Harassment on Mexican TV sparks national debate about sexism

A viral video of alleged groping on live public TV sparked a national debate about sexism in one of the top 25 nations with the highest rates of women murders.

Earlier this month, a video from a Mexican TV show called "A Toda Maquina" showed co-host Enrique Tovar trying to lift up the skirt of Tania Reza, as she awkwardly denied his advances over the course of several minutes of airtime. Reza fended him off with a smile while trying to continue with the show by reading comments from viewers.

However, Tovar continued trying to touch her and dropping sexually charged "jokes" before eventually groping her breast. She stormed off the set shouting, "I can't work like this!" as her co-host turned to the camera, telling the audience: "Excuse me, but my colleague is a bit hormonal."

Televisa, the largest media company in Latin America and network, which airs "A Toda Maquina," issued a statement saying that even though they have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, "the groping incident between Reza and Tovar was 'staged' as the show was pre-recorded."

In other words, it was all a stunt. Both presenters were "removed" from the show and the TV network, with the producer and station director suspended. In order to legitimize the Televisa, Reza and Tovar appeared in another video confirming that the incident was acted.

However, Tania Reza wrote on her Facebook page that she was in fact pressured to back up the network's version of the events and Tovar did actually grope her on live TV.

The incident had an explosive impact on the public, kicking off a nationwide debate about tolerating sexual harassment. It was the epitome of how sexism is institutionalized in the country by using mass media communications–such as TV shows, commercials, or radio programs–as a way to spread a "macho" message to Mexican society.

It is apparent that the institutionalization of sexism is alive and well in Mexico; nevertheless, this is just the tip of the iceberg in a country where more than 1,909 women were violently killed over the past five years. The perpetuation of sexist messages neutralizes the critical problem of violence against women. Degrading women has become so common in Mexico that society simply sees it through while blaming the victim for being sexually harassed.

Mexico needs to have a social change of paradigms and give violence against women and sexual harassment the proper attention they deserve. It is crucial for the nation to focus on crime, public safety and the rule of law. In order to grow beyond structural problems that negatively impact Mexico's development and put women's lives to the borderline, we must stop making them pay the burden of a sexist country.

Follow Karen Lopez on Twitter: @karenlopezb17

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Karen López

International Affairs major at at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Monterrey former Guest Speaker and Mexican Representative at the United Nations HQ for the High-Level Event of the General Assembly, former Columbia University Student as part of the International Program of Excellence, former Research Assistant in International Affairs and Political Science, Host of Cristal Alterno a radio program broadcasting international and political issues. "I like to write because it is the best way to be heard beyond frontiers. GYV allows us to understand the world by sharing our ideas and perspectives as students and world citizens."