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Gustavo Gac-Artigas

Decency! March the 8th, International Women’s Day

In dark times, in times of doubt, in times of hopelessness, in times of principle, we must start by demanding the basics: decency.

Decency in our speech, decency in our behavior, decency from the public figures, decency behind the scenes, decency in our gaze, decency in our words so often groped.

On the 8th of March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. As if a day of homage were enough to correct mistakes. As if one day could erase rapes and mistreatment. As if one day could equalize discriminatory treatment. As if one day’s speeches could wipe away the contempt, the domination to which they are subjected.

As if a woman-centered day could prompt us to forget the 364 days in which day after day her rights are violated, she is ignored, oppressed by language, designated to secondary roles.

It is time to demand decency, decency from ourselves, men, decency in our behavior, decency in our speech, decency to demand to radiate from power the powerful who take advantage of their positions to rape, with their gaze, with their words. To rape women, in exchange for a promotion, to dominate their bodies.

Not one more, never again, “and the fault was not mine, neither where I walked nor how I dressed, the rapist is you,” resounded last year on the streets of Chile, on the streets of the world. Never again a role in a film or play, or a promotion, in exchange for surrendering to the attacks of the powerful friend of the powerful.

Decency. May never again a woman be silent out of fear! Fear of what people will say, fear of the retaliation of the alpha males and the system.

Decency. May those who harass, who taking advantage of their position deviously make advances to women, never hold a position of power in public life again. Decency to strip them of their influence, to condemn and stop their actions, be they a former president, a governor, a former show business mogul, a former gymnast coach, a doctor or a teacher, a husband or a lover, a boyfriend or a co-worker, a…, just an aggressor. A rapist to get out of the way.

Decency inside political parties. An aggressor has no place in them. A party that accepts them has no moral right to seek our support. Moral corruption leads to chaos, to the end of society. We are different, and we are equal. We are equal, and we are different. We are all worthy.

Decency inside our institutions. Decency in our daily life. Decency in our behavior.

March is Women’s History Month. One month to sum up centuries of struggles, of courage, of love. One month of celebration to hide centuries of contempt and abuse.

Centuries of history, centuries of struggle. From Lysistrata, who in ancient Greece convinced women to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands to force them to end the war between Sparta and Athens, to the 123 garment workers killed in a fire at a women’s blouses factory in New York and the suffragettes. To LasTesis in Chile, the Green Wave in Argentina, the “Not One Less”, or the “Me Too” movement in the United States and the world. Today it is no longer the claim of one woman, it is a transversal movement that concerns all of us. Fortunately, it concerns all of us men, women, non-binary.

One exercised her right to love. “She is a whore”, exclaimed the males, smiling, getting ready for hunting. “She is a whore”, sentenced the Church. “She is a whore”, repeated the women who, either subdued by physical force or numbed by cultural rules, were forced to believe in male superiority. “She is a woman who raised her head”, said Mary Magdalene. And that is why the Pharisees accused her of being a whore.

Decency! There is no turning back if we are to get out of the shadows and the dark times, of insane practices, of friends acquitting friends, of the unjust justice of the powerful.

Decency, whether your name is Bill Clinton, Donald J. Trump, Andrew Cuomo, Harvey Weinstein, Olivier Duhamel, Dominique Boutonnat, Gérard Depardieu, James Levin, Charlie Rose, Russell Simmons, Moshe Katsav, Amos Oz, Al Franken, Roman Polanski, Félix Salgado Macedonio, Andrés Roemer just to name a few of those accused or charged for mistreatment, abuse of authority, sexual harassment, or directly of rape. Whether you are a president, a governor, a senator, a deputy, a producer, an actor, a writer, a teacher. Whether your name is John or Juan, Peter or Pedro, Bill or Guillermo.

And please don’t offer apologies such as “I lacked sensitivity,” “I didn’t realize,” “it was never my intention,” “they misunderstood me,” “I’m too affectionate and times have changed.”

Yes, be aware, times have changed. And if you happen to know one of these men, wherever they are crouched, add them to this list so that a woman never again has to say, “Me Too.”

These days, through a campaign on social media using the hashtag #RompeElPacto (BreakThePact), women in Mexico are demanding from their president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to break the pact of silence. We must join them and demand that, wherever it exists, the pact of silence that usually unites many men, the political power, and the institutions in the face of rape and abuse of women, be broken.

Decency in society as a whole. Let a woman never again be forced to accept a marriage of convenience arranged by her relatives, that never again in any small village a parent has to face the decision of giving a daughter away to strangers for a few coins and false promises of an education and a better future, both forms of modern slavery, of a modern slave market.

Let there never again be a rape in a school or university and the woman remain silent. Let her never again keep silent in face of abusive behaviors be they physical, verbal, or mental. Let young women never again feel guilty about their decisions on their bodies and whether or not to pursue a pregnancy. Let it be understood that “No means no” or otherwise it is rape. Let it be understood that love should be free to choose its ways, whom and when. Let it be understood that for equal work, equal pay, that patriarchy should not determine how household tasks are shared, that a woman will never again have to hide bruises on her face or body for being beaten, that we must fight against machismo and patriarchy with the same strength we fight against racism and all the plagues of this society.

On March 8th once again we will be honoring women. Honoring? Please… Decency!

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