Girls No Longer Want to Have Fun: Gender Violence and Self-Care in the Mexico City Suburbs

Receipt: October 1, 2021

Acceptance: May 4, 2022


Municipal areas such as Tultitlán, Coacalco and Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico, have been, for years now, a corridor for human trafficking, in which the disappearance of women has become constant; in the light of this scenario, inhabitants of these areas narrate their experiences of insecurity and fear, their self-care practices and explain how danger shapes everyday activities.

The narrations by these young ladies displays the way in which violence shapes feminine subjectivities in contexts in which dangers are inevitable and life cannot be put on hold because of them, so the only alternative is to adapt. In these women’s experience, fear is not a distant and random possibility, but a latent and nearby risk, which one escapes every day, no nobody know for how much longer: They all narrate danger situations which, by chance, never took place.

The recreation in particular is part of a discourse on the impossibility of ever being safe anywhere, on the prohibition and blame of the victims; nightlife, occasional and limited, is considered “debauchery” or “irresponsible and immature behavior.”

Keywords: , , , ,

girls no longer want to have fun: gender violence and self-care in the mexico city suburbs

Municipal areas such as Tultitlán, Coacalco and Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico, have been, for years now, a corridor for human trafficking, in which the disappearance of women has become constant; in the light of this scenario, inhabitants of these areas narrate their experiences of insecurity and fear, their self-care practices and explain how danger shapes everyday activities.

The narrations by these young ladies displays the way in which violence shapes feminine subjectivities in contexts in which dangers are inevitable and life cannot be put on hold because of them, so the only alternative is to adapt. In these women's experience, fear is not a distant and random possibility, but a latent and nearby risk, which one escapes every day, no one knows for how much longer: They all narrate danger situations which, by chance, never took place.

The recreation in particular is part of a discourse on the impossibility of ever being safe anywhere, on the prohibition and blame of the victims; nightlife, occasional and limited, is considered "debauchery" or "irresponsible and immature behavior."

Keywords: recreation, everyday life, tactics, insecurity, trafficking.


The exponential growth of violence in Mexico in the last two six years (2006-2018) has had in femicide one of its crudest expressions. In addition to the usual gender violence experienced by women in the area surrounding Mexico City, there is the possibility of being kidnapped and murdered, tortured and disappeared. Despite this scenario, young women in municipalities such as Coacalco, Tultitlán and Ecatepec carry out their daily activities such as studying or working without apparent alteration; the reflection presented here is the preliminary result of an investigation about recreational activities, particularly those that take place at night and involve long commutes, and how they relate to the self-care practices of these women. We try to show the meaning that these practices give to the different discourses on femininity and insecurity that predominate in the social space and how, based on them, feminine subjectivities are constructed that could constitute survival tactics in themselves.

The first section of this text attempts to characterize the localities studied as part of a "human trafficking" corridor where deaths and disappearances have been frequent for some years now, without the authorities resolving the problem. Then, in a brief theoretical-methodological section, I describe some conceptual categories from which I conceive social discourse as a privileged space of analysis of the social, I refer to the categories of social murmur, experience, subjectivity, tactics and daily life, which guided the analysis; I also recover some notions of public space that, from feminist theory, have made visible the inequalities that occur in it between men and women. The methodological strategy used for the design of the instruments and the constitution of the corpus of analysis is also detailed.

The third part of this paper analyzes the experiences of these young women, related to the dangers they face in their daily lives, in order to make visible the discourses that give meaning to such experiences and the way in which they resolve and confront them. By way of conclusion, I attempt a reflection on how the discourses on guilt and self-care shape female subjectivities to adapt them to violence and danger.

The corridor of disappearances

The present research is based on some municipalities in the Mexico City metropolitan area, specifically Cuautitlán, Tultepec, Tultitlán, Coacalco and Ecatepec.

These municipalities are geographically connected to the country's capital by the Mexico-Pachuca highway on one side and the Mexico-Queretaro highway on the other. They share some particular characteristics, derived from their proximity to Mexico City, and are inhabited by native inhabitants, traditionally dedicated to primary productive activities such as agriculture and cattle raising, and also by a large number of settlers from practically the entire country and Mexico City.1

The construction of huge housing units in the area resulted in these municipalities becoming what has been called "dormitory towns", since housing in the area is cheap and most of the inhabitants commute daily to work in Mexico City, making a three-hour round trip.

The proximity to Mexico City, the enormous demographic growth and the distance to the capital of the State of Mexico, Toluca, has generated that these municipalities are practically detached from the administrative and political control of that entity, this, together with the dynamics of the conurbation, has generated the proliferation of different social problems, mainly insecurity. María Teresa Padrón and Guénola Caprón describe in detail the logic of public transportation and the conditions of insecurity that the inhabitants face on a daily basis (2015).

For several years now, the State of Mexico has positioned itself as one of the entities in the country with the highest number of femicides, only in 2019 123 were counted. Violence against women is also a worrying problem in the entity, in 2019 there were 1385 simple rapes and 788 equipped rapes and 71 cases of "human trafficking",2 according to the Crime Incidence Report of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System, corresponding to the period from January to December 2019.

Between December 1, 2018 and July 13, 2020, the State of Mexico ranked first among the ten states with the highest number of reported missing or unaccounted-for persons, according to the National Registry of Missing and Unaccounted-for Persons.

Although it is a phenomenon that has received little visibility through the media, the high incidence of disappearances of women between 13 and 25 years of age suggests that they are specifically related to "white slavery".3 and that municipalities such as Coacalco, Tecámac, Ecatepec, Tultepec and Tultitlán are part of a "corridor" in which this crime proliferates, as documented by the organization El Pozo de Vida. a.c. (Venegas, 2021).

In an interview published in October 2018, the activist and leader of the Partido del Trabajo in the municipality of Coacalco, José Aguilar Miranda, claimed that police authorities in these localities are colluding with organized crime (Martínez Mejía, 2018).

According to David Mancera Figueroa, human rights defender and leader of the organization Lucha por México, the regional prosecutors know about the phenomenon, but have acted with indolence and even malice against the victims' families, covering up for the suspects; this organization has documented the kidnapping and disappearance of at least 13 adolescents between 13 and 15 years of age in the Coacalco Tultitlán Corridor. (Milenio, 2013).

Activist Rosi Orozco has also referred to the existence of such a corridor.

There is a place in Mexico called "the corridor of the disappeared. They also call it the "corridor of human trafficking". One name or the other is used interchangeably because, at the end of the day, they mean the same thing: the girl who gets lost there is very likely to end up entangled in a network of sexual exploitation. It is a place that has become the worst nightmare for authorities and civil society (Orozco, 2019).

In October 2018, the most prominent news was the arrest of the femicide whom the press baptized as "El mounstro de Ecatepec", Juan Carlos N, who was arrested driving a stroller with human remains and turned out to be a serial killer of women, although this case gave notoriety to the situation of constant disappearances in this area of the State of Mexico, some analysts have questioned the version that he was a serial killer who operated autonomously and have pointed out that this story tries to hide the real problem in the state, which is the kidnapping of women for exploitation in local black markets.

Despite the notoriety of this case and the fact that for weeks the town of Jardines de Morelos was on the front pages of the newspapers, and there was so much talk about the insecurity of women in municipalities such as Ecatepec, the disappearances have continued, even leading to the emergence of search groups that demand the attention of the State without much success.

This is the scenario in which the young women who live in this "trafficking corridor" develop, where daily activities are marked by the possibility of becoming victims; the State of Mexico is also among the first places in the incidence of domestic violence against women.

Women, public space and recreation in the social murmur

Some time ago I was traveling on the Mexico-Pachuca highway, aboard a minibus; at some point a couple of humble-looking teenagers with rough faces got on. A few blocks ahead, the boys asked to stop and got out of the vehicle without further ado. A woman was the first to express what many of us who were traveling on the bus might have thought, she said she thought the teenagers were muggers, and immediately there was a lot of talk about it, because on that route muggings are a daily occurrence. One of them pointed out that this happens because young people no longer have values and immediately, another seconded her saying that this was the fault of women, she said that this happens because women are no longer "like before", they don't take care of their children, they don't educate them well; This comment was enthusiastically seconded by other ladies present; one of them even said that she had a daughter who was a clear example of this, who first had a child with a man and then left him, and now she had already brought him a second child, from a new partner, besides that she used to go out at night and even drink.

I was struck by the fact that in a country and especially in a locality where violence against women and feminicide are so frequent, the responsibility was attributed precisely to the victims. It seemed to me then that nightlife and recreation could be key aspects to analyze the discursivities that constitute female subjectivities in which violence is justified and naturalized and that are also part of pedagogies through which women are restricted from occupying certain places in public space that, since they were children, they have been taught that they are not appropriate for them.

In this paper we have approached the recreational practices of women between 18 and 27 years of age who live in these municipalities of the State of Mexico and we have learned about their experiences in relation to violence and, through their words, we have learned about the discourses that give meaning to these practices and experiences.

We start from the assumption that precisely the discourses (Bakhtin, 2005) about nightlife, which are expressed in the social murmur (De la Peza, 2014) could make emerge the meanings that shape female subjectivity in contexts of insecurity, the same ones that give meaning to the daily practices through which the inhabitants of these localities try to keep themselves safe.

Considering that the effects of violence are not always observable in the immediacy of the event, but rather extend into the realm of the everyday (Das, 2008), what we were interested in here was to observe how the insecurity and violence that prevails in these municipalities affects the construction of female subjectivities, based on accounts of their practices and beliefs about entertainment and nightlife.

We understand that when these women speak, they are not merely expressing opinions but their experience (Sorgentini, 2000), which expresses knowledge about themselves and their environment. The everyday life from which these young women give their testimony (Das, 2008) constitutes a privileged space to observe the effects of violence in their lives and the way in which they deploy survival tactics in the face of it (De Certeau, 1996), many of which have little to do with confrontation and struggle, but rather operate between adaptation and negotiation.

In contrast to the idyllic view that conceives of public space as a place of encounter, socialization and freedom, as the place where the "public thing" takes shape and which is "for everyone", without restrictions (Valcárcel, 1997), feminist theories have shown that there is inequality in the way it is conceived for men and women.

Some of these perspectives have emphasized the notion of public space as a place where power relations are produced and confrontations occur for the exercise of individual and collective freedoms (Fuentes, 2011) and where, in addition, access to goods and services imposes restrictions on the less privileged (Jirón, 2007).

This space, therefore, cannot be neutral, but must be understood as a place of exclusion for certain social groups, who are excluded from access to it, some of them to defend themselves from the "hustle and bustle of public life", such as women (McDowell, 2000).

In this sense, feminist theory has also pointed out that activity in the public space, despite the incursion of women in it, continues to be strongly gendered, so that violence against them is a reflection of the unequal power relations between men and women (Delgado, 2007).

Some analyses have also highlighted the need to inquire into the social dimension through which men and women learn, represent and transmit our way of using public space (Monárrez, 2011).

In this sense, we are interested here in recovering the reflections of Soto (2015), who considers that although the urban environment has been seen as a privileged space to analyze how the material conditions of everyday life contribute to gender inequity, it is also necessary to consider exclusions that are not always visible, that go beyond the physical and are considered symbolic disadvantages, that accentuate the boundaries of separation and that articulate individuals and places and in which the dominance of men over women is reproduced. From this idea, the author allows us to think about how violence has different effects for men and women, in addition to questioning the widespread idea that women's fear of public space is not "objective".

Zúñiga (2014), for her part, stresses that in contexts of extreme violence such as those described in this study, women are the first to experience the invasion and aggression of their bodies, which calls into question the maxim that public space is a place of and for all.

In the collective imagination, the perception persists that the violence experienced by women outside their homes, due to the fact that they are women, is their exclusive responsibility and not a problem that is the responsibility of the public authorities to address and prevent (Zúñiga, 2014).

In this analysis we refer to public space in a broad manner, not from the distinction between public and private in terms of property, but to encompass common and open spaces, which may include streets, parks, squares, sports facilities, transportation, semi-public places where recreation and leisure activities take place.

The data presented below were obtained from two groups of women living in the municipalities surrounding Mexico City. The first group consisted of 17 women between 18 and 27 years of age, nine of whom identified themselves as students, the rest as demonstrators, teachers, employees, nursing interns, psychologists, journalists, supervisors and receptionists, who responded to a questionnaire distributed through Gmail, in which they were asked about their recreational practices.

The questionnaires were open-ended and allowed us to know from their own elaboration the alternatives that these women talked about, nine of them said they lived in the municipality of Coacalco, three in Ecatepec, two in Atizapán, one in Cuautitlán, one in Tultitlán and the last one in Mexico City.

Secondly, the girls were asked to relate their experiences with violence and finally to express their opinions about the situation that exists in their entity.

The second group consisted of six computer engineering students at the Universidad Politécnica del Valle de México, located in the municipality of Tultitlán, who said they lived in Coacalco, Tultitlán, Ecatepec and Tultepec.

The group interview device sought to bring out the social discourse on nightlife, insecurity, violence against women and to analyze the different positions that cross the daily lives of the interviewees.

Shopping center, work and sports and nightlife?

The questionnaire on their recreational practices allowed us to know some of the usual activities for these girls, although here we state them in a synthetic way, they referred to them with different names and characteristics.

Regarding the question: what do you do on the weekends? The answers fall under three main headings:

The first thing that stands out in this category is that recreation does not appear as a central theme, especially that which has to do with nightlife. Domestic work, complementary studies and even work as such occupy a good part of these girls' time, it is clear that leisure is directly related to the gender role imposed on them by the restriction of care work and housework, even though most of them are single.

The young women who do talk about recreation express some peculiar issues that also make visible the issue of confinement; the street is not a usual space for women, not even when it comes to recreation. It is interesting, moreover, that among the activities they say they carry out inside the house, "being with the family" appears as a more relevant activity than the simple fact of sharing the same space, "being with the family" sounds more like a social mandate, staying at home is "being with the family".

Regarding the activities they do outside, the girls talk about doing sports, which can be done in parks, gyms or sports centers, even on the hill, and then the idea of going out appears, which we will detail later with all its implications, but the opposition between "going out" and "being with the family", which seem to be two opposite poles from a moralizing point of view, is the alternative of the young women: going out or being with the family, although, as they will say soon, it is also possible to go out with the family.

When they refer to the places they "like" to go, the answers broaden, although nightlife still does not appear.

Where do you like to go?

  • Shopping center (cinema, restaurants, pizzerias, cafeterias, bars, stores)
  • Parks, the hill.
  • Sports, gymnasiums.
  • Billiards.
  • Museums.
  • Fairs.

One girl says she does not go anywhere (because she works on weekends) and another says she likes to go to the hospital where she does her social service.

It is noteworthy that most recreational activities are confined to the shopping mall, which in the conurbation area brings together the various recreational facilities. As these are dormitory cities, they combine stores and recreational spaces in the same space, where the inhabitants spend their weekends, focusing their activities basically on consumption.

Although parks are rather scarce, neglected and unsafe, the hill also appears as an alternative for physical activities, since in these municipalities large housing units are usually adjacent to unpopulated spaces.

The idea of museums appears rather as an aspiration, since in these localities there are not many places of this type and one has to travel to the center of Mexico City to access them.

As these municipalities are inhabited by both native and settlers, the town festivals with their respective traditional fairs are also an occasional alternative for recreation, generally with mechanical games and dances.

Interestingly, the responses of these young women change when they are asked about what they normally do and what they like to do, even though they do not have many real possibilities to carry out these activities.

When asked about nightlife, two main categories appear: the nightclub and the party. What characterizes the party is drinking, music and dancing. However, most of the girls do not refer to large parties in private rooms or in the streets, but rather to gatherings with friends, usually held at the home of one of them. It is common for them to refer to these gatherings as "quiet", in clear allusion to other types of parties that could be disorderly or risky. It is clear that, at least in their discourse, they choose to participate in gatherings where they feel safe.

The idea of the den is also marked by a certain notion of risk. Based on the responses of the respondents and on what was said by some of the participants in the group interview, we constructed the following table:

It is important to mention that most of the young women expressed that they do not go to nightclubs or bars or that they have done so only occasionally, perhaps once, in the questionnaires, a couple of girls mentioned some of the places listed here, while in the group interview, two girls referred to them.

The first corresponds to bars and discotheques that are located in the municipalities where the interviewees live and are generally located inside shopping malls.

In the second group, we can observe nightclubs located in the northern area of the State of Mexico, also known as the Blue Zone, near the Periferico, which implies a greater displacement, cost and difficulties to attend.

The third group are bars located in the center and south of Mexico City, in the Zona Rosa and San Angel, which few of these girls have had the opportunity to attend, since it involves a greater economic investment and risk, in addition to the need to have access to a car to move around and a group of friends to accompany them.

Insecurity and self-care tactics

When the young women who participated in the survey talked about insecurity, when asked specifically about the things they do to keep themselves safe, they reported a repertoire of tactics.

Some of these tactics have to do strictly with the possibility of being robbed of their valuables, specifically their cell phones and cash. Regarding the cell phone, they refer to tactics such as hiding it, carrying a cheap or broken cell phone as a spare to hand over to assailants, carrying it in the hand so that it is not taken out of the bag or backpack, and not using it on the street so as not to give rise to being assaulted.

With respect to money, the tactics consist of not carrying too much, setting aside a hidden amount so as not to give it all away if they are assaulted.

These tactics appear in practically all the responses to the questionnaires, and make it clear that robbery is part of a daily reality in the area. It is also clear that valuables are scarce; these girls do not usually carry a computer or high-value object.

What precautions do you take to get out safely?

  • Not to talk to strangers. No one to watch me. Look everywhere. Get to know the people I hang out with.
  • Constantly looking back. Be attentive to what is going on around you.
  • Carry pepper spray. Carry whistle.
  • Check in with family members. Let them know where and with whom they are going out. Give your parents the phone numbers of your friends.
  • Arrive home early.
  • Do not carry valuables, do not carry handbags.
  • Driving your own car. Ask someone to order my uber, Board on-site cabs.
  • Dress appropriately. Do not drink excessively, Do not go out alone
  • Carrying keys in hand

The second type of tactics they talk about has more to do with safeguarding their physical integrity. The following table summarizes these self-care measures:

It is interesting to note in this list some questions, first, the notion of risk: what is the danger that these women are protecting themselves from when they talk about strangers watching them and approaching them or the importance of always walking looking backwards?

Although it is not referred to with that word, the girls are talking about the possibility of being kidnapped. In this sense, pepper spray and the whistle appear as mechanisms through which they can make their possible aggressors desist; the same does not happen, however, with the tactic of communicating by telephone with their relatives, but it is a recurrent allusion, all the girls say they do this when they travel alone, they continuously call or send messages to their relatives indicating where they are and some even share their locations from their cell phones. Strictly speaking, this measure is unlikely to deter possible captors and could even be a distraction mechanism for the girls themselves; it would seem to be more a means of reassurance, as family members feel safe to monitor where they are, although eventually they will not be able to do anything if at a given moment they can no longer locate them. This tactic makes visible their vulnerability and the need for them and their families to feel that they are being protected in some way.

Some of these measures, however, place the responsibility for women's safety on their own behavior, as when they are advised not to talk to strangers, to tell where and with whom they go out, not to carry valuables, to dress "appropriately", not to go out alone or not to drink excessively, these recommendations clearly place them as the cause of a possible attack. It is interesting because in reality, when we think of femicides, the aggressors are not usually strangers and the attacked women do not necessarily dress provocatively, but this idea remains valid. Perhaps it is also a way of convincing themselves that they are really doing something to protect them.

The young women also responded to a question about the people they feel safe with:

It is evident in this relationship that danger is clearly associated with people who are unknown or little known, people who pass by on the street and whose origin cannot be located; boyfriends, friends and neighbors, on the other hand, appear as safe people.


In this section we thought it would be interesting to recover from the questionnaires the textual responses to the question about their experiences of insecurity.


  • I have been approached by much older guys to go with them.
  • Only once a guy was following me and two of my friends.
  • I have been assaulted.
  • For the moment nothing too serious, just some cab drivers shouting compliments or that sort of thing.
  • One day when we were leaving the university at approximately 9:30 pm, a guy came up to us out of nowhere and asked for the time, I panicked and we ran (it's real).
  • Kidnapping of a friend.
  • Stolen material goods.
  • Harassment.
  • Assaulted, pursued.
  • Assaults and constant sexual harassment.
  • Assaults, harassment and groping in public transportation.
  • They follow me, say horrible things to me in the street or assault me.
  • Physical and verbal abuse.
  • Verbal, psychological and physical harassment.
  • Only once was I assaulted in broad daylight.
  • Assaults and attempts to get into a car.

Once again, it is interesting to note that along with assault, the most frequent experience, sexual harassment and abuse are always referred to, whether expressed as a consummated act, as an attempt or as an expectation on the part of the victim; We can observe that the notion of harassment seems to acquire a wide polysemy when it comes to actions such as when a man or a group of men insist that a young girl gets into a car with them or even try to force her, and it seems that all the time the subject of harassment goes through this wide range of possibilities that increase the level of danger, but against which the young women have no control. How does one determine the distance between the seriousness of shouting obscenities at a girl and trying to get her into a car? At what point do these girls become clear about the kind of danger they are facing? Maybe when it's too late.

This ambiguity of danger, as I will call it here, is more evident in the accounts of those who participated in the group interview and who, basically, give an account of the same dangers, although in greater detail, which allows us to appreciate these nuances of which we spoke. Let us now look at some of their testimonies.

I remember, it was a long time ago, I was in high school but I had to go through an alley, so that time we left very early, it was about ten in the morning and at that time I still didn't have many friends because we had just entered and I left alone and I saw that a van with two guys had passed by and they looked at me "like this" and one of them snapped at me, but I didn't pay attention to them and let's say that the street was very abandoned, that is, the houses looked like nobody lived there, so what I did was walk fast and when I was about to get to the corner to turn around, where there was vehicular traffic, I saw that the truck was coming back, but then I approached a store, but I did feel that fear, and what I wanted was to get home (Ana, engineering student, 21 years old).

The experience is not recent, she talks about something that happened a long time ago, a situation that has not changed, the incident occurs in the morning, she feels in danger because the street is alone and the subjects who call her are traveling in a car.

I, something like this has happened to me several times, but the last time it was stronger because I was walking along the Retiro, then there is the avenue and I was going towards the exit, like for Coca Cola and I was walking and I passed one of those trucks that are like cargo vans, then when I passed, the driver said things to me and when I turned around I saw that he was touching his parts, right? So what I do is walk faster but when he noticed that I could see what he was doing, he started to close in on me and the only thing I could do was cross to the other side of the street, there was a cab stand there and even when he started to close in on me he opened the door on the other side, so that's why I had to cross, because at that moment I felt like he was going to pull me and then, goodbye, who knows where I would be (Paola, engineering student, 23 years old).

This testimony speaks of a repeated situation, although there is one incident in particular that makes the interviewee feel in greater danger, the one who speaks to her is a man who masturbates and then chases her by opening the door of the van as if to pull her in; she is convinced that the guy was going to take her away and they were not going to find her afterwards.

It is not long ago, about a month and a half ago, it was Wednesday, we had left at 12:00 noon:00 from school and this, well, I used to, as my route home is very different from that of my friends, I walked back alone, it is a small stretch from here to Conalep, to Bosques, so for me, it was not easy but it was more economical to walk from here to there, I was walking alone, first I walk along the Mexiquense, precisely because it bothers me to walk among the people who work in a car wash, but a few meters ahead, I cross to the other side and then a black car started to stop next to me, it was a man and what he shouted at me is that if I knew if the route he was taking to Tultepec was correct, then, at the moment when I turned, I had not turned to see him, but when I turned I saw that he was masturbating while he was driving, So my logic was "turn around and keep walking and I don't know, there was a store ahead "go to where there are people", but this guy kept driving at the same pace as me and I think that when he realized that we were about to get to a corner where there were people and so on, ladies, he yelled something else but I didn't understand it, he just kept going normally, I tried to see the license plates of the car but it didn't even have plates, so when I got to the point where I had to wait for a bus, it still took me much longer, so by that time I was very scared and I was just begging to meet someone I trusted so that he would go with me to my house and I wouldn't meet that guy again (Itzel, engineering student, 21 years old).

The situation also occurs in the daytime, in the victim's account, she makes several mistakes, one of them is walking alone, the other, choosing the road way for avoiding a car wash where she is always harassed by the workers; again it is a man who masturbates, this time in a car without license plates, and follows her until she reaches a place where there are people.

It is important to mention the great similarity in the three stories, in none of the cases it is at night, they all occur in daylight, the girls are not engaged in activities that they themselves have described as risky, it is even inferred that they are wearing the uniform or clothes they normally use to attend school. What the aggressors really take advantage of is the loneliness of the streets, the precariousness of the space, in these experiences the distance between depraved subjects who like to masturbate in front of the girls is the easy interpretation, but in their story, the interpretation is more serious, the experience is that they have been about to be kidnapped, that they were going to take them away.

How is it possible to determine the scope of these potential aggressors?

What is very clear is that the insecurity of the area, the lack of surveillance, infrastructure and even the girls' lack of resources to get to safety, coupled with the known ineffectiveness of the authorities, make these girls an easy target for practically anyone, What is disturbing about these stories is not what has happened to these women, but what could have happened to them so easily, they know, although for the moment they attribute the luck of being safe to something as fortuitous as someone passing by, they came to a store, or they were determined enough to run and cross the street. None of these risky experiences they speak of have occurred in the context of a party or a night out, which for most of these girls is an unaffordable luxury.

In the same vein, it is striking that, when referring to cases of femicide, and although the girls attribute this phenomenon to issues such as machismo, impunity and the consequent lack of reporting of acts of violence, trafficking in women, and the proliferation of sick or disturbed people who commit these crimes, there are also frequent discourses that place the responsibility on the victims.

I really don't know much, but it could be because of the few precautions we take in not telling where we are or who we are with (Lissette, 19 years old, demonstrator).

Because we are easy prey, because we are not attentive, vulnerable due to our lack of security and lack of character in situations (Mariana, 27 years old, journalist).

In the first statement, the crimes are a consequence of the victims not taking the necessary precautions; in the second, the young women are defined as "easy prey", but they acquire this condition of "vulnerable" when they do not take security measures and do not show sufficient character.

Although the survey does not allow us to delve deeper into the meaning of these statements, a discourse clearly emerges that places responsibility and blame on the victims; also clear is the expectation that obeying these norms will keep these women safe.

The girls in the group interview also talked about femicides; in this case, recovering close experiences, they were asked if they knew of any cases.

I do, well, about two years ago there was a girl who was teaching a class on body combat I didn't know her, so one day she went to a party and left early in the morning because she had to go back to her mother, so they say that she left alone in a cab and never showed up, so time passed, they were looking for her, and two weeks later she showed up in the Laguna canal (Itzel, engineering student, 21 years old).

The story is set in 2016 and is that of a young woman who disappeared while taking a cab alone, at night; it is the same story that has made the front pages of newspapers in October 2018, with the infamous case of the Ecatepec Monsterbut at the time it did not seem to achieve notoriety.

Well, it was four years ago, my mother used to frequent a neighbor from another neighborhood near ours and every Friday she would go to give her a medical examination, but one day the daughter of the lady she was giving the examination to did not arrive and the lady was very worried and it was four in the afternoon and her daughter was leaving at two o'clock, They were dialing her and she had arranged to meet her boyfriend on the López Portillo bridge on the Mega, near the Mega Comercial, and the evidence later indicated that it was the boyfriend who had kidnapped her and killed her (Fernanda, engineering student, 23 years old).

Unlike the previous one, in this story the feminicide is the young woman's own boyfriend, who had kidnapped and murdered her, an interesting example because it breaks with all the beliefs about safety that these girls have previously expressed; for them, boyfriends always appear as a reference of a safe person with whom they can date.

Well, in the area where I live, nearby there is an area where many cars come from far away, many cargo trailers and it is an area that is not very well guarded, so there have been cases of, well, they have seen from afar how girls are put into cars, they close them or throw people to the side of the street and well, I realize how this fear has grown among us as women because in my case, I pray to get home, Well, after that experience I had, I am more alert, I try not to be alone in the street, if possible I avoid going to the street, if it is not a real need to go out and always be in contact with someone I trust, be it my family, tell someone I am leaving here, I am getting to this point and I always try to make sure that someone knows where I am and what I am doing (Paola, engineering student, 23 years old).

This testimony clearly shows the fear that these young women experience and the way in which they elaborate and express it. The interviewee refers to being aware of the things that happen in an area close to her home and speaks of her emotions, of the impossibility of being alone in the street or always being with people she trusts.

Final considerations: girls don't want to have fun anymore.

As has been indicated, this work constitutes a preliminary advance of an ongoing investigation, in which we have sought to explore the daily practices of young women in these municipalities of the Mexico City metropolitan area, with the objective of relating them, especially those related to entertainment and nightlife, to the discourses that give meaning to the experiences of insecurity and violence experienced by these women.

Rather than conclusive results, we would like to take up here some aspects that have seemed to us particularly relevant in analyzing these practices and discourses.

In the first place, these women's accounts make it very clear that they are aware that they live in a place of enormous risk and that the possibilities of becoming victims are the order of the day. It is also evident that fear affects the daily practices of these women, who are accustomed to taking self-care measures to protect their physical integrity.

Normal activities are maintained despite the danger; however, the stories are stories of confinement. Behind the tactics they deploy to stay away from danger, one can appreciate the discursive tactics of family members who teach them to prefer the safe space of the home and the tranquility of small gatherings and family activities.

The discourses that appear in the voices of these girls appeal to the impossibility of being safe anywhere, but also to the responsibility and even the guilt of the victims, who as a rule are described as women who have not abided by the rules of behavior, have not been careful enough or have made mistakes in their self-care tactics or, in the worst case, have shown unrestrained behavior that has made them targets.

Nighttime recreation, which is extremely limited, is characterized as "destrampe" or immature and irresponsible behavior; the girls interviewed, in overwhelming majority, speak of the nightclub and the party as dangerous conditions that prudent women should avoid, in the practices of these young women it is visible that only a few of them have access to this type of entertainment and that, even in these cases, these outings require complicated logistics.

Paradoxically, the experiences narrated by these girls, also in the majority, have little to do with nightlife and partying; harassment, sexual abuse and the possibility of kidnapping and disappearance are just around the corner, in repeated episodes that occur in broad daylight. The close experience of danger makes it necessary to ask about the "latency" and "possibility" of risk. What kind of chance ultimately determines whether or not to become part of the statistics?

It is quite clear that young women in the Mexico City metropolitan area do not enjoy the same freedom as men to occupy public space and that their mobility in it is restricted by discourses that teach them from the family environment to stay at home, not to move around alone and to take responsibility for their own care. These discourses, which from one perspective can be clearly understood as an exercise of patriarchal power over young women, can also be seen, as we have tried to show here, as a tactical resource, through which, in a context of risk, family members and the victims themselves work on the constitution of a "prudent" and "responsible" female subjectivity, predisposed to confinement and restricted to family and home activities.

As can be seen, the proliferation of trafficking generates conditions of permanent risk for women in these localities who, faced with the latent possibility of becoming direct victims, are forced to remain on the margins of public space.

This confinement, which in the interviewees' accounts appears to be voluntary and the result of prudence and self-care, is crossed by discourses in which entertainment and nightlife appear censored or questioned, and in which the risks run by those who risk experiencing them are visualized as consequences of their own behavior, placing them in a position of greater vulnerability, by making invisible the existence of criminal structures that are in permanent operation.

These discourses reproduce stereotypes in which women are exploited as a result of misconduct or slips, become targets of danger due to their inclination to have fun and party, as well as to the free enjoyment of their bodies, which makes them authorized objects of abuse. In these discourses, the possibility for young women and communities in general to appeal to the State as guarantor of their safety is not configured, the matter becomes personal.

It is important to mention that behind the risks these women talk about is the sexed condition of their bodies, the dangers they talk about are related to the fact that their bodies may be accessible to men: walking down a lonely street, showing themselves in "provocative" clothes, walking alone, going out at night, having fun, are situations that make them justified targets of male attack, which can range from harassment and intimidation, to sexual abuse, kidnapping and exploitation, perpetrated by men who feel entitled to dispose of female bodies simply because they are placed in the public space.

The young women themselves reproduce these discourses in their stories and in their daily practices, which generates in them a double condition of vulnerability, since, in the event of becoming victims, they assume themselves responsible for what has happened to them.

It is important to note that the trafficking corridor, in which these girls operate on a daily basis, is an area with a proliferation of brothels and transient hotels, where men can satisfy their sexual demands without much hassle. While on the one hand the "debauchery" of women is condemned and restricted to the private sphere to keep them safe, men satisfy their desires thanks to the lucrative business of sexual exploitation, which is perfectly visible and against which no action of any kind is taken by the authorities, despite the fact that it is a publicly known, tolerated affair.

Rita Segato (2018) has referred to trafficking and sexual exploitation as examples of what she herself has called pedagogies of cruelty, where women's bodies are objectified and consumed and where the repetition of violence produces an effect of normalization, which promotes a lack of empathy towards the victims.

Segato (2018) considers that the rapist is a moralizer, who sees in his victim the moral deviation that summons him, so his violence is a retaliation that obeys the mandate of masculinity and that he attributes to himself the right to punish the woman.

Paradoxically, the dangers for young women in these municipalities of the metropolitan area are not reduced to the public space and all the pedagogy deployed through these discourses that censor their freedoms is not enough to keep them safe.

On the contrary, the restrictions on using public space, meeting, having fun, even working or going out to study, also make them vulnerable to domestic violence, exercised by controlling parents or partners. The possibilities of organizing with other women are very limited. This also occurs in precarious environments where mobility is difficult and transportation is expensive and dangerous, where being left alone on the bus or boarding a cab can mean that a girl disappears without a trace.

In addition to confinement, young women in this area of the city live in conditions of isolation that make them more likely to be victims of violence, which in their own discourse seems not to be clearly recognized, but which nevertheless emerge in their stories, when they themselves refer to women who have been victims of femicide at the hands of boyfriends or relatives, people they point to as companions with whom they usually feel safe.


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Miriam Bautista Arias D. in Social Sciences in the area of Communication and Politics from the University of California, Berkeley. uam-Xochimilco, where she also studied a master's degree in Communication and Politics; she has a degree in Communication Sciences from the Salesian University. Her research interests are in the field of violence and citizenship with particular emphasis on the emergence of subjectivities and tactics of resistance. She has been a professor in the area of undergraduate and graduate communication at different public and private universities and a research assistant in the graduate program in Communication and Politics at the University of Buenos Aires. uam-Xochimilco. She has also served as associate co-editor of the news agency of the newspaper Reform and as a reporter free-lance in specialized magazines. She is the author of the book The social murmur of violence in Mexico. The experience of the subjects affected by the war against drug trafficking.published by the uam-Xochimilco in co-publication with the cesop of the Chamber of Deputies in January 2017.


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EncartesVol. 7, No. 13, March 2024-September 2024, is an open access digital academic journal published biannually by the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Calle Juárez, No. 87, Col. Tlalpan, C. P. 14000, México, D. F., Apdo. Postal 22-048, Tel. 54 87 35 70, Fax 56 55 55 76, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, A. C.., Carretera Escénica Tijuana-Ensenada km 18.5, San Antonio del Mar, No. 22560, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, Tel. +52 (664) 631 6344, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C., Periférico Sur Manuel Gómez Morin, No. 8585, Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Tel. (33) 3669 3434, and El Colegio de San Luis, A. C., Parque de Macul, No. 155, Fracc. Colinas del Parque, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Tel. (444) 811 01 01. Contact: Director of the journal: Ángela Renée de la Torre Castellanos. Hosted at Responsible for the last update of this issue: Arthur Temporal Ventura. Date last modified: March 25, 2024.