Misandry and Other Misadventures in México

CONTENT WARNING: Frank discussion of sexual violence, oppression, etc.

First, let me define misandry. I particularly prefer this definition in the context of this article:Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 8.47.05 PM

Second, let me say this: I don’t hate men. This is not an article about how I came to Mexico and discovered my hatred of men. But I did come to Mexico and see a side of men I’ve never seen so blatantly. And frankly, it does disgust me. But, a la “Hate the sin, not the sinner”, I make a distinction between people’s behaviors and their inherent goodness.

I also talk about other fucked up shit. So buckle up.

When I landed in Mexico at the end of April, I noticed one thing: Holy shit, it is hot as balls. (I grew up in the swampy asscrack of Florida, so heat is a familiar beast.)

My kitty cat – not a euphemism, my actual feline companion – and I boarded my private airport transfer. I was refreshed with a beer, ice cold water, and ample A/C. “Okay,” I thought, “Maybe this won’t be so bad.” The beer cost me about $1 US, and I could drink it in a moving vehicle. Mexico was cool so far.

I arrived at my apartment, tipped the taxista, and tried to figure out exactly what the fuck I had just done. Why did I pack up all of my belongings and move 3,000 miles from home with my only friend in the world?

(Here’s where I’d put a photo of Slayer, my kitty cat, but apparently I don’t have a single picture of him on my computer.)

Well, for starters, I have a huge tax liability from 2018, due to Uncle Sam on July 1. So I need to save as much money as possible between now and then. (Also, I’m not in Mexico forever. I return to school in the Pacific Northwest in the Fall.) But my lease was up and I didn’t want to pay city living prices all summer long, so I decided to pull the trigger and hop on a plane.

Also, living in the Yucatan Peninsula sounded ideal.

“You mean to tell me I can live a few blocks from the Caribbean Sea, be surrounded by sexy Hispanic folks, and eat delicious abuelita-made Mexican food for four months? And save money in the process? Sign me the fuck up.” 

— Me, to myself, when planning this trip

So I got Slayer and I settled in. I nested in our temporary new home and made it feel a little less temporary and a little more homey. Once I got myself set-up, I decided to leave my house and go explore.

And that’s approximately when the trouble started

I’m living in a relatively touristy area, as most larger cities are along the Caribbean. My casita, to plan, was about 5 blocks from the sea. So I’ll start with that.

This is the beach experience I was expecting:

parked boat
Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

This is the Caribbean I received:

sargasso caribbean
Source: everythingplaydelcarmen.com

This photo was taken circa 2017, but not much has changed. “So what,” you’re thinking. “There’s some seaweed.”

Unfortunately, it’s fucking everywhere. And it’s not just muddying the shore; that perfect blue water is no more.

So what’s the deal here?

Well, without getting too far into the science of it, which you could read more about here, this “seaweed” is actually a type of algae which originates in the Sargasso Sea. Known as Sargassum, it’s never been strange for it to appear on a Caribbean shoreline. But what is strange is how voluminous it’s become in the last few years – and researchers directly link the increased algae blooming to human-caused climate change.

Not only does it fuck up my perfect beach fantasy, it also causes real fuckin’ issues for the coastal ecosystems.

It also means tourism, a huge factor in the livelihoods of locals along the coast, has been dramatically affected.  And the most the Mexican government has been able to do is initialize clean-up crews. Succinctly described in the previously linked article as a “Sisyphean task”: as soon as they’ve cleaned up an area, another influx of algae is never far behind. So, in essence, they’re funneling bazillions of pesos into something that ineffectively salvages tourism – there’s so much Sargassum that they just can’t keep up – while doing absolutely nothing to address the underlying issue. (Again, I strongly encourage you to read this article from MIT’s Technology Review  to learn more. Its ending is drastically more hopeful than mine.)

“What the fuck does this have to do with hating men?”

Well, see, it’s a metaphor. The Sargassum is my hatred of men and the rising sea temperatures and global warming are men and their stupid fucking behavior, which leads my hatred to reproduce at infinitely faster rates and fuck up their ecosystem.

Just kidding.

So far I’m just telling you about my experience in Mexico so far, but I guess it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

I’ll just be blunt: No matter where I go here, no matter what I do, no matter who I’m with, no matter what I’m wearing (I see you, slut-shamers.), I get unwanted sexual attention from strange men.

Did this happen at home? Probably.

Did it happen this much? Absolutely fucking not.

Everywhere I fucking go, men stare, make lewd comments (hint: I speak Spanish motherfucker.), and generally just bombard me with unwanted sexual attention.

Why is it happening more here in Mexico than back at home? I am not a qualified sociologist; I lack adequate training in ethics and cultural understanding to really dissect this complex issue.

So instead I’ll just take a look at some of the explanations (excuses) I’ve been offered for this behavior.

“They are uneducated.”
Lacking an education doesn’t equate to disrespecting women. Next.

“They’re just trying to pay you a compliment.”
I think this one is a fat crock of shit and I’ll tell you why. If these men gave two-fifths of a fuck about what I want, they’d fucking wait for me to tell them what that is, because they respect me as a complex individual whose desires and preferences cannot be derived monolithically from her presenting gender. Next.

“They think you like it.”
See the last one. This is only about them and what they want. Next.

“Machismo is a deeply-engrained part of Hispanic culture.”
Okay, fair. We’ve got that in the States too, called “toxic masculinity.” Machismo, as far as I can understand, means “being a man” and protecting your manliness at all costs. Coincidentally, this extends to other men in certain respects. For example, men don’t cat-call me when I am with a man. Not because they all of a sudden respect me, but because they don’t want to threaten my male partner’s machismo. Back to “being a man”, machismo seems to mean embodying certainly manly traits (ex. being stronger, more powerful, etc.). But why does this lead to disrespecting women?

Oh, right. Because women are pawns to prove a man’s worth/strength/power to other men

This is my own crude hypothesis on where women lose their personhood and become sexual objects in the eyes of men trying to prove themselves to the world (other men).

Fun fact: Per Wikipedia, there is another side to machismo known as caballerosidad. Caballero means horseman but is used to mean “gentleman”, more or less. Caballerosidad is akin to chivalry. But there’s also a problem with this – it’s still gender-based. Standards of being good to one another are universal and should not be ascribed or specialized for any one gender. Be good in the best way you can, but be good.

But this isn’t a gender studies class. Let me get back to my personal experience. As a person who has experienced sexual violence in various forms throughout my life (Gotta catch ’em all!), this unwanted sexual attention takes a toll on me. It has definitely brought up trauma reactions (think typical PTSD shit). I don’t want to leave my house. When I do, I carry a sheathed pocket knife in my right hand at all times. I stare down any man who dares to look at me. 50% read my body language and look away. The rest will take anything I do as an invitation to harass me.

I’m honestly sick of having to defend my boundaries against these disgusting fucking men. (Did you hear that? That was the sound of my whole hate the sin, not the sinner schtick disappearing into thin air. Like magic!)

Ugh. Okay. Backtracking a bit. I know that these people are not fundamentally bad and that their behavior is unequivocally a result of terrible conditioning, generation after generation. And that’s the only thought that keeps my murderous impulses at bay. 🙂

Something else that hurts my heart is that women grow up experiencing this and thinking it is normal here. They are born, they live, and they die thinking that this is just “how men are”.

A few times, when regaling customers and friends with the tales of my misadventures and resulting quasi-misandry, they say things like, “Well, at least you’ll appreciate the low-grade misogyny back home a little more.”

No. Just because it’s worse somewhere else doesn’t make your bullshit less bullshitty.

tl;dr Mexico has been less than ideal.

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