On Sunday, international press agency EFE did not have enough words to praise the not-even-that-new initiative of a Mexican "seduction school," lamenting that this kind of workshop remains largely "taboo" in the country.
"Each course will teach the biological and social grounds of seduction," reads the article, less than two weeks after the world's media commemorated the birth of French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.
Beauvoir is famous for arguing, almost 70 years ago, that: “One is not born but rather becomes a woman" — in other words, gender identity has little to do with biology, but is the result of a social construction.
Although Mexico's seduction school has been open for a couple of years and received extensive media coverage, including a feature in Playboy Mexico last September, EFE renewed its reporting because a new cycle of courses is starting this month.
For US$725, beta males will have the unique opportunity to learn how to become "social sharks" — in the words of EFE — during five months of evening classes about "body language, verbal language and how to perform it — for instance, how to stand (on the feet)."
Besides being a potential waste of time and money, nothing too harmful, one may think. At least, nothing related to the steady rise of gender violence registered in recent years — unless you count aggressive terminology such as "wake up the warrior in you," as the second part of the class is titled.
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On Sunday, Mexican authorities updated the official homicide tally for 2017, finding a staggering 72 percent rise in femicides in the past two years. At least 2,585 women were killed in 2017, adding to the 52,210 femicides registered by UN Women since 1985.
An October survey by Reuters found that Mexico City was the fourth most dangerous city for women in the world; meanwhile, 12 Mexican states have been placed under 'gender alerts' with specific emergency measures to protect women.
How can Mexican men be portrayed as too "shy" and "insecure" to even dare to ask a woman out, while they are simultaneously killing more women than almost anywhere else in the world? Are they murdering them because they're too scared to approach them?
The UN Women's report establishes a clear link between Mexico's "patriarchal, misogynist mindset" and gender violence. "Violence against women and girls — which can result in death — is perpetrated, in most cases, to conserve and reproduce the submission and subordination of them derived from relationships of power," write the report's authors.
"This means there has been no success in changing the cultural patterns that devalue women and consider them disposable, allowing for a social permissiveness in the face of violence and its ultimate expression: femicide."
Two months ago, one case of femicide deeply shook Mexican society: when teenager Mara Fernanda Castilla was killed by the Cabify taxi driver she had ordered to take her home after a night out.
After her murder was made public, one of Castilla's earlier tweets resurfaced from when she had participated in a feminist campaign, #IfTheyKillMe, ridiculing the double victimization Mexican women face today: being killed then being blamed for having risked their lives.
"#IfTheyKillMe it is because I liked to go out at night and drink a lot of beer," Castilla had posted just a month before she was murdered.
While Castilla's murder received international media coverage, the research found that in most cases femicides are carried out by partners or ex-partners, and rapes by friends or acquaintances — in Latin America and beyond.
According to the UN, of the total global femicides in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members. In Europe, 43 percent of women in Europe have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner.
As for Mexico, men likely kill more women than the rest of the world because they can: high levels of impunity also explain the higher murder rate in general, along with the recent increase in homicides.
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Gender violence across the world is rooted in the same misogynist stereotypes and patriarchal culture, transmitted via traditional seduction practices.
According to EFE, Mexico's professional "pick-up artist" simply seeks to challenge "paradigms." Unfortunately, that concept seems to ignore gender stereotypes.
Miguel Carrion started coaching nine years ago when he realized he was too shy to "even raise the hand to stop a bus in the street," until Canadian pick-up artist Erik von Markovik — known as Mystery — finally inspired him to address his insecurities.
Now he proudly exhibits his biceps and the same Batman-shaped neck pendant on all TV platforms, while paradoxically asserting that men don't need to be tall, muscled and wealthy to "conquer" a woman. Luckily for them, personality matters — allegedly.
"Men are attracted by women at first glance, the way they look, while women focus on personality and leadership, so men need to buy time so they can demonstrate their personality traits," Markovik says in an interview.
"Nowadays, we are all confused with gender roles because women become more and more masculine, leadership, power, money, etc."
Essentially, the 'seduction school' is replacing one set of sexist stereotypes with another, more capable of curing men's insecurities. It targets "beta males" left out by sexist society because they don't meet the requirements for a tall, handsome, rich "alpha male," while simultaneously perpetuating other forms of male domination better suited to their personalities.
Encouraging self-confidence and internal beauty could have seemed like a good idea, but if the school first encourages men to be themselves, the last course helps them fit stereotypes that women find "more attractive than others." Here, the lesson is how to embrace an "alpha male lifestyle" based on a "code of honor" inspired by "the Aztec culture" as they claim. Sexism, it seems, is nothing new.
Things get even messier when defining consent.
The school's Instagram account regularly ridicules the "respectful guy" who "drinks light beer," gives away compliments and favors and – worse! – politely asks prospective female partners: "With all due respect, could we...?"
The main reason women reject men, the school alleges, is because they can sense men's insecurities, so men just need to "grow a pair" and interpret the complicated female mind. The "the highest sign of interest" a man can expect is "basically a woman standing in front of you, interacting with you, and nothing else," Carrion says with a laugh.
Narrow definitions of consent are typically what foment rape culture across the world, as growing criticisms of "pick-up artists" — professional sexual pests, depending on your point of view — have shown.
Yet the link still isn't obvious to EFE, even in a country with one of the highest femicide rates in the world, on the day the official estimate found the number of women being murdered had skyrocketed by 72 percent.