Dear Julia. A couple of thoughts on normalization of the horrific.

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In the past three years, three women friends of mine who I hold dear, have confiding in me that at some point in their lives they were sexually harassed, assaulted and/or abused.

There’s no way to sugarcoat truths like these and while the point is not to keep tabs, it does beg the question “if three women in my inner circle felt comfortable enough to trust me with these terrible grievances, how many more are hiding their pain completely in the dark?” Well, according to a Brain Gallup poll published on December 2017, an appalling 46% of Mexican women admit they’ve been victims of sexual harassment. This is seriously messed up and it should bring shame to all Mexicans.

The #MeToo movement has not caught on in Mexico as much as in the United States. Some celebrities like Mexican playwright Sabina Berman, a sexual assault survivor herself, have explained that machismo is so engrained in our culture and societally accepted behavior, that women who find the courage to speak out are often ostracized, labeled as troublemakers and limited in their professional opportunities.

Now I applaud the intention and the courage of the pioneers of the #MeToo movement everywhere around the world, but this thought piece is less about that and more about my worries surrounding our normalization of abuse. Let me explain…

A couple of months ago, I was having a colloquial conversation with a dear friend… for privacy and reference purposes, let’s call her Julia. We were catching up as we had not seen each other for a while and, in the midst of chatting, she shared with me that she was worried about an upcoming professional project because a man who had sexually assaulted her when she was a minor, would be involved in the project. Like many other women who’ve gone through these horrors, Julia went on to explain that when the abuse happened years ago, she did not denounce the act, partly due to shame and naiveté and partly since as hinted earlier, it’s harder to speak out in a culture hard-wired to discard sexual violence, celebrate misogyny and sideline whistleblowers.

As I am reliving the moments when my friend shared with me these horrific memories, I find myself completely dumbfounded about the way that I reacted to her cry for help. When she finished sharing the details of the situation, I immediately went into problem-managing move, describing possible scenarios, calculating pros and cons for each alternative, creating conceptual maps in my head… I should have just hugged her immediately, held her close for at least a couple of minutes to show how much I cared about her in a moment of open vulnerability. Instead, I went into “the way I see it you have these options…” And herein lies the problem: could it be that I’ve begun to normalize the concept of sexual assault in my head? Just to be clear, by “normalize” I don’t mean “justify”, I mean that hearing about it and seeing it close to home no longer astounds me the way I think it should.

Maybe I’ve just been overexposed and have grown a thicker skin than I would like. Very early in my professional life, I worked on a project to combat trafficking in persons in Ecuador, mostly victims of sexual exploitation. I saw and learned of things too harrowing to even want to mention in this blog. I’ve seen the vice of sexual harassment in the lives of friends, I’ve read about multitudes of cases in the news and I’ve seen the tide of the #MeToo movement overtake social media and mainstream conversation… I posit that this overexposure could be having a numbing effect and it worries me.

The first time we see something new, be it negative such as an act of violence or positive, like the first time you attend a Cirque du Soleil show, your mind reacts in an enhanced way, precisely because it is new and unexpected. As you experience the same situation over and over, your margin of amazement begins diminishing, to the point where people learn to live exposed to the risk of violence or even the wildest contortion act in Cirque becomes unsurprisingly bleh.

MeToo_img-The-Nation-1024x644On October 15th, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano wrote the tweet that got the #MeToo movement off the ground.  When we heard the news about Harvey Weinstein, it was loud, it was amazing, it caught media attention, it was BIG and #MeToo REALLY flourished. But then came Kevin Spacey and Al Franken and the whole discrediting debate and divide related to the Aziz Ansari story, and so on and so forth… and we started normalizing and trivializing the phenomenon. Have we gotten to the point were if we hear about another case of sexual abuse we’re no longer appalled? If not, are we heading in that direction? In trying to raise awareness are we in a strange juxtaposition breeding a society were sexual misconduct becomes expected?

Maybe it’s time to commit to an ideal where we encourage people to break the silence, raise our voice against that which we hold reproachable but also ACTIVELY remind ourselves that we cannot ever allow normalization of this, even if it is a recourse of best intentions and a means to fast track into providing solutions. We MUST allow ourselves to feel angry and disgusted and to empathize with people to confide in us, to feel their pains, to support more by allowing ourselves to feel more and hence, love more.

Dear Julia, te quiero mucho. I’m here for you and I’m sorry for what you went through and I’m sorry I did not hug you really, really hard.

 

 

 

 

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Espero estar del lado incorrecto de la historia – Por Carolina Cruz Garza

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(English version below) Julio 2, 2018, Monterrey, N.L.

Desde chica, siempre me ha interesado la historia. Leo vorazmente sobre la historia del siglo XX particularmente la de Europa. Estudié Relaciones Internacionales por ser la carrera más afín a este interés. Al leer sobre la Revolución Francesa o la Segunda Guerra Mundial, siempre me imagino cómo sería vivir esos momentos históricos; me imagino en los zapatos de alguien que estaba del lado “ganador” de la historia. En los zapatos de un luchador revolucionario o de alguien que desde la resistencia se opuso al régimen de Hitler, o albergó a una familia judía.

Hoy, con el resultado de las elecciones de México, espero estar del lado “incorrecto” de la historia. Soy regiomontana, parte de una clase “privilegiada” que tuvo un punto de partida de mucha ventaja sobre el promedio de los mexicanos. Somos una familia unida, con oportunidad de dar la mejor educación y oportunidades a sus hijos. Tuve el privilegio de estudiar en los mejores colegios y universidades y de viajar y aprender diferentes idiomas. Sin embargo, en mi familia también se nos ha enseñado el valor del trabajo duro, de la dedicación y del esfuerzo. Nos enseñaron a no asumir nada y trabajar para merecer. Cuando le llamaba a mi abuelo los domingos siempre me preguntaba “¿Qué estás haciendo?”- si mi respuesta inmediata no era “Trabajando”, me decía “Hay que trabajar… ¡También comes en domingo!”.

Por eso soy parte de los millones de mexicanos que creemos que tener un líder con educación y conocimiento del mundo, con visión amplia y realista de nuestra realidad económica y de nuestra posición en el mundo, nos ayudaría a continuar por el camino del crecimiento económico (aunque fuera poco a poco). Soy parte de los millones, que quizás por los últimos 18 años, hemos votado por el “menos peor”. Soy de los millones de mexicanos que queremos creer que México progresa a pesar de sus gobernantes y gracias al esfuerzo de los millones de mexicanos que se levantan cada día a trabajar honestamente para sacar a sus familias adelante, en la iniciativa privada.

latin_americax_worldxs_leftist_leaders_support_mexicoxs_amlo.jpg_1718483346Hoy soy parte de los mexicanos que nos despertamos sorprendidos a un nuevo México.  No nos sorprende que haya ganado AMLO las elecciones y nos da gusto que el proceso democrático se haya llevado a cabo con relativo orden y una amplia participación ciudadana. Como todos los mexicanos, ya estamos hartos de la corrupción, la impunidad, la inseguridad, y el statu quo. Lo que sí nos sorprende y nos preocupa es el poder que hoy tiene AMLO y Morena en sus manos, porque como muchos mexicanos, no creemos en un mesías, y no olvidamos el pasado.  No olvidamos también los muchos movimientos que comenzaron por este mismo camino y la historia nos comprobó que al final fueron devastadores para el pueblo.

Hoy más que nunca me levanto con ganas de seguir trabajando y luchando por este México ideal. Mientras espero estar en el lado “incorrecto” de la historia, no me quedaré esperando. Seguiré trabajando para hacer cumplir este México que soñamos. Hoy más que nunca debemos mantener la guardia alta. No olvidemos que “El poder tiende a corromper, y el poder absoluto corrompe absolutamente” (Lord Acton, Inglaterra). No dejemos que todo ese poder que ayer los mexicanos depositaron en Morena, se vuelva un arma en nuestra contra.

Hoy espero que AMLO, Morena y México me pongan del lado incorrecto de la historia, pero no me quedaré esperando. No dejaré de trabajar por el bien de mi país, de mi ciudad y de mi familia y los invito a hacer lo mismo. Sigamos adelante, apoyando donde haya buenas ideas y resistiendo activamente donde no.

Carolina Cruz Garza es es Lic. en Relaciones Internacionales con maestría en negocios europeos. Es mexicana, esposa de un mexicano y orgullosa madre de tres niños mexicanos. Carolina es consultora de negocios en materia de gestión del cambio y comunicación.

I HOPE TO BE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY, By Carolina Cruz Garza.

July 2nd, 2018, Monterrey, N.L.

 

Ever since I was a small girl, I’ve always been a fan of history. I particularly love to read about 20th century European history. I studied International Relations in university because of this personal love for history.

When I read about the French Revolution or World War II, I always imagine how it would have been like living through these historical times. I imagine what it must have felt like to be on the “winning” side of history and I put myself in the shoes of a courageous revolutionary, a member of the resistance against Hitler’s regime or one of the brave people who harbored Jewish families during the Holocaust putting their own lives at risk because they knew it was the right thing to do.

After witnessing the results of Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections, today I hope to be in the “wrong” side of history. I come from Monterrey and I am part of a “privileged” class with much more than an upper hand versus the average Mexican citizen. I am part of a tightly knit family which has been able to give its kids access to quality education and opportunities. I’ve had the privilege of studying in the best schools and universities, I’ve traveled around the world and enjoyed learning different languages. While I don’t deny having this privilege, I am also part of a family which teaches the value of hard work, dedication and effort. I’ve been taught never to assume anything and to work hard to deserve what I achieve. When my grandfather was still alive, I would call him on Sundays and he would always ask “what are you doing?”… If my immediate answer was not “working, grandpa”, I would be met with an emphatic “You should be working even if it’s Sunday. You still eat on Sunday, don’t you?”

I am one of the millions of Mexicans who believe that in order to further our economic development, we should have a knowledgeable leader, with a developed world view, a wide vision and real understanding of our economic reality and our role in the global stage. I am one of the millions of Mexicans who, at least for the last 18 years, have voted for “the least worst candidate.” I am one of the millions of Mexicans who want to believe that Mexico can advance despite its government representatives and thanks to the efforts of millions of Mexicans who wake up every day and pour their hearts out to keep their families afloat, doing honest work within the private sector.

Today, I am one of the millions of Mexicans who woke up in amazement and facing a new version of Mexico. We are not amazed that López Obrador won and we’re actually grateful and proud that we went through a relatively peaceful electoral process with ample civic participation. Like all Mexicans, we are fed up with the rampant corruption, impunity, insecurity and status quo. What is amazing and quite frankly, worrying, is the amount of power that López and his party Morena, now hold (having locked in large portions of the upper and lower house of Congress). Like many Mexicans, I don’t believe in the messianic presidential figure and I don’t forget the past. I also don’t forget about similar “movements” which went down similar paths to the one being drawn by López and which resulted in devastation and misery for the people.

Today, more than any other day, I woke up with a will to keep working and fighting for a better, even ideal Mexico. While I hope to be on the “wrong” side of history, I don’t intend to wait for it. I will keep working for the Mexico we’ve dreamed about and want for our children. Today, more than ever, we need to keep our guards up, lest we forget that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton, UK). It is our responsibility to ensure that all the power that a voting majority of Mexicans gave to Morena yesterday, does not become a weapon against our country.

Today I hope López, Morena and Mexico place me in the wrong side of history, but I don’t intend to wait for it. I will not stop working for my country, my city and my family and I hope you don’t either. Let’s keep moving forward, providing support to good ideas and actively resisting bad ones.

Carolina Cruz holds a masters in European Business and a BA in International Relations. She is a Mexican woman, married to a Mexican man and the proud mother of three Mexican kids. Carolina is a business consultant specializing in Change Management and Communication.