Note from Intern Anita Ballesteros: Patricia Carrillo Collard, in this week’s powerful blog post, snaps the reader to attention. Patricia challenges us all to look deeper within ourselves with her reflections on societal acceptance of violence against women and marginalization of women as a result of conscious — and subconscious — misogyny.
In May 2017, the news of Lesvy’s death, a student found strangled by a public phone booth cord on the campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, caught me by surprise while I was in an Uber. I imagined a pair of hands, a telephone cord wrapped in rings around a woman’s neck, a life snuffed out at twenty-two years of age. My throat closed and a burning pang from my stomach shot through me. The driver and I were in the car alone. I automatically went over how I was dressed: Was my skirt too short? Had I closed my legs properly, to avoid giving the wrong impression? I haven’t counted the femicides committed since then, because if I did I would never sleep. But there was an article written after a twenty-three-year-old woman’s murder on September 2 in Tlalpan, a district in Mexico City, that mentioned 1,339 femicides in 2017 so far1 – almost five per day. Why are our lives in danger, simply because we are female?
One of the reasons violence occurs is because of the belief that ‘others’ have fewer rights: if you say no, you can’t do that because you’re a girl; if you teach boys that girls are inferior; if you make girls think they will only be wanted if they are pretty and well-behaved; if you give more importance to boys’ education than girls’; if your friends brag about their manly conquests but the women in their stories are sluts for sleeping with them; if you doubt that a woman has done a job because it’s so well done; if you think that because of the way she dresses she is begging to be raped; or that the woman should be the one to cook and clean and take care of the children simply because she is a woman; if you think she is a bad mother because she works while her children are young; if you ask who she slept with to get a promotion; if you think she is unprofessional because she quit her job to take care of her children; if she is the one asking questions, but you turn and answer the man present – are you contributing to violence against women?
In Jalisco, the state where I live, three out of four women 15 years and over have endured violence2, almost half of married and cohabitating women have been physically abused by their partners3, and between 2009 and 2015, the number of femicides tripled4. Given this scenario, I often ask myself if my writing makes a difference. I’ve been told that I type away furiously, but I doubt this will save a woman’s life; although I’m convinced that the little details are what makes violence possible, and gives it the fuel to burn harder and further. And these are the details that feed my writing.
Psychoanalysts assert that not recognizing others is violence and I think this is a kind of violence that women suffer from: others see us as what they want us to be, not for what we are. They value the things we should do, not what we actually do, and they tell us what we can aspire to, without taking our own aspirations into account. I had friends in high school who didn’t go to university because they were women, regardless of their academic performance, their interests, or their ambitions. Of course, I graduated in 1990 and times have changed. But I recently heard a mother saying that it didn’t matter what her daughter studied, or where, because she is a woman. If you expect someone else to take care of your daughter and control her life, do you realize that you are going to have condemned her to vulnerability? It will be that much harder for her to leave an abusive and violent relationship if she depends economically and emotionally on her partner.
The documentary Intimate Battles presents cases of domestic violence in Spain, the United States, Finland, India, and Mexico, and it confirmed the importance of little details for me. Even in such different countries, there are common elements in every case, such as the women’s initial reactions when faced with their partner’s outbursts, the way men behave, society’s reaction, the weight of tradition, and inaction from authorities. One interviewer pointed out that, “Without complicity, something that is completely abnormal cannot be normalized.” And this is what I ask myself through my writing, again and again: In what ways are each of us complicit in sabotaging women’s safety, in denying them their rights, and in seeing something so unacceptable as normal?
1 Villalvazo, FridaGuerrera, “Victoria Salas: femicide in Tlalpan,” Vice, October 11, 2017. The article does not mention the source for this statistic.
2 Ríos, Julio, “Indifference that kills,” La Gaceta, Universidad of Guadalajara, April 13, 2016.
3 National Survey on the Dynamics of Household Relationships, (ENDIREH), INEGI, 2011.
4 Melgoza, Alejandro, “Femicides triple in Jalisco,” El Universal, March 22, 2016.
Photo Credit: Спутник.2012
Patricia Carrillo Collard was born in Mazatlán, Mexico, and lives in Guadalajara since 2002. Her book of short stories Nadie que me comprenda (forthcoming) won the 2015 Gilberto Owen National Literature Award. She has published two children’s books: Encrucijada, second edition by the State of Mexico Publishing Fund, and Aventuras de una nube, with Letras para Volar, a reading encouragement program of the University of Guadalajara. She studied Economics at ITAM and a Master in Public Policy at Princeton University.