By RICARDO CASTILLO
It was never supposed to turn into a free-for-all political power grab, but it did.
A week ago, various feminist organizations issued a summons a total stoppage of female activities on Monday, March 9. The plan was made official by a group called Witches of the Sea, located in the state of Veracruz.
On Feb 18, an unidentified “feminist collective” issued a tweet and a printed post card claiming “if we stop the world stops,” which immediately went viral nationwide as the message made several demands, including “not one woman on the streets, not one woman on the job, not one girl in the schools, not one young woman at universities, not one woman buying, #undiasinmujeres, #OneDayWithoutUs, #National Stoppag, pic.twitter.com/zcOquRAqvH.
The announcement also added the text “Without women? Don’t they care for us? Don’t we exist? See how it would be if we no longer existed …pass the word, join. If with burning and shouting they don’t see us … granted, they will not see us!”
Given the humongous response the call for protest has had, the summons not only went viral, but also political. Female politicians from all political parties are joining the movement, for the most part “on a personal basis.”
The issue began to go political after Beatriz Gutiérrez Muller, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) wife, aid she had decided to join the stoppage and then withdrew her commitment.
The conservative press immediately claimed that AMLO had twisted her arm to withdraw “No, she’s free,” he responded. “She is a woman with her own criterion and performs according to her convictions.”
AMLO, however, has been pummeling this particular female stoppage, claiming that maybe it is a genuine cause, but it is being manipulated by conservatives – several women from the National Action Party (PAN) have joined – “who suddenly turned feminists.” AMLO said that “conservatives are prone to take advantage of the pain of other people.”
He acknowledged that “there are women behind it, yes, but there is also a black hand manipulating the movement.”
He added, “I say this softly, so that I don’t make them mad.”
Both AMLO and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum have said that women in their government administrations can take the day, or not, no questions asked. They’ll get paid for the day regardless.
But the question is: What’s viral and what’s not?
According to a poll published in last Sunday’s edition by El Economista financial newspaper, read mostly by women executives, the answer as to participation in the work stoppage is almost evenly split, with 54 of responders answering yes and 46 percent answering no.
Other attempts to gauge response to the Witches of the Sea are similarly split at 50/50, derailing a bit the notion that these women have the majority of vote in Mexico. Maybe, as a whole, women represent 53 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Institute (INE), but their vote is splintered into many different factions, and the protest proposed by the radical feminists is no different, even if there is general sympathy for the protest.
Meanwhile, most newspapers are running articles on machismo and the ill treatment women get in Mexico, with a strong emphasis on the brutal growth of femicides over the past two years.
Actually, and chillingly, femicides are nothing new in Mexico. Just to make the point, the “Dead Women of Ciudad Juarez” is a good example. Killers and rapists had their heyday over 10 years ago with the toll of murdered women, mostly girls working at maquiladora industries, rose into the tens of thousands. Nobody knew exactly how many died, but what is a fact is that few men were indicted, even though it could be told by the brutality of the murders that they were carried out by males since nearly all the victims were raped.
So the fact that women are running scared in Mexico is not a surprise, but one wonders how much good a protest claiming #Adaywithoutwomen will make. One could hope that it will stop the violence, but all sorts of prior protests – including “the rapist is you” movement — have done little to suffocate the heinous beast raging in the heart of many a Mexican male.