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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Tourist Feminists

We’ve been fans of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s public art project, “Stop Telling Women to Smile,” protesting street harassment for awhile. Now Fazlalizadeh has taken her project to Mexico City — and teamed up with Anna Holmes to document the trip in a cool multi-media feature for Fusion.

Few things disgust me more than when spoiled,  fussy Western do-gooders export their trivial concerns to other countries. Women in Mexico live in an environment of such vicious sexism that the melodramatic obsession of rich American tourists with being told to smile is the last thing they need to address.

But the tourist feminists don’t care. They believe that if they throw a couple of bucks to the locals, these locals are obligated to parrot their fussy preoccupation with banality. The locals always oblige because they need the money but the abyss between them and the overfed foreigners widens.

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9 thoughts on “Tourist Feminists

  1. Shakti on said:

    It sounds like you’re reacting to the project title more than what it actually is. Nevertheless, projects exported to different locales tend to be less effective and more tone deaf.
    I’m fine walking outside of my house. But if I go visit my grandparent and decide to walk around, the street harassment is vicious enough that I want guns.

    Of course Mexico City has a general public safety problem, AFAIK.

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    • Mexico – just like every Latin American society – is excruciatingly sexist. It’s a horrifying place for women. But it’s not horrifying because of anybody telling women to smile or the piropos. Yes, the piropos can get obnoxious to a tourist but it’s such a trivial issue compared to the general wide-spread conviction that women are inferior to men. I’ve had female professors and artists from Mexico, serious people with very sophisticated educations, explain to me, completely in earnest and in a very passionate way, why they are sure that nature made women inferior. Violence against women is completely trivialized, it’s shown on TV and everybody feels compassion for the men who brutalize their wives in front of the camera. In the indigenous communities, women are reduced to the role of livestock. In the mestizo communities (and there is nobody else), it’s a little better but still, it’s on a different planet from what we are used to experiencing in the US.

      It’s not a reality people should touch before studying it long and hard.

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      • Shakti on said:

        I’ve had female professors and artists from Mexico, serious people with very sophisticated educations, explain to me, completely in earnest and in a very passionate way, why they are sure that nature made women inferior.

        Are they all Sor Juana? I’m not familiar with much Mexican history or contemporary culture, but I can’t tell you how many times I saw the word “abnegnation” in a sentence relating to women. Now you’ll tell me that Laura Esquivel is considered super feminist in Mexico.

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  2. 1000x yes! Could it be more obvious her goal is to make DF a more desirable tourist destination?

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  3. I’m not sure it is disgusting any more than French high fashion is disgusting. What it is, is pointless. HIgh art is always pointless though, conveying a message that most people have no use for. IN any case, someone puts up some useless posters and someone else gets some money. The only error would be to assume that communication of any sort has taken place across cultures.

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  4. Maybe a smart Mexican marketing agency will profit from this by creating a FEMEN-like Group.

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