Discursive construction of “feminicide” in Mexico

Discursive construction of “feminicide” in Mexico

By Bernice González

Translated by Aline Aceituno

The term “feminicide” commonly refers to the gender-specific killing of women. Diana Russell and Jill Radford define “feminicide” as: ‘the set of acts and violent behaviours against women because they are women, which sometimes lead to murder’ (Diana Russell and Jill Radford cited in Lagarde (2006a: 2020)). This definition was further articulated in Mexico by the anthropologist Marcela Lagarde, so it would not be confused or lost in translation from English to Spanish as feminicide or female homicide; in other words, it would not only be considered a feminisation of the concept of homicide – the killing of a person by another person or group of people.

For this reason, understanding meaning and context is essential to articulate feminicide as a gendered crime and, at the same time, root it out from our communities. This is because ‘Feminicide is the culmination of violence against women… violence and impunity are added to the homicides’ (Lagarde, 2005: 151). Thus, articulating feminicide as a gendered crime appeals to a violent social structure in which impunity against women is not only perpetuated but also normalised. In the context of Mexico, feminicide as a concept has acquired a theoretical quality with a political sense, as Lagarde points out (2006a):

This is mostly a type of violence inflicted by men on women, not only by men, but by men placed in social, sexual, judicial, economic, political, ideological and other kind of supremacy, on women in conditions of inequality, subordination, exploitation or oppression, and with the particularity of exclusion (221)

It is extremely important to recognize this last dimension of the concept of feminicide, as it allows us to understand that feminicide is not only a fatal encounter between individuals – that is, between a perpetrator and a victim – but also the state/government because they have a responsibility; for instance, state failures are revealed in the number of cases that go unpunished, lack of accurate recording of feminicides, and neglect of the root causes.  “Las muertas de Juárez” (“The dead women of Ciudad Juárez”), the incessant death of women that occurred for 11 years (1993-2004) in Ciudad Juárez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico and was perpetrated with excessive use of cruelty, with evidence of mass rape and torture on victims with similar physical and social characteristics, is a typical example of state failure.

The anthropologist Rita Segato identified that these cases were characterized by impunity in a) the absence of convincing defendants to public opinion; b) the absence of consistent lines of enquiry; and c) their consequences. The shameless and endless cycle of repetition of these types of crimes continues to target women across Mexico. Those impacted by the heinous crime are mainly women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds including women living in poverty in situations of unequal rights and subordination. In fact, such murders are often committed by relatives, partners or people close to the victims and these murders are committed with extreme levels of cruelty including torture, rape, asphyxiation, dismemberment or/and burning of the bodies.

Therefore, feminicide continues to be perpetuated both in private and public spaces and places. In the end, feminicide is a misogynous crime fuelled by hatred, contempt, pleasure or an inhuman bondage of ownership. And such violent attitudes and practices are not only tolerated but also enabled by the patriarchal state.


Olamendi, P. (2017). Feminicidio en México http://cedoc.inmujeres.gob.mx/documentos_download/Feminicidio-en-Mexico-2017.pdf

Lagarde, M. (2005). El feminicidio, delito contra la humanidad. En: Feminicidio, Justicia y Derecho. México: Comisión Especial para Conocer y dar Seguimiento a las Investigaciones Relacionadas con los Feminicidios en la República Mexicana.

Lagarde, M. (2006a). Del femicidio al feminicidio. Desde el jardín de Freud: revista de psicoanálisis, ISSN 1657-3986, Nº. 6, 2006, pags. 216-225.

Lagarde, M. (2006b). Prefacio. En: Rusell, D. y Radford, J. Feminicidio. La política del asesinato de las mujeres. México: Ceiich/Unam.

Segato, L.R. (2013). La escritura en el cuerpo de las mujeres asesinadas en Ciudad Juárez. – 1a. ed. – Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 88p

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

"We want us alive"

“We want us alive”

By Carolina Buenrostro & Bernice González

Translated by Aline Aceituno

Photograph of Frida Ali, taken from social media. March in Cuernavaca, Morelos. March 8th 2021

March the 8th is without a doubt a very important day for women all around the world, because it recognizes the struggles that women in different parts of the world have faced to overcome the inequalities they endure on a daily basis. Despite improvements for some, there are still millions of women who continue to suffer from gender discrimination, inequity, poverty and violence.

In Mexico, violence related to organized crime and drugs has made structurally vulnerable groups such as women and girls even more likely to suffer from different types of violence. We should mention that since the Covid-19 pandemic complaints about violence against women and girls, as well as feminicides[1] have increased in Mexico. During the first wave alone, between January and March 2020, 964 women were murdered, which represents an increase of 8.3% compared to the same period in 2019. [2]

Photo taken by Alma Berenice González Marín, taken march the 8th 2022 in the march organized by "Red de Colectivas" in the state of Morelos, México The poster says "they sowed fear in us, we grew wings."

In the last years, and as a way of responding to this violence, Mexico has seen the emergence of several groups of women called “Colectivas”, mainly consisting of young women, who have undertaken various actions to raise awareness in regards to gender-based violence, feminicides and human trafficking among other issues that affect women and girls. These “Colectivas” use different slogans such as: “We want us alive”, “Not one less”, “I believe you”, “We exist because we resist” to mention a few. These actions do not occur only on March the 8th, however on this specific day of the year the streets of Mexico are taken by women’s “Colectivas” to raise awareness about the gender-based violence they endure every day and, most importantly, to demand rights and justice.

For feminists groups purple stands for the historical gender struggle for equality and social justice. Green stands for the fight for women´s sexual and reproductive rights. Pink crosses represent women murdered by gender violence.

As this photo reveals, the women and girls express themselves in unique ways; for example, they use   purple and/or green tags and graffities on streets and public areas, wear pink crosses or green scarves while taking the streets in protest [3]. in addition to manifesting and taking over public spaces, the “Colectivas” also present in institutional and virtual spaces through artistic workshops, conferences, and several other awareness raising activities that are also aimed at providing women and girls with tools to help them reduce and eradicate, and face daily acts of violence in their lives and towns.


[1] Feminicides in Mexico’s specific context are recognized as the extreme action of a continuum of gender violence, which entails the murder of women by cruel means (mostly perpetrated by males) due to their historical condition of exclusion (sexual, legal, economic, political). Ultimately these are misogynist crimes, because they are motivated by hate, contempt, pleasure o or a sense of ownership. Attitudes that are tolerated and reinforced by a patriarchal government

[2]  El Universal, Violence against women and girls in times of COVID 19, Retrieved from https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/opinion/antonio-molpeceres/la-violencia-contra-las-mujeres-y-ninas-en-tiempos-de-covid-19

[3] For feminist groups purple stands for the historical gender struggle for equality and social justice. Green stands for the fight for women´s sexual and reproductive rights. Pink crosses represent women murdered by gender violence.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

"Were tha born in a barn?"

"Were tha born in a barn?"

By Alison Phipps

I was born and grew up in South Yorkshire. A county of dialects and proverbs and poverty. The City I am from – Sheffield – declared itself – like Aotearoa New Zealand – to be a Nuclear Free Zone. We had our own folk traditions, popularised by the singer Kate Rusby in Christmas Carols, of singing at Christmas in the streets in local pubs, local radio stations, into care homes, and community centres – taking cheer and traditional Yorkshire carols into places of hospitality and care.

It was always cold when we sang. I remember layers of scarves protecting my voice and bobble hats and knitted jumpers and stamping my feet on frosty pavements, and collecting coins door to door, and being given mince pies. It was mostly work done by women, the peace making, the caring and community centres, the serving of ale behind the bars, the plating up of mince pies, and it was mum who made sure I wrapped up warm. And mum waiting with a hot water bottle and hot juice when I came back in.

The phrase ‘Were tha born in a barn?’ in Yorkshire dialect accompanied my childhood. I’d often leave doors open as I went in and out and around the house. The family were trying to save on fuel costs so when I did leave the door open freezing cold air would blast through the home. The same with the care homes and community centres and pubs as we all traipsed through intent on singing and forgetting etiquette of door closing to protect one another from the cold.

The question ‘Were tha born in a barn?’ was like a refrain, a constant, non-too-polite reminder, almost a greeting. It brought laughter and action whenever we heard it. Because, no, I wasn’t born in a barn. My next door neighbour delivered me into this world, my Auntie Madge, as I knew her. It was too icy for mum to get to hospital that cold November day or for the midwife to reach our home safely. But when I forgot what has since become an ingrained habit, and left the door open, I was opening us all up to elements that would render us more vulnerable, and also bring conflict in with them.

Peace-making in CUSP is focused on the work of women and on the work of transforming conflicts or potential sources of conflict. Our work with meso-level cultural institutions like theatre groups, reading groups, libraries, cafés, dance companies is work with communities, at grassroots, so close to the drafts – if we think about that metaphor of grassroots more literally. It’s work where the cold air of the temperate zones needs to be kept at bay for the sake of the well-being of all. The scene I describe with Carol Singing around Sheffield is one where much of the cultural labour – dressing up warm, feeding and watering, and visiting – is embedded into cultural routines. This, for me, though, is where the real work of peace maintenance, of conflict prevention takes place.

‘Were tha born in a barn?’ Is a reminder, in earthy humour, of the need to conserve, preserve the peace and warmth of places where life happens. It’s culturally contextual of course. In hot countries doors are happily left open to allow cooler air to circulate, there might not even be doors. Peace making and maintaining peace, is gendered and temperature dependent too. But what I love about the humour in the phrase, the intonation moving towards laughter in the questioning accusation is that humour is what is being used to take away the sting. The Pyscho-therapist Beverley Costa of Pasalo Project https://www.pasaloproject.org/about.html says “we aren’t going to change anything without humour” and I am struck as I read the impassioned, intent, advocating work against gender based violence and femicide, against discrimination and the gender pay gap how vital that element of humour is to gentleness despite it all, to being still within a structure that is strong but which can elicit a change of behaviour.

So International Women’s Day 2022 comes around I’m celebrating the earthy humour, the small acts of maintaining the peace and the way this work, world wide, is largely undertaken by women…. The scarves, the food, the opening and closing of doors.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

The parallel fight - Echoes of resistance

By Rajaa Essaghyry 

In Morocco, there is a common popular expression “Lmra Hachak” that can be translated to “woman, with all due respect”. My first reflex was to look at the definitions of the expression “with all due respect” that are suggested by Google. The first one I found is: “If someone prefaces a sentence by saying “with all due respect”, it’s a sign that they are likely to unleash something negative or critical, and sometimes quite vulgar and highly disrespectful[1]. You would probably tell me: Why do we even have to add this sentence after pronouncing the word “woman”?”. Technically, according to some kind of archaic traditions, being a woman is an “insult” or an “aberration”, thus requiring adding this expression so as not to “offend” anyone. It seems that some people in our culture consider that quoting the word woman in an assembly or simply in a conversation would be “vulgar” or disrespectful.

This expression is among many others which reflect the retrograde vision reserved for women in patriarchal societies, notably in Morocco; A series of violent expressions, which are still used today. This is why we are observing the everyday language, in order to identify and re-appropriate certain terms, to finally eradicate several expressions which undermine the dignity of women.

Photo Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

In the CUSP N+ project (Culture for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Network Plus), Racines’s team chose to work on the issue of insidious violence against women. We consider that public and private spaces are zones of conflict for women and girls. Nowadays, and more than ever, pointing out the insidious violence against women in Morocco is becoming an absolute necessity. Our work consists in deconstructing the heteronormative discourse, along with the socio-political constructs of femininity and masculinity. We want to expose the different strategies used by patriarchal societies to not only prepare young girls to be dominated, but also to normalize and legitimize gender-based violence. It is simply a matter of exhibiting all the mechanisms put in place in order to hinder women’s emancipation.

Through the CUSP project we are trying to demonstrate that one of the main solutions to have social stability in a country is through guaranteeing equal opportunities and democracy, built by emancipated citizens who are capable of claiming their rights. This cannot be achieved as long as half of the society (women) are deprived of their rights and treated as second class citizens, through discriminatory laws and archaic traditions.

Through a research-action approach, we collected several life stories and testimonies from Moroccan women. Each story denounced different types of insidious violence suffered by women. Each story showed the actions taken by women to overthrow the patriarchal system and its foundations. Each story illustrated women’s resistance and resilience in the face of violence.

Muriel Rukeyser once said: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”. Speaking out, testifying and sharing with the world are in themselves actions of resistance. Freeing the voices is a fundamental step to fight against silence, alienation and violence. Deconstructing the patriarchal system consists in constructing its puzzle, concept by concept, violence by violence, testimony by testimony… don’t we say that knowing your enemy is the key to better fight it? In this case, our common enemy is patriarchy.

By working in the most remote regions of Morocco, we immediately realized that feminism, as opposed to the common beliefs, is not an invention of the West. This latter is perceived to generate subversion.
The feminist fight is happening inside every Moroccan home, every workplace, in public spaces, on social media, … It is everywhere and it is local.

Women are resisting the status quo and historical roles set up by the patriarchy. Their fight can be anarchist, radical, soft, insidious, violent or peaceful. But their fight is omnipresent, and it would simply be a delusion to ignore it. Recognizing this reality is in itself a celebration of women and their fight. Women are rising up and celebrating their daily small victories and battles against the patriarchy.

I would like to end this text with a quote from the American feminist Gloria Steinem that I find very relevant and sums up very well what we should do, each on our own, to further advance the cause and end once and for all with patriarchy: “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”[2]


[1] Definition suggested by Google of the expression “with all due respect” https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=45494, (consulted on March 01, 2022)

[2] Quote of the American feminist Gloria Steinem  https://www.equalitynow.org/news_and_insights/gloria_steinem_quotes/ (consulted on March 01, 2022).

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Cuts destroy, hurt, kill: a critical metaphor analysis of the response of UK academics to the UK overseas aid budget funding cuts

Cuts destroy, hurt, kill: a critical metaphor analysis of the response of UK academics to the UK overseas aid budget funding cuts

New Publication Out, authored by Dr Maria Grazia Imperiale and Prof. Alison Phipps

Read the full open access article here

On 11 March 2021, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) body, which leads research funding across the UK, announced a substantial reduction in the international development research budget as a result of the UK government decision to cut the overseas aid budget. Our CUSP Network+ has been affected by the cuts: they had an impact on our project, as we had to pause or reduce our activities for a while.

Nowadays, we know that some projects have been terminated, while for others, funding has been re-instated.

In this article, we analysed news, blogs, interviews that UK-based academics wrote in response to the announcement of the cuts, from 11 March 2021 to 30 April 2021, through Critical Metaphor Analysis (CMA). Metaphors are powerful tools to express concepts and  shape reality. They can reveal language users’ intentions beyond what is said and what is not said. Metaphors are also a common way through which distress can be articulated.


Cuts as an Entity

As an example, we present here what we mean by CUTS ARE AN ENTITY. It is first striking that ‘the cuts’ are often presented as active agents – they abandon, expose, imperil, damage, hinder, destroy, hurt, undermine. The UK government is often mentioned as responsible for the decisions that led to the cuts, however, ‘cuts’ are often used as the subject of sentences. We explain this as CUTS ARE AN ENTITY:

Funding cuts at the United Kingdom’s Global Challenges Research Fund imperil the Rights for Time Network.

The cuts will destroy international partnerships with businesses, governments, and the third sector, as well as the UK’s reputation as a reliable and trustworthy business partner.

We tend to conceptualise things that are not bounded as entities and substances so that we can refer to them and quantify them in an attempt to better comprehend them. Even though ‘cuts’ are a number, and therefore a quantity, the experience of having a project cut is not something we can easily relate to as the consequences are unknown, and as such we might not know how to pin it down. Referring to cuts as entities allow us to identify a particular aspect of it. In addition, using the CUTS AS AN ENTITY metaphor not only helps our understanding but it also allows academics to distance themselves from it; since cuts are an entity of their own, they have their agency and are out of our control. It is the cuts as an entity that destroy, damage, hinder, expose and imperil, and we as academics have limited, if any, agency to stop them.

Cuts are an Illness

Another example, is the metaphor CUTS ARE ILLNESS.

The opposition health/illness has a strong persuasive role since it is evocative of emotions first of all: we associate anyone who is trying to restore health with someone who has the right intentions. Here lies the evocative and persuasive power of health/illness metaphors:

These cuts will not just affect researchers like us: they will hurt the marginalized communities with which we work.

The decimation of this vital funding stream will have drastic impacts.

Research as Connection

In these examples, we can see that metaphors are graded since there are different degrees of health and illness. Stronger evaluations are found in the opposition decimation/vital, whereas hurt may be a milder form of evaluation compared to the other examples on the health/illness spectrum.

It is also important to point out at the time of the cuts, and at the time of writing, the world is trying to re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thus, the polarisation between life/death and health/illness in communication has been omnipresent in the last year. Using health/ illness metaphors in this specific moment in time has a strong persuasive and evaluative function – even more so as some research projects that have been cut have a focus on health and medicine, including vital coronavirus research.

As opposed to cuts which are ILLNESS and THREAT, research is what allows us to break walls and barriers, and ultimately to return to health. We identified the following metaphors related to research: RESEARCH AS CONNECTION, RESEARCH AS HEALTH and RESEARCH AS A JOURNEY.

As an example, I discuss here the metaphor of RESEARCH AS CONNECTION.

The GCRF has enabled UK-based researchers to develop new networks and projects in low- and middle-income countries across the world.

Research can bring proximity as it builds networks and as its foundations are relationships of trust built over the years. Research links, while cuts separate. Research is based on relations, on trust, and nowhere more so than research in international development, where paradigms of participatory work and co-design are the normative basis for working with and safeguarding partners worldwide. The implementation of the cuts has broken the trust that academics had in the UK Research and Innovation funding body. This is a very concerning time for the UK academy.


It must also be said that during our analysis we realised that we also need to reflect on how we represent and communicate our work. The experiences of early career researchers, who often are in precarious positions, and the experiences of the international partners, who are the ones most affected by the cuts, have not been spotlighted in the debate. The GCRF (Global Challenge Research Fund) was created to fund and develop ‘equitable partnerships’. We did believe it, and we sought to change research and develop a more ethical approach that allowed partnerships to be considered equitable.

Perhaps this was an illusion. When someone comes with money, and others are at the recipient end, no partnerships can be equitable. When money is taken away, and only some jobs are affected while others are not, partnerships are not equitable either. When the voices we hear are mostly the ones in powerful positions, again we wonder whether we can call these partnerships equitable.

Perhaps then, we might need to change the discourse around partnerships; surely, we can call them ethical, but perhaps international development research is not and will not ever be equitable. But it definitely can be healthy, it can mean connection, it can be a journey undertaken together for the better.

You can download a copy of the full report and watch a short video about the project here via the TeachingEnglish website.

The Culture for Sustainable and Inclusive Peace (CUSP) is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the UK Governments Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).