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SANTIAGO, CHILE - DECEMBER 06: Demonstrators wearing green scarves covering their eyes sing and dance in a feminist flash mob that plays "A Rapist in Your Way" in protest of violence against women on December 6, 2019 in Santiago, Chile. The song, written by local feminist group Lastesis, is becoming an international feminist phenomenon. (Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)
SANTIAGO, CHILE - DECEMBER 06: Demonstrators wearing green scarves covering their eyes sing and dance in a feminist flash mob that plays "A Rapist in Your Way" in protest of violence against women on December 6, 2019 in Santiago, Chile. The song, written…

The Feminist Revolution in Latin America shouts: "Vivas nos Queremos!"

Movements equally as powerful as the US’s #Metoo have emerged in Latin America. These are two of them.

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Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

El violador eras tú.

El violador eres tú.

(And it wasn't my fault, or where I was or how I dressed.

You were the rapist.
You are the rapist.)

 

This chorus was perhaps the most powerful verse that Latin American women gave to the world last year, after the Chilean group LasTesis presented their performance “Un violador en tu camino” (A rapist in your path).

We are starting Women’s History Month talking about the manifesto with which the continent shouted “¡Basta Ya!” (Enough is enough!), which it had been swallowing for decades. 

The way in which the choreography and chorus were repeated by thousands of women throughout the world revealed the so frequently dismissed issue of femicide, and sparked a surge of feminist encounters and protests.   

Contrasting with the continental roar for a change in public policies and cultural changes in favor of women’s lives, during the last months we have witnessed huge blunders from Latin American political leaders, evidencing an enormous lack of sensitivity, if not interest, on the matter: at the beginning of February, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno publicly stated that men are permanently submitted to the danger of being accused of harassment, especially if they’re ugly. 

February 21 marked the beginning of a crisis for the Administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, who, after attributing the assassination of  Fátima –plainly, as her case has been made public– to the moral degradation caused by the neoliberal model, asked that those protesting outside the National Palace –his residence– not to paint the doors. And, finally, he seems to have discouraged Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, the First Lady, from participating in the National Women’s Strike, organized by the collective Las Brujas del Mar, from Veracruz, scheduled for March 9. 

While political leaders appear to be nonchalant and public policy equally indifferent, in Latin America the feminist groups are increasingly gaining visibility in the fight for our rights and are speaking out more so that we are respected on the most elemental of principles: that we are not assassinated solely because we are women.

A Rapist in Your Path

 

Imagine walking by a plaza, a park or the stairs of a large building and finding dozens of blindfolded women expressing sheer determination. After a moment of silence, a bass drum begins to set the beat to which they will sing. 

El patriarcado es un juez

que nos juzga por nacer,

y nuestro castigo

es la violencia que no ves.

(Patriarchy is a judge

That judges us for being born,

And our punishment

Is the violence you do not see)

 

El patriarcado es un juez

que nos juzga por nacer,

y nuestro castigo

es la violencia que ya ves.

(Patriarchy is a judge

That judges us for being born,

And our punishment

Is the violence you now see)

 

Es femicidio.

Impunidad para mi asesino.

Es la desaparición.

Es la violación.

(It is femicide

Impunity for my murderer

It is disappearance

It is rape).

 

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

El violador eras tú.

El violador eres tú.

(And it wasn't my fault, or where I was or how I dressed.

You were the rapist.
You are the rapist.)

 

This performance was designed by Dafne Valdés, Paula Cometa, Sibila Sotomayor and Lea Cáceres, who make up LasTesis. Their objective was to take the thesis of feminism, especially those of Argentine Anthropologist Rita Segato, to the performance level.  

Two of Segato’s ideas stand out when we see the videos of these fierce women, time and time again:

The first is the conclusion Segato reached while working with rapists in Brazilian jails: Rape is not a crime perpetrated by an erotic interest but as an exercise of moralizing power. It is a person that wants to correct the behavior of another.

The other equally shocking idea is that when a crime is committed against a man, this seems to be seen as a crime against humanity as a whole, while crimes against women tend to be construed as crimes relating to intimacy, erotism, and are, therefore “lesser and unique crimes” –things that take place in small spaces to isolated individuals, which is untrue.  

“The blindfolds seem to remove women’s fear of social evaluation, submitting themselves to the gazes and judgements of others [...] The dance gives us a sense of embracing life, of the decision to enjoy it and freeing ourselves of the guilt placed on us. However, there is also deep pain, even some wrath, present”, recalls Luisa María Zorrilla, who participated on November 30 in Bogota, where they carried signs with the names of 238 women who had been assassinated in Colombia during that year. “Seeing the names of so many who have been abused and violated produces a sensation of repudiation and contempt towards all those attitudes legitimizing those who have stripped away someone’s dignity at any time,” she added.  

“A Rapist in Your Path” has been reproduced in Santiago de Chile, Paris, Bogota, Medellín, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Mexico City, among many other cities. The crowd of women confronting the public contradicts the idea that the victim is isolated and alone; the way that they hold the State, as much as the police and individuals responsible shows direct and structural forms of violence, while the chorus line “y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía” (And it wasn't my fault, or where I was or how I dressed. You were the rapist. You are the rapist) points towards elements of cultural violence against women. 

Unfortunately, gender violence is far from being an isolated event, limited to scant private spheres. It also does not obey geographical or demographic barriers.  

According to data released by the United Nations on November 24, 2019, one out of three women is a victim of sexual physical abuse at some time in her life. This is a problem affecting both Latin America and the US. In the US, for example, a study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 70% of the women had suffered physical and/or sexual abuse by their intimate partner.

This type of performance gathers women, brings down the walls of isolation that covers the victims of gender violence and visibilizes the problem that, far from being an isolated and individual assault, affects all humanity.

 NUEVA YORK, NY - 18 DE ENERO: Las mujeres cantan "El Violador Eres Tú", un himno creado por el colectivo feminista chileno Las Tesis, en Times Square durante la Marcha Anual de las Mujeres el 18 de enero de 2020 en la ciudad de Nueva York. (Foto de Yana P

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: Women sing "El Violador Eres Tú" (The Rapist is You), an anthem created by the Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis, in Times Square during the Annual Women's March on January 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)​​​​​​​
 
And if there weren’t any women?

According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, the number of women assassinated each day has increased continuously since 2015. According to its estimates, during the first nine months of 2019, 10.5 women were assassinated each day, compared to 6.5 in 2015. Of the 2,833 cases that occurred between January and September 2019, 729 were recorded as femicides and 2,107 as intentional homicides for causes unrelated to gender.  

Mexico’s security situation is highly problematic both due to cultural factors and the growing drug traffic cartels, that attack both men and women.  

Of the dozens of assassinations of women that have taken place in Mexico to date, two of them have shaken the population: that of Isabel Cabanillas, a feminist artist, and activist, and that of Fátima, a 7-year-old girl.

Both cases led citizens, above all women’s groups, to take to the streets. After days of mobilizing because of the assassination of the little girl, after the frustration felt from the insufficient responses from the President who, aside from “covering” her death with the decadence caused by neoliberalism, has not provided concrete strategies to protect women and prevention measures for the attacks… After all of this, the question emerged: Since they are wiping us out, what would happen if we were gone? 

This question was raised by the group Las Brujas del Mar, which they decided to reply to with a National Women’s Strike convened for March 9. 

“They don’t take care of us? They don’t care if we do or don’t exist? Well, look at what it would be like if we were no longer here! No girls going to school, no women teachers, no women on the street, don’t go to work, don’t go to the supermarket, don’t leave home.” 

This initiative has been backed by at least 16 news organizations, Televisa and El Heraldo among them; 69 educational institutions, including UNAM and Tecnológico de Monterrey; 42 state and federal institutions, such as the Departments of the Interior, Federal Health, Culture, Environment, and Natural Resources, National Defense and the Marines, the Mexican Senate, the Lower House, Walmart Mexico, Mercadolibre, Deli, BBVA Mexico, Grupo Bimbo, Coca Cola, Scotiabank, Discovery, Grupo Santander and Warner Music Mexico.

Among many other public life leaders, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, wife of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the First Lady, quickly backed the strike on her social media, only to post opposing advertising a few hours later. This has given rise to various voices of alarm and protest, for it is obvious that the First Lady was forced to recant by the Head of State. 

With or without the First Lady, Mexican women are determined to make themselves felt, for their peers, co-citizens, and rulers to feel the impacts of their absence, for them to understand that we want ourselves alive and that in inhabiting the same world, we need them in order to achieve this.

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