Paula Cometa, Lea Cáceres, Sibila Sotomayor, and Dafne Valdés are the four Chilean women known as Las Tesis collective. They are the creators of the performance “A Rapist In Your Path” that has travelled the whole world. These four women, who created the performance as a protest against sexual violence, were surprised to see it gain popularity from women the world over. The feminist performance project in Valparaíso, a Chilean town, has given way to an international movement focused on fighting against sexist violence. The viral song has crossed borders and accumulated dozens of representations in different parts of the world, including Santiago de Chile, Bogotá, Paris, New York, Madrid, New Delhi, Frankfurt, among others.
Paula Cometa explained that their idea was to produce something outrageous that would disconcert the authorities. The performance focuses on sexual violence and has become a collective cry that has taken over the public space, a kind of catharsis capable of concentrating multiple sensations to change the meaning of things and, above all, of guilt.
Since the end of November 2019, when A Rapist In Your Path went viral, Las Tesis has participated in different festivals and local gatherings. The performance comes at a crucial time, as Chile faces a barrage of abuse complaints and police violence (including sexual violence) during the repression of social protests against the Government of Sebastián Piñera. According to the records of the National Institute of Human Rights, from October 17 to December 20 there were 207 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the police.
One of the aspects that motivated the fight of Las Tesis was the discovery of the exorbitant figures related to violence against women in Chile. Through their research, Las Tesis discovered that reality was even more alarming than they thought. Every 25 minutes a rape occurs, of every 10 rape cases only 3 are reported, and of those few that are reported only 8% end in a conviction. These statistics are disconcerting, to say the least, while is why Las Tesis believes that the world needs to reflect, think, and understand why this performance has resonated with millions of women.
Paula Cometa said that the meaning of “A Rapist In Your Path” is far from festive. She commented that lots of men have thought that this performance involves joyful women who peacefully express themselves in the street. That is a lie. Just because they are not protesting with fire, she explains, does not mean that the feelings behind the performance are pure love or that all is forgiven.
The impact of the song is such that musicians and DJs have made remixes of the original song. This has caused the point of the song to perhaps be missed entirely, and many do not take it seriously. For instance, some nightclubs play the song in remix format: “And the fault was not mine, nor where I was or how I dressed”. This in itself has generated controversy on social media (especially in Latin American countries). Is this good or bad news? Does the remix format empty the feminist song of its message and change it for the worse? Where is the limit?
Eve Reyes, a Chilean lawyer, has expressed her worries about the remixes. When the song is remixed, it may lose its meaning and strength by being danced and sung to by those it seeks to challenge. A song born of protest and highlights the oppression and abuse of women is far from the ideals of a “trendy song” played in dance clubs or discos.
The incidence of sexual violence in nightlife spaces is an undeniable truth. That reality obliged Barcelona´s City Council to create a specific protocol last year that includes some data: 30% of cases related to sexual abuse with violence in Cataluña occurred in discos. In this sense, Reyes considers that “A Rapist In Your Path” could have positive results “to the extent that it questions certain behaviours that are common in such spaces (harassment, insistence, rape).
For Las Tesis and other feminist groups, the most important thing is that the focus of the protest remains. The message must continue to spread with the power that has backed it so far, reaching unexpected places and being translated to other languages; a kind of global protest that highlights the oppressions and abuses that women experience only because they exist. The spread of this protest has empowered many women and encouraged them to speak out against the violence they have endured.
The feminist message needs to reach non-feminist spaces, as that would constitute a real element of social change. Everyone does not need to read all the academic literature of radical feminism to understand that the responsibility for sexual violence is never of the victim. “Those who live in the debauchery of continuous sublimation, are those who instinctively find as a defensive method not that old reliable to deny everything, but the defence of the psychopath: blame the victim for being a victim”, stated Felipe Rodríguez, an Ecuadorian lawyer. In that sense, Las Tesis’s fight aims for “zero tolerance to all expressions of violence against women¨. We cannot continue to hold women responsible for being a victim of rape, abuse or violence.
Connie Hunter, newspaper columnist believes “‘A Rapist In Your Path’ is the whistle of the pressure cooker that echoes in the kitchen of the world, where interests of all kinds and unconsciously are found in recipes for bodies without a soul. It is time to change so that when the pot is uncovered, beans do not jump on our faces”. There are still tough challenges to face, especially in the legal field. A lot of work needs to be done to ensure equality for women, but through protests such as these, our goal becomes closer and closer.
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