In April 2019, #metoo took hold of social media in Mexico. In response, a collective of women working in publishing released a statement with specific demands for harassment-free spaces, workplace protocols against sexual and emotional violence, and equal representation and pay in their diverse professional spaces and activities. Gabriela Jauregui reflects on #MujeresJuntasMarabunta.
I write to you from this side of the screen, from this side of the page, from the despair of having lived in fear and having at the same time broken with that fear. I write to you with a radical tenderness for others and also for myself, which in my body and my mind implies ‘not to collapse when faced with our contradictions’ and also ‘not to allow our existential demons to become permanent cynicism’ (from the Radical Tenderness Manifesto).
Each word I write every single day, each word which you are now reading on this page, implies time stolen back from fear.
That fear stole my peace, my health, my writing time and my time for thinking – for I am a woman who, like many others, has survived the physical, psychological and economical violence of an ex-partner. Amongst many other things, that fear silenced me. But, as my mother used to tell me when I was a child: ‘Do not fear fear.’ Now I am taking this and more back from fear.
So here I go, stealing these words from fear and silence, on my own time recovered, echoing what Argentinean anthropologist Rita Segato has written in a speech regarding feminism, literature and #metoo movements in Latin America, where we are moved from the feeling of ‘despair to one of consciousness’, and where ‘our logic must be tragic, in the sense that it can coexist alongside inconsistencies, with incompatible truths, with the equation a and non-a, both opposite and true and simultaneous. And therefore always, always equipped with the vital intensity of disobedience.’
What I can disobey now, what we all disobey in our tragic and inconsistent and collective logic, is patriarchy’s pact of silence.
We can also disobey the rush of social media, which demands that we act quickly and sometimes in ways that are neglectful of ourselves and others; and we continue to disobey those who say ‘what women should be doing is’, those who say ‘go file a lawsuit with Papa State so He may defend you.’
In the months since the #metoo movement started in Mexico, several writers, many (older) (famous) (male) writers have written articles saying we should all move on to the post-#metoo era (reminding me of those who insist that we should ‘just get over it’ and move into the post-racial era, right?); or that now that women have power they don’t know what to do with it; or that instead of burning men at the stake women should go file proper legal suits within the official judicial system.
(They often fail to note that in Mexico, impunity for crimes in the justice system is estimated at 95% by the most conservative studies, sometimes up to 99% – and when women are involved this is especially the case.)
Many, if not all, of these male writers who want to ‘move on’ have argued that quotas to achieve parity are absurd, that women do not need these ‘humiliating’, ‘useless’ measures (even though in literature, most prizes and publications are overwhelmingly male-dominated, still, today, in the 21st century, yes). But they stress that we can count on their solidarity with regards to femicide.
Well thank goodness for that, dear colleagues, we are grateful for your moral support at the very least in that regard – especially in Mexico where the femicide rate is currently at 9 women per day.
The questions I ask these writers is this: do you honestly think that radical violence against women remains completely isolated and unlinked from the privileged culture of literature? Does the world of culture not reflect and mirror what happens on the streets? Does our writing not generate narratives and uphold certain world views? Or is it actively fighting this reality? Is it any surprise then, really, that abuses of all sorts are committed by men in positions of power in the literary field, too?
And despite everything, no, our logic cannot be that of the punitive State, cannot be that of the voraciously capitalist social media. Women cannot speed up the process (as much as we might sometimes like to, for this is a painful process for everyone). And so, if #metoo speaks to the State, as Segato says, but also to the voluble abstraction of Public Opinion, in Mexico, a sister hashtag was created almost simultaneously: #MujeresJuntasMarabunta. This hashtag does not only speak to the State or Public Opinion, it speaks to us, men and women and gender non-conforming people, and interpellates us in a horizontal, ineluctable and intimate way.
(The hashtag’s name is derived from a well-known expression in Spanish stating, Mujeres juntas, ni difuntas – loosely translated as women together, not even dead – and mutates it to Mujeres juntas, marabunta – women together are marabunta, or legion).
Referring to both sister hashtags, but, and also, to the enormous amount of organizing and community involvement behind both, in The End of Women’s Silence, Cristina Rivera Garza asks,
Did we know these stories? Of course we did, sometimes by word of mouth, sometimes in our own flesh […] Were the rest aware? Of course they were, sometimes by word of mouth, sometimes in their own flesh. […] Thus amplifying voices and extending the echoes of other shouts, all these stories dressed in sounds and letters with proper and improper names, in the public sphere, including twitter, took on a weight that in many ways felt like horror. […] It was a world founded on women’s silence. It was a world that required the most intimate silence from women, there where they are fatally wounded, in order to keep functioning.
Ergo we disobey.
To me, and I am sure to most of us, everything that has happened with the #metoo writer’s movement and beyond, does not have the aim to destroy anyone’s lives – neither women’s nor men’s – but rather to help make visible a structural violence and to build a world where, as the Zapatistas would say, many worlds can coexist.
A world in which the coupling of fear/power is not what mediates our relationships, but rather desire, openness, vulnerability, curiosity, imagination.
Indeed, if ‘in the beginning was the word’ and it is from and with words that we create and reflect upon the world we inhabit, that we imagine other possible worlds, then what has been made clear is that we do so in the midst of violence that reflects the general murderous macho violence of our countries. But it is also clear that, despite that violence, women keep writing. And how do we keep writing? Together.
As Cristina Rivera Garza continues in her text, ‘Our stories, jumbled. Our voices, all at the same time. It was so difficult to distinguish between what was your own and what was everyone’s, we will say with that great smile on our lips inspired by the community.’ This diverse, plural community of women writers, translators, editors, festival directors, press and media managers, and all women working with words that make up the #MujeresJuntasMarabunta, seemed unheard of until now. Now this community unites its voices and lifts its communal pen to change the structures that kill us, disappear us, mutilate us, silence us, invisibilize us. As the Collective Words of the #MujeresJuntasMarabunta state, ‘We are generating a counternarrative for gender equality. We are rewriting the future.’
Gabriela Jauregui (Mexico City, 1979) is the author of the short story collection, La Memoria de las cosas (Sexto Piso), the hybrid books ManyFiestas (Gato Negro), Leash Seeks Lost Bitch (Song Cave), and the poetry collection Controlled Decay (Akashic Books/Black Goat Press). She is also coauthor and editor of the feminist anthology Tsunami (Sexto Piso) and Taller de Taquimecanografía (Tumbona). She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California and and MFA from the University of California Riverside. In 2017, she was selected as one of the best writers in Latin America as part of the Hay Festival’s Bogotá39 list. She currently lives in Mexico City.
For more about the women writer’s collective actions, please check out #mujeresjuntasmarabunta and read the statement.
Photo credit: Víctor Benítez