#VoicesOfChange: Mexican activist Julia Didriksson wants to heal the wounds of macho violence online

Foto de perfil de Julia Didriksson con un micrófono en la mano

Photo by Julia Didriksson used with her permission.

In the first installment of #VoicesOfChange we interviewed Julia Didriksson, a Mexican digital activist who creates educational feminist content and organizes women's circles to bring together people from all over the continent with a clear purpose: to heal the wounds of machista violence.

Women and people of diverse genders in Mexico, one of the countries in Latin America with the highest rate of femicides and with incessant cases of harassment, sexual violence and discrimination, share experiences of feminism and machista violence throughout their lives. Feminist organizing and activism are growing in strength and size throughout the country, creating a network of support based on resistance and sisterhood.

Julia Didriksson is one of these women who stands up against machismo. She is a culture manager, a graduate of gender studies, a digital activist, and creator of content on social networks such as Instagram and TikTok. She is 28 and leads a radio program called Voces en Resistencia, which airs on Violeta Radio 106.1 FM, the first feminist community radio station in Mexico. She also participates in a podcast called Sí Somos, a space for feminist dialogues between young women.

In her videos, Didriksson politicizes everyday life from a feminist perspective: “I talk about things like love, healing, social struggles, violence issues, etc. But my deepest focus of research is romantic love from a feminist perspective.”

We spoke with Didriksson to kick off our new series #VoicesOfChange, a series focused on learning more about the people who are changing the way activism is done in Latin America. Didriksson spoke to us about the state of digital activism in Mexico, how to create safe digital spaces for women and gender-diverse people, how social media has changed the ecosystem of feminist movements in Latin America, and how best to enter the world of gender-focused activism.

Gabriela Messones Rojo: How did your path in activism begin?

Julia Didriksson: My mom is a feminist activist who helped decriminalize abortion in Mexico City and in the state of Oaxaca. I could say that I've been marching since I was in my mother's womb, and from a very young age I had an upbringing focused on our rights as women, anti-classism and anti-racism.

I self-identified as a feminist at the age of 15, but it was in college that my research work focused on feminism and I started organizing with the girls in college. I started in the streets, painting monuments and going to marches; but during the pandemic, when we could no longer go to the streets, so I started to organize with other girls digitally.


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A post shared by Julia Didriksson (@juliadidri)

In this Instagram reel, Didriksson talks about how there are little examples of happy single women in big cultural productions that shaped women's childhoods.

GMR: In your podcast “Voces en Resistencia” (Voices in Resistance), you talk about the struggle of women in various areas and across different causes. What is the current state of feminist movements in Mexico?

JD: I think feminism in Mexico has become very massively widespread among women, among all women. Although there are women who do not define themselves as feminists, [feminism] is something that inevitably speaks to them because the message is everywhere. I recently interviewed a girl in a rural area of Jalisco, and she told me that in her town there are no feminist organizations, but that thanks to social media she has been able to start organizing. Today it is not true that there is feminism only in the cities. There have always been organized women everywhere, but now there are more of them and in different areas.

I also believe that feminism is divided in Mexico; it looks like there is a rivalry and that we fight more among ourselves than against the patriarchy. We can no longer speak of one feminism, but of many feminisms. In Mexico, young women are also leading the way, always recognizing our predecessors and the work they have done to get to where we are. It is very common today to see girls and teens call themselves feminists, something that did not happen before.

Also, feminist terminology is now widely used. Many of us can now name the different types of violence whereas before there was a lot of normalization of problematic behaviors.

GMR: What is it like to be a feminist Tiktoker in Mexico? What contribution do you think social media has made to feminism?

JD: My experience as a digital activist has been very gratifying, but it is also very tough because there is a lot of violence. In Mexico, it is very dangerous to be an activist or journalist. There are many physical risks, but digital activists also face a lot of violence. Even though it takes place online, it does not mean that we do not suffer from it. I endured threats and shaming, and it was very hard. I have stopped working several times.

However, I think it is essential to work on social media because it is a way for us to organize ourselves on a mass scale. My content is educational, and I try to explain complex concepts in a simple way because I believe in the democratization of knowledge. Every post I make seeks to generate debate because I believe that conversations serve to unite us and to spread knowledge so we can transform ourselves.

I also believe that despite violent cases, the internet has the capacity to be a safe space. I devote my time to organizing women's circles, some of them in person, but most of them via Zoom, so that girls from all over the continent can participate. I call these spaces women's circles of politicized healing. We politicize the things that affect us under the premise that the personal is political.

My goal is to seek collective and politicized healing. If the wound is systemic and patriarchal, the healing will be collective and feminist. There are wounds that all women carry, there are things that we can heal, but when we do it collectively, we are changing our role in society.


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A post shared by Julia Didriksson (@juliadidri)

In this Instragam reel, Didriksson talks about how women take on a sacrificial motherly role with their male significant other.

GMR: You talk about different types of violence you have received in physical and digital spaces as a woman in Mexico, and on some occasions, you have received criticism for doing so. How do you think we can articulate spaces on the internet that are more positive, healthier, less sexist, and more focused on community support?

JD: My content is dedicated to women, people with vulvas and also to men who are interested in these issues. However, there are a lot of men who are very upset that feminism exists, and unfortunately my content reaches those men as well. It is very hard and all of us digital activists suffer from it. I have many colleagues who have had their accounts suspended because men report them.

My bet is very much on a feminist internet, a digital space free of macho violence. There are several initiatives that address digital violence, such as Luchadoras.mx, which calls for a feminist and egalitarian internet. Little by little we are creating safe spaces, with organizations, collectives and individual activists, which help to create a sisterly dialogue, where there is support and backing against the violence we experience.

GMR: In the feminist internet debate, there is also a conversation about the role of influencers selling products and a lifestyle that can be problematic and harmful to women. How much responsibility do you think influencers, who are not necessarily feminists, have in terms of honesty and transparency with their audiences? Should they be held accountable for the effects their social feeds have on their audiences?

JD: Absolutely. When you have an audience of girls following you, I think there must be a great responsibility when managing content. I [am responsible] even though I don't consider myself an influencer, because I know that in the end, I influence a lot of women.

Part of my criticism is that influencers sell a lifestyle that relies on a lot of economic capital. Most of us can't eat quinoa with mango for breakfast every day, have a perfect boyfriend and travel by yacht. Many young women are looking for a lifestyle that doesn't match reality. My activism also implies being critical of capitalist dynamics.

Another important element is that of beauty. Influencers sell you unattainable bodies and beauty. Though there are many influencers who are fat, Black, racialized, and it is okay for them to still have a hegemonic beauty, we must be aware of what we are transmitting with the power of communication that we have.

It's also not about feeling bad about the privilege we have. I consider myself a person with a series of privileges: my skin tone, my education, my socioeconomic class. I don't want to feel guilty, because part of the feminist struggle is to be able to enjoy life, to enjoy what we do. But I also don't want to pursue a lifestyle that I never wanted.


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A post shared by Julia Didriksson (@juliadidri)

In this Instagram reel, Didriksson talks about her unsafe experiences with taxi service Uber and calls on women to remain vigilant.

GMR: What advice would you give to younger activists who want to do work online, on the streets, one-on-one, or at the level of the community? What would be the best way to get started?

JD: All activism is fundamental: activism on the streets, at school, at work, at home, with girlfriends, on the internet. Everything is important. It's important that we get involved from all sides and that we do it from the point of view of self-care and collective care.

I would recommend two things in particular: the pursuit of knowledge and feminist wisdoms, and dialogue with other women. The first is focused on reading, informing ourselves through literature and different media. The second is the importance of talking and listening to the experience and perspectives of other women.

I also think there is a myth about our work as activists, that we have to do everything: be vegan, know about human rights, be environmentalists. We are not superhuman, or at least we don't have to be. We have to focus on our experiences, the specific things that really matter to us.

The fight should be collective, but we have to get to our experiences. And I think it is an opportunity to heal our wounds. We women are very wounded and feel a lot of fear. We can also heal in the struggle. We can find refuge among all of us to heal.

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