By Myriam Poizat
For the past month, a Chilean protest song and choreography about sexual violence, state sexism and a culture of victim blaming has become a viral anthem for feminists around the world. Following the first song protest performed on 25 November, the international day against gender based violence, tens of thousands have performed the song in Chile and internationally, taking squares in capitals across the world.
It first emerged in the context of a Chilean uprising against social inequality and neo-liberal austerity, where young and working class women played a leading role, walking out of schools on the first day of the protests last October, and joining more than a million of people to bring Santiago to a halt. On International Women’s Day this year, 200,000 had marched through the same streets to protest against violence against women.
The global feminist movement which has emerged in the past few years also needs to be taken into account. Working class women have been playing a key role in mass movements and revolutionary situations all over the Middle East and North Africa, where they have been calling for the end of authoratarian regimes and for a new system that would not only end inequality, but would allow women’s bodily autonomy and the end of prejudices, discrimination and gender roles.
In the US, the women’s marches against Trump have been part of the radicalisation of women workers who have been at the forefront of a new wave of industrial action — from teachers who have been leading inspiring battles against austerity, to McDonald’s and Google workers who organised strike action against sexual harassment in the workplace and for better pay.
In Spain, over 6 million workers and youth of all genders took the street in two feminist general strikes against machismo and sexism on the last two international women’s days. Finally, in Latin America, we’ve seen the rapid growth of the NiUnaMenos movement against sexism, misogyny and the thousands of femicides happening every year.
No justice in their courts
Those movements against gender based violence have raised awareness and exposed the level of oppression that women suffer from on a daily basis. Forty-two cases of rape are reported in Chile every day. In 2018, only 25.7% of cases resulted in judicial ruling. The absence of real justice for the majority of women reporting cases and the perpetuation of victim blaming means that the number of rapes which are reported daily are only a minority figure, and demonstrates the scale of the problem that needs to be challenged.
The Chilean protest song named ‘a rapist on your path’ therefore correctly takes on all the structures (the state, the police, the courts) of the system that have historically perpetuated all forms of gender based violence, from victim blaming to women’s oppression. Yet, it also correctly takes on all the structures which have imposed state violence and repression against workers through years of dictatorship, neo-liberalism and collaboration with imperialism.
The end of the song, which quotes the police’s hypocritical and sexist anthem, asking little innocent girls to sleep while their ‘lover cops’ protect them, is a strong example of that. Its meaning has grown even more significant in the past few weeks, as the Chilean state employed barbaric and extremely violent measures, blinding protesters, amongst which women, to repress the mass workers’ movement that has emerged against austerity and inequality.
Protests against oppression and inequality around the world and the adaptation of the protest song in numerous countries — such as Spain, France, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Columbia, the UK, Germany, Paraguay, the US, Mexico, Argentina, India — have shown that this isn’t an isolated Chilean issue and that actions in one country can inspire each other. This has been a strong feature of the international feminist movement where striking actions, for example, of McDonald’s and Google workers against sexual harrassment in the workplace, have taken place in coordinated global actions.
Put capitalism on trial
While the bottom 56% of the world population only owns 1.8% of the world’s wealth, capitalism and private ownership has allowed 0.9% of the world population to now own nearly half of the $361 trillion of global wealth. The world has never been wealthier, yet, wealth has never been more polarised, leaving working class and poor people suffering at the expense of a small elite. But capitalism doesn’t only bread inequality, it also breads oppression.
As a matter of fact, corporations make about $445 billions profits out of the beauty industry every year, and much more out of the sex and fashion industry, perpetuating a sexist and binary culture as well as gender roles profitable to capitalism. In 2018, Oxfam reported women’s free work in the home being worth $10 trillion every year. Additionally, the high level of injustice and mistrust towards women reporting violence, illustrated through the horrendously low level of repercussions against rapists and the perpetuation of victim blaming — such as during the Belfast Rugby trial last year — shows a flawed system built on capitalism’s need to perpetuate women’s oppression.
Capitalism profits from all forms of inequality and oppression. This means that wealth inequality, as well as sexist and misogynist attitudes and all forms of gender based violence cannot be ended under this system. The Chilean anthem being taken up internationally by tens of thousands of women shows how the global feminist revolt is not over. More significantly, the current uprising in Chile also shows that when workers enter a broader struggle, they can and will work hand in hand with the feminist movement to fight against all forms of inequalities and oppression.
Following those steps, a socialist feminist movement is necessary to build solidarity between all genders, races and age and assist the building of a broad working class fightback against the capitalist system, to seize the wealth from the super-rich and big business. On this basis we can build a democratic, socialist society based on human need, solidarity and co-operation – not greed, oppression and profit.