The Protests at Harvey Weinstein’s Trial Finally Felt Like Catharsis

"Un Violador en Tu Camino" ("The Rapist In Your Path") is a powerful statement.

I’m exhausted.

Since Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein kicked off the larger #MeToo movement two and a half years ago (sort of — remember, activist Tarana Burke coined “Me Too” in 2006), there has been an outpouring of stories, of sharing about bad people who do bad things, but it doesn’t feel like much has changed. Donald Trump is still president with at least 25 women on the record who have accused him of sexual assault or harassment. Famous men like Louis C.K. are planning their comeback tours. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely testified, yet Brett Kavanaugh was still confirmed onto the Supreme Court.

As someone who works in the news media, it is exhausting. Covering the onslaught of these stories is exhausting. Pointing out, again and again, that a man cannot “have sex” with a “minor” — that’s rape — and that saying so in a headline no matter if it’s AP style is wrong, is exhausting. For reasons that I do not care to share on the internet, I feel so sensitive to news about #MeToo, and there are days when I just want to throw my computer out the window (I am not strong enough), delete every social media app from my phone (I literally cannot do my job without them), and retreat under my weighted blanket. One day last year, I was assigned to write an article on Woody Allen and I left my desk to get lunch but really to call a friend, sobbing. It wasn’t even that particular news about Woody Allen — it was the feeling that this is never ending.

I’ve tried to engage in books that have come out surrounding #MeToo as a way to process what’s happening. (Quick caveat: Whenever someone describes art, books, movies, TV, or podcasts as a “response to the #MeToo era,” I just want to scream, isn’t that just what people have been living through forever???) There was Kantor’s and Twohey’s She Said, which I consumed rapidly and made me angry, and sad, and then angry again. There was Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill First, which proved that there are huge webs of complicit people in place. (Also made me angry.) There was Lilly Dancyger’s collection Burn It Down, comprised of women writing about anger, and Shelly Oria’s Indelible in the Hippocampus, writings from the “Me Too movement.”

There was Chanel Miller’s heart wrenching memoir, Know My Name, that I cannot stop recommending to every person I know. And Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s The Liar, translated from Hebrew, about a false accusation of assault in Israel, which I still don’t know how to feel about. And Miriam Toews’s Women Talking, set in the aftermath of an insular Mennonite community discovering men had been drugging and raping women for years, telling them it was just “demons.” The entire book is just women talking and processing. (It also just made me sad, and mad.) And Jewish writer Susan Choi‘s Trust Exercisean experimental novel about crossed boundaries, and assault, at a performing arts high school, that largely confused me, but also made me think about the stories we are told and how it all just depends on who is telling it. And so on and so on (I read a lot of books last year).

All of these books have made me mad at the systems that have perpetuated this violence for so long; sad for the victims; hopeless that nothing is changing; yet still hopeful that something will change, because it has to, right?

Last year, my boyfriend and I started watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit from the beginning. How can you watch that, friends asked. Isn’t it terrible? The rapes, the murders? Yes, I answered, but there’s something deeply satisfying about Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler and John Munch (my favorite) and Fin Tutuola catching the bad person every time. The rape always gets reported. They believe the victim. They always get the predator – even if there are twists and turns along the way, you know there will be a conclusion within 41 to 42 minutes. It’s closure. The kind of closure we don’t get from the news, or in our lives, amongst the ongoing stream of bad men.

But recently, I’ve been getting nightmares from watching SVU. We had to stop watching one episode after another — it’s just too much bad. Now, we put on mindless reality television or game shows, like Jeopardy or The Great British Baking Show or Blown Away. There’s a desire— a need– to just take a break from everything.

But I still struggle to find relief. Working in media, and being on Twitter constantly, definitely doesn’t help — but I am constantly searching for something that will just make things feel like, fuck, all this is not for naught.

Enter the viral protest song by Chilean feminist collective, LasTesis. I first saw the song when a dear friend from Santiago texted me, “check this out,” with a link to the video, writing, “powerful demonstration by hundreds of women that started at home. Now all over the world!!” I watched it, and then I watched it again, then I texted her back, “wow amazing!!!!!!” (I text with the most exclamation points.)

And then I watched it again.

“Un Violador en Tu Camino” (“The Rapist In Your Path”) has been called an anti-rape anthem, a protest song, a viral performance, a protest performance, a feminist anthem — but no matter what you label it, you cannot deny its power. The piece was first performed on November 25, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, by LasTesis, a feminist collective in Santiago, Chile. They performed in front of the supreme court building, as if speaking directly to the structures that have oppressed them.

After it was first performed in Chile, it was performed all over the world — in Mexico City, London, Berlin, Paris, New York, Istanbul, Caracas, Tel Aviv, Madrid, and more. It was largely performed in Spanish, but some groups have translated the song.

Just watch:

The song/dance/protest spread across the world in early December — and then things went quiet for a bit.

Until January 10, outside the trial of Harvey Weinstein in New York.

Jodi Kantor was at the courthouse covering Weinstein’s jury selection. She tweeted, “Dramatic protest happening outside the Weinstein trial: a Chilean feminist anthem/dance gone viral/global, created ‘to show rape not just as a crime against an individual woman, but the expression of a larger social issue.’” She then followed up with this video:

Every time I watch one of these videos, I get chills. And I’ve searched on Twitter, watching every single one. Hundreds of people, mainly women, lined up together, wearing blindfolds, drums pounding in the background, chanting Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía. And it’s not my fault, not where I was not how I dressed.

Activist Paola Mendoza, who helped organize the Weinstein protest, told the Huffington Post that the song focuses on systemic violence against women: “It is much larger than one man committing a horrific crime, this is a systematic problem. And so it’s not just about the Harvey Weinstein trial, though he represents something specific in the United States. It’s about something that’s bigger than that.”

These videos sparked something that the “#MeToo books” I’ve been reading, and the countless episodes of Law & Order SVU I’ve watched, haven’t: a feeling that maybe anger will cause change. I’ve been so mad — about Brett Kavanaugh, about Harvey Weinstein, about Donald Trump, about everything I read every single day — but, for the first time, while watching these videos, I felt a sense of catharsis.

This Chilean anthem has made my heart soar.

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.
Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.  

If you, too, are looking for catharsis, say these lines to yourself a couple of times. Try chanting them, or just whisper under your breath. And know: We’re going to get through this. Even if there’s no closure — God, I hope there will be closure — there will be catharsis.

Header Image: Protest outside the Harvey Weinstein trial, January 10, 2020 by Kena Betancur/Getty Images.

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