Mexico City’s mayor, José Ramón Amieva, has banned the employment of the attendants known in Mexico as edecanes at events sponsored by the local government, stating that “this job should not exist” because “it goes against policies of gender equality.”
The decision is groundbreaking for a country where entrenched gender stereotypes often continue to relegate women to support roles in the workforce.
“Women have a potential equal to or greater than that of men,” Amieva said. “Any circumstance that may degrade or stereotype women must be eliminated.”
The mayor explained that women on the government payroll who had previously worked as edecanes will be given “more empowering” roles, adding that a defiance of the ban could result in fines.
Amieva, who will be replaced later this year by Mexico City’s first elected female mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has also committed to ensuring that women are better represented on expert panels at government events.
A group of female politicians who held a forum about Mexico’s edecan industry in 2014 concluded that the job is sometimes a front for prostitution and that the models face precarious employment conditions.
While edecanes usually dress more conservatively at government and corporate events than when promoting products at trade fairs or sporting events, there have been some notable exceptions that have raised eyebrows and attracted criticism.
At the first presidential debate in the lead-up to the 2012 election, electoral authorities hired a Playboy model to hand out envelopes to the four candidates.
Julia Orayen appeared onstage in a tight, white dress with a cut-out front that revealed ample cleavage. Six years later, many have long forgotten the candidates’ pitches to voters but can clearly recall the edecan’s controversial appearance.
Politics and sexual allure mixed again in 2016 when the New Alliance Party held a campaign event in Mexico City featuring four semi-nude young women wearing nothing above the waist but body paint in the party’s trademark turquoise and white colors.
The announcement of the ban on the employment of edecanes has been welcomed by female activists, with some saying that they hoped the federal government would put the same prohibition in place.
Indra Rubio, coordinator of the gender justice program for Oxfam in Mexico, described it as “a small but very important step” for a country where macho attitudes continue to predominate in many sectors of society.
“We need to question as a society: why is a woman’s body seen as an object? This always places the woman at a disadvantage, if her participation in the workforce is subject to her physical appearance,” she said.
However, others take a different view.
Héctor García, a booking agent at a Mexico City modeling agency, described the work as “dignified” and said that escorts who called themselves edecanes have hurt the industry’s reputation.
He also said that Amieva’s characterization of the job “is morally harmful and stigmatizes edecanes all across Mexico.”
Model and edecan Mariel Guerrero Castaño agrees.
“He should not try to mix what other agencies or other groups . . . are calling edecanes or models when really they are escorts . . .” she said. “
“Then there are the legitimate agencies . . . that in truth are being stained by what these supposed agencies are doing.”