From an artistic display in a street of Valparaiso during the midst of the protests of 2019 in Chile to more than 200 cities in the world, the song and performance Un Violador en Tu Camino or A Rapist in Your Path, has become a feminist anthem across the world.
The Woman Post | Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra
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Lea, Paula, Sibila, and Daffne, created the social colective Las Tesis and recently they said during the Hay Festival that it was created with the impetus of spreading feminist theory in their local and national context through an artistic and interdisciplinary approach. What they never imagined was the worldwide movement against victim-blaming that the catchy song that repeats, “the fault wasn't mine on where I was or how I dressed,” would awaken.
In the context of Chile’s uprising against social inequality, in November 2019, the song became viral and started a new wave of cyberactivism. The performance objective was to protest for the state and police violence against protestors, especially sexual violence against women. According to Human Rights Watch, the national human rights institute of the country had filed 106 sexual violence cases against state forces by November 2019, these included rape and being forced to strip naked in detention.
As a 79-year-old protestor told The Independent: “This song is to show the violence that women experience in their lives: the institutional violence, the violence in homes, the political violence, the sexual violence that women have lived in Chile.” The campaign, which emerged to protest at a local level, in a country where, according to The Independent, only 8 percent of rape cases end in a conviction, became a worldwide phenomenon. Women of all ages have felt identified and replicated the message, from schoolgirls to grandmothers.
A Rapist in Your Path also became a voice of protest in cases against powerful figures such as Harvey Weinstein, as it was performed outside the New York courtroom where he was on trial for rape. It was also performed in front of Trump Tower, in protest at the multiple accusations of sexual assault against the former president. It has generated reactions worldwide such as that of Deputy Sera Kadigil in Turkey, where some Turkish MPs sang the Chilean anti-rape song in defense of a group of Turkish women being detained for singing the song.
What made this song become a feminist anthem was that it was replicated by different countries adapting the lyrics and dances to the local realities. The performance is full of meaningful symbols behind a captivating dance. “It’s more like street theatre than a traditional political protest, and that’s the point,” said Paula Soto of the British-based Assemblea Chilena En Londres, to The Guardian.
The song’s reach extended beyond America and Europe, it was performed in Nairobi, Beira, and Tunis in Africa, New Delhi, and Tokyo in Asia, as well as women from Beirut and Rojava in the Middle East. To sum up, the overall success of the campaign has been unprecedented and massive. With more than 200 cities across the world joining the movement, it captured the aim of change of millions of women. As the composers told Chilean weekly magazine The Clinic. "It seems that worldwide we perceive the same feelings about our bodies and our life experiences and this has transformed into a great song."
The phenomenon also engaged with other web initiatives like Geochicas, which is a feminist group of female mappers that work to close the gender gap. They created a crowdsourced map to show the places where the chant had been replicated with links to the performances. “From Santiago to Nairobi and Tijuana to Stockholm, women in hundreds of cities worldwide have executed a Chilean choreographed feminist performance protesting sexual assault, victim-blaming, and state violence,” said Al Jazeera.
The symbolic importance of this campaign made it unprecedented. The 26-year-old Mexican feminist Maynné Alexa Cortés told AP “When we go out to sing, The Rapist Is You, it is not just about the singing. It is that in that group there are many women who are victims of violence with a very deep trauma." All around the world and particularly in Latin America women are blamed and shamed for rape on this topic. Cortes stated: “Recognizing that that violence is not women’s fault is something impressive, extremely powerful.”
On an unprecedented artivism scream for justice and a call to real state action and cultural change, this feminist anthem has turned pain into power. Time passes and this song keeps transforming and evolving, it started in November 2019 in a city in Chile and it is still loud and clear on its multilingual interpretations worldwide.
The growth of this artistic movement has led to the inclusion, last September, of Las Tesis, in TIME’s top 100 most influential people of 2020. A member of Pussy Riot talked about the achievement: “‘The oppressive state is a macho rapist’ goes the Las Tesis song, and women all around the world relate to these words. Victim blaming and slut-shaming are the deeply ideological assumptions that are built into our brains, education, and legal systems globally. It has to be changed. The 21st century is the century of sisterhood. Screw you, Weinsteins of the world. We have just started.”
At the beginning of 2021, the feminist collective was freed from the accusations of attacks against the authority and threats against the police after a Valparaíso Court affirmed that there was not enough evidence and that the statements were produced in an “artistic context”. To this absolution, the collective stated “we hope that no artistic group or artist in Chile has to face a judicial process for the content of their works. We hope that all of us can create in freedom and without fear of persecution and censorship.”