The list of crimes against women is excessively concentrated during 2019. The journalist Gabriel Torres Espinoza calls it The year of the femicide with impunity. There are communities, societies, institutions and entire countries with laws, regulations and social, police and even military control mechanisms to subject women to states of slavery, oppression, exploitation and inequality. Is the law sharia in every village dominated by the violent fundamentalists of Boka Haram, the laws of Islam in South Arabia and thousands more. Other societies, those that are said to be more modern, disguise these forms of oppression. Women who reveal themselves to horror, abuse, exploitation and subjugation suffer violent reactions. Few survive to tell the tale, like Malala Yousafzai against the Taliban, or the three Chibok girls: Deborah, Blessing and Mary who in an unthinkable, risky and heroic way escaped the horror of Boko Haram in Nigeria, or the extraordinary Mixtec saxophonist María Elena Ríos, who, like the Hindu Reshma Bano Qureshi, survived attacks with sulfuric acid, brutal crimes all committed by misogynistic men. Others are brutally punished for their daring rebellion, such as Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for demanding the right of women in Iran to show their faces and not wear the hijab. His sentence is greater than the 100 lashes with which the Koran dictates to punish those who commit sodomy.
End 2019 with[LR1] news of alarming numbers of feminicides of women in Mexico (ten per day), Argentina, Honduras, Spain, all over the world. While many of these women in their countries fought for their lives, and even denounced their ex-partners for the threats made against them, the state and its executive, legislative, judicial, and police structures did absolutely nothing to prevent their death, and moreover, in most cases they did nothing to punish the culprit.
Constantly appear in social networks and newspapers, more and more abused, violated, murdered women and girls in the world. They are statistics with numbers that cause horror, they come from different non-governmental, local and international organizations. They show how contemporary societies – “developed” or not – are only capable of quantifying femicides, monstrous physical attacks, kidnappings, trafficking in girls, adolescents, women; rapes, attacks, but they are not able to stop, punish, do justice or prevent them. The horror is quantified. Everything is numbers, the red blood, the suffering bodies, the screams, the suffering. The names, the little stories, the little lives, disappear. The veins, the cadences, the breaths are emptied. Women fade, they turn black on the ground, they turn to ashes in memory. Their faces and bodies are disfigured by the corrosive acid of patriarchy. Of them, in our society, only a black number remains that fattens anonymity and oblivion.
Visiting social networks becomes unbearable, unlivable, when next to a cute and wild animal doing some mime, the acid-destroyed face of a woman appears, the dismembered body of a teenager, the veiled face of a raped little girl who has been forced to give birth to a spawn. Lives and experiences are simplified into icons with red faces, the best of reactions, or yellow icons with blue tears. Some supportive men will put a blue finger, the kind that appear in cartoons with the plump thumb up. And the women? And the women? And the women? And their bodies, their stories, their pain, the harassment, the anguish, the persecution, the suffering? Where do they end up?
Famous Victims: The Case of Guadalupe Valencia Nieto
On December 2, appears on my social media wall the note of The country by Carmen Morán Breña, abruptly dislodges me from my work routine and I read: “A Me too from the 1960s in Mexico: Half a century later, the pianist Tita Valencia identifies Juan José Arreola as the man whose psychological abuse drove her to madness, a process that broke her literary career. ” I devour almost without being able to breathe the horror story, precise, of course, that Guadalupe Valencia Nieto tells the journalist Morán Breña at home, without avoiding questions, without euphemisms or metaphors.
Tita Valencia gives her name and surname to the one she had represented in 1976 in her book Bullfighting like a minotaur, the abusive man, older than her by nineteen years. The beast is the consecrated Mexican writer Juan José Arreola. Along with the legal and social identity, along with the lineage, it also identifies their intimate part, their ways of exercising violence, oppression, the specific ways that the intellectual had of being cruel, ruthless, destructive.
A couple of statements Valencia makes leave me locked in against horror, like a butterfly pierced by a pin in the center of its life. The first states that Arreola’s sexual, emotional and psychological predation was not exclusive, what there were other women he raped and abused, and notes the note: “That strutting of the teacher with his students, that ‘letting himself be loved’ could generate more victims. Does Valencia remember some of those companions …? “Yes, of course, there are two who are famous, but precisely for that reason, I prefer not to give their names,” he says in his soothing voice. “They were young like me, aspiring writers.” Fragile, he goes on to say ”.
I am shaken by deep pain, sexual predators never have a single victim, his rapture spreads and destroys all vulnerable beings in his path. And I wonder, who were those young girls that hung around Arreola that could have been his victims. On a personal level, I know several famous women, with first and last names, who were in his inner circle and that causes me stupor, anxiety, anguish. I keep reading the note, stunned. I am already immersed in a psychological, emotional, moral and political-legal process of prosecution, in the face of violence against women, we must take sides. Faced with a crime, it is not possible to remain silent, to look the other way. Either I’m with Valencia or with Arreola. There is a part of me that hurts to discard the narratives, the cunning, the good things about Arreola’s literary production, the admiration for the man of letters. But the disappointment, the disgust that the predatory man produces in me, is opposed to the deep pain and feeling of unconditional solidarity that listening to the story of Valencia produces in me. And I believe her.
The overwhelm persists at the thought that there were other girls who were abused by Arreola. I review in my head the names, the faces, the lives of the possible victims, it saddens me deeply, their silence corrodes me. Valencia’s narration, at every step, more and more, forces me to discard Arreola as a writer, because for me, a writer is, first of all, a human being, and that humanity does not fit in my world if it exists through crime, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. It hurts to discard good literature, but it hurts more to keep a despicable being and “excuse” him for his abuses or crimes for preserving his art. That is my micropolitics, my intimate, personal politics, that is my sentence. That is my way of doing justice to abuse and crime. I write my sentence in a short paragraph on the networks condemning Arreola as an abuser. From the world of writers, artists and intellectuals with whom I cross-network experiences, only three people react to the event in solidarity with the victim. Everyone and everyone is silent. Indifference, silence and lack of solidarity make me feel angry, frustrated, disappointed.
The second statement from Valencia that deserves a deep reflection appears in this part of the interview: “The case has all the characteristics of a regular abuse, now turned into a Me too avant la lettre: a hierarchical relationship, a constant neglect, now I take you now I leave you, ‘those abandonments’, the uncomplexed exhibition with other women. And the reversal of guilt, which leads the victim to assume the responsibility that does not correspond to him: ‘Forgive this outrage, forgive me that sometimes I hate you, love, and I rebel. Forgive me that at dawn … I asked myself what makes feminine pain so negligible and masculine pain so transcendent. For men to go through history what happens only to hysteria in women. ” There are two key aspects in this quote, the first is the character that the journalist gives to the Valencia complaint: that of inserting it as a #Metoo premature, avant la lettre, almost half a century before the fourth wave of feminism began. The second, coupled with the idea of self-blame for the raped woman, and that it is the victim who asks the rapist for forgiveness for suffering the consequences of the crime; Valencia makes clear a historical policy of the patriarchal system with a sharpness and sharpness that surprise: the man tells his story where the woman does not appear and when it appears, the woman is narrated by the man as hysterical.
This clarity of Valencia is surprising for directly opposing his blindness as a victim and his own submission to the executioner. This contradiction and complexity shows how patriarchy and its modes of oppression are exercised, conceptualized and oppressed even from the body, thought, feeling and worse still, from the very politics of women, from the same victim. However, the clarity of Valencia becomes the complaint that establishes that female pain is inconsequential in society. While the pain of the man, of the male, is recorded in human experience as “history”, a history of the male for men and above all oppressing and ignoring the history of women. The woman’s pain does not have the same value and is registered as ‘hysteria’, as an effervescence of emotions when best judged. Most of the time, historically, the pain and suffering of women has been classified as a mental illness. Much documentation and dissertations already accounts for this, from Michael Foucault -in his Madness story- to the extraordinary narrative of Cristina Rivera Garza -in the novel No one will see me cry.
Famous Victims: The Case of Elena Poniatowska
Similarly, in the context of the famous Guadalajara International Book Fair, two days after Tita Valencia denounces Arreola, just on December 4, she appears in The Excelsior, Virginia Bautista’s note with an evasive title, almost an amateur journalist: “Elena Poniatowska eliminated class prejudices for her son.” I almost didn’t read it. But I have a tender admiration and personal taste for our Elenita. And I keep reading – in a very poorly written note, where the news hides behind the shame, or the fear, or the ineptitude, I don’t know – horrified the revelation that in a private and convulsed process of writing and inquiry that Poniatowska carries out in his latest novel, The Polish lover spinning his autobiography and the historiography of his ancestors, he recounts the crime and rape he suffered at the hands of a “teacher.” Poniatowska, like Valencia, was a victim of Arreola. The abuse here denounces a rape, a bastard son never recognized by Arreola, an abandoned and denied son, who never received any financial, emotional, psychological, intellectual support. A son taken from Poniatowska, who rescues him against patriarchal determinations that deemed her incapable of raising the child.
She, like Valencia, does not identify Arreola in her text as a predator either. He identifies it in that interview published on December 4. The journalist Bautista says that Poniatowska ratifies it ‘later’, in another interview she gave to The Excelsior, but the date of that ‘after’ turns out to be a ‘before’. She herself interviewed Poniatowska in the wake of the editorial launch of her book on November 23, twelve days before, let’s put it this way, writing the rehash of the novel’s launch. The polish lover at FILG. That first note is better titled, but it is just as evasive: “Elena Poniatowska, tribute to the Polish roots: The Mexican writer publishes her‘ most personal novel ’, in which she reviews intense and painful moments.” Excelsior, 23/11/2019 05:00 by Virginia Bautista. I’m in a hurry to read that first interview. Again, the rape complaint, one of the central parts of the interview, appears buried in the historical review and minutiae of the novel. It is that neither Bautista nor Poniatowska herself make that event, that complaint of rape that radically changed the course of the life of the writer herself and the destiny of her son, the most important thing.
I see self-silencing, self-blame as common barbed threads that gagged these two great artists for more than half a century: Tita Valencia and Elena Poniatowska. And I keep thinking about the ‘other famous woman’ who did not name Valencia but who knows for sure was also a victim of Arreola. And the not famous ones, the ones that will sink your horror into anonymity. Poniatowska first denounced Arreola, on November 23, on December 2 Valencia did. My heart races and I wonder, when will the other victim report Arreola? Will the others appear or will they remain anonymous? Will they die with that silence rotting their eyes?
I post Bautista’s note on my wall criticizing his bad journalism. I suggest a possible edit to the title: Elena Poniatowska reveals that Arreola raped her and is the father of her first child. Alarmed, I see that no one reacts to Poniatowska’s report of rape and abuse. How terrible! The woman’s pain is not worth it. It hurts less than a book cover, a newspaper article, than a blue finger in the world of simulations of social networks. The pain of anonymous women is not worth it, but neither is that of famous women.
To end the chronology of violence against famous women, appears the beautiful literary review of María Teresa Prieto de The polish lover. But when it comes to reporting the rape that Poniatowska suffered, she is timid and weak. Where he should have raised his voice accompanying Elena in the ‘horror event’, when he recounted and denounced the rape that Juan José Arreola suffered, he barely mentions it. People who are careful not to give first and last names after the index finger that shouts “the rapist is you” protect their careers as journalists, intellectuals, academics, their contacts and connections with family members, friends, student readers, admirers of the circle of the famous, of the Arreola. And I ask: how to act before famous rapists, before men of power, literary, intellectual, artistic? You have to keep looking the other way, away from the horror and suffering they cause, without assigning them responsibility or paying for their atrocities, and read their literature? Buy your books? See his films, his works of art, his staging? Make tributes to them? Can today’s society leave the rapacious man intact in order to enjoy his literature or his art? And to the victims, dispose of them as garbage? Understand them as collateral damage of the creative process, inspirational.
Originally Posted On 12/31/2019.
Poet, Mexican writer. Graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied Political Science, Latin American Studies and Hispanic American Literature. He received his master’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles and is currently pursuing his doctorate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has given literary workshops, given lectures, and participated in cultural, literary and poetic life in Mexico, Spain, Canada, Argentina and the US. He has published in various magazines and newspapers in the cities of Mexico, Managua, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, Madrid, Montreal and Argentina. Anthologated by the Fondo de Cultura Económica in the 2004 Mexican Poetry Yearbook (as Maythé Rueda) as one of the best Mexican poets. From his creation the collections of poems: Trenas de Bruma, Discrepancies, Sand bites, Tearing darkness, Transitory poems, Bird Wings, De sal y ceniza, Dislocations and Closed blinds. Member of the editorial board of the magazines Monóculo, La Hoja and La Luciérnaga. Winner of the 1999 Long Beach House of Culture Poetry Prize, and 2006 Cal State LA Poetry Prize. She was a writer and literary critic for the Los Angeles daily La Opinion, as well as directing literature workshops.