Archive for the International Women's Day Category

13 de Marzo: Ni flores, ni gases en nuestro día

Posted in Bolivia, International Women's Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by eugeniadealtura

As many of you know, last Monday, March 8, was International Women’s Day (IWD), and while I shared some images on the blog from a La Paz-based IWD march, I have not yet had a chance to comment here on some of the events that took place.  IWD was a busy day in La Paz and I doubtless missed some of the activities that occurred, so the reflections that appear below are partial, at best, and represent my own experiences during the holiday.

The day began with a televised speech by Bolivian President Evo Morales that was even more disappointing than many local feminists expected.  (I have not yet been able to find a transcript of this speech; if I do, I will post it to the site.  This article, however, includes some brief quotes from the speech.)  Regular readers of the blog will remember that Morales recently instituted a policy of gender parity in his government cabinet which has gained international attention, despite the lack of political experience of some of these women.  Although Evo’s famous gender parity measure was instituted through a law, Morales’ speech insisted that women do not need government regulations, norms, or laws to achieve equality with men.  Instead, Evo argued that Bolivian women are often their own worst enemies, and that envy and in-fighting prevent them from achieving their full potential.  In other words, until all women can get on the same page, they have no business asserting themselves on the political scene.  (As if all men are on the same page, politically or socially, and refrain from political in-fighting.)

“The machismo of MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo, Evo Morales’ political affiliation] suffocates me more every day.”

Bolivian feminists had little time to react to Morales’ speech, since they were planning a morning march on the Ministry of Justice, a dilapidated yellow building on La Paz’s Prado street.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, feminist marchers hoped to call attention to the problems of violence against women and feminicide by insisting that women want justice for victims, not flowers and accolades, on IWD.  (Men typically give flowers to women for IWD in Bolivia.)  In the most recent issue of their bulletin La Escoba, La Paz-based feminist organization CIDEM estimates that 98 feminicides took place in Bolivia in 2009, 28 of which occurred in La Paz and El Alto.  (A PDF of this bulletin is available here for readers of Spanish: Boletina la escoba 8.  Regular readers may notice that a Spanish-language version of Eugenia’s January post on unsafe abortion appears in the magazine.)

Five groups of family members of recent victims of feminicide attended Monday’s march, most waving red signs bearing pictures of their deceased loved ones.  The woman pictured below is demanding justice for her daughter, who was four months pregnant when she was discovered late last year hanging by a rope in her living room–the main suspect to the crime is her own husband.

The marchers–who, in addition to the family members of victims of feminicide, included activists from local organizations CIDEM, CEPROSI, Gregoria Apaza, and Coordinadora de la Mujer, among others–blocked the street in front of the Ministry of Justice for nearly an hour, calling for the Minister to come out and address the issue of feminicide.  As I have mentioned before, feminist activists in Bolivia are pressing lawmakers to incorporate feminicide into local penal codes, so that perpetrators will be subject to prison sentences of at least 30 years and will be unable to escape on “crime of passion” defenses.

Eventually, it became clear that the Minister–a woman, as many in the crowd were eager to point out–was not going to emerge from the building.  Slowly, the crowd began to disperse, passing around water and candies to the tired marchers.  And then this happened. At the tail end of the march, when only perhaps 30 people remained, most standing on the curb holding a black banner denouncing feminicide, the group of motorcycle cops pictured below rode by and sprayed the line of women in the face with tear gas. The mayhem was immediate–women scattered, some collapsing to the ground, struggling against both gas and altitude to breathe.

Once the women recovered, some joked that the cops had sprayed us with tear gas to wish us a happy International Women’s Day.  “Men give us flowers,” one said, “but if we don’t want their flowers–if we want justice, instead–the cops gas us.”

Eventually, a small commission of women was received by the Minister to talk about the issue of feminicide.  Some say that Minister Torrico is sympathetic to the idea of incorporating the crime of feminicide into legal codes, as other Latin American countries have recently done.  However, it will most likely take a lot more than one supportive minister to change this law.  And unfortunately, we know how President Morales feels about laws protecting women.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.


10 de Marzo: Imágenes de Protesta

Posted in Bolivia, images, International Women's Day with tags , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by eugeniadealtura

Below are several images of an International Women’s Day protest that took place last Monday in La Paz, Bolivia.  The central idea behind the protest was to insist that women want justice for female victims of violence and feminicide, not flowers, on their “special day.”  The family members of five recent victims of feminicide (murders of women for the simple fact that they are women) were present at the march.

Come back and visit the site this weekend to learn more about the International Women’s Day events that took place this year in Bolivia.

8 de Marzo: Blog por el Día Internacional de la Mujer

Posted in Bolivia, International Women's Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by eugeniadealtura

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and women and their allies around the world are celebrating in a variety of ways.  On the blogosphere, Gender Across Borders, a feminist blog with an international focus, is hosting “Blog for International Women’s Day.” (Click here for a full list of participating blogs.)  This year’s theme for IWD is “Equal rights, equal opportunity: Progress for all,” and participants in Blog for IWD are being asked to write about what this phrase means to us.

To me, the phrase “equal rights, equal opportunity” immediately conjures up a number of important goals in gender equity that, in most countries, have yet to be met: gender parity in government and in other arenas of decision-making and power; equal pay for equal work, and dozens of others.  These goals are immensely important and, fortunately, many individuals and organizations around the world are working to realize them.  However, this is not what I want to write about.  After years of speaking with Bolivian women about their daily struggles with gender inequality, I’d like to address a different aspect of “equal rights,” one that likely underlies the majority of concrete inequalities in women’s experience: different ideas about and attitudes toward men and women.

If you were to come to Bolivia and ask any random woman on the street what the situation is like for women in the country, I would bet money that she would tell you that there is a lot of machismo in Bolivia.  Many men would probably concur.  And yet, I doubt you would find many individuals who would assert that there is a lot of sexismo in Bolivia.

To most Bolivians, it seems, machismo refers to those idiosyncratic, slightly annoying, but mostly harmless attitudes displayed by men who feel they are superior to women.  Although to your average western feminist, and probably to a lot of western men, the above definition sounds a lot like the stuff that sexism is made of, in Bolivia, these attitudes have become so normal and so normalized, that calling Bolivian men machista is something that even many men are willing to do.

Sexism, on the other hand, has another, slightly scarier, ring, and few are willing to pronounce the word.  Sexism, unlike machismo, is a word that carries political weight, that makes local women feel they are “complaining” about something, and that implies a call to action.  Sexism—a term used in Bolivia to refer to those more concrete gender inequities I mentioned at the top of the post, when it is used at all—is not really normalized, as machismo is, but neither is it recognized by society at large.

It’s time to wake up: machismo is sexismoUnequal ideas about appropriate male and female behavior, about who men and women are—psychologically or biologically, and about what men and women deserve, are what justify, legitimize, and normalize unequal rights and unequal opportunities for men and women. So, this is what “equal rights, equal opportunity: progress for all” means to me—it means recognizing that ideas about sexual difference are constructed, not natural, and it means exposing the lies that these ideas represent.

Below are a number of visions of what “equal rights, equal opportunity” might look like in Bolivia.  These visions are based upon the unequal ideas about and attitudes toward women and men that I have witnessed in La Paz and El Alto since 1999.

She can have multiple sexual partners, as he can, and not be considered a slut while he is considered a stud.  They can both just be considered sexually active human beings.

He can wash dishes, clean clothes, and help take care of his children without being considered a “sissy” by his male friends.

She can buy condoms and be prepared for sex, and not be considered “easy.”

She can run for political office without being considered laughable, nor facing violence or threats.

He and his female partner can chose to not have children without his virility being questioned.

She can have male friends and acquaintances without being accused of sexual infidelity by her male partner.

She can choose abortion without being considered a murderer, a bad mother, or a “cold woman.”

She can have sex with women, without being sexually exoticized nor labeled as politically extreme.

She can be considered just as capable as a man when driving or working in construction.

She can go out at night and drink with friends, and not be considered guilty or “asking for it” if she is raped.

She can go out at night, or in the morning, or at any time of day–and NOT be raped.

Thank you to the Bolivian women who have shared their experiences with me, and to all of the women around the world who make me wake up every day still believing that change is possible. ( The above photograph was provided by a guest photographer.)

3 de Marzo: Están invitad@s

Posted in Bolivia, International Women's Day with tags , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by eugeniadealtura

I’d like to invite anyone who is currently in La Paz, Bolivia, to attend an event on the evening of Monday, March 8, commemorating International Women’s Day. At 18:30hs (6:30pm) on Monday, the Women’s Documentary Center “Adela Zamudio” of local feminist organization CIDEM, in cooperation with the Documentary Center in Latin American Art and Literature (CEDOAL), will be holding an event recognizing local women for their work in poetry, film and radio. Please join us at the Espacio Simón I. Patiño on Av. Ecuador 2475, at the corner of Belisario Salinas in Sopocachi. I hope you all have a fabulous International Women’s Day!

Invitation: Event Flyer