Un violador en tu camino: the Fourth Wave of feminism

When feminist Chilean activists decided to do a performance before the Supreme Court building in Santiago, they probably did not expect to create a hymn for the contemporary feminist movement.

Yet, that is exactly what happened. In the era of #MeToo, the performance (or flash mob, depending on how you’d rather describe it) by the feminist collective Las Tesis spread like wildfire across the internet and the lyrics of the song hit particularly hard, and not just in countries like Chile undergoing dramatic police repression intertwined with gender-based violence. The lyrics eerily described the experience of being born a woman in a patriarchal world where gender justice is always out of reach, describing several forms of violence (murder, rape, forced disappearance) as a continuum that stretches from the power imbalances between women and men in society:

“Patriarchy is a judge

Who judges us because of us being born

And our punishment is the violence you don’t see

Patriarchy is a judge

Who judges us because of us being born

And our punishment is the violence you don’t see

It’s femicide

Impunity for my killer

It’s the disappearance

It’s the rape

And it wasn’t my fault, nor where I was, nor how I dressed

And it wasn’t my fault, nor where I was, nor how I dressed

And it wasn’t my fault, nor where I was, nor how I dressed

And it wasn’t my fault, nor where I was, nor how I dressed

You were the rapist

You are the rapist

They are the police

The judges

The state

The President

The oppressive state is a male rapist

The oppressive state is a male rapist

You were the rapist

You are the rapist

Sleep peacefully, innocent girl

Without worrying about the bandit

Your sweet and smiling police-man lover keeps vigil while you sleep

You are the rapist

You are the rapist

You are the rapist

You are the rapist…”

While the lyrics were full of hidden clues hinting at the political context impacting the lives of Chilean women and girls, they were also broad enough to expand from the experiences of Chilean to South and Central American feminist activists to European, African and Asian ones.

But this performance should also be analyzed through current feminist movement global dynamics. Particularly, the leading role of South and Central American feminist activism. For over a century, feminism was equated with mostly a Western European/North American perspective, but now feminists in Europe and North America are following the actions, commitment and irreverence of Latinas and not the other way around.

 

The Spanish-speaking Fourth Wave of feminism

One perfect example of that is how the world “femicide” became a crucial concept for feminist activists today. Femicide is the murder of a woman because she is a woman – it is a direct critique of gender roles and male domination, and it as such can be applied to numerous situations – from murders stemming from intimate partner violence to those stemming from trafficking, police brutality or sexual exploitation. Although there is some debate about who coined the term and it was used by English-speaking in the 1970s, it was still a largely marginal concept.

That was until the resurgence of the Spanish-speaking feminist movement, described by some as la cuarta ola del feminismo, or the fourth wave of feminism. To understand how crucial Spanish-speaking feminist activism has become, we can compare in Google Trends the number of searches for “femicide” (in blue) and its Spanish counterpart “feminicidio” (in red):

 

As we can see, since at least 2011 the word has mostly appeared on the web in Spanish (and Portuguese, for the Portuguese Brazilian word for femicide is also feminicídio and activists using this world are generally more influenced by activism of other Latin American countries). For example, the international symbol of feminist activism in Brazil, the councilwoman Marielle Franco, is widely considered by activism to be a victim of femicide.

Internationalization through song and new media 

The power of the Fourth Wave of feminism stemming from Latin America and Spain cannot is deeply intertwined with the power of new media. One reason why the Chilean performance spread so fast is because Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are key tools for feminist activists, as well as Spotify, Sound Cloud and YouTube. Due to the large presence of Latin Americans in many countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, the diaspora should also be considered a factor.

There are two ways Spanish feminist songs have become international through new media:

  • Spanish-speaking performers are becoming more popular and are collaborating with musicians from other language backgrounds, especially from diaspora and Global South. This is certainly the case of Ana Tijoux, a Franco-Chilean singer and musician, and this kind of new collaboration between Global South activists and feminist is perfectly epitomized in the song “Somos Sur” (“We are South”) featuring Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour.
  • The lyrics are adapted to other languages. One of the most memorable performances of “Un violador en tu camino” was the one by women lawmakers in the Turkish Parliament, which sang a Turkish-language version of the song.

In the future, activist from all over the world will probably follow the lead from Spanish-language feminists in the Global South and diaspora. After the 8th of March, the world was in awe of pictures of feminist protests in places like Madrid and Santiago, which showed complete squares and avenues filled with the symbolic color purple. And with songs and chants as their special weapon, Spanish-speaking feminism is ready to take over the world and demand women point at the patriarchy will one clear message: El violador eres tu.

Author: Margarida Costa Da Silva Catela Teixeira

Margarida is a feminist activist working with both grassroots feminist groups and established women’s organizations in Portugal and Europe. With a background in Cinema, Philosophy and Human Rights, she is particularly interested in ending sexual exploitation of women and girls in all its forms and seizing upon innovative and gender sensitive ways of communication to do so.

4 thoughts on “Un violador en tu camino: the Fourth Wave of feminism”

  1. So interesting to read about this Margarida! I actually participated in a flashmob here in Stockholm where we chanted the “manifest” of Las Tesis, and it was so powerful. It was just a week after the original performance in Chile and its fascinating to witness the speed in which the protest was spreading. Also makes me think about the importance of “offline” encounters and protests and how the online can be a tool in achieving that!

    1. Hello Miriam!

      Thank you for your comment. From my experience, online content is what made me a feminist, but now most of my activism takes place offline 🙂 so I definitely think there is a connection between online and offline forms of activism and conscience raising. I didn’t know there was a flashmob in Stockholm – it really is amazing how the song spread so fast all over the world!

  2. Hello Margarida!
    Reading your voice gave me goosebumps (in a good way)! The analyze you make about feminism in Latin America is really interesting to read, it’s very inspiring to se the feminist and women’s movement so very strong and creative in that part of the world. I also feel like feminism is growing and developing and that we (European white women) should take their struggle seriously (which is not always the case) and learn from their experiences, ideas and strategies.
    Thank you for lifting this topic!

    1. Hello Victoria! I also agree. I am always inspired by what feminists are doing in Latin America, and in this particular text I did not even touch on the issue of abortion rights and how that movement is growing in Argentina, for example. I also think we should take Latin American feminist seriously and, from my perspective, they really are taking the lead in all things related to violence against women and girls. Also, they are not afraid to name the perpetrators, and this I think its where it really differs from mainstream feminist discourse from English-speaking countries.

      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

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