This week I heard a report on NPR that Mexico’s City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera started a campaign to sell whistles to women for $3 in an attempt to stop men from sexual harassing women on the transit systems in Mexico City. The women are encouraged to blow the whistle when they are groped and grabbed throughout their ride on public transit. The whistles are a way for women to “break the silence” of the sexual assault they experience on a daily basis. According to the report, the officials say that this is the first step of a comprehensive plan to stop the violence against women in Mexico City. There is a protest against this plan because it puts the burden of protection on the women rather than holding men accountable for their actions. It was noted as well that there are pink city buses for only women riders so that they can travel around the city without harassment. It appears that our neighbors to the south have a serious problem and by starting with the whistle of armor campaign, they are at least acknowledging that something needs to be done to stop this assault on women.
The ongoing disrespectful attitude and treatment of women is not new historically. Early in ancient writings, daughters could be sold or married off to ensure financial success or women were taken as concubines of the ruling class such as King Solomon who had 300 along with 700 wives. Because of the religious practices as well as the laws of the land, women in biblical times were often marginalized and were without resources if the men gave them a letter of divorce. Many times, they were forced to prostitute themselves in order to have a means of support to live. Of course, there were a number of exceptions to the rule as there always are but the struggle was real. I believe this is why Jesus was always focused on the widows and orphans in his daily ministry.
One such example is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 8 that describes the Pharisees, the well-known leaders/teachers of the synagogues, who brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to test his take on the Law. According to them, the Law states that if a woman was caught in the act of adultery she was to be stoned. Of course Jesus knew they had misquoted the Law and were using it to trap him. The Law states that both the man and the woman who were caught in adultery were to be stoned by the person who caught them. Jesus did not respond to them but bent down and drew something on the ground. They did not relent in their questioning and finally Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They were trapped by his words. They could not claim to be without sin therefore they could not stone the woman. Jesus had equalized the discussion between the leaders and the woman. I believe that he also lowered himself to the ground so that he would not tower over the woman but be on more equal terms. Jesus changed the common practice of discrimination by being a champion for the marginalized.
What can we learn from his example? The women of Mexico have done nothing wrong to deserve being violated daily by the men that travel with them on the overcrowded public transit. Women, children and sometimes men who are subjected to domestic violence are made to feel, by their abusers, that they deserve the battering they receive. Women who are raped do nothing to deserve being attacked by someone who desires violence. This is not about what someone does that is right or wrong it is about power and control.
How do we change the violence against women? The Mexican women are given whistles, which draws attention to the inappropriate touching by men. Yes this seems like a paltry attempt by the government to address a systemic problem in their macho culture. However the world is now aware of this issue as never before so it is a start. There is also recognition, by the authorities that they continue to have issues concerning the treatment of women. They are not alone. I believe we in the United States need to take a stand against violence too. We can teach our children, either sons or daughters to respect each other. Children mimic behaviors they see from their parents. Are you treating other people as you would like to be treated? It is up to us to understand that abusers are bullies and they don’t play fair. Believe women who are raped or harassed. Provide hurting women a safe place to tell their stories and listen to them without judgment. Empower them to break their silence and help them find their voice to courageously speak up against the violence. Jesus provided the accused woman with a nonthreatening presence and by doing so showed her that she was valuable and loved. Can we do the same?