Being accosted on the street.
Beatings at home.
An epidemic of missing daughters.
Seven women murdered each day.
This is the dark shadow that casts an ugly pall across everyday life for many women in Mexico. Fear oscillates between concern for your loved ones – daughters, sisters, mothers, friends – and fear for your own life.
On 24 April 2016, tens of thousands of women took to the streets across Mexico under the banner ‘vivas nos queremos’ (‘we want to stay alive’). They demanded an end to all forms of gender-based violence and unfair treatment in the national day of action. Protests took place in 40 cities across Mexico, including in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca.
Dubbed Mexico’s purple spring, signs included messages such as ‘My cleavage is not an invitation to harass me’, ‘Leave me to walk the streets in peace’, ‘I dress for me, not for you’ and ‘Feminism is not just for women’.
My first harassment
Associated with the coordinated marches, the hashtag #MiPrimerAcoso (‘my first harassment’) began trending on twitter. With it, thousands of brave women started a very public conversation denouncing and exposing sexual harassment as never before.
It is highly concerning the young age at which girls are sexualised, with many women recounting being harassed from as young as five and six years old. The reported instances of harassment range from sexual innuendo to non-consensual touching, bullying to assault. They include actions by both strangers and people familiar to the victims.
Posts on the hashtag included:
‘I was ten years old and my male classmates surrounded me and rubbed their genitals against me.’
‘I left high school and in the transportation this guy touched me, I left and he followed me, I yelled at him, nobody helped me.’
‘I was eight years old. I went [to get] tortillas and played on the machines. A drunk man took out his penis and put it in my hand.’
‘At 5-6 years old. Playing hide and seek, the 18-year-old big brother of my friend groped my whole body, it took me years to understand it.’
The posts highlight the need to talk to children, of all genders, about issues such as consent. Support also needs to be provided when these types of incidents inevitably occur.
The instances of harassment reported on social media were by no means all from the distant past, with one woman tweeting – ‘Today at 8.30am, I walked fast heading to work and 2 assholes in a van followed me… #MyFirstHarassment of the day…’
Some men tweeted their support for the cause – ‘Understand it men: Not all men harass, but all women have been harassed.’
The twitter campaign has helped raise awareness of the fear of harassment and assault many women live with throughout their lives. Bullying and threats of sexual and physical violence are also alarmingly common online, making it challenging for women to participate in many different facets of public life.
Sharing these difficult experiences seems to have been cathartic for some, with one person tweeting: ‘I am impressed with the way in which #MiPrimerAcoso became this warm group hug (smile).’