Saying sorry is not enough. That’s the message Mexican human rights and women’s activists are sending to the US-based cosmetics company MAC. At a Mexico City press conference this week, activists announced a boycott of MAC to protest the trendy company’s unveiling last month of a new product line that stirred memories of the Ciudad Juarez women’s murders.
In flashy form, the lipsticks and nail polishes were dubbed “Ghost Town,” Quinceanera,” “Factory,” and “Juarez,” among others.
It should be remembered that many of the femicide victims were teenagers and/or employees of maquiladora plants that assemble goods for export to the US and other foreign nations. MAC’s border-theme fashion roll-out whipped up a storm of controversy, and prompted the company to issue an apology.
“We are deeply sorry and apologize to everyone we offended, especially the victims, the women and girls of Juarez and their families,” said MAC President John Demsey in a statement posted on the company’s Facebook page. “We have heard the response of concerned global citizens loud and clear and are doing our very best to right our wrong.”
After a meeting with the federal government’s National Commission for the Eradication of Violence against Women (CONAVIM) and other Mexican officials late last month, MAC representatives pledged to donate money to help the cause against gender violence.
“We know that we caused damage, we offended and we recognize it,” said Miguel Franco, MAC director for Mexico. Franco said it wasn’t his firm’s goal to exploit the Ciudad Juarez violence. To the contrary, he said, MAC sought to raise social and environmental consciousness.
MAC’s retractions and promises did not satisfy the Mexico-based Citizens Council for Gender Equity in Communications Media. Lourdes Barbosa, council president, dismissed MAC’s actions as a marketing ploy to expand sales.
“The use of violence against women to sell cosmetics is not only offensive, but a risk to all,” Barbosa said. According to Barbosa’s organization, the MAC boycott has been endorsed by scores of groups in the Americas and Spain.
Prior to the boycott announcement, at least one prominent Ciudad Juarez women’s activist expressed a different view of MAC’s intentions.
Marisela Ortiz of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a long-established group which works with relatives of murdered and disappeared women, said she did not think MAC was trying to profit from the femicides. Ortiz contended that the company’s new products could actually raise awareness about the gender violence.
But MAC’s agreement with CONAVIM touched another sore spot in Mexico.
CONAVIM is the successor agency to the old Ciudad Juarez commission headed by Guadalupe Morfin. Founded by the Fox administration in 2003, the Juarez commission was charged with coordinating a united government response to the femicides and gender violence in the Mexican border city.
Initially, however, Morfin’s commission did not even possess its own budget.
Women’s advocates have questioned both the Morfin commission and CONAVIM for their effectiveness and expenditure of resources. According to the women’s news agency Cimacnoticias, more than 10,000 women were murdered in Mexico from 2000 to 2008.
Cimacnoticias General Director Lucia Lagunes Huerta added her voice to the criticism of MAC, and questioned the agreement with CONAVIM at a time when the Mexican government has yet to comply with a 2009 sentence handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights over the murders of three young women found slain in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field almost nine years ago.
“When the levels of violence that we experience in Mexico are so high, when violence against women continues growing in the face of such impunity, a campaign that alludes to the death of women is not needed, not in name or in cosmetics,” Lagunes wrote this week.
The journalist noted that a similar marketing campaign was launched in 2007 by the MD shoe company in Guatemala and El Salvador, countries which also have suffered numerous femicides in recent years.
Despite the creation of new commissions and special prosecution units, women’s murders have soared in Ciudad Juarez. Almost like clockwork, new posters of disappeared young women shroud the downtown streets. Many of the killings during the last three years have been linked to the so-called narco war which has torn apart the city. Since July 26, at least ten women have been among scores of murder victims.
On Tuesday, August 3, seven women were reported murdered. The victims included 20-year-old Claudia Ivonne Guardado, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed along with other family members in the presence of two small children. In a separate incident, 15-year-old Ana Karen Santana was found sexually abused and shot to death. On the afternoon of August 5, a young woman walking with a small child was gunned down in a government-built housing subdivision.
“Women don’t need apologies, and it is necessary to yank the publicity that foments stereotypes and normalizes the violence against us,” Lagunes wrote. “What really is needed is a genuine policy that prevents and sanctions violence against women, a State that governs for its citizens, and leaves behind words for actions.”
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico