What Indian Women Can Learn From Mexico's Women's Day Strike
On the 8th of March, 2020, International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of women in Mexico disappeared. No, it wasn’t something supernatural - or, genocide, given that that’s more likely in our society. It was a protest against the rising rate of femicide in Mexico. In 2019 alone, nearly 4000 women were killed in Mexico. No, there’s no extra zero there - the number really is four thousand. That’s more than 10 women murdered every day. Just like that. Killed. For being women. Majority of these women are killed at the hands of their male relatives. Reports suggest that in the last five years alone, the number of crimes against women in Mexico has gone up by 137%! If such merciless (and often, gruesome, like the recent stabbing and skinning of Ingrid Escamilla) killing of so many members of a certain group isn’t hate crime, then what is?
Outraged, frustrated and disgruntled by the way their gender is treated, women in Mexico decided to go on a strike. For one day, tens of thousands of women disappeared from home, work, and streets; as wives and lovers, mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, and professionals. By way of a powerful imagery, and message, they filled the streets with red shoes as reminders of all the women who have been murdered.
Companies supported the cause, even as this one day of women being absent cost the economy 1.37 billion US dollars. The point of Mexico’s Un Dia Sin Mejeres (A Day Without Women) was to demonstrate what the world would be like if women were to actually not be around anymore, and surely, the impact was felt in some capacity.
There’s a lesson in this for women all across the globe, no matter the rate of gender-based crimes in their country, but especially one for Indian women. No is not a word taught to Indian women, and walking away is never a choice we have. We are raised in a culture where we are taught to be agreeable (kyunki ladkiyon ko ladai jhagra suit nahin karta), to make nice and be polite even if someone may be violating our boundaries (thoda sehena seekho), to persevere in toxic relationships and abusive marriages (kyunki aadmi toh aise hi hote hain), to step up and clean the messes of the men in our lives from wet towels callously thrown on the bed, to rowdy behaviour in the name of machismo. We have to show up, clean up, and make up, even if it may be killing us, emotionally or in extreme cases, physically.
This entrapment is methodical and starts early, where in many parts of the country, young girls' education is compromised for those of boys' (yes, even today), where women are raised to be picked and drop, thus thwarting their mobility, where women are discouraged from pursuing demanding careers (because bacche honge toh kya karoge), where those with jobs still come home to cook food for the family (because men won't step up, and are seldom ever asked to). Our silence is always taken as agreement, and never protest, because walking away is not an option for us. Or, a threat for Indian men. We are taken for granted because we will always be around… to cook, to clean, to forgive, to love, to fuck.
What if we stopped showing up, and staying, when it hurts us?
And it doesn’t have to be only in face of abusive behaviour, or impending violence. We respect and appreciate what we know we may be at risk of losing. If women are to be respected and appreciated more, we need to learn to be a little less accessible, and not available all the time. Especially when it comes to taking responsibility for chores, feelings and behaviours that men are wholly capable of taking the onus for themselves. Tell me - aren’t men capable of putting their laundry where it belongs? In the laundry basket? Or, making themselves a cup of coffee in the morning? Or, apologising for their own bad behaviour? Or, managing their feelings? Maybe, maybe not. But, they never will learn if we keep picking up the slack for them.
Image Source: Americas Quarterly