NATIONAL Social Crisis

How Feminists Revitalized the Protests in Chile

SANTIAGO – The feminist chant “A Rapist In Your Way” gave a voice to tens of thousands of women, abuse victims in particular, from around the world. But in its country of origin, it marked a highlight in the social crisis. Thanks to the song and the movement behind it, the street protests in Chile have been given new life.

Just as the protests in Chile seemed to be winding down due to politicization by the Chilean government, the focus is back on the streets. All thanks to a chant that has spread across the world like wildfire.

After nearly seven weeks of protests in Chile, progress made in the first weeks came to a standstill as political parties kidnapped the process of reform by presenting themselves as guardian angels. National television followed their tracks by inviting politicians, celebrities, and other members of the disguised elite to discuss what they would change in the country they often only seem to know from their ivory towers.

The Social Crisis: A Reality Show?

While political parties squabbled over controversial laws that only sought to increase security in the country, television jumped on the bandwagon and made the crisis into a reality drama. Controversial episodes with tv-presenter Tonka Tomic expelling Hermógenes Pérez de Arce from her morning show after rejecting systematic human rights violations during the Pinochet years dominated all media for days.

Their telenovela became even more spicy with Colina mayor Mario Olavarría, who said he didn’t need proof for his comments that opposition parties Frente Amplio and the Communist Party were behind the metro fires. The fact that a council member of governing party Renovación Nacional was arrested a day later for organizing lootings, gave ammunition to the opposition. Political parties, with television eating out of their hand, had managed to do what many protesters feared: they politicized the social crisis.

Ongoing Protests

So, were there no protests to cover? There were. Every day, in the capital Santiago, in Iquique, Antofagasta, and La Serena in the north, in Valparaíso, Rancagua, and Talca in the central regions, in Concepción, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt in the south, people march. Last Friday, tens of thousands of people gathered on Plaza Italia (or Plaza de la Dignidad), but a march without media coverage is a march that doesn’t exist.

As violence across the country is decreasing, it seems that peaceful protests are just not worth mentioning. Political parties are focusing on security and haven’t touched topics like the AFP pension system, healthcare, and education, as demanded by social organizations. Key figures behind the human rights violations are still where they were when the protests started, and it becomes clear that the system that people protest continues without understanding the anger of the people.

Also read:

History Repeats Itself in Chile

Feminists Stand Up

And that’s when the feminist movement stood up. Originally, the chant “A Rapist In Your Way” was meant to fight any form of sexism and sexual abuse in today’s society. But as the lyrics of the chant indicate, it is not just directed at any man. “It is the cops, the judges, the State, the President.”

After the first performance on Nov. 20 in Valparaíso, the song was picked up by feminist groups throughout Chile, and later copied and adapted in countries across the globe.

On Dec. 4, thousands of women gathered in front of the National Stadium in Santiago to perform the song and its powerful choreography. Although the chant targets sexual violence, it gives a clear voice to those protesting State oppression. For the first time in days, the attention of political parties and national media returned to what was happening on the streets.

Armed with green handkerchiefs, the feminist movement gave life to protesters who were in need of a push in the right direction. For those on the streets, there is still a lot to gain – and thus to lose – during the crisis. For Friday, Dec. 6, marches have been called for all central squares of cities across the country. It will be a key moment for the protests to show that the road to a new future is everything but paved.

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