painful cost, will understand. It is tragic, but we cannot rely on those who are in authority and in positions of respect to act with justice. Instead, very often, those who are given positions of power and authority become indebted to the status quo and do not take action when it is imperative to save others from suffering and degradation. Instead, they become Jesuitical with words, seeking to preserve the bubble reputation at all costs, even in the cannon’s mouth, to do anything but shake up an unjust system.
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.