Radical Women is proud to help disseminate this courageous indictment of sexism on the Guatemalan Left by a female revolutionary and health worker. It has been slightly abridged.
Political participation in a left party seems to be a concern for some members of social and popular organizations. I consider it fundamental that women discuss and analyze how a feminist agenda can be incorporated in that milieu.
Their fears seem reasonable when it comes to the issue of power, the base of the patriarchal culture, within the “old structural forms” of guerrilla organizations with a military and hierarchical tradition. In these groups, the paradigm of the fight went from the armed struggle to the ballot box, but the political practice based on conspiracy, sectarianism, and calumny remains intact, as does the dominance of male, adult, urban, and non-indigenous populations.
This occurs as well in nonpartisan popular and social organizations, even those of women, as part of the political imperative to maintain the status quo. It is essential to overcome those practices, to propose others, and to get involved.
As a woman who participates in party politics, I think the party can be an important tool (not the only one, though) to bring about profound changes and transformations in society, by means of winning control of the state.
Party work is crucial, as is the building of popular power and community organizing around health, water, natural resources, life. These movements must be strengthened by working together with grass-roots organizations and left parties on common issues and interests.
The participation of women is difficult in mixed-gender environments or in relationships with party comrades (which can include even one’s own partner), since we are not provided the same openings.
A woman, especially if she is young, can be punished for thinking, for being autonomous and independent, for having her own ideas and innovative political proposals based on conviction, commitment, and revolutionary principle. She can be punished with sexual harassment, disloyal competition, gossip, insults, aggression, and conspiracy, and discredited by the group’s leaders.
Thus, women’s political talent and abilities become, in other people’s eyes, a product of the charm, coquettish behavior and manipulation that are “typical of women.”
Our experiences and participation can even be attributed to “patrons, tutors, or mentors” who do enjoy legitimacy. This is all because we threaten the power of established leaders and outshine them, causing disillusionment with what is supposed to be a different kind of project.
It is necessary to think about a historic revolutionary project of the Left that can embrace all tendencies including feminism. This project must understand how the neoliberal economic model directly affects women’s lives, especially indigenous and rural women. It should also denounce U.S. strategies for colonization.
Leftist organizations must fight for a revolution from within in order to bring about social change. They must also propose new ways of using power, and promote equality and respect for differences. It must be done in a favorable environment for women to frankly identify those practices that are promoted by the dominant ideology through power relations.