The global feminist movement has a new battle hymn: “The rapist is you”. These chilling words, shouted in unison, echoed across the world over the weekend as thousands of women from Chile to Australia participated in the brilliant public feminist performance piece “A rapist in your way” (“Un violador en tu camino”). It’s even been translated into sign language.
When I saw video of the intervention on November 25th by the geniuses who wrote and choreographed the piece, Collectivo LaTesis, it gave me goosebumps. With a black cloth covering their eyes and holding a piece of paper with the words written on it, these women dealt lyrical blows to the patriarchy.
Three days ago the piece was performed in Mexico City's main square, or Zocalo. The Zocalo was built, in part, over the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor – where over 500 years ago the Mexica (Aztecs) performed ritual sacrifices of humans for religious purposes. In today’s Mexico, women, especially poor and indigenous women, are now the ones sacrificed in the name in the name of culture and traditional gender roles.
Pointing at the Palacio Nacional, over 2,000 women pointed at the home of Mexico’s current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and shouted (in Spanish):
“The patriarchy is a judge who tries us for being born and our punishment is the violence you see now.
It’s femicide, impunity for my murderer, it’s disappearance, it’s rape.
And it wasn’t my fault, not where I was, nor how I was dressed.
You are the rapist, you are the rapist.
It’s the police, the judges, the state, the president. The oppressive state is a macho rapist.”
The present government in Mexico hasn’t done much about the femicide epidemic in the country. The Secretary of Internal Affairs and former Mexican supreme court justice, Olga Sanchez Cordero, insists that the current government is committed to a zero tolerance policy of violence against women. But in 2019, femicides grew by 10 per cent.
In a recent press conference, the Mexican Minister of Security stated that 125,000 women had been victims of violence in the country this year alone. And those are only the cases we know about. Often, gender-based violence goes unreported because of fear of more violence, or community backlash.
Societal backlash isn’t a phenomenon limited to developing countries. According to the United Nations, a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and half of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family. In the US, some studies show that a staggering 70 per cent of women have been abused. Unlike the Trump administration’s manufactured crisis at the border, the violence against women epidemic in the US is a real crisis.
The performance piece “A rapist in your way” is the lyrical and visual antidote to historical argument that it’s the woman’s fault for being raped or murdered. It not only reminds listeners of the problems with victim-blaming, but it also points a finger directly at the government institutions responsible for the continued perpetration of violence against women.
Created by our Chilean allies of LaTesis Collective, this is the choreography the MeToo movement needs to keep up its momentum and keep the issue of gender-based violence in the media headlines. The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, put it best when she said, “Rape isn’t an isolated brief act. It damages flesh and reverberates in memory.”
The LaTesis Collective has given us a new battle cry to reverberate in our collective memory for generations to come.
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