Santiago, Chile – From Santiago to Nairobi and Tijuana to Stockholm, women in hundreds of cities worldwide have executed a Chilean choreographed feminist performance protesting sexual assault, victim-blaming and state violence.
Created by the LasTesis feminist collective in the port city of Valparaiso, “A rapist in your path” has now been performed in more than 200 cities on every continent except Antarctica, according to a crowdsourced map.
“It was impressive how it spread so suddenly, crossing oceans,” Isaura Fabra, the Uruguayan feminist who started mapping the phenomenon, told Al Jazeera.
— Geochicas OSM (@GeochicasOSM) December 19, 2019
In recent weeks, thousands of women in more than 40 countries have chanted the feminist anthem’s core message together: “And the fault was not mine, nor where I was, nor how I was dressed.” The performance is an indictment of state and society’s perpetuation of rape culture.
The name “A rapist in your path” alludes to “A friend in your path”, the official slogan of the Chilean Carabineros police force in the 1980s and 90s, and the lyrics and choreography both include specific references to the Carabineros.
State forces used sexual violence as a component of torture of political dissidents during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, and allegations of sexual violence by Carabineros and other forces have recently become the subject of renewed attention.
Nationwide mass protests against structural inequality broke out in Chile just over two months ago. The National Human Rights Institute has documented 194 cases of sexual violence by authorities in the context of protests and detentions, and has filed 117 legal motions against authorities for sexual violence, including four cases of rape.
But women do not need to know the Chilean context for the LasTesis performance to resonate, said Fabra. The power of “A rapist in your path” is its universality and adaptability, she said.
“The plasticity of the performance is incredibly strong,” said Fabra, pointing out that women in many countries tweaked the lyrics to reference local cases or conditions.
“In every place, the patriarchy presents itself a little differently. But the issue of rape is fundamental,” she said.
The LasTesis anthem has been performed in cities and down up and down the length of Chile, multiple times in several cities. Women also now frequently break out into spontaneous performances in the middle of local struggles and issue-based protests.
Barbara Astudillo participated in a spontaneous performance at an environmental protest in Santiago, as well as at a local discussion gathering back home in Cabildo, 170km (106 miles) north of the capital. To her, feminism is connected to struggles over water rights in the Petorca region.
“For us, LasTesis was a cry of feminism, because the truth is as women we have always been oppressed. But also for us, Las Tesis was a cry of the struggle over water,” Astudillo told Al Jazeera.
“The state has taken away our rights as human beings, even to express ourselves, so for us, LasTesis makes us happy that all over the world, so many women on the planet can express themselves,” she said.
The map of LasTesis performances is one of many projects backed by Geochicas, a collective of feminist mapmakers using OpenStreetMap, OSM, a free editable map with open-source tools.
Geochicas grew out of a discussion session at the 2016 Latin American OSM conference in Brazil, where women shared frustrations and concerns. Only 3 percent of OSM users are women, noted Geochicas cofounder Selene Yang, a Nicaraguan feminist doctoral student living in Paraguay.
“As women or LGBT+ people, we do not walk through space in the same way that, say, white men do,” Yang told Al Jazeera. “Feminism and gender run through space itself.”
The song ‘A Rapist in Your Path’ is being used as an anthem to protest violence against women. pic.twitter.com/3GBQwpqrnV
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) December 5, 2019
Data points themselves can be neutral, but just like experiences of physical space, how information is mapped can be deeply gendered, she said. Geochicas members include geographers and cartographers, but also sociologists, anthropologists, and women from other fields.
Between its Spanish and English groups, Geochicas has nearly 300 members. They advocate for participation and representation of women and women’s interests in mapping and technology efforts, spaces and decision-making, as well as coordinating and supporting collaborative mapping projects, including Fabra’s initiative.
“The level of scouring that we do is incredible,” said Fabra, laughing as she described searching in map street views for a pharmacy visible in news footage of a LasTesis performance in order to pinpoint the location.
When Fabra began working on her first map earlier this year, mapping announcements of International Women’s Day actions March 8, she did not anticipate the response it would generate, but she learned how maps can generate empowerment, action, and a sense of belonging.
She got started on the LasTesis map early on, dedicating the effort to Rita Segato, the feminist anthropologist from Argentina whose theories inspired LasTesis. Fabra continues to receive a steady stream of global reports of performances.
“There is something about wanting to demonstrate that we are in the same situation. There is a sense of wanting to show, ‘I was there, too,'” said Fabra.
“Maps have a certain power. There is power in the assembly of information,” she said.