The women of Oaxaca, Mexico, were a key force in the organization of the popular dissent that began in 2006 and continues to this day. They took over a TV station for an hour when they realized that the local media was full of shit and would not tell the truth about the popular rebellion. Even women who had never been politically active in their lives said no to the old roles of oppressor and oppressed that are so deeply engrained in gender relations all over the world (and especially in machista societies in Latin America.) They left the kitchen, ignored the soap operas (those reinforcers of the old victim role of their gender) and joined a march of more than 20,000 women.
Being a female activist is fraught with danger; men can be killed, but women can be raped first. And even if rape doesn’t happen, genderized humiliation and assault are common. One of the women, an indigenous Mixteca, tells of how the police hacked off her hair in an attempt to debase her not only on the grounds of gender, but ethnicity as well.
Ironically, though, after some initial shock, the men rallied around the women. Men saw the women’s takeover of Channel 9, and were inspired to take up other grassroots media activities because of it. Husbands showed up at the jails to cheer their incarcerated wives; while mothers were imprisoned, the fathers looked after the children and told them to take pride in what their mothers were doing. The ongoing rebellion in Oaxaca is not only against a corrupt government and political system, but also a way of looking at gender and power relations at the root of society itself.