or: Angry Feminist Rants Because Stranger Proposed to Her on the Street
Perspective is important in all things. I’m cautious, sometimes overly so, about criticizing other countries and cultures. My perspective as a white outsider is always biased, and it always lacks the depth of understanding that a native of that country or culture possesses.
That being said, I am a woman, and Guatemala doesn’t have a monopoly on misogyny. So I’m gonna hit y’all with a rant on misogyny, and how I’ve experienced it in Guatemala.
Guatemala is a Catholic majority country, with Protestantism coming in close second (47 percent and 40 percent, respectively). This is a religious country. There are crosses and churches everywhere. It’s pretty dope.
I myself am not religious, but I do seem to recall hearing that lust is one of those seven Big Bads that religious people (typically) believe earns you a Not-So-Good Time in the afterlife.
The calculus here should be simple. Guatemala is a religious country. In religion they say don’t do lust. Guatemala, by the transitive property of addition, should not be filled with sexualized and unrealistic depictions of women.
So why is it that every time I step onto a chicken bus (which is twice per day at least) I see stickers of the silhouettes of naked women (typically with no rib-cages and erect nipples) plastered along the windshield? Why are those banners stuck up right above the cross that most buses have dangling under on of their rearview mirrors? How do those bus drivers see that tableau day after day and never once think, “hey, there’s something hypocritical about all this”?
On the bus that I took from Antigua to Guatemala City, there was a small television playing music videos. Every single video was filled with sexualized women. There were women twerking in their underwear, there were women in bikinis leaning over car hoods, there were women clinging to the arms of the rappers or singers or whatever. I felt so gross watching those videos. (Latina women being sexualized in media is a huge issue that I don’t feel qualified to even begin touching on, but other people have written a lot about it and Google is free, so check it out!)
There is such an odd coexistence between the harmful objectification of the female body, the Catholic mindset, and the actual, real-life women who live in Guatemala.
I see so many women every day who don’t care that they have paunches or wrinkles, who don’t dress to impress or seem to care whether or not they’re attractive to the male gaze.
It’s beautiful. These women are my heroes.
But I worry. I worry about the kiddos in my class, who are being brought up on these conflicting messages about female value. On one hand, from the windshields and the music videos, they’re being taught that women are accessories, and that they should strive for unrealistic bodies. From their mothers and aunties and grandmothers, they’re being taught that their bodies are beautiful and strong, and can accomplish so much.
I hope that the latter message prevails. I want the kids I’m teaching, the girls especially, to grow up loving their bodies. I want the boys to, one day, look at those music videos and feel as horrified as I am. I want them to love and respect one another (and themselves) as human beings who are diverse and exist to be more than just objects.
But I am also not a fool. I can’t say whether the body-image related propaganda in the US is worse than here or not, because when I was being indoctrinated to Western beauty standards I didn’t realize it. Now, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I am more cognizant of unrealistic beauty standards. Unfortunately, that kind of damage is hard to undo.
These kiddos aren’t aware of how bad the normalization of this objectification is. I want them to grow up with as comfortable in their skins as I never was. I want them to have the confidence in and the love for their bodies that I still struggle to muster. I want them to be as angry at the patriarchal institutions that impose unreachable standards in an effort to capitalize on our self-esteem issues as I am.
Most of all, I want these men to be better. I want them to take a long look at the banners in their buses and the women in their movies and their own actions towards women trying to go about their lives (this is me @ing that one guy who proposed to me yesterday when I was just trying to get on the bus) and realize that women deserve better. I want them to hold true to the values of their religion, and actually think about how their helping to create a world and culture that oppresses and hurts their daughters, and nieces, and sisters, and mothers.
It is not my job, as an outsider, to come into this country and preach. It is not my students’ job, because they are eight and cannot work according to child labor laws, to correct this issue that they aren’t even aware of yet. This task belongs to the bus drivers, and the music video producers, and every man who has ever whistled as woman on the street who is just trying to have a normal day.
Anyway Guatemala is dope and I’m still super happy to be here! The patriarchy exists everywhere, and isn’t just an issue here. I am only ranting about it because, as I said earlier, a strange man who was three times my age proposed to me on my way to work and wasn’t kidding.
My mom and my grandma are gonna be down here tomorrow, which is dope!
Lots of love!