The struggles for vindication

por Gabriela Mejías Gispert

Recently, a photo of Mon Laferte at the red carpet of the Latin Grammys seeking vindication for women circulated in the social networks. The artist and singer denounced the violence that’s been escalating in her country for several weeks now. Chilean singer Álex Anwandter also protested, by posing with a sign in front of the cameras. Two Chilean sportspeople from different disciplines used their time on the winners’ podium to make the same statement as they received their medals: they covered their eyes for the official photograph, asking for justice for the people who have lost them because of the bullets and the teargas. A similar gesture can be seen in images of different artists, who have used their personal accounts to spread a patent truth which the media manipulate.

‘They are killing, raping and torturing us’ were the words written by the singer, the same phrase visible in the flag held by the athletes and on Álex’s sign. However, the latter images I speak of are not known by many. Mon Laferte’s photo monopolized the headlines, and none of them made emphasis on the loudest words the artist uttered without moving her lips: they kill, they torture, they rape.

The choice of location was not random. ‘The plan, precisely, was to make a public condemnation in a place where it could receive a lot of attention’, she confessed to Europa Press. It wasn’t only the media that shifted the focus of attention. Laferte received all sorts of reactions on her social network profiles. Her protest garnered expressions of pride, admiration and a fair share of rejection. What’s true is that the double standard surrounding the singer’s denunciation raised many questions to be considered.

What’s upsetting in Mon Laferte’s statement? Is it her breasts or the violation of human rights in Chile?

Unintentionally, the singer put many truths on her body, which went beyond the words used. A woman’s body as merchandise is not offensive, see-through dresses and ‘sensual’ poses address no one. But words on the body of a woman who’s not used as an object of desire bring out opinions galore.

The length of the dress or the choice to become a mother are still in dispute. Chile doesn’t have legislation to guarantee legal and free abortions, let alone safe ones. The scarf around her neck is another claim of the Chilean women who have taken to the streets. It’s a scarf raised for all those who have died because of backstreet abortions or have served sentences for having refused to give birth. Is this not a violation of human rights?

The female body has been the ground of historical dispute, not only when we refer to the beauty canons that mean to shape it, but also in the coarsest, most grotesque situations. Violating the body of the wives of soldiers in the ancient wars was a way to assert power, intrusion, and domination.

In the words of Rita Segato, the female body is the frame or canvas on which the moral defeat of the enemy is written.

On the other hand, objectifying an opponent is the only subjective way of losing touch with the part of human condition that shuns violence. Language, in its role of mediator, becomes dehumanizing, and the one attacked is displayed as a threat to a truth one feels it’s within one’s right to safeguard.

In modern-day disputes, forced nakedness, lacerations and violations of women have an intention that goes beyond political conflict. Women bear a doubly meaningful load within the violence of a conflict, and their bodies constitute another ‘truth’ that feels threatened in the midst of political dispute.

Mon Laferte showed her bare torso as an analogy of several territories in dispute. Her Chilean, female body, adorned by nothing more than a green scarf and the words that both Chile and violated Chilean women cry out.

(Translated from the original)

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