On the Feminist Glitter Revolt in Mexico City
Let’s put it this way – I am not someone who has no idea how is it to be raped in Mexico City with no chance to get any help from the police, let alone legal resources and a fair trial, so this issue is very close to my heart, as it is to other countless Mexican women.
A feminist Glitter Revolt (“la Diamantada” or “Brillanteada”) took place on August 12 and 16 in the heart of the old Aztec capital, causing the total destruction of an express-bus station, lots of buildings covered in glitter with signs against rape and femicides, and a few acts of physical confrontation (like women painting the face of a young man who refused to stay away from a protest that was widely announced as a women-only event, and women pushing two male reporters out). However, it all was triggered by actions far more violent than the resulting ones. That’s what the mainstream media and the city government thoroughly avoided mentioning.
On her way back home after a party, according to her own testimony, a 17-year-old woman who had just got out of a friend’s vehicle and walked a couple of blocks to her house, was stopped and raped by four police officers on August 3rd. It is hard not to believe her, not only because I know how things are in Mexico City, but the theatrical response of the government. Besides, when you are 17 years old, no matter what your economic class and upbringings, you are filled with romantic fantasies, not nightmares. No teenager makes up such a gruesome story about her body out of nowhere.
The young woman went with her mother to file a complaint at Mexico City’s appropriate office on August 3rd, but then the authorities leaked to the media personal data such as her case number, statements and a location that allowed her address to be known, which is illegal. They violated her privacy, putting pressure on her, probably expecting to intimidate her.
If that was the intention, it worked – she didn’t show up later to ratify her statement. She said she didn’t trust the authorities. The case did not proceed due to lack of evidence, although there are recordings, medical tests and testimonies.
Along with other two recent rape cases committed by policemen in July and August, this was the last straw for half the city, in a country where there is one female fatality out of hate violence every 2.5 hours, according to the Mexican Executive Secretariat. As the Fundar Analisis and Research Center Coordinator on Gender, Rights and Public Policies, Cécile Lachenal, explains, this means that 10 women are assassinated in Mexico, not every month, not every week, but every day.
Bursting with rage, women dropped pink glitter, literally speaking, on the head of the City Security Department, Jesús Orta. Not in a metaphorical sense, they painted his hair, preventing him from continuing the press conference he was giving. Then they marched towards the General Attorney’s Office, leaving a trail of graffiti on public walls against gender violence. They culminated their protest breaking the front windows of the building.
The Mayor of Mexico City and AMLO’s expected heir for the next presidency (unless López Obrador re-writes the law to get re-elected), Claudia Sheinbaum, did what most conservative, pro-life male politician does – minimize the rapists’ actions, call the protest a “provocation” against her, make it all about her, and divide the cause between the “good” and “bad” women. She had a group of “real feminists” (mostly privileged women on the Government’s payroll one way or another, headed by writer Elena Poniatowska, who has received a lifetime grant of about $42,000 Mexican pesos a month from all the administrations regardless their political party) scolding the protesters and declaring their legitimacy as true feminists over the “vandals.”
The mayor’s response raised more suspicion and rage, since great deal of her election campaign had been capitalized by the mere fact of being a woman.
More empty words followed. She organized a panel discussion with the “true feminists” (that is, senators, representatives, justice officials, and advisors) called “Zero Impunity and Absolute Justice for Women and Girls who are Victims of Violence” where they talked more eagerly against the vandal-like protesters than the vandal-like police officers who rape minors, and it seemed that none of them had ever been raped. People started calling her Claudia Shamebaum.
Then, a leaked video mysteriously appeared on TV, clearly edited, trying to suggest that the victim was lying. On these security-camera videos with the wrong time stamps “due to different time programming made by several owners,” there is not one, but two police cars, and eight police officers talking politely to the minor. They could have been taken after the attack, not before. After all, a neighbor called 911 because the young woman was screaming, and an ambulance arrived. All this clearly happened after the crime, but the TV anchors were ordered to say that the time stamps were “wrong.”
These are the surrounding facts. All this happened before the historical August 16th, protest, when the very landmark monument of Mexico City, the Angel of Independence (the equivalent of the Statue of Liberty in NYC), ended up covered in glitter with words of feminist rage, against femicides, systemic impunity and police brutality. Except some menacing messages, all of them are just mere descriptions and creative explanations of what is really going on.
The mainstream media, as usual, did its job – they changed the narrative from whether the testimony of a rape victim should be enough cause to suspend a police officer and start legal proceedings against him in Mexico City, to whether walls should be protected and women should not be allowed to carry spray bottles and bats at rallies.
Any similarity with the Anti-Fa controversy here is just mere coincidence, right?
Empty Words are Politicians’ Job
Like everyone knows, getting words empty is one of the most important jobs for politicians and publicists. However, two new phenomena in Mexico have brought the war against semantics to unprecedented levels: one is social media, like everywhere else – including trolls, bots, fake news – and the allegedly leftist agenda. When it comes to rape, we are required to add the word “alleged” until guilt is proven, but not on the progressive campaign that gave Andrés Manuel López Obrador his indisputable triumph in the polls, even though he has proven to be more on Trump’s side.
In the midst of this crisis, it is becoming clear that women need to create a space where those who don’t approve of any kinds of violence – for good reasons too – can at least have access to, and discuss, the history that makes oppressed young women break a window.
Painfully, the world wouldn’t know about what’s happening in Mexico City if these women wouldn’t have destroyed public property and covered walls with their indignation. It doesn’t mean there were not provocateurs at the rallies, but “those are not the one and only problem,” as the Zapata Vive Collective puts it in their communiqué regarding the events. Even though this Collective’s van and bus were destroyed by paid clash groups whose origins they are already investigating, “this is a generational, systemic, systematic and transversal crisis that requires a generational, systemic, systematic and transversal solution.”