Monday, May 4, 2009

Women's Bodies and Women's Rights in Santa Fé: Can they co-exist?

...or perhaps the question is really moralistic...should or how can they co-exist?

Walking down 22nd street to one of my study sites in Santa Fé, I pass at least two significant social messages inscribed in the urban landscape surrounding women's rights, equality and empowerment.

The first image is a state-sponsored flyer posted on the back of a candy and cigarette stand. The flyer speaks out to attentive pedestrians: - Mujeres!!! Stand firm in your rights...take off your masks...don't sell yourself short... -

A few blocks down 22nd and it's a totally different story: - Mujeres!!!! Stand firm in your tights...put on your pink, glittery masks...sell yourself for what you can get... -

The second image stands even closer to the 'zone of tolerance' (where sex workers are tolerated as long as they stay in their deviant spaces)...On the corner of Caracas and 22nd, the banner on a wall mural reads - "Equality to plant dignity...woman as the seed of liberty"... - These mural images of empowerment seem to reach out and wave across the main thoroughfare (Avenida Caracas) to all those found on the 'other side'.... the other side of Caracas where the zone of tolerance begins and 'normalcy' ends....where the mujer is no longer dignified in the eyes of mainstream 'Rololandia' (Bogotá) ....where the line between sex work and sexual exploitation shifts by the second depending on who is watching/being watched and touching/being touched.

Can bodies and rights be sold in the same space without contradicting one another?

For whom does this mural of dignity truly stand?

Does the government's yellow stamp of approval (see right corner of mural) signify change or hypocrisy?

Facing the depths of social and spatial exclusion in places such as Santa Fé and 'la Mariposa' takes more than inscribing positive images in urban space vis-a-vis mural art or a program flyer, which with time become merely frozen moments of activism that fade into/become part of the everyday/ordinary urban landscape....(for example, apparently selling minutos [cell phone minutes] for 200 pesos became more important than conserving the integrity of women's rights [see left corner of flyer]).

Acts of reaching out should be generated by organized human efforts towards social inclusion (i.e., the Fenix Model of street outreach)...not fictive images that effect further exclusion and demarcate spaces of deviance and disapproval.