Red is the color of love, blood, and missing women
Happy Valentine’s Day, a few weeks late.
If you know me at all, you know I don’t mean this in a genuine way.
The last time I celebrated this holiday in any way that was not completely sarcastic was probably with my high school boyfriend, over 15 years ago. This Valentine’s day was different than normal – I didn’t feel sarcastic – I felt a deep sadness and an increasing welling anger inside of me. Capitalism and Hollywood would tell me I am THE ultimate life failure since I spent the day alone with my dogs, but that was not the source of my sadness, no Hollywood, you do not control my emotions.
Today on this day to celebrate romantic love, I was sad, a variant from my normal sarcastic anger about Valentine’s day, as red flowers and red hearts and red balloons were filling the streets.
Red is the color of romantic love.
Red is the color of blood flowing out of the femicide victims throughout Latin America where justice is almost never found.
Today red was all around me as I travelled across Guatemala. Red flowers. Red balloons. Red hearts. Red candy. Red for romantic love. Yet all I could think about was red for the blood of the murdered women. The missing women and girls who will never come home and never know love.
Today in Mexico and Guatemala, where I live and work, some women I know were happy about Valentine’s day, with their flowers and stuffed bears. Many sad, to be alone or ignored by the men in their lives, as just like the U.S. where I was raised, women here are taught that we cannot be fulfilled without our ‘media naranja’, our half orange, our other or “better” half.
The concept of romantic love, according to feminist authors in the U.S.
and Mexico , is a myth, a destroyer of relationships, and a silent killer, for those of us who don’t fit into capitalisms expectation of what a body should look like or how a woman should behave.
But this Valentine’s day, many women in Mexico and Guatemala, and worldwide, did not think for a second about their media naranja, because we were too busy thinking, like we do every single day, about the women who were killed simply for existing in a woman’s body. Killed by their boyfriends, lovers, husbands, uncles, brothers, fathers, community members, and sometimes, random strangers. We were too busy thinking, today, like we do every day -will I make it home safely tonight? Will I be raped or murdered? Will something terrible happen to me simply for existing in a woman’s body?
Protests were held today, on Valentine’s Day in Mexico for Ingrid. Ingrid was killed by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend who claimed to love her. Who cut her up into pieces after he killed her. True love, right?
The idealization of romantic “love” KILLS!
Foto Permission and Credit: Liz Martínez @lizzzzzmg (follow her here for more photo updates of feminist protests in Mexico)
Women and a handful of men took to the streets to protest the Mexican government and the press who published graphic photos of Ingrid’s body. To protest the police who leaked the photos. The press who profited from selling pictures of her body. The society who buys the newspaper and looks at her body in tiny pieces and keeps perpetuating romantic love and sexism and goes on with life as over 3000 women a year are murdered in femicides.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Happy are we the women who haven’t been cut into tiny pieces by our loved ones.
In Guatemala, the press on Valentine’s Day was circulating news about the feminicide from last week of a 12 year old Chelsiry, who was murdered by her uncle, who has yet to be captured by the police. And ten year old, Rosa, who was raped and murdered by three men last year, the men who have yet to be sentenced due to complications with the DNA evidence.
I kept thinking about Rosa, today, as I moved about and saw all the red roses for sale on valentine’s day. Rosa means rose in Spanish. Rosa was raped by these three men after she refused to dance with them in her town’s fair. She was ten and they were between 18 and 27.
I do not want roses for Valentine’s Day. I want Rosa to be alive. I want Rosa to be intact, untouched by men. Untouched by expectations of romantic love. Un-killed. Un-raped. Take all your roses and all your romantic love and save Rosa.
I write about Mexico and Guatemala because these are the places I live and work but I am aware that it is all too easy to conclude, as an outsider, that these seem like terrible places, where women are raped and murdered. This is not and should not be the conclusion.
Here, we talk about femicides. In the United States, we do not have a word for the phenomenon, though it very much exists. In the U.S. 1 in 4 women experience intimate partner violence. Though the word femicide is not common in our U.S. centric English vocabulary or our news headlines, femicides are real, and happen in the U.S. too. Dawn Wilcox, a nurse from Texas, founded an NGO, Women Count USA, to track and honor victims of femicide in the U.S. which are estimated around 1700 in 2017 and at least 1600 in 2018.
I am publishing a Valentine’s Day blog weeks after Valentine’s Day because days after the holiday as I was finishing this piece a horrific femicide was committed against a 7 year old girl in Mexico, who was kidnapped from her school, raped, beaten, and left in a garbage bag dead. With photos of Fatima across the news and social media, a small girl with a bob haircut, a haircut that reminds me of myself in a deeply painful way, I was paralyzed for days, crying daily, deeply sad, and angry, unable to write and finish my witty Valentine’s Day blog.
I ache. The pain is deep. For her life never lived. For her mother, who was 20 minutes late to pick her up for school.
I am so very often 20 minutes late to almost everything as traffic is bad, meetings run late.
It seems unbearable. All the lives unlived. All the love never felt. All the stupid and pointless Valentine’s Days never celebrated that I am completely opposed to but nevertheless these women have a right to fall in love and celebrate if they wanted to. But they never get to.
I feel my feelings deeply and I am very often criticized for it. I am told that it is unhealthy to take on the pain of the world as it will cause me to feel depressed. I am told that if I feel so angry about the world’s problems it will cause me to ruin relationships with people I love.
Many are the accused of tone policing, most particularly men policing women’s tones and emotions, and white people policing people of color’s emotions and tones. The tone policing is problematic for many reasons, and as Molly McCarty points out, in 10 Reasons to Stop Policing our Anger, anger is arguably an incredibly appropriate response to oppression and shaming our anger takes attention away from the things we are angry about (which in my opinion is likely to make me even angrier).
As a bipolar person, irrational anger can be a warning sign for an oncoming manic episode. I live in a constant awareness and observation of my behaviors, emotions, eye movements, touch and noise sensitivities, and sleep patterns to watch for early signs for depressive or manic episodes, to prevent them with various treatment options. When someone accuses me of irrational anger or aggressive behavior, I check myself. Maybe I am manic? Maybe my brain chemistry is out of control.
Recently a male friend told me that I have a tendency to be aggressive. As a young woman playing sports, being aggressive was a complement. He was not complimenting my athletic talents but questioning my behaviors and tone of voice, aggressive, no longer a good thing for a full grown woman. We are supposed to be quiet and calm. Peaceful. Still. Well-behaved.
I checked in with myself. Was I acting manic? I looked at my eyes. Were they the deeper intense green than meant I was getting just a little manic? I was feeling angrier than usual. But they just chopped Ingrid into little pieces. They just killed Fatima. Chelsiry had been murdered. Rosa was gang raped and murdered. Of course I was angry. I was so angry. I still am. Aren’t you? Why are we not all angry? Why was I being accused of being aggressive? Aggressive are the men who raped and murdered these women. Violent are those men. Not me. Why was I made to feel crazy?
This is not the first man to observe that I am angry and aggressive. There is a fight deep inside of me. There is an anger that cannot go away. Men have far too many opinions about my emotions, in my opinion.
Don’t be so angry.
Don’t show your emotions.
Don’t let it affect you so much.
Don’t be so passionate.
The first person who told not to be so angry, was the person who I thought would be my life partner. He once told me I should stop being so angry as it was causing me to ruin relationships. I believe any relationship ruined by standing up for what you believe in is a relationship worth ruining.
According to my logic, the aggressive and angry person, is the man so angry he cuts another human into pieces after taking her life away. I merely shout or contest a gender norm. I merely demand human rights. I merely say, no means no. The aggressive one is the one who is murdering innocent women and stealing young girls. But somehow I am accused and policed, as I do not fit into the box and I do not follow the oppressive rules.
I find myself on the eve of March 8th, International Women's Day, finally able to complete this piece. While I still cry when I think about Fatima, Rosa, Chelsiry, and Ingrid, I was finally able to process some of the anger and sadness into, what I hope is a comprehensible set of ideas to share.
Though the street vendors have left behind the red balloons and the roses and moved back to their multi-colored flowers and miscellaneous plastic wares, we must not forget the color red. And while the red of Valentine's Day may be put away until next February, the red of the blood of the murdered women doesn't seem to stop, as daily we get new horrific stories, new tragedies, and new names of the murdered women, hoping it is not our friend, loved one, or our own blood shed. We hope the tragedies will end all together. Though we process our sadness and anger with writing, art, and protests, the emotions do not end.
So Happy Valentine's Day. I hope when you see red roses you will think of Rosa. and Fatima. and Ingrid. And Chelsiry. And the women worldwide who never lived their dreams. And remember that you have a chance to live yours and change this situation. Be angry. And don't calm down.