A reporter in Tijuana was kissed on the check by our president elect because he wanted to evade a question she asked, videos of the incident surfaced and everyone ridiculed her in social media.
OK, lets keep something in mind: Mexicans are very, very keen on gender roles. I think that makes us outright misogynistic but many would like to refute that by saying that Mexican women get the upmost respect in society and are important members of the workforce. We are the country in North America with the most gender parity in congress and in December former Supreme Court Justice Olga Sanchez Cordero will take oath as Mexico’s Secretary of Government (a role similar to Vice President). This is the highest office a woman will, or has ever held, in Mexico. We’re also the largest country in North America to offer paid family leave.
Yet Mexican society remains obsessed with gender roles, many think that gentleman behavior and respect is the same as equal opportunity and economic independence but, again, I think these things aren’t the same, or mutually exclusive for that matter. The question isn’t if “we’re nice enough” the question is “have we made an statistical improvement”
So back to Obrador: she kissed a reporter on the cheek, and this was just weeks after referring to a group of female reporters as “sweethearts.” Many have taken this to mean that Obrador doesn’t really care about female reporters but the old guard rose up and began writing think pieces and tweets saying that not only have Obrador and his party brought the most women to government in Mexico’s history, but that his relationship with reporters was outstanding compared to Presidents and politicians of other parties.
The question to them is, why does the kissing matter? Everyone does it! Culturally Mexicans have always greeted with a kiss on the cheek even in professional environments. Which is why we think that there’s nothing wrong with what Obrador did.
But here’s the issue, let’s ignore hygiene for a second and remember that the kiss on the cheek greeting is amongst women only and between men and women. If a man meets another man he’s expected to grasp their hand. It is a practice that separates women. It’s an acknowledgment that they are different to men. Obrador has never dissuaded a male reporter by calling him a sweetheart or kissing him on the cheek, which is sort of why these women are rightfully outraged.
Again, I don’t think this is the biggest issue with the expectations of Mexican women. Women historically have had worse jobs (and job titles) across the professional spectrum and have always been encouraged to quit their jobs after having children. The fact that we consider ourselves a society that respects women but we also have seen protest and downright non-compliance with several gender parity laws is sort of ironic, or the fact that we’ve yet to have a female president or governor in a number of states.
Many will point at the disturbing amount of violence against women (specially transgender women), we’ve seen a rise in murder against women like we’ve never seen before. Cases of sexual harassment in public transport have warranted separate wagons for women and men. Ironically the point here is that they’re separate and unequal. If it isn’t enough, working women often face the steepest gender gap in North America.
But hey, how can we be bad with women if we’re gentlemen? I’ll tell you how bad: a poll to office workers revealed 40% of them have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Why do we need a gender parity law if we, the men, could understand women? Come on, we totally do! The fact that tampons normally carry a luxury tax instead of a discount as part of the minimum necessities (canasta basica) is absolutely not a reminder that we don’t understand them well enough to take decisions for them!
Additionally, marriage law is extremely biased against the women when it comes to how easily they might be saddled with the responsibility to keep their children full time. Women in this country just have it bad everywhere: the office, the bus, the fucking store, and even at home.
The mentality is even present in my college. Women still make a minuscule minority of all STEM students or professors. Even if, alike the US, more women graduate high-school, and often with better grades than men. The administration is so fearful of this reality that the statistics regarding the gender makeup of courses is kept under secret.
This is all before taking minority women into consideration, indigenous women are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to healthcare: infant mortality amongst them is much higher than with hispanic and white Mexicans, harassment by doctors is also much more common. In many of these instances it’s not only the access to healthcare, but the quality of it. Doctors of Mexico’s Institute of Social Security have a particular pattern of disregarding female patients, but mostly indigenous women. In many cases indigenous women have had IUDs implanted without their consent, and again, it’s much more common for them to die during childbirth or for their child to die in hospital than hispanic and white Mexicans enrolled in the same health service. Leaders in indigenous communities (which enjoy similar protections to Native Americans in the United States) have done little to improve this on their own, and the federal government has been slow too. In fact some of their tribal laws even protect harassment againts indigenous women.
The difference between how we think we see women, and how women are reflected in numbers is rather disturbing. It’s simply horrifying how polarized women’s rights are in Mexico, and we simply need to improve without any excuses. Mexico is facing important demographics changes, and women are becoming more economically active than ever before. If the workplace and transportation services remain as dangerous and unproductive as they are because of sexual harassment and the toxic culture, we will never cease to be the butt of all sexist jokes and millions of opportunities will be wasted for the sake of pretending the issues don’t exist.