Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos (Mexico City, 1948) was born the same year that Simone de Beauvoir wrote The second sex, the essay that laid the foundations of current feminism and spoke for the first time about the social construction of women. They could demand the same opportunities as men and shape their own destiny without conforming to what society expected of them.
On that pillar was built one of the highest representatives of feminism in Latin America. A member of the Communist Party and later a deputy in the Mexican Congress, Lagarde speaks directly and clearly about one of the most dangerous contexts for being a woman in the world: Mexico, where ten women are murdered every day.
Decades ago, as part of her academic and political career, Marcela Lagarde was inspired by the work of her American colleagues Diana Russell and Jill Radford, who during the 1970s used the concept femicide to refer to the murders of women with a gender perspective. On that basis, in 2006 he coined the term femicide that is used today in the laws of different countries. Lagarde was the promoter of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence (2007) and was part of the commission of the Congress of Mexico that followed up on investigations related to femicides. In 2009, she played a decisive role in the first judgment that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued with a gender perspective against the Mexican Government for the murder of three women in Ciudad Juárez (northern Mexico). The case, known as González y otros (Campo Algodonero), was a milestone in access to justice for women victims of femicide in Mexico.
The tireless struggle of the Mexican to eradicate sexist violence has led her around the world to give lectures on her work and a chair bears her name. Despite the horror and a road full of obstacles, in the eyes and words of Marcela Lagarde there is hope. She clings to the new generations of women who come after her, burning everything and going on strike to change things in the bud. “I am delighted to see the young women in the universities. They fascinate me, they direct me, I am willing to go with them. It seems to me that we can see ourselves in their eyes and we have to support and welcome them ”, says the anthropologist.
Sitting on the sofa in her house, surrounded by dolls inspired by Frida Kahlo, Lagarde speaks slowly but surely. You know what to say and you don’t want to miss a word.
Question. What distinguishes violence against women within the escalation of violence that Mexico is experiencing?
Reply. Femicides are different from other murders and homicides because they are crimes committed against women, girls and elderly women because they are women. There is extreme violence against them not because they are in a war or an armed conflict but because of their gender condition. Any woman in a country like Mexico is in a place of risk compared to men, in a second place. Even if a woman is very intelligent, very good, very studious and hard-working … any man is superior to her because there is gender supremacism that has to manifest itself by exercising power, and the most brutal power in the case of the patriarchal is to start the lifetime.
P. Why do you think there is so much brutality and cruelty in the latest cases of femicide that we have seen in Mexico?
R. It is exemplary violence, not only to the victims but to all of us. So that all women know that because we are women, if we move strangely, badly, at the wrong time or do anything that the social order does not approve, we can be victims of violence.
P. After the publication of the images of the feminicide of Ingrid Escamilla on the front pages of the newspapers. What role does society play in perpetuating this violence against women?
R. Femicides receive social recognition. Femicide occurs as long as there is a niche of social tolerance to violence, to the objectification of women, girls and adolescents. A set of traits that, if added, lead to femicidal violence. It is the social niche of violating human, political, civil, economic, sexual and labor rights of women.
P. You said in your last conference that you were “ashamed” of Mexico for the treatment it gave to its women and its girls
R. I am a modern woman and I aspire that women have integrity, respect in our person, in our environment, in our work. In addition to being pacifists, feminists believe that we should not be left with the restriction of a type of physical, economic damage, we must understand that violence and inequality against women permeates the entire social order, all spaces, territories, activities.
P. Do you think feminism is choking the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador?
R. I differ that he finds the cause of violence against women and girls in neoliberalism, it seems to me that he lacks a gender perspective. They do not quite understand that we have to dismantle, modify and reform the State. The president said: “We are not males” and it is believed that because he says it is true. You are wrong, they are male even if they do not want to accept it. The style of doing politics, the political structures, the political system are patriarchal. I find it unacceptable that those who run this country do not have in-depth training on these issues. I know civil servants who are quite macho, simulators who do not speak to the public. We want the treatment of citizens, not vulnerable, [como dijo el presidente].
P. What do you think of the possibility that the Mexican Prosecutor gave to eliminate the type of femicide and reduce it to aggravated homicide to alleviate the workload of the attorney general’s offices?
R. Gertz Manero demonstrated his terrible misogyny and his supremacist government arrogance. It did not take into account the path that the construction of femicide has taken, the laws that exist in Latin America on the subject. That is machismo as a way of governing, ignoring everything and arriving with a truth imposed with the weight of the institutions.
P. Do you think that this setback could occur in the Mexican justice system?
R. Millions of us would hit the streets, I’m sure of that. That they touch a hair to the feminicide because they are not going to finish it. No sir, it will not be done.
P. Is the fight against sexist violence the greatest battle of feminism in Latin America?
R. I don’t like to say “battle” because I am a pacifist. I prefer to call it a cause to remove the terrible macho language of violence. Feminists criticize violence in order to dismantle it. In the case of Mexico, the current government states that it works for people’s lives and because they can develop. It seems to me a good floor to talk and dialogue because it is essential that they incorporate the vision of equality in that scheme of achieving the good life. I know that there are many feminists in the Government, I know them and love them.
P. What about abortion?
R. We have been there for 60 years. It took 50 years to get it in Mexico City and now it is possible to have an abortion up to the 12th week of gestation. In the years when Andrés Manuel López Obrador was head of the Government of Mexico City, we had no progress in the legislation because he opposed it.
P. And now as president, don’t you think it will be the same?
R. She has the opportunity to make amends and to opt for this proposed by the feminist movement. The president is moralizing the country, we do not want morality, we want ethics. What is happening now is that the right wing and churches of all kinds are pushing for life to be legislated from conception.
P. How do you see the current feminist movement in Mexico and Latin America?
R. In my life I have touched several wave peaks, it depends on which continent I am on. In Europe the waves of feminism count less and sometimes in Latin America we count more because we have our own waves on the continent, for example, the wave of violence and human rights that we are experiencing now. There is going to be a kind of growth crisis. Crisis without making you look scared, in the good sense of history where a reality forces change, sometimes, despite the people.
P. What role do you think men play in all this?
R. We propose eliminating privilege and supremacism to begin with. We are in a push and pull for 20 years where major groups have opposed men changing. Inequality has to be dismantled and that implies structural changes in the masculine condition of men. Much of their power is due to the domination they exercise. We should start by eliminating the expropriation that men make of women.
P. What do men expropriate from us?
R. Everything. The body, sexuality, the ability to think, to create, to propose, to participate. All of this has been expropriated from us, only in the world at the end of the 20th century have we been able to accept our participation in public affairs. Ending femicide is reaching the tip of the iceberg, but first we must demolish the body of the iceberg and build alternatives.
P. What do you have to say to the new feminists?
R. That they are going very well, they are a luxury that fills me with happiness. I feel happy. They have taken a step beyond where we were, huge. We still do not see the consequences of that great change.
P. What do you think of the women’s strike that is being called for next March 9?
R. Unemployment is a right, not a privilege. A right that we have to achieve that is enforceable for all that is the debit of this time. If we say that it is a privilege, we place it as something unattainable and also negative. It is a human right as is education and health.
P. But many cannot or do not want to stop
R. You have to be promoters of the others and achieve it for the others as well, for those who do not want to.
P. Are you going to stop?
R. I’m going to be in Los Cabos, at a conference.
P. But, that is work
R. At that moment, it is my activist militancy that makes me be surrounded by my colleagues, with my partners in life. We are insistentialists As a Basque colleague says: “We insist and we insist again. So, like this, more women will have more rights ”. We want all rights for all women.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.