By Carole Reedy
Shifting perceptions of women and their roles in society have occurred more rapidly in Mexico City than in the rest of the country, not unusual given that large cities generally seem to adapt to change more readily than rural environments. The advancement of women in the workplace, at home, and in social standing has brought a new respect for women in general. We’re seeing more women playing active roles in government and gaining positions of power in politics, even in rural areas of the country.
Mexico’s adoration of mothers has long been recognized throughout the western world. (Although less well known is the ironic use of the word “mother” in Mexican slang. Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz explains it all in his famous work The Labyrinth of Solitude.) However, these days single and married women as well as mothers are gaining a new respect. This is reflected in the everyday life of the city.
Among the many buses that transport citizens and tourists along the city’s main tributary, Paseo de Reforma, you’ll spot a big pink bus. Women only are allowed on this one, though you may have to wait a bit longer for it than for the green buses that seem to run constantly on the flower-lined avenue. The Pink Bus also travels down several other routes in the city. many years, women-only buses and subways have been rolling along the streets of India, Brazil, Japan, and other countries. Mexico City finally established a Pink Bus system in 2008 as part of a growing responsiveness to complaints about discrimination and disrespect from men on subways and buses.
When taking the Metrobus or the underground Metro, as a woman, go directly to the first car. These are designated specifically for women, children, disabled citizens, and people over 60. Police often monitor the cars to be certain that men respect the women-only designation. But don’t despair if you miss the opportunity or forget to go to the front. If you board other cars, which are mostly filled with young men, it’s likely someone will offer you his seat, especially if you are older, disabled, pregnant, or have a child in your arms.
Museo de La Mujer and Museo Soumaya
One of the hidden treasures of Mexico City is the Museum of the Woman. Most people don’t know about it, though it’s located right in centro historico at Republica de Bolivia 17. The eight rooms of the museum recount the history of Mexico from the perspective of the woman, explaining the daily roles of women from the pre-Hispanic era to the present. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 6 pm.
Another new art museum in the city, Museo Soumaya, was built by Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, in dedication to his respected and adored wife. It’s located in the Polanco area and free at all times to everyone.
Rights for everyone
In many ways, Mexico City is one of the most liberal cities in Latin America. In 2009, it was among the first to legalize same-sex marriage.
Abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy has also been legal since 2007. “Mexico City has taken a huge leap forward in its region,” said Luisa Cabal, Director of the Center for Reproductive Rights International Legal Program. “The Mexican legislature should be commended for recognizing a woman’s reproductive rights as human rights.”
Euthanasia (enacted in 2008) and prostitution (the latter allowed only in designated districts and highly regulated) are also legal in the city.
Women’s rights in the Arab world are at the forefront of the news these days. We see women in Egypt, Afghanistan, and other countries fighting for the right to an education, respect, and sometimes simply the right to walk unescorted in the street. And while these rights are already ours, there’s still a distance to go in equality in government positions of power and in some cases pay equality in the workplace for women.
As Mario Osava wrote in ‘Women More Educated, Not More Equal’ (Inter Press Service), “When it comes to female education rates, progress has been made around the world, and in many countries girls and young women have outnumbered and outperformed boys and men at all levels of schooling for decades. Nevertheless, these advances have yet to translate into greater equity in employment, politics and social relations.”
In the words of Malala, just released from a London hospital after being shot in Pakistan for her belief in the rights of women there: “I have the right to speak, sing, and walk to the market.”
We in the West are most fortunate, but challenges remain.
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