Sarah DeVries
Fátima's mother, María Magdalena Othón. Fátima's mother, María Magdalena Othón.

A pair of brutal femicides elicit fear and rage at systematic gender abuse

Men are typically killed when they are involved in crimes; women are often killed because of who they are

This has got to stop.

News of two brutal femicides this past week has floored many people, especially women. This is saying a lot, as news of extreme violence is par for the course at this point. But the constant stream of dead girls and women is chilling. The combination of female fear and rage in the air is palpable.

This isn’t about just a few bad apples; this is a systematic problem. When femicides are reaching 10 a day, it’s a wide societal complication, not a conglomeration of a lot of coincidentally similar psychological profiles.

AMLO’s assertion that the culture of neoliberalism is to blame sounds absurd on its surface and is certainly tone-deaf: not to mention a chauvinistic culture (which also exists in many societies in which neoliberalism isn’t the name of the game) as a factor is a huge oversight. Nevertheless, he certainly wouldn’t be the first person to draw a link between a cut-throat capitalist economy and gender abuse.

The first shocking example (this week, anyway) was of a young woman stabbed to death and then flayed by her much older boyfriend following an argument. The second, heartbreakingly, was a 7-year-old girl who was picked up outside her school. Though we don’t yet know all the details, a woman is the one who picked her up; she was found dead in a trash bag four days later.

Why are so many women winding up dead? One might argue that men are winding up dead too, but it’s different, and this is why: men are typically killed when they are involved in crimes; women are often killed simply because of who they are, with their romantic partners accounting for the majority of the perpetrators.

Back to the child, whose name was Fátima: we can’t prevent all violence. We can’t prevent all bad things from happening. But we can take reasonable precautions.

We don’t know the details of why, but the girl was waiting outside the school to be picked up unsupervised.

For goodness sake, can’t we agree to not have children wait outside for their parents alone? I’m not sure what the circumstances were here. Was it common for that school to allow children that young off the premises without a parent? It seems wildly irresponsible, but we don’t yet know everything that happened.

Teach your children a code word (do not write it down) that someone who is assigned to pick them up must know and say to them, and practice it. We don’t know if this was the case, but I suspect that if this girl willingly got into a vehicle, it’s no doubt because the woman told her she’d been sent by her mother to get her.

And finally: can we please stop gasping and acting all scandalized by graffiti that angry protesters leave? After all, there’s never outrage when men in gangs do it. And it could be that I just don’t notice, but the people who are outraged by the spray paint curiously don’t seem to be outraged by the femicides and abuse of women.

Spray paint can be cleaned off, statues and buildings can be erected again, glitter can be washed out of one’s hair. But no one can be brought back from the dead.

Rest in peace, sweet Fátima. We will bring justice to the system that let this happen.

Sarah DeVries writes from her home in Xalapa, Veracruz.

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