There is a new social media star and I owe my friend Manuel a bottle of mezcal for introducing me to her. In videos of about a minute or less, @CHerlanlly delivers satires of toxic masculinity pervading [some] Mexican men. @Cherlanlly’s character is Tomás, a man under thirty who condemns women for demanding legal abortion, tells them to keep their legs shut while simultaneously verbally abusing his children and telling his friend he specifically told his ‘baby mama’ [Fanny] he did not want to watch them on that day.
When nursing a hangover, Tomás chides his mother for not having breakfast ready for him. Tomás complains there are “no good women left” and reminds his mother she must cook for his children who will visit later that day unless he wants to deal with Fanny’s wrath. Tomás thinks he is amusing his male friends when he calls women “feminazis,” saying spray painting public monuments is nothing but attention seeking behavior. However, he wants to set a date with his friend to paint a graffiti on a wall near the house of the woman he is trying to impress. Tomás owes money everywhere, including child support, but always has time and cash on hand for beer.
The videos are a good laugh but also food for thought. Herlany beats machos at their own game. She is not the “hysterical woman” crying. She is them. By using a male character to highlight the double-standard that exists for male and female behavior, Herlany, the character’s creator, brings to the fore the daily aggressions women face even if they appear to be trifles. These aggressions, however, have the potential to escalate and become another link in a long chain of abuses that can culminate with femicide; 11 of which happen everyday in Mexico.
Am I reading too much into Herlany’s satire? I don’t think so and we can debate it. Us women in Mexico, but not only there, know there are very few places we are safe. In a recent conversation with female friends we commented how we constantly are at risk and to cope we have created mechanisms to take care of each other. We ask our friends to let us know when they have arrived home and to share their Uber trip so we can keep track of each other in real time.
There is nothing unique about my conversation. In fact, I know women all over the world have had it with their friends at one point or another. We all face the constant reminder that our bodies are not truly our own, from lewd stares, including finding out your once harmless classmates from elementary school now violate your trust and share your private social media photos in chat groups with their friends, to disrespectful exchanges with male colleagues.
On July 23rd Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez reminded everyone of these challenges with a speech that made the rounds in social media and news headlines. Her speech was a rebuttal to Representative Ted Yoho who among other derogatory terms called her a “fucking bitch”. Ocasio-Cortez was compelled to respond to Yoho who apologized for the “misunderstanding” but failed to express regret for his words. Ocasio-Cortez took issue with what she called Yoho’s shield of being married and a father as an excuse for poor behavior, famously reminding him she is someone’s daughter too.
My hope is that our daughters will learn about Ocasio-Cortez’ speech in history class and won’t need the mechanisms my friends and I use to take care of each other. Either through satire or poise, the message is clear, we do not want men to respect us because we are their sister or their mother. We want the same sense of safety they have in their everyday interactions with the world and this includes even fictional Tomás coparenting without calling Fanny a stubborn fucking bitch to get a cheap laugh at her expense.
* Cecilia Farfán Méndez is head of Security Research Programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Twitter: @farfan_cc