Oh, I see! moments
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When a Mexican Cartoonist Speaks Your Language

by Eva Boynton on August 29, 2016

A cartoon showing the female symbol as a cross on a tombstone, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio).

Ni una más (Not One More) speaks out on violence against women. 
© Cintia Bolio

Cintia Bolio Fights Gender Stereotypes

At a desk, pen and sketchbook ready, I waited with 50 other people for our teacher to arrive. In walks Cintia Bolio, with black hair wrapped around her shoulders, big hoop earrings, and a giant smile spread across her face.

She was here at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City to teach a course that revealed, through piercing words and pictures, the woman’s role in Mexican culture. The course had an intriguing title: Political Comic and Gender Perspectives.

A drawing of a woman holding an anatomical heart by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio)

Libertad de expresión (Freedom of Expression) is an example of
how Bolio picks up a pen for women’s rights.
© Cintia Bolio

I anticipated a language barrier in the class, but soon found that Bolio’s images speak a universal language. With each lesson Bolio broke down gender stereotypes, as she does every day by working as a Mexican cartoonist in a field dominated by men in Mexico and Latin America.

Her career journey is just as important to share as her bold caricatura política (political cartoons).

The Critical Eye of a Child

While other kids played with toys, planned extravagant quinceañeras (a Mexican tradition for a girl’s “sweet 15”), and watched television, Cintia Bolio buried herself in book after book.

Artist Cintia Bolio with a drawing pen behind her ear is a Mexican cartoonist who fights gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio).

The artist herself
© Cintia Bolio

Bolio grew up a little differently from the kids around her. Her mother read books to her, her aunt shared travels, and her grandparents sang duets accompanied by guitar.

Her family was rich in humor, art, and culture, and those experiences gave her a diverse education.

By primary school, she recognized there were problems with the government and social norms.

By high school, she was questioning the education taught by her teachers.

Soon thereafter, she was expressing her ideas in powerful cartoons of her own.

A cartoon of a school girl and a teacher in front of a chalkboard, where the teacher has written pronouns using only masculine forms and the school girl has rewritten them to include both masculine and feminine forms, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image© Cintia Bolio)

Una sabe (She Knows) shows a young student insisting on gender inclusive language.
The teacher writes masculine pronouns, while the student responds with feminine and masculine.
© Cintia Bolio

Cartoons made a great impact on Bolio as a child. She loved the animated characters, humor, and cartoon style. It spoke her language. But reading one after another, she had an “Oh, I see” moment: all the cartoons and characters were created by men!

With a critical eye and courage to stand her ground, Bolio, at age 21, decided to give her two cents. Thus, she began her career, giving new language to controversial themes, especially gender stereotypes in Mexico, from the perspective of an analytical woman.

Fighting to Keep Perspective

Bolio believes in neither the superiority of men nor women. But she also recognizes the reality of women’s everlasting climb to a summit dominated by men. She finds that her “Oh, I see” moment as a child is still relevant today.

The character Alice from Alice in Wonderland wearing a gag and holding a weapon that looks like an angry fist inside of the female symbol, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist to fight gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio)

Alicia en rebeldía (Alice in Rebellion)
© Cintia Bolio

For example, men are paid more in the workplace and receive a more secure position for their comics in newspapers and magazines.

It extends beyond Mexico’s borders and into other arenas: the US women’s national soccer team is paid less than the men’s team—no matter that the women’s team has more wins, viewers, and game revenue.

Bolio’s own experiences as a female political cartoonist often turn into material for her upcoming cartoons.

“Bravo, a woman! Bravo, very good work!” is how, at first, she is received by newspapers and magazines. Then, as they read the content, their expressions change and excuses follow: “Actually, we don’t have room for a new comic; there is not enough pay; no work is needed at this time.”

Bolio explains, “They read a reflection of themselves. It is a mirror, and they don’t like what they see.”

A cartoon of the patriarchal system, showing a large man representing government with knife and fork in hand about to eat his dinner, which is under a glass dome; dinner is a man also ready to eat his dinner, which shows as the female symbol also under a glass dome--all in a drawing by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio)

In Banquete, (Banquet) Bolio pens her view of the hierarchy in Mexican culture: the government first, then the man, and last the woman.
© Cintia Bolio

Although it has been difficult to find places to publish, Bolio refuses to give up her themes to snag time in the spotlight.

“You would think that newspapers are a space for new ideas and thought,” she says, “but they are still full of machismo and men with the same ideas.” She has found accepting places to publish like El Chamuco, and she has pursued her craft though an artistic window in social media (Facebook) and on her blog Puras Evas (Pure Eves).

Let’s Talk About It!

Bolio’s goal is to create a space to address the very topics for which magazines turn her away, topics ingrained in everyday life. She believes that gender stereotypes stem from one main source of information in Mexico: television.

A cartoon of a thumb coming from a TV and squishing a brain, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes and commenting on how TV programming in Mexico affects women. (image© Cintia Bolio)

TV Digital (Digital TV) is Bolio’s view of the effect of TV on Mexican
women: “Spluosh!” go the brain cells.
© Cintia Bolio

She explains the impact of the TV programming in Mexico: “It’s a school more powerful than the real school. It’s a rich country with poor people. They don’t have money to go to a museum. So they learn from their screens. They get their love from the screens. They learn to live, love, and have an image of themselves from the screen.”

So much so that Bolio questions in this cartoon who is the true patron saint of Mexico—Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or this electronic version with teeth:

A figure with the body of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and a television set with teeth for the head, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio)

Nuestra verdadera Santa Patrona . . . (Our True Patron Saint . . .) reveals that
television has its worshippers and its victims.  
© Cintia Bolio

On TV in Mexico, telenovelas (similar to soap operas) encourage and exaggerate gender stereotypes. Women are often portrayed as weak people who are taken advantage of. They show emotional and aggressive behavior toward other women. And like some of the US reality TV shows, there can be repetitive and calculated violence against women.

In this cartoon for Mother’s Day (always May 10 in Mexico), Bolio borrows the design of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man to highlight the duties she sees as assigned to Mexican women: caring for the house and children.

A cartoon of a woman in the same design as Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" with items representing household chores and childcare around her, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio).

For Mother’s Day, En la madre con el día (What the ___ is up with the day?) records the stereotypical “measurements of a woman.”
© Cintia Bolio

Bolio’s cartoons and caricatures can make you smile or furrow your brow with contemplation. But, every time, they hit a chord that leads to questioning our social norms and reevaluating everyday comforts. She makes us more aware of our “guilty pleasures,” like television shows, movies, and music videos that continue to foment oppression of women.

“Fight Like a Girl”

Bolio’s fight is against gender stereotypes, and she is armed with the powerful tools of cartooning and humor. She explains the next steps in the fight: “We need to help other women to be more sensitive and have more empathy to realize we are the oppressed. Invite women and men to be conscious.”

A cartoon of a Lady Justice without her blindfold and looking through glasses of gender equality with one lens in the shape of the male symbol and the other in the shape of the female symbol, drawn by Cintia Bolios, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image © Cintia Bolio)

In Equidad y justicia (Equity and Justice), the blindfold is removed, and Lady Justice looks through two lenses, representing gender equality. 
© Cintia Bolio

There is still much work to be done in the 21st Century. Gender stereotypes cross cultures and pervade our everyday language. For example, “You ___ like a girl!” is just one example of language that needs redefining.

This Mexican cartoonist speaks everyone’s language: she is fighting against gender stereotypes and for equity between women and men. Spanish is not required to understand the theme. She invites us to grab eraser, pencil, and paper and . . .

. . . start rewriting!

A cartoon of a woman's torso overlaid by a drawing pen, drawn by Cintia Bolio, a Mexican cartoonist fighting gender stereotypes. (image© Cintia Bolio).

Draw like a girl, powerfully.
© Cintia Bolio


Thank you, Cintia Bolio, for your incredible work and your interview in both Spanish and English.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


7 thoughts on “When a Mexican Cartoonist Speaks Your Language

  1. Eva you continue to be amazing! Love reading your articles, each one is so insightful, can’t wait to read the next one ☮

  2. Oooh dear Evaaa!! I love it and your title is a beauty. Thank you very much for your more than kind words, It is so meaningful for me coming from another woman and artist.
    You have so many talents as we all can see/read here, and when we see your great cartoons and comics.
    It’s been a great pleasure to know you. I will share it proudly and I will be sharing your blog here, there and everywhere.
    Hugs and kisses!!

    • Cintia!
      I am so happy you enjoyed the article. Thanks again for the interview and sharing your work with us! It has truly inspired me and others.

  3. Reminds me of a statue I recently saw in Canada. A woman was holding a sign saying “Women are People too” I took a photo of it. Nice article Eva. Thanks for sharing it.

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