Por todas las compas marchando en Reforma
Por todas las morras peleando en Sonora
Por las comandantas luchando por Chiapas
Por todas las madres buscando en Tijuana
Cantamos sin miedo, pedimos justicia
Gritamos por cada desaparecida
Que resuene fuerte: ¡Nos queremos vivas!
¡Que caiga con fuerza el feminicida!
Yo todo lo incendio, yo todo lo rompo
Si un día algún fulano te apaga los ojos
Ya nada me calla, ya todo me sobra
Si tocan a una, respondemos todas
— “Canción sin miedo” by Vivir Quintana
LAS VEGAS — I think it was Euripides who said that a society which doesn’t defend its women isn’t worth jackshit. Or maybe Euripides never said that, but he should have. Anyone who hates where he comes from, and would destroy it, must essentially hate himself. “And since we all came from a woman,” as the poet-prophet sang, any man who would kill a woman, or even treat her worse than he does his own shoes, reveals his hatred for all of humanity, himself included. A man who hates women must hate human life, and wants to die but is too afraid to do something as simple as swallow a bottleful of aspirin, or wrap his teeth around the barrel of a shotgun and pull the trigger—which is what a real man does rather than punish a woman for his own self-loathing.
The other night I watched Las tres muertes de Marisela Escobedo (The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo), a Netflix documentary which tells the story of a mother in Juárez who launches a nationwide crusade against femicide and government corruption after the murder of her 16-year-old daughter Rubí. Since women began disappearing in the mid-nineties, Juárez has had the inglorious distinction of being the “Femicide Capital of the World.” (According to Molly Molloy at New Mexico State University, the femicide rate in Juárez actually averages lower than a lot of American cities.) Many of the desaparecidas were employed at the newly built maquiladoras, causing many juarenses to raise a finger at “los juniors,” the sons of wealthy men, specifically the maquiladora bosses.
My wife is a native daughter of Juárez herself —we’ve been to her grandparents’ cinderblock home on Calle Rododendro and saw where her father pressed her tiny seven-month-old foot into a slab of freshly poured cement— and I’ve often wondered how my wife must feel being from one of the most dangerous places for women on earth. Because she was only two when she came to the States, I imagine she feels like she dodged a bullet but doesn’t remember it, much less the gun pointed at her.
I’m tempted to ask my suegro how he felt living with three young girls, plus their mother, in a woman-eating hellhole like Juárez. (I call it a hellhole because that’s how juarenses themselves describe their hometown.) A girl below the age of, say, six or seven, remains largely oblivious to the depravity menacing her on all sides: whether in the form of a family member, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, or just a complete stranger. How terrifying it must be for parents, though, realizing the evils which constantly threaten to destroy their daughters.
At the risk of sounding silly, I would argue it’s even worse for fathers, because no one understands how bestial men can be more than a man. We hear how some of the boys talk when women aren’t around, and a few of us are honest enough to have peered into the shadowy corner of our common nature. As with any red-blooded man, deep within me lurks a savage whom I keep shackled and half-starved—though still potent enough for those moments when I need him to fend off the other savages.
Lest the reader number me as one of the Woke, I’m not talking about so-called “toxic masculinity.” There’s no such thing, for one; what most people mean by “toxic masculinity,” I suppose, is too much masculinity, which ignites in a man something like the wrath of Achilles: hyper-aggression, hyper-competitiveness, hyper-possessiveness, damn near bloodlust—what most Latinos recognize as el macho. Yet, as the ancients pointed out, too much of anything is toxic, and in that way masculinity is no more toxic than femininity, or even water.
Even so, despite what James Brown said, I’m beginning to believe this is in fact a woman’s world. Not only is a woman’s womb the cradle for all human life, masculinity seems to be an aberration of sorts from a feminine norm. We all know how every human starts life as a female fetus—the male sex organs being merely the female sex organs turned inside out, minus the uterus—and how the Y chromosome is much smaller than the X chromosome, which every human being has regardless of sex. The X, that is, is the norm.
I’ve heard the theory of an ancient male fear of feminine power, which goes like this: Before we understood how a new human life came to be—and many of us still don’t—that a woman’s belly would grow and then, nine months in, a baby would slide out, put the fear of God in primordial men. To them it was magic, the most powerful magic there was; and that nearly every woman seemed to wield this same magic, and work it every year, made men feel vastly inferior. Besides hunting and killing each other, men could only defend the baby, not create it. Even now we hear this male inferiority whenever some dad has the nerve to say, “When we were pregnant…” We never hear a girlfriend or wife say, “When we had a boner…”—well, maybe these days we do.
There’s a reason why Mother’s Day is a much bigger holiday—practically sacred—than the day for dads, and why we speak of Mother Nature, Mother Earth and, when we’re not in a genocidal mood, the motherland. The lionesses do most of the hunting in a pride, whale and elephant societies are matriarchal (when they’re not fulfilling their biological purpose, the big bulls go it alone), and though male bears are the largest land carnivores—the T. rex of today—few would go claw to claw with a mama bear.
That isn’t to say we men are useless. We have our own purpose: to defend women. And since this seems to be our primary function, any man who doesn’t defend women is less than a man.