Against literary machismo in Latin America

Silvia Rothlisberger

A manifesto signed by hundreds of Latin American female and male writers from the region raises awareness of the gender disparity in most of the cultural and literary events in Latin America and of the machismo culture that reigns in the industry.

The most recent example and the one that encouraged this manifesto was The III Mario Vargas Llosa Novel Biennale, which took place on the last week of May in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Biennale awards a Latin American author with US $100,000 and is named after the most recent Nobel Prize winner from the region Mario Vargas Llosa who stirred things up on March 2018 after writing in the Spanish-language newspaper El País that nowadays feminism is the biggest enemy of literature as “it pretends to decontaminate it from misogyny, prejudice and immorality”.

The scarce female presence on this year’s Mario Vargas Llosa Biennale couldn’t be ignored: from the 16 panellists only three were women, from the five shortlisted authors of the literary award only one was a woman. And from the five judges of the prize only one was a woman.

“This year is not different from past years”, states the manifesto. “In 2014 the panellists were 25 men and only six women; in 2015: 22 men and eight women,” it continues. “And in both editions, the panel of judges and the shortlisted authors for the award were equally disproportionate. Also, on both occasions the winners were male. We can guess what gender will be this year’s winner.” As if predicting the near future the winner of the III Mario Vargas Llosa Novel Biennale Award was a male writer.

The Manifesto also raises awareness of the machismo culture in the literary industry. After a scandal that broke on Mexico at the end of March when a journalist denounced on Twitter that a male writer had physically harmed many women and they were afraid to speak up. This unveiled a wave of testimonies of harassment via Twitter from personal accounts under the hashtag #MetooEscritoresMexicanos (#MetooMexicanWriters) and there is now a Twitter account called @MeTooEscritores where women can send their testimonies and they are published on this account. If they want to remain anonymous they can.

#metooescritoresmexicanos (also known as #MujeresjuntasMarabunta) is now a movement and their manifesto states: “In the last couple of weeks, more and more women working in publishing have joined in a collective and subversive action against violence that has been normalized in our workspaces: publishing houses, book fairs, conferences, congresses, universities, workshops, etc. This is not new. We have kept harassment, humiliation, segregation and sexual assault to ourselves far too long, in fear that our accusations would be dismissed and our work excluded.” The manifesto also states how their “mission is to underscore impunity, which in Mexico stands at an alarming rate of 95% -an absolute imbalance of power that benefits perpetrators”.

The movement has ten demands as an initial stage to stop the harassment and gender imparity. To highlight a few: That the development of public policy guarantee gender parity in the different levels of cultural institutions, as well as in juries and selection committees for all state and national contests. That all publicly funded magazines and publications include at least 50% of female authors in their catalogue. That there be an alternation between men and women in decision-making positions.

This movement in Mexico is the latest of an increasing number of feminist movements in the literary sphere throughout Latin America that wants to change the industry into a more balanced and fair environment for women.

Comando Plath is a collective from Peru of women writers, artists and intellectuals who are tired of being “stereotyped, ignored, treated violently and being ridiculed”. The collective Comando Plath created a successful petition on Change.org asking the president of Peru to withdraw the National poetry award given to the poet Reynaldo Naranjo. This petition came after an award winning investigation by journalists Gabriella Wiener and Diego Salazar exposed the laureate poet of sexually abusing his daughter and stepdaughter in the 70s.

#EscribimosPublicamosExistimos | #Colombiatieneescritoras

 

Photo: Katherine Hanlon

Episode 21: Black History Month with writer and musician Freddy Macha

Sound engineer: Oscar Pérez.

In this episode, we did a mini tribute to Victoria Santa Cruz and his brother Nicomedes Santa Cruz by bringing to live their most iconic poems. Victoria’s Me gritaron negra (They shout black at me) and Nicomedes’ Black Rhythms from Peru; performed by poet and musician from Tanzania Freddy Macha.

Mentioned in this episode:

Victoria Santa Cruz’s poem Me gritaron negra / They shout black at me

Nicomedes Santa Cruz’s poem

Freddy Macha’s website

The Last Poets

Gil Scott Heron

A glimpse into the making of this episode…

Victoria Santa Cruz performing Me Gritaron Negra

Related content

Book Black Rhythms fo Peru: Reviving African Music Heritage in the Black Pacific

Black Rhythms of Peru interview with author Heidi Feldman