Are we feminists?

The answer can be found in this video by our friends from School for Chiapas, the transcript in English is below.

The vision of the vanquished

Subcomandante Galeano. CIDECI, Chiapas. May 5, 2015

For some time he had to speak, not for the indigenous Zapatista compañeras1, but about them and their specific struggle. Those times they spoke through him, good or bad, that was up to them to decide. Whether they felt represented or not, they will judge. Fortunately now, and for many years, it is the same compañeras who speak their word.

We have now heard a kind of extract from the genealogy of the struggle as women, as indigenous people and as Zapatistas. Three generations of Zapatista rebels, not only against the system but also against us. At least two more generations are missing at this roundtable. One must be between the ages of 12 and 15 and they are the ones who will later become promoters of education or health, or listeners, or tercios compas2, or insurgents, or whatever the creativity of the Zapatista peoples opens up as a rebellious and libertarian space. There is another generation, the Zapatista girls who will be around 8 years old and whose clumsy portrait I am trying to draw with Defensa3 Zapatista. This irreverent girl who synthesizes four generations of struggle and who is, at least for now, unpredictable.

In telling us their story, the compañeras have been generous because they have not said a part, or if anything, they have only mentioned it. I am referring to our resistance as Zapatista men. Our resistance against them. Our terror at seeing how they were breaking roles and patterns; and they were leaving, without asking permission, the role that the system, but not only the system, had imposed on them.

In reviewing our history, I see that there is a defeat there. That the triumphs they have barely mentioned not only do not palely reflect the difficulties and obstacles they must overcome every day and every hour. That it remains to be made clear that they also fought against us and that they defeated us.

That is why behind their history is also our vision, the vision of the vanquished. Although not entirely true, because like the hydra we are ready to recover our old position, taking advantage of any loophole, any sign of weakness, any symptom that they have lowered their guard. And I who synthesized machismo and Zapatista sexism better than anyone else. Because there is, as there is leftist sexism and libertarian sexism.

I begin to think about the possibilities that we have as a gender to recover what has been lost. To each defeat that has been inflicted on us I have said: I will return and I will be millions. But each time we were less, as the youngest Zapatista compañeros see these changes as more natural and the others already grow with this new reality.

I think that perhaps we could convince Comandanta Miriam to no longer participate in the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee4 – General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. I don’t know, we could tell her that she’s done a good job. That she can rest. That her children have already been raised. That she can go home now. I doubt it, but we could try. I think that maybe we could convince Comandantas Dalia and Rosalinda that they better find a husband. That they should stop going around in meetings. That they should stop attending these events. That they better look for a man, to raise a family.

Difficult, but we could try. I think that we could already give up the possibility of convincing Lisbeth’s and Selena’s generation to stop fighting like the women they are and that is better for them to become like the young partisan5 women and turn back the clock of the struggle and become the opposite of what they are now.

I can’t even think of how we could address the generation of the Toña, the Lupita and the Estefanía to tell them not to study. That they better learn to make tortillas by hand, instead of knowing how to use the cell phone, the computer, the video cameras and the internet for the Zapatista struggle.

And look, I’m going to be honest with you, the only thing I can think of about the girl Defensa Zapatista is that I pity her husband… or her wife6. If you ask me what is going to become of that generation, what is going to be their way, their desires, their challenges, their environment? Then I would answer by imitating the cat-dog7 story and say “we don’t know yet”. It only remains for me to warn Pedrito that the Zapatistas with whom he will relate in years to come will be “more others” (different) and that a defensive position will not hurt him.

Adding and subtracting, I can see, or sense, that our defeat is irreversible. That not only have we been defeated, but we have also been vanquished. And I tell you sincerely, with my heart in my hand, that in the face of this heroic struggle I have only the consolation that our clumsy resistance has served the compañeras to force them to be better, better women and better Zapatistas.

But if you ask me to make an effort and try to go back to the beginning, to the origin of this terrible and wonderful genealogy; that is to say, I would tell you that the matter began with the insurgents. These comrades who in the mountains or wherever they are, gave up a life in and with family. They who fought and are fighting for this and for what follows. Because if we ask them “how do you see what has been done?”, they will say: “well, I can for sure tell you that it’s not enough”. As for me, when the first indigenous insurgent arrived at a mountain camp 31 years ago, I felt a chill running through my beautiful body. What? Don’t be dirty-minded. I felt, not with her, but with what she represented, that a prophecy was coming: “no man will ever be able to say that he has defeated you, but there will be those who can say it. For the rest, don’t believe it. After all, I’m a Zapatista, so I’ll think of something to counterattack.

As Sup Moi (Subcomandante Moisés) has already explained to you, in our organization there are indigenous and non-indigenous people. This means that there are non-indigenous compañeras who are Zapatistas. We, the Zapatistas; we consider them to be part of us, just as we consider this space, the CIDECI and the UniTierra, and those who teach, learn, work and struggle as Zapatistas. Our Zapatista compañero, teacher Galeano, once said that there are those who are Zapatistas and don’t know it until they know it. Because of the conditions of our struggle, non-indigenous compañeras cannot show themselves even by hiding. Moreover, they are not many now either, and can barely be counted by a pair of hands. Here the girl Defensa Zapatista interrupts to remind us: “we’re going to do more, sometimes it would take longer, but we’re going to do more”.

Besides the fact that they are averse to publicity. To show themselves in the light. They prefer the darkness, the anonymity, and the shadows. So I think that even with a balaclava they would not accept to sit here, in front of you. They are nothing like any of us. The words I am about to describe are collective, although they will appear as one person, a compañera.

My job was only to collect them and weather the storm that is rising in them. I am going to use words that are a little rough and tough. I must say in my defense that all those words come from compañeras who are non-indigenous Zapatista women. So if you’re going to be shocked, then sit down, because there’s still missing what’s missing.

The compañera speaks:

You guys are really stupid assholes. You think we dress up and put on makeup to please you or to attract you. Or as you say, because we are wanting or seeking something. It’s about time you understood that we do that because we want to. Because we feel more comfortable that way, or because we like those shoes, or that blouse, or that skirt, or those pants. All in all, they are our feet and our bodies. Or because we have to dress up because the fucking boss (male or female) tells us that we have to go to work like that.

And ultimately, why do you give a fuck about why we get dressed up? You’re like a schizophrenic hunter. You think that the city is a hunting ground and that we women are like idiot animals who do everything possible to become easy targets. Any hunter knows that this is not the case, but the machistized8 men are so stupid that they think not only that women are the game9, but also that we are a piece that does everything possible to be discovered and to put itself in the crosshairs of the bullet or the semen shot.

Let’s take a look at piropos10. Piropos, no matter how innocent they are or seem, can, and rightly so, be received as harassment. Because we cannot expect that in a capitalist society like ours, I am talking about Mexico, with the rate of femicides and gender violence that we have, that we are not afraid when we hear them. It is ridiculous not to expect us to react with rejection.

Besides, I think that you’re idiots, or something. Do you think that if you say to us “hey girl, you are so hot” or that if you grab our asses in the street or in the subway, which, moreover, is because you are cowards, so that we do not know who it was or to be able to put a face of “it wasn’t me” we are going to throw ourselves into their arms and say “take me, make me yours, daddy”? On top of that, you are cowards. Because if we tell you  “daddy, you are so hot” or we grab your asses, you shit yourselves in fear and don’t know what to do. You don’t want to flirt or have sex, you want to dominate, give orders, and be violent.

And then you think that we are as stupid as you are, because you come with the “hey, compañera! That’s a really good take, explain to me more about the struggle… Well, why don’t we go have a coffee and keep talking? You are very intelligent”. And so, we explain. You guys think it’s because we want to be with you, and you don’t take long to come out with your “hey, I want to be with you” and so on. And then when we tell you that no, that it’s not going to happen, you answer with your “fucking lesboterrorist bitch, what you need is a good fuck so that you stop your bullshit, you fucking bitch. You aren’t even that hot”.

Yes, you are right when you say that women are more cruel to other women than men. That we use macho insults to refer to other women, that we call them “puta“, “ofrecida“, “robamaridos” or like in your Pedro Infante movies “motivosa” which are all words that you invented11. But don’t you say that everything is a process? That in the indigenous communities the women went and are building their own path without anyone telling them how, or giving them orders, or imposing manuals or recipes? Well, we are learning too. And the culture that fucks us up because of your bullshit also fucks us up in our heads. And that’s why there are as many feminisms as they are women, because each one of us has our own way, and each one of us has our own history, and we’re looking for ways to fight them and how to beat them.

And you, in the face of our struggle, can be helpful or not. But notice that I said “in front of our struggle”, that is, you are not part of our struggle.

No matter how sensitive and receptive you are, you cannot be a feminist, because you will never be able to put yourself on this side. You will never menstruate. You will never desire or fear pregnancy. You will never give birth. You will never suffer menopause. You will never be afraid to go out into the street in broad daylight, to pass in front of a group of men. You will never be born, grow up, live with the fear that comes from being what you are. And it’s not that we wish we weren’t women, and that we curse that we were born women and that it would have been better to be born men. No, what we desire, and fight for, is that we can be so without that being a sin, a fault, a mark, something that predestines us to be always on the defensive or to be direct victims. So don’t tell me that there are feminist men. When those men bring me a feminine towel stained with their menstrual blood, then we’ll talk, or maybe not even then.

(In the meantime, I have looked closely at the compañera’s body. No, I was not looking at her ass or breasts. I was looking at her arms and legs and seeing what kind of shoe she was wearing. I was calculating the impact of a punch, a kick. The calculation was rushed so I retreated to a distance that I considered prudent. She was angry. The compañera had tears in her eyes, but they were not the tears of a victim. They were of courage, of rage. I remembered then the tears in the eyes of the compañer@s in front of the body of compa Galeano. The tears of the relatives of those who disappeared from Ayotzinapa when they told us their story. The compa didn’t even take a handkerchief, with the sleeve of her arm she wiped away her tears and continued.)

Yes, I know you’re going to tell me that the fault lies with the fucking capitalist system. But you also do nothing, you’re just a bunch of people who let things happen. You keep saying how important it iis to fight the system and you’re also the fucking system. You and us too. But we don’t stay with our arms crossed, at least we resist. You don’t even do that, because you’re lazy and it’s convenient for you, because you’re assholes. And yes, I know that’s a sexist insult, but it hurts you and that’s why I call you that.

And look, I’m going to tell you the main thing that our compañeras in the Zapatista communities have taught us. Because we are also assholes, who think that we are better off or that we know more, or that we are not as fucked up as them. And so we want to give them classes in feminism, teach them to fight for their rights. That’s bullshit. We have nothing to teach them; no matter how many books, or tweets, or round tables, or meetings we do. And the compañeras when we go or when they come, they don’t come to tell us what to do. They don’t criticize us. They don’t look at us. They don’t speak badly of us, as they say. They talk to us and tell us that they want to learn. Tell me if that doesn’t fuck you up. We don’t have anything to teach them. They tell us with their own struggle, with their own history, that everyone has their own way.

When they tell us their stories they say, “that’s the way we are, but each one has their own way”. The worst thing is that with their struggle they question us. They ask us. They give us one of those “punches to head” that we are grateful for. Because they throw us a “what about you?” that makes you go up and down in a way that you forget about PMS.

What made me, and I believe also others, approach the Zapatistas were not the compañeras, or yes, maybe the Zapatista compañeras too. And not because we wanted to be like them, alas; the fucking Zapatista compañeros are part of that too. What happens is that Zapatismo is a fucked up thing, because it makes you want to be better, but without stopping being what you are.

It tells you and asks you: “here we are doing this here, what are you doing there? And there’s no bullshit in Zapatismo. It doesn’t care if people are fat, thin, tall, short, brown, blonde, preppy, prude, old, young, wise, ignorant, peasant, or citizen. And believe me, there is no stronger love than that. A love that respects you, that loves you just as you are, but poisons you because at the same time it makes you want to be a better person, a better woman. It doesn’t demand it, it doesn’t tell you… it doesn’t even hint at it and that’s what’s fucked up. Because that desire is born from yourself and there is no one to complain about it, no one to give an account to, but the fucking mirror. And we can’t blame the fucking men, or the fucking system, or the conditions, or anything else. It’s really fucked up because it throws everything at you. Because it forces you to take responsibility for that love. It doesn’t let you hide anywhere… Fucking Zapatismo.

I took the words like a macho. I wrote down everything. I didn’t edit anything. The words are as I heard them or read them. They are exact, not because I recorded them, but because you will agree with me; they are words that are hard to forget. In the end I told the compañera that I was going to present those words in this roundtable and asked her if she wanted to add something else; for the colophon, as they say. She thought about it for a few seconds and said yes: 

“tell the fucking men to go and fuck their fucking father12. Yes, their father. Because it’s not their mother’s fault that they’re such assholes. And tell the compañeras that…” 

The Zapatista compañera, who still doesn’t know she is a Zapatista, doesn’t hesitate; it seems like she’s looking for a word and can’t find it. 

“Look, I’m not a believer but I can’t find another expression to tell them what I think. So tell the compañeras ‘God blesses them’. That I hope one day not to be in front of them, but at their side and not to feel shame burning in my chest. That I hope the day will come when they will call me a compañera because of who I am. Because I am. And that’s it! Because I have to see about the tercio compas, and do work for the magazine, upload the communiques to the website, transcribe the recording, review the text, do crafts, go to the meeting, to work, to the fight, always to the fight. And tell the cat-dog that if he urinates on the chair again, he will hear of me.”

The compañera left. I checked myself to see if I didn’t have any fractures or bleeding. If I didn’t have any injuries. If I hadn’t lost anything, besides my pride. Seeing that my beautiful parts were complete, I came to the computer to write down these words. Of course, before that, I warned the cat-dog to go and find a country where there was no extradition treaty.

And now, this shows that men always have the last word, and that is, thank you. Thanks to the insurgents, thanks to the indigenous Zapatista women, and those who aren’t, thanks to the compañeras of the Sexta, thanks to the compañeras who are not from the Sexta but who are still fighting. Thank you.

These words made us understand the need to fight for a world where women can live without fear. That is why this is our commitment.

We are grateful to Frauenstreik Bonn for inviting us to the amazing and well organized protest of March 8th, 2021. Thank you, Kate and everyone at Frauenstreik!