Friday, January 20, 2012

Cartoon 15: Dabbling in Oppression

Okay so this happened at a 'Fiesta Popular' which is basically a block party to celebrate the local saint. Each neighborhood here in Mexico has their own saint and once a year they have a street party with fireworks and bands and all the people come out to celebrate the saint. These events aren't heavily touristed and I am lucky to be staying with folks from here so they brought me.

The energy of the band just swept me away and I started dancing like crazy as I tend and love to do.  I was movin' and groovin' and smilin' at folks and havin' a blast but after a minute I kinda felt a weird energy.  I stopped and realized that a circle of people had formed around me and they were all staring at me. Whoops. I had totally forgotten the environment that I was in and that my behavior was very abnormal there.  A woman dancing alone, moving her hips, smiling at everyone.  Way to create waves Sara. As the last panel of the cartoon shows I got every response from 'What a slut!' to 'Wow you are so cool!' to 'Come here baby'.  So I danced over to the folks who were looking friendly and curious and hung out with them for a minute til' the circle disappated. Then I danced my butt back over to my friends and stayed a little closer and moved my hips a little less for the rest of the time.

The question that comes up for me with this situation is, "How important is it to me to act as the liberated woman that 'I am' if it means that I cause too many waves to be in and learn from certain places?"  Eventually the attention, not just to me but to my whole group because many of us were obviously not from there, got to be too much and we left.
So...oppression! It is so crazy to live in a society in which woman's rights are not the same as what I'm accustomed to.  I have so many questions about how to respond! Do I dress like a boy (self-oppression) so that I don't have to deal with comments or unhealthy attention? (In one week I had three different men say gross and hurtful things to me in the street) Do I stick with men I know all the time?  Women here create a web of support, beautifully conscious and generous with each other, taking care that everyone gets home safe and doesn't have to be alone.  (Makes me ask myself if in the dominant culture of the US we needed each other a bit more would there be less of a culture of competition between women there?)

 I feel dependent on my travel mates (both males) in ways that I am not used to. I have to ask for help based on realities that I don't want to support and I don't understand completely. I don't know how much of the need to be accompanied all the time is a real danger or is part of a traditional way of thought that teaches women that they need men to protect them, that they need a man to be complete (not that that doesn't happen in the US buts I feel like it's on another level here).  I realize that I have not had to develop the humility it takes to depend on other people.  I'm used to being in relationships only for love, not financial support or protection.  That means, if someone treats me badly, I'm gone.  Now I start to feel how those other considerations can play into relationships. 
For the first time I would self identify as part of an oppressed group.  This is the closest I've gotten to understanding what it's like to have ones life opportunities severely shaped by gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc.  I must look to my community to find ways to get what I need in an unfair system.  It is incredibly painful and frustrating and, at the same time, it is turning out to be a really rich experience. Seeing the web of support here, feeling how people I hardly know take care of me, groups of friends that I just met offer to walk me home if its late at night.  It is making me a stronger, humbler,  more well-adjusted person. How odd the concept to be able to dabble in being part of an oppressed group.


  1. Yes, it's an opportunity to see and learn things about an environment, culture and yourself when you're a visitor and "dabbling". Wishing you a safe trip and lots of learning.

  2. this was very interesting Sara, thank you for sharing all your experiences and thoughts with us. Be safe and keep us updated. Love the drawings.

  3. Yeh Jud, I always expected to learn about others while traveling but am constantly surprised about how much I learn about myself and my home. xo!

    thank you thank you george! Its such a pleasure. It helps me stay on top of reflecting on what happens to me ya know?