Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa
Women: Assembly Instructions?
Words from the Sixth Committee of the EZLN for the public event “Women Without Fear. We Are All Atenco.”
May 22, 2006
May 22, 2006
My name is Marcos, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
For those of you who are familiar with zapatismo, it might not be necessary to explain what I’m doing here, at an event of and for women.
Of course you are not just women, but women who have decided to raise your voices in order to protest against the attacks the police have been making, and are making, on other women since May 3 and 4, 2006 in San Salvador Atenco, in the State of Mexico, in the Mexican Republic.
You are, here, there and everywhere, women without fear.
My name is Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, and I am, among other things, the spokesperson for the EZLN, a primarily indigenous organization which fights for democracy, liberty and justice for our country which is called Mexico.
As spokesperson for the EZLN, those others take voice through my voice, those who comprise us, who give us face, word, heart.
A collective voice.
In that collective voice is the voice of zapatista women.
And along with our voices and hearing are also our looking, our zapatista lights and shadows.
I am called Marcos, and among the numerous personal flaws I bear, sometimes cynically and cockily, is that of being man, macho, male.
As such I must bear, and often flaunt, a series of archetypes, clichés, proofs.
Not only in regard to me and my sex, but also and above all in reference to woman, the female gender.
To those flaws which define me personally, someone might add the one we have as zapatistas, to wit, that of still not having lost the capacity for being astonished, for being amazed.
As zapatistas, sometimes we approach other voices which we know to be different, strange, and yet similar and appropriate.
Voices which astonish and amaze our ear with your light…and with your shadow.
Voices, for example, of women.
From the collective which gives us face and name, journey and path, we go to great effort in choosing where to direct ear and heart.
And so now we are choosing to hear the voice of women who have no fear.
Can one listen to a light? And, if so, can one listen to a shadow?
And who else chooses, as we are today, to lend ear – and with it, thought and heart – in order to listen to those voices?
We choose. We choose to be here, to listen to and make echo for an injustice committed against women.
We choose to be fearless in order to listen to those who were not afraid to speak.
The brutality wielded by the bad Mexican governments in San Salvador Atenco on the 3rd and 4th of May, and which is still going on, to this very night, against the prisoners, especially the violence against women, is what summons us.
And not only that. Those bad governments are trying to sow fear through their actions, and, no, what is happening now is that they are sowing indignation and anger.
In a newspaper this morning, one of the individuals who, along with Vicente Fox and his cabinet, are priding themselves on “imposing the Rule of Law,” Señor Peña Nieto (alleged Governor of the State of Mexico), stated that what happened at Atenco had been planned.
If this were so, then those who were beaten, illegally detained, sexually attacked, raped, humiliated, then they planned, among other things, to be women.
We know, from the statements of those without fear who were detained, who are our compañeras, that they were attacked as women, their women’s bodies violated.
And we also know from their words that the violence visited upon their bodies brought pleasure to the policemen.
The woman’s body taken violently, usurped, attacked in order to obtain pleasure.
And the promise of that pleasure taken on those women’s bodies was the lagniappe which the police received along with the mandate to “impose peace and order” in Atenco.
Certainly according to the government they planned on having the body of a woman, and, they planned, with extreme depravity, that their bodies would be plunder for the “forces of law.”
Señor Fox, the federal leader of “change” and of the “Rule of Law,” clarified for us a few months ago that women are “two-legged washing machines” (partial disclaimer, revolving payment plans and go to the customer service department).
And it so happens that up above those machines of pleasure and of work, which are the bodies of women, include assembly instructions which the dominant system assigns them.
If a human being is born woman, she must travel throughout her life a path which has been built especially for her.
Being a girl. Being an adolescent. Being a young woman. Being an adult. Being mature. Being old.
And not just from menarche to menopause. Capitalism has discovered they can obtain objects of work and pleasure in infancy and in old age, and we have “Gobers Preciosos” and pedophile businessmen everywhere for the appropriation and administration of those objects.
Women, they say above, should travel through life begging pardon and asking permission for being, and in order to be, women.
And traveling a path full of barbed wire.
A path which must be traveled by crawling, with head and heart against the ground.
And, even so, despite following the assembly instructions, gathering scrapes, wounds, scars, blows, amputations, death.
And seeking the one responsible for those sorrows in oneself, because condemnation is also included in the crime of being women.
In the assembly instructions for the merchandise known as “Woman,” it explains that the model should always have her head bowed. That her most productive position is on her knees. That the brain is optional, and its inclusion is often counterproductive. That her heart should be nourished with trivialities. That her spirit should be maintained by competition with others of her same gender in order to attract the buyer, that always unsatisfied customer who is the male. That her ignorance should be fed in order to guarantee better functioning. That the product is capable of self-maintenance and improvement (and there is a wide range of products for that, in addition to salons and metal and painting workshops). That she should not only learn to reduce her vocabulary to “yes” and “no,” but, above all, she should learn when she should speak these words.
There is a warranty included in the assembly instructions for the product called “Woman” that she will always have her head lowered.
And that, if for some involuntary or premeditated manufacturing defect, one should lift her gaze, then the implacable scythe of Power will chop off the place of thought, and condemn her to walking as if being a woman were something for which one must ask forgiveness and for which one must ask permission.
In order to comply with this warranty, there are governments who substitute the weapons and sex of their police officers for their lack of brain. And, in addition, these same governments have mental hospitals, jails and cemeteries for irreparably “broken” women.
A bullet, a punch, a penis, prison bars, a judge, a government, in sum, a system, puts a sign on a woman who doesn’t ask for forgiveness or permission which reads “Out of Service. Non-Recyclable Product.”
Women must ask permission in order to be a woman, and it is granted to her if she is so according to what is shown in the assembly instructions.
Women should serve men, always following those instructions, in order to be absolved of the crime of being a woman.
At home, in the fields, the street, the school, work, transportation, culture, art, entertainment, science, government. Twenty-four hours a day and 365 days a year. From when they are born until they die, women confront this assembly process.
But there are women who confront it with rebellion.
Women who, instead of asking permission, command their own existence.
Women who, instead of begging pardon, demand justice.
Because the assembly instructions say that women should be submissive and walk on their knees.
And, nonetheless, some women are naughty and walk upright.
There are women who tear up the assembly instructions and stand up on their feet.
There are women without fear.
They say that when a woman moves forward, no men move back.
It depends, I say, from my machismo reloaded perspective – a mixture of Pedro Infante and José Alfredo Jiménez.
It depends, for example, on whether the man is in front of the woman who is moving forward.
My name is Marcos, I have the personal flaw of being man, macho, male. And the collective virtue of being what we are, we who are zapatistas.
As such, I confess that I am astonished and amazed at seeing a woman raise herself up and seeing the assembly instructions shattering, torn into pieces.
A woman standing up is so beautiful that it makes one shiver just to look at her.
And that is what listening is, learning to look…
Cheers to these women, to our imprisoned compañeras and to those who are gathered here.
Cheers for your having no fear.
Cheers for the valor which you pass on to us, for the conviction you grant us that if we do nothing to change this system, we are all accomplices in it.
From the Other City of Mexico.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, May of 2006
PS WHICH ASKS: What punishment do those officials, leaders and police deserve who attacked the women, our compañeras, like that? What punishment does the system deserve which has turned being a woman into a crime? If we are silent, if we look the other way, if we allow the police brutality in Atenco to go unpunished, who will be safe? Isn’t the release of all the Atenco prisoners thus a matter of elemental justice?