The first feminist group called Women in Solidarity Action developed in 1971 following student activism in 1968 against the authoritarian government. It main concerns were women’s reproductive rights. The coalition Broad Women’s Movement developed in the 1980s with a division between those who wanted to work with leftist parties, considered male-dominated, and those who wanted autonomous women’s groups. By the early 1990s they lobbied to change government policies, such as participating in UN conferences that led to an increase in feminist NGOs globally. Mexican feminist NGOs mobilized lower classes in response to criticism they were excluded. By 1998, 97 NGOs existed; almost half focused on women’s health, and politicians discussed gender.[i] Feminists were also influenced by the Zapatistas, discussed below, some participating in Zapatista groups.
Professor and editorial writer Marta Lamas is regarded as Mexico’s leading feminist.[ii] She edits the region’s most important feminist journal Debate Feminista and writes books about feminism. She co-founded GIRE, the Information Group on Reproductive Choice and founded the Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute. She criticized recent division of the moment into “identity politics” and the lack of young feminists. She does have hope for “a generation of young girls who are seeing things in a new way.”
A study of feminism in Mexico City by Yin-Zu Chen reported that young women are different in not believing that collective action is necessary because they’re influenced by neoliberal individualism, more opportunities for women, and use the Internet to organize. Their main issue is abortion rights because contraction is now accepted. They grew up with gender studies programs (the first was started in 1983 expanding to 43 programs by 2013) and feminist organizations. Some young women find these Second Wave organizations too rigid and bureaucratic, condescending to youth, so they create their own actions although they have similar goals. Similar to global young women, protests often feature their bodies and interest in “sexualization of the body as a protest strategy,” are less tightly organized and may include male feminists. For example, the “protest of miniskirts” responded to a priest who criticized “provocative” clothing in 2008 by gathering wearing miniskirts in front of the priest’s cathedral. The next year a socialist feminist collective walked around the Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City, with photos and information about women punished for abortions in other states pinned to their clothes. Another issue is protesting the unsolved murders of over 370 young women in Ciudad Juárez.
Chen interviewed ten feminist college students or recent graduates. Nine of them reported feminist consciousness came from university studies and the other was influenced by working at an NGO, in contrast to older feminists taught by community work or consciousness-raising groups. Chen concluded feminism follows from experiencing or witnessing discrimination and framing a collective group identity. The generation work together more closely in Mexico than in North America, similar to other developing countries.
[i] Yin-Zu Chen, “How to Become a Feminist Activist after the Institutionalization of the Women’s Movement,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, 2014, pp. 183-206.
[ii] Brook Elliott-Buettner, “Global Feminist Profiles: Marta Lamas of Mexico,” Gender Across Borders, April 20, 2009.