“The deaths of the young Argentine women, Marina Menegazzo (21 years old) and María José Coni (22) that occurred a year ago in Montañita (Santa Elena-Ecuador) have generated debate on gender equality and violence against women. With letters and messages broadcast on social networks, various people and feminist groups have taken the case as a banner of struggle.” El Comercio newspaper, Feb 2016.
“I ask for me and for all women whom you shushed, whom you silenced, on whose lives and dreams you shit, lift up your voice. We are going to fight, I by your side, in spirit, and I promise you that one day we are going to be so many that there won’t exist enough bags to shut us all up.” Guadalupe Acosta
On International Women’s Day, 8 March, countless congratulations and messages filled up various social media. Our smartphones seemed to be saturated with colorful “slogans” and in all of them, the same tone: Happy Women’s Day!
Simply: This is not a day to celebrate. It is a day to remember and reflect. The excuses, like the flowers, the messages, or the almost obligatory dinner does not redeem us from the injustice of gender, which women live daily, actually, makes it worse.
All of this apparent recognition leads me towards something bigger than the pleasure of feeling important for one day. I actually think that unconsciously they congratulate us because we have managed to move forward despite being women, as if being a woman is seen as a handicap that we must overcome to get ahead. Being a woman is still sometimes seen as someone not worthy of real, deeper compassion. Rather, we must congratulate and acknowledge women as individuals. If I congratulate a woman, it is because she is smart, creative, a fighter, or in general, she is just a great person.
Days have been converted simply into excuses, into opportunities to look good for a while. In consumer fairs. Mother’s Day, for example, tends to be an excuse to take a drink with friends at home “in tribute to MOM that I love so much.” As the entire world knows, for many bosses, Secretary’s Day is no more than an opportunity for lasciviousness. Easter: a little vacation to rumba for a few days. In short: one could continue enumerating every one of the days of the year.
On this day, as every day, I want to reflect on women: the wife, the mother, the daughter, the sister, the worker, the adventuress, the poet, the writer, the painter, the athlete, the singer, the politically activist, the crazy, the introverted, the fanatical and the peaceful woman, but mostly I want to reflect on the woman who is free and capable of being herself.
It moves me to listen to some women say: I cannot, I should not, what will my friends say, what will the Church say, what will society say, that’s not for us, I shouldn’t travel, I shouldn’t think, I shouldn’t dream, I should be careful with divorce. Above all, I hear women say they fear “being alone.” Many of the women I know have adopted the term ‘solitude’ as an ‘absolute failure’ because we learn from birth that old and peculiar story that there is no normal life without marriage or relationship.
I hear this, and it makes me want to share even more something I have learned on my own, the only thing I can share. Quite simply, it is that they- older generations, media, men, other women- forget to tell us that there is another path: “the path of self-love.” Many people may say that this is a cliché of the “new age of self-knowledge,” but definitely, whoever doesn’t live it, whoever is not willing to drop “their truths” to take a step towards “other truths” will live in ignorance and the selfishness of their own thoughts. We must be open to other possibilities.
We shouldn’t follow the expectations of anyone other than ourselves. Mireia Darder in her book “Born for Pleasure” tells us that: “The majority of women, prioritize everything else before ourselves […]: the children, the couple, parents, studies, work, cleaning, meals, washing machine… Our desires usually come last. I think that many women even lack desires, not only erotic but of any kind. When we forget ourselves, it is difficult to leave space for pleasure.”
And what happens to us when we talk about pleasure? I’ve found that the majority of women still believe that freely expressing our opinions, feelings, desires, emotions, etc. makes us “libertines” (to use polite terms with the general public). I have not found a group of women, including myself, who doesn’t make value judgments in regards to talking about desire and pleasure with others. Here in Ecuador, we are still not accustomed to “leaving space for our own pleasure,” as Darder says.
It is time to change “the view of gender” that our society has constructed with respect to women; this is our responsibility. We make small changes each day. One of the most gratifying things I tell my female friends is that we are not in the hands of the rest of humanity and we are not in the hands of the government; we are not even in the hands of our family, our children, our jobs, or society in general. The revolution starts with OURSELVES. Today we have so many more tools and freedom than women in the past. I think to the women who were subjugated to horrific labor and burned in the Triangle Shirt Factory of New York in 1911. Today, one of the reasons we celebrate women’s day is to commemorate them, the lives lost in that fire, and how far we’ve come. And yet…
When we talk about the past, it seems as though tragedies like the factory fire couldn’t occur in our present, that these situations were left behind. But nothing is further from the truth.
Today, we are facing tougher, more subtle realities. For this reason, the murders of Marina and María Jose, the Argentinian women whose were killed last year, as well as so many others cannot and must not be forgotten; there cannot be any more cases of femicide in Ecuador.
Just like them, one year ago, I decided to follow my dream of taking my first trip with a group of spectacular friends; we embarked on this journey with a mentality that we would do whatever we wanted without waiting for approval or the blessing of anybody. We decided to use our visas to be happy. We toured around the city, we met charming guys, we drank and enjoyed our time until dawn. Those four days were a time of minimal sleep; we were too busy enjoying ourselves. We enjoyed our time without fear of being battered, judged, subjected or murdered by a group of “sick” people who do not tolerate the simple truth that we have authority over our own bodies.
It annoys me to know that”society,” as seen through the media, continues to blame the “victims.” Incredibly, when there is a violent death of a woman, a series of moral prejudices discredits her for failing to comply with “the duty of being a woman,” which includes: not to travel alone, not to leave her home, not be with strangers, not to drink alcohol, and the list goes on.
The psychologist Gabriela Galarza highlights the following: “We still live in a state where there are no guarantees for women, where we don’t have conditions of safety, where our life in the community is always somehow exposed. We are victims of street harassment, domestic violence, and workplace harassment, and still, there is much to change, mainly from households, not to impose a respect for the fact of being a woman but for the fact of being a human being like anyone, as much for men as for women…The key to a good start in the midst of a society that wants to live coherently is to change the teachings and beliefs that are born in our homes. For it is there we construct the humans of the coming century, those children, and adolescents whom we shape from the womb they must acquire programming different from ours.”
The remaining work we still have to do is very broad, and it is not confined to a struggle by women, a group that some call “feminists” in a judgmental manner. This is about a struggle for everyone, where everyone has something he/she can do from their home, from their work, from their role as readers and questioners. How many women have to die so we wake up as a society? How many moments of inequality must we be submitted to in order to be recognized as human beings? How many governments have to pass for our rights be legitimately accepted? How many tears must we spill to stop being judged as the weaker sex? Finally: What we are doing today, this present moment, to build a better, coherent and more equitable world?
One way we can start, as we reflect on this past Women’s Day, is to emphasize that we don’t want just one day for flowers and superficial appreciation. We, as women, want everyone to tell us what you are doing to achieve equality between men and women, in small and big ways. How can you take action to end the judgmental mentalities that lead to horrible cases of femicide. The mindsets of men and women must change. Rather than judgment, we have to be open to the individual. The blame cannot be on the victim. This is what must continue as we move past Women’s Day and into every day.
It is important to note also that we, as women, must break apart the feud of us vs. them. This is not just women’s responsibility; it is men’s responsibility as well. We as women also have to be supportive of one another. With these mentalities, we can unite thousands of women who have been silenced. We can assure them that there will be no regime, no government, no law, no prejudice, no belief, no tradition, or no more sick people who will cut our wings as we learn to keep flying.
“Article dedicated to the Memory of Marina Menegazzo and María José Coni”