Places where the patriarchy meet
Updated: Oct 23, 2021
El patriarcado es un juez / Que nos juzga por nacer / Y nuestro castigo / Es la violencia que no ves
El estado opresor es un macho violador / El violador eres tú
The patriarchy is a judge / That judges us for being born / And our punishment / Is the violence you don’t see
The oppressive state is a macho rapist / The rapist is you
Piawsalary hakimêke / Le hokmman le ser edat bo ewey le dayik buin / We sizakeman
Ew tond u tîjîeye ke to naibnît
Deselat destdrêjîkerêkî zelame / Destdrêjiker toît
In November 2019, Chilean feminist collective Las Tesis performed a protest song in the streets of Valparaíso called El Violador en tu Camino: “The Rapist in your Path”. The women-led performance protest was so impactful in highlighting masculine-driven violence against women- identifying people, that recreating The Rapist in your Path became popular across the Americas, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The Rapist in your Path is a song that connects the geographies and colonial histories of Latin America with the Middle East & North Africa. Under what is known as the Madonna/Whore Complex across these regions, women's bodies as political sites become places where the patriarchy meet.
Across the Middle East, the African continent and Latin America, male hatred for women has a framework: invisible systems of both formal and informal rules that reinforce impossible double standards on how to act as and what it means to be a “woman”. In MENA, the patriarchal framework is embedded in religion just as much as it is in culture, where the “preservation” of women's virginal femininity through possession and control enforces an impossible expectation of child reproduction devoid of sexual pleasure.
Not unlike its Middle Eastern iteration of multi-layered violence, Latin America has its own toxic women-hating culture. They call it machismo, and the poison runs deep. Beginning with the first landings of Italian and Spanish conquistadores like Hernán Cortés, it was an enforced dosage of the Catholic Church into the veins of Mesoamerica that pushed the coloniality of gender into overdrive. Forcing Indigenous and enslaved African peoples to acculturate to European ideals through a bleached version of Christianity, men became the heads of the household, and women were exiled to the realms of kitchen and nursery.
Aspirational images of a white and virginal Mother Mary holding the baby Jesus led the colonising effort, resulting in a cancerous mutation of Latin America’s expectations on woman. Our wombs were not to be penetrated by penises, but rather by children. Sex resulting in no children (especially outside of marriage) turned a woman into an undesirable slut worthy of nothing but violence. For the married woman, the less sex she had due to the time-eating job of child-rearing turned her into a prude, making her unworthy of everything except masculine derision and violence.
Staring into the mirror of colonised toxicity, the Madonna/Whore Complex reflects a violent reality in which the Latin American and Caribbean region holds the title of highest femicide rates in the world, with more than 1 in 10 Latine women believing it’s justifiable for their male partners to physically abuse them. Here lies the belief that violent discipline from the so-called head of the household fosters healthy, normal relationships. Masculine domination through the paradoxical expectation of being both virgin and mother only works because women are subjugated to nothing more than our reproductive status.
If culturally specific iterations of the Madonna/Whore Complex in both regions show us anything, it is that both geographies are bridged by women's resistance to the colonial root of distinct brands of misogyny.
“Grandmother said it would make me pure...”
These are the phrases echoed by women and girls who were cut as part of female genital mutilation (FGM) which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs. The prevalence of these violent gendered practices throughout the Middle East and North African region to preserve a women's virginity or control their sexuality reflects the link between the Madonna/Whore narrative and maintaining control of reproductive power.
In these cultures, traditionally women are viewed as vessels to be mothers and wives. Therefore the Whore and any agency she has acquired from expressing her sexuality threatens these violent patriarchal structures. Masculine sexual pleasure is elevated through stripping women of their own pleasure, subjugating them to the expectation of playing the Madonna role.
The Madonna/Whore Complex is an insidious institution, but despite culturally ingrained brands of violence against women and fems, this centuries-old model of patriarchy has been met with resistance. Decolonising efforts that have always come from Indigenous and Afro-Latine womxn since the conquistadores’ arrival on the shores of Abya Yala have paved the way for mainstream social movements like #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneWomanMore).
Through this movement, Argentinean women have only just constitutionally won the right to abortion as healthcare, a huge milestone in stemming the social wound of femicide and male violence against women. When resisting the impossible and contradictory standard of being both mother and virgin, having control over our bodies is the first step for women and fems.
No matter where women are geographically located, having legal rights over our reproductive system laughs in the face of the Madonna/Whore Complex. Whether we are discussing clitoral pleasure and fighting back against FGM in MENA, or if we open up discourse about abortion rights that prevent further femicides, we must acknowledge the Black, Indigenous and women of colour who laid the groundwork for protest songs like The Rapist in your Path to be impactful in the first place.
1. Machismo can best be understood as a deeply ingrained culture of toxic masculinity.
2. Mesoamerica refers to the pre-colonial state of the entire American continent, North, Central and South.
3. OECD, “Addressing femicide in the context of rampant violence against women in Latin America”, OECD Data, March 2020, https://www.oecd.org/gender/data/addressing-femicide-in-the-context-of-rampant-violence-against-women-in-latin-america.htm.
4. Abya Yala is an expression in the Kuna language meaning “land in its full maturity”. Abya Yala is a name for the entire Latin American and Caribbean region used by the Indigenous movement that refers to Indigenous autonomy and resistance to colonisation.
Tanita Razaghi @tanitarazaghi is a reporter, radio presenter, producer and editor.
As a multidisciplinary Kurdish woman, Tanita has worked within various cultural and linguistically diverse communities of Sydney, amplifying these experiences and voices.
In addition, Tanita writes creative pieces and freelances on news, opinion and culture, featuring in publications such as Counter Magazine, FBi Radio and Gelsomina magazine.
Deborah Prospero @deb_prosp is an Australian born Chinese and Uruguayan woman. Deborah explores her Latine and Chinese-Australian perspective and her racialised experiences through both creative poetry and prose.
Attempting to come to terms with her “in-between” identity, she mostly writes about Latin America- a homeland she has never physically been to.
Her heritage as a Uruguayan woman rediscovering her Indigenous roots given the Charrúa genocide has led to a deep interest in decolonising work through Indigenous epistemologies.
Deborah is also a raging intersectional feminist.