I would like to start my post with this sentence from “Las Tesis” which, translated in English means “And the fault wasn’t mine where I was or how I was dressed”. This was created as part of the song and choreography “Un violador en tu camino” that this collective of women perform in the public space in 2019 the context of the social awakening in Chile.
The statement reminds me on many passages of the book, when Ahmed describes the process of filing a complaint, which can involve a series of hesitations and lack of support from the people around and also, hesitation from the self, not believing in the own judgment. In Complaintivism, about a student been harassed by her Professor: “Her first reaction is to question herself rather than his behavior. She tells herself off, even; she gives herself a talking to; she tells herself to stop being paranoid,…” ( Ahmed, pg. 104).
I also definitely relate the hymn phrase with complaint situations in which the victim is charge on responsibility for the harassment, like saying that the person (woman) was provocative, or that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This argument resonates as so familiar. In Chile, there are raped and abused women who, when they go to report the situation to the police, are for example asked how they were dressed, in an intention to blame the victim.
There was and still is, even beyond the “Me too” movement, a certain miss-believing on the victim’s speech, especially when abuse of power it’s implied. These miss-trusting also many times delay complaint process, resulting on people´s criticism “Why did you not complain earlier or sooner” (Ahmed pg. 113). Fortunately, in recent times and thanks to social movements, the characteristic of public climate have made people feel safer regarding speaking out these situations.
The testimonies in the book actually relate in the majority of cases with abuse of power. Sexual harassment, sexual commentaries etc… mainly directed by men. The testimonies are a synecdoche of the systematical patriarchy atmosphere that we have and still experience.
Coming back to the title of the post, what I find really powerful on “Las Tesis” work is that they created a hymn and choreography to be performed as a public act, to re-position feminist demands, in a space of power, which is the street. They embrace the collective complaining voices as a chorus and communicative bodies that are choreographed altogether in different stages in the public space. The collective action acts as a voice amplifiers of those who are afraid to reclaim, but that they feel free to do, throughout this communitarian experience.
“Complaint can feel becoming a chorus, all these conversations take up time and space in your head, more and more voices, they become loud, louder still” (Ahmed pg. 111). “Las Tesis” invite a collective body to let out this grooming voices in the head letting them out as a common scream.
In the singing and dancing, the body positions itself politically in the street, which is the most dangerous place for a woman’s body, a body that is exposed and transits into daily violence. Complaining as a collective act feels less tidy, less frightening. It is an awakening of all those who felt censored or afraid to say it.
The name of the collective comes from the aim of these four women on researching theses by feminist authors and translate them into a performative format in order to reach multiple audiences. They recognize themselves in the anti-patriarchal denunciation of writers such as argentinian Rita Segato. They have also collected testimonies from woman in context of sexual abuse and raping.
The complete song “Un violador en tu camino”:
“The patriarchy is a judge, who judges us for being born, and our punishment, is the violence you don’t see. It is feminicide. Immunity for my murderer. It is disappearance. It is rape. And the fault was not mine, nor where I was, nor how I dressed. And the fault wasn’t mine where I was or how I was dressed. The rapist was you. The rapist is you. The judges. The state. The president”
This hymn functions as a declaration for direct sexual intimidation but also as a metaphor for daily harassment or, in a macro perspective, for the systematic patriarchal order in which we are immerse, specially in the Latin-American context, where discrimination, sexual abuse and feminicide rates are still violently high.
Since the first day “Las Tesis” performed “Un violador en tu camino” the song and its choreography became a worldwide phenomenon. It was fast spread in other countries, such as Mexico and Colombia. Then they decided to make the musical base available, which was also created by them, with the idea that each territory could perform it and transform it for each context. After that “Un violador en tu camino” has been also performed in more cities in Latin-America and Europe.
in the Chilean case, “the effectivity” of the performance, evidenced in the high amount of participants in each public intervention, relays in the fact that there is still an oppression feeling by memory related with the dictatorship and the experiences of violence that the state can exercise on the citizens, oppression like the one experience by Carabineros (Chilean police) in the social awakening in 2019, where there was an evident abuse of force.
Through “Las Tesis” the feminist body re-apropiates the public space and breaks-trough spaces of masculine domination, by the power of collectivity.
Collective performance video: