- A Protestant Feminist Perspective in Response to Our Current Context of Violence
feminist, Latin America, Lutheran, Protestant, theologies
As a feminist Protestant theologian who is Lutheran and proudly Mexican, I want to discuss decolonizing our theology and women's bodies. Moreover, it is essential to reappropriate the theology of incarnation in order to embrace [End Page 131] women's bodies and lift them up as a source of divine light instead of continuing to reproduce the violent conquest of them.
The context in which we live today is one of tremendous violence but also great resistance. To begin, I want to summarize just a few of the many forms of violence women face today. Our bodies are treated as property, many women live in extreme poverty. Indigenous and Afro-Mexican women, in particular, suffer racism in their bodies and spirits. Many women and girls face not only the lack of education but also the lack of political power. There are religious prohibitions on the use of contraceptives and the model of virgin/mother/whore prevails. Many women lack the freedom to make decisions about our own bodies, much less enjoy them simply for the sake of pleasure. Women and girls endure beatings by supposed loved ones, are raped with impunity, are tortured, and are far too often victims of feminicide. Feminicide not femicide because the numbers relate to genocide rather than homicide. Feminicide because they are killed precisely because of their gender.
Five hundred years after the Spanish Conquest, patriarchy continues to violently conquer the bodies of women. Guatemalan poet and Protestant theologian Julia Esquivel writes about the parallel between the Conquest and the genocide in her country. She states that women's bodies "became land to be conquered." She adds, "All wars, and especially wars of conquest, bring with them the violation of women."1
Sylvia Marcos demonstrates that even when indigenous women were not physically raped at the time of the Conquest, many Catholic priests violated their consciences and robbed them of their theologies and spiritualities, which appreciated women's bodies and did not treat them as dirty property or the source of sin, as did the churches. In fact, they venerated two goddesses of sexuality: Tlazolteotl, the goddess of sexual pleasure, and Xochiquetzal, of whom Marcos says, "The sexual emphasis in [her] was on her loving activity, rather than on fertility."2 But these goddesses were colonized, too.
In our current sociopolitical context, these goddesses would be considered whores by the majority of Christian churches, which do not value women's bodies, autonomy, right to sexual pleasure, or sexual and reproductive rights. In contrast, many women participate in churches that still instruct women to "carry your cross" if her husband or partner beats her and that blame women for rape or even feminicide based on having dressed "provocatively" or otherwise "inviting" violence.
Although violence continues in many forms, the gravest problem in Mexico is the ongoing increase in the amount of feminicide throughout the [End Page 132] country. This is the legacy of the colonization of women's bodies. For example, in September 2017, the body of teenager Mara Fernanda Castilla was found in Puebla. According to Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, "The violence against women is constant, and it happens daily in Mexico."3 The hope comes from the resistance of large marches organized by women in Puebla for Mara and others, such as twenty-two-year-old Lesby Berlin Osorio and eleven-year-old Valeria Teresa Gutiérrez, and all the other women raped and assassinated with impunity.
In just the first half of 2017, eighty-three women were assassinated in the state of Puebla. Judith Matloff states that there were six feminicides daily in 2015, as the violence has expanded from Ciudad Juárez throughout the republic. Currently, the State of Mexico has the highest rate of feminicide.4 In 2016, 263 women were assassinated there, according to Delfina Gómez, and between January and June 2017, 134 cases of feminicide were reported in that state alone.5
Evidence that partners and husbands were responsible in many of these cases makes feminicide a theological problem because...