It’s been roughly eight months now that I’ve published my last article here. After that I spent some days on Caribbean beaches doing and thinking close to nothing, wallowed excessively in the sadness I felt after leaving Mexico, sat at my desk for weeks and weeks to write my thesis and wasted even more time on complaining about having to write it. I also applied for an intenship in Mexico about two weeks after coming back – so hola, I’m back.
During all those activities I mentioned I haven’t really dealt with the contents of the blog, although I might have tipsily bragged about it at some house party or other. Still, I realized how much the encounters with the people I interviewed, the research I did and the amazing feeling of looking at the website I spent many hours working on impacted me. And I wanted to feel this again. I want to feel this again. So after a month of settling in I figured I want to keep on working on this little project that taught me so much. It is the point of this article to show you what exactly that is. In the second part of this reflection I want to tell you how those learnings influenced the goals I have in mind for my current stay in this wonderful and complicated country.
- Misogyny is real. It is also incredibly multilayered and affects men in a way I didn’t think it would.
I talked to many people with different gender identities, sexual orientations or preferences regarding how they organize their love life. In some or other way, they all faced some kind of disapproval, misunderstanding or even rejection, because they deviated from the presumed norm: straight, conforming with the sex they were assigned at birth, preferably male, but certainly acting within the expected range of „masculine“ or „feminine“ behaviours.
Judging from the experiences my interview partners shared with me, the discrimination they faced is based on the caricature of a role that is assigned to a woman: submissive, but able to shoulder housework, children, marriage and in many cases a paid job; sexy and sensual but not too sexually active; independent but not a hysterical man-hating feminist. What I did not realize before was how much this fixed set of acceptable behaviours – which do differ depending on the individual context the person is in though – required a ridiculous male counterpart. Why should a trans woman leave the „Club of Toby” (what’s this?) with all its privileges and why would a man betray the image of the passionate Latin Lover that makes women go crazy in the bedroom (or wherever, really) by sleeping with men – or with no one at all?
With those aspects in mind, an approach focussing on gender is not a niche issue, but one that affects a society as a whole. And should therefore receive as much attention as possible.
- It also goes hand in hand with other kinds of power structures.
Your gender, the way to perform it and how it is perceived is not an isolated phenomenon, but appears within a specific social context, shaped by history (especially with regard to colonialism and imperialism), culture, faith and geography. The reproach of failing to comply with the cliché of the passionate Latin Lover is – for many reasons – limited to a certain group of people and does not apply to others in the same way.
Although gender, sexuality and their implications within a certain society will remain the focus of this blog, other factors like race or social background will be considered more.
- My articles did in no way reflect the whole of the Mexican society.
And how could they? Looking back at the content I wrote, recorded and edited I noticed how particular my focus has been. I studied and lived in the enormous, eclectic moloch that is Mexico City, so diverse, so busy, so beautiful and awful at the same time – and still most of my stories took places in a college-educated environment I myself feel so comfortable in. And although I am convinced that this was the best way to start exploring the diversity of Mexico City, I would like to go further into issues that I have not covered before – within the city and the country that lies way beyond (more on that in the next article!).
Let’s be honest: I will never be able to display the full variety of Mexican life- and lovestyles, their perspectives and struggles. But I can at least point my recording device into some new directions – and hope I don’t hit anyone in the face as my next point illustrates.
- Subjectivity feels like walking a tightrope.
The last time I walked a tightrope was during a circus workshop in third grade and someone held my hand. Lightly. I totally could have done it myself! This time, though, the tightrope feels a bit trickier, because I would not only fall on the ground and hurt myself but I could figuratively fall on people whose perspective I have not considered. Err. You get the idea?
What I want to say is that during the process of investigating, writing and editing I have to consider my own standpoint and background which is obviously not rooted in Mexico. I literally have no idea what it’s like to grow up in this country, to go to school (if even possible), to work and to manage an everyday life when you’re not a straight German (not quite anymore) student living in one of the greatest areas in the capital. So I’ll try to intervene as little as possible when people kindly offer to depict their reality on this platform. Of course, journalistic context will be given and the articles you are about to read will be edited and altered for various reasons. But I’ll do my best to keep it transparent.
- Writing is not always fun. But it mostly is.
In the beginning I told you I needed some time to settle in. Which means that I needed some time to senselessly binge-watch old episodes of Friends and to stroll through pretty stores without buying anything for an unreasonably long time. Typing those lines I realized how much I enjoy coming up with ideas, rephrasing them and deleting offensively bad puns. But it’s also hard when it’s so much easier to do what I just confessed. So my ultimate learning kicked in just last week when I realized: I have to do stuff. I have to do good stuff that’s more impacting, impressive, infuriating, heartbreaking and inspiring. No pressure whatsoever. So that’s why I’m writing this post that will be followed by many, many more. Because I just can’t keep on talking about a story I wrote a century ago. I am so excited.
Stay tuned for Part II, coming up on Thursday.