“We do not know which is more dangerous, the crime or the State” : Power discourses of feminicides and violence against women in Mexico

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Title: “We do not know which is more dangerous, the crime or the State” : Power discourses of feminicides and violence against women in Mexico
Author: Pylvänäinen, Laura
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202007093718
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Globaalin politiikan ja kommunikaation maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Global Politics and Communication
Magisterprogrammet i global politik och kommunikation
Specialisation: Media and Democracy
Media and Democracy
Media and Democracy
Abstract: This thesis studies the discourses of power and anti-violence activism related to feminicides in Mexico. Feminicides are defined as killings of women because of their gender. Although feminicides have existed throughout the history of Mexico, the issue became a focus of attention among the masses nearly 30 years ago because of the wave of violence in Ciudad Juárez. Today, according to the official data of the State, three women are victims of feminicides in Mexico daily. However, the number is most likely substantially higher given the underreporting of feminicides and that some states still do not distinguish them as separate crimes from homicides. It is estimated that approximately ten women are killed as victims of feminicides in Mexico every day. The theoretical framework for this study is rooted in the Foucauldian scholarship of power. More precisely, Michel Foucault’s theory of power as relational or productive and the idea of power being everywhere but nowhere, in particular, imposes the principal understanding of how violence is implicated in multiple structures of power relations. The study was conducted in the form of semi-structured interviews, with data being gathered by interviewing six feminist activists who are working against feminicides in Mexico. After this, the interviews were analysed with methods of discourse analysis. The study finds the total of five main discourses with their sub-discourses: 1. Structures (Patriarchal culture and Deficient understanding), 2. The State (Politics and Impunity), 3. Truth (Bending truth and Clash of genders) 4. Pervasive violence, and 5. Women’s networks. The results of the analysis suggest that the power related to violence against women comes indeed from everywhere: power comes from structures of the society, from education, from the State and the law (and impunity), from the truth (or what we accept as truth), from non-State agents such as criminal organisations and women themselves. They are all connected so that even criminal organisations and politicians are interweaved in the same network of power, and in the case of Mexico, not even very far from each other. Women themselves exercise power through relations, networks and cooperation and this is the dimension of power that women consider their most important asset. To keep themselves secure in a potentially hostile environment, activist women maintain a set of safety rules and regulations that they follow in their everyday lives. In conclusion, power influencing violence against women is located deep in the patriarchal structures and practices in Mexico. This is why it is challenging to tackle the problem of continuing gendered violence in Mexico: it does not have any centre. This means that also globalised networks of organised crime, as well as the overall patriarchal culture, influence on discourses that power and gender-based violence are given. Also, it is noteworthy that power should not be considered only oppressive or dominating as that interpretation would give women only the role of passive victims. Women also possess power that they exercise through social relations and collective activist networks. In sum, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of feminicides and violence against women in Mexico. Furthermore, through the unique interview data, the results collect valuable information on all the main challenges that are hampering the activists’ work against violence.
Subject: feminicide
violence against women
Michel Foucault
discourse analysis

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