12-14 October. Raping Latinas

On Monday we discussed the various relations of presence/absence (in the case of the Virgin from the life of Jesus, in the case of a mother from the life of a child, as we saw last week) and of violence, and the role of church leaders in the happening of domestic violence.

Take one point from the discussion, and relate it to one of the websites or videos I asked you to watch or browse on Wednesday.

Please, note that the link for “Existe ayuda / Help exists” is broken. This is the live one:,competence%20and%20accessibility%20of%20services.

Please, post your reflection by Sunday at noon.

12 replies on “12-14 October. Raping Latinas”

After this week, I think that one point that remained is the sense that women may feel a sense that they do not have control over what happens to their bodies. Who then may have control? It may be society (dominated by men), by men or one’s husband, or by the Catholic church (as the video of the backlash against the church revealed).

I think that the resource “Existe ayuda” is a good training guide that helps those helping women who have been survivors of domestic abuse and other abuses to gain a small snapshot into the cultural background of “control” from which many of these women come from. Furthermore, I think it is good that such guides exist because it combats the idea that women don’t have control by helping women move past the abuse and mistreatment they may have experienced. I think that as one literature states, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Although movements have their place in being an agent of change, I think focusing on how to help women and focus on moving forward is vital for empowering individual women past their abuse.

Within this week’s readings, we discussed the role of women in a religious sphere. More specifically, the absence of the Virgin Mary from the abstract of Christ as the Messiah within Christianity. This serves to demonstrate how women do not have a choice in entering a child’s life but do have one in their exit from the world. In a way, this debate relates back to if the Virgin Mary was given the freedom to choose. Although she had a son who would later on become her adoration, it is necessary to question the extent to which this holy phenomenon disrupted her current life.
In relation to this week’s video concerning protests in Argentina, one can see the rage that church norms have caused within communities. As seen with one of the articles this week, church leaders do indeed have the knowledge to aid domestic violence victims. However, this knowledge comes into friction with the notion that marriage is holy and not to be interfered with from outsiders. Rather, the victims of domestic violence are then left to or encouraged to withstand difficult times with their partner in order to satisfy the traditional characteristic of forgiveness in marriage. The video highlights the phrase “Ni una menos”, which means not one less, in order to highlight the loss of women due to gender violence. I thought it was interesting how the movement saw this in terms of a loss rather than a gain. It could have been “Ni una mas”, which means not one more. All in all, this led me to think about the motives of religion for women in terms of their position. Could it be that women really are encouraged towards a submissive role within marriage?

In the discussion of Ramirez’s article on the absence of the Virgin Mary from biblical accounts in the New Testament, Professor Carrion posed the question on how this absence and lack of acknowledgment for the mourning Madonna may suggest an act of violence. The Old Testament provided narratives of women with agency and positions of power such as Anna, Deborah, and Rehab, but the New Testament provided lesser detail and fewer accounts of female figures.

The New Testament’s omission of the Virgin Mary’s accounts and verbiage of masculine terms (i.e. men, brethren..etc) were divisive tools of phallogocentrism to uphold the male domination in society and repress the female voice. Spanish language also borrows the masculine form in the third person pronoun for conjugation of words to describe groups or collectives when at least one male or masculine item is present. Language and silence are artifacts of discourse as much as the production of knowledge. Discourse transmits power but also resists it. In Foucault’s description on the polymorphic nature of power, he cites silence as “an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourse” (Foucault, 27). When biblical accounts omit and silence the narrative of female figures, then they disavow women’s agency and render them susceptible to objectification at the hands of male domination. As a result, the liberation message of the New Testament becomes lost in translation when acts of rape and gender inequality occur towards women in Christian societies.

Foucalt’s interpretation of the relations of power and resistance are at play in the two videos that were assigned this week. From burning the bible to the bare breasts, the protests in Argentina showed numerous signs of resistance against the patriarchy for its part or lack of addressing the gender violence in the country. The symbols of resistance used in this protest threatened and defied the power of the patriarchy. When I saw the shirtless women, I began thinking about the cultural norm in ancient societies that practiced bare chests. The male colonizers made a perversion of such a scene and distorted the natural pureness of the female body. This distortion and objectification of the female body that lead to crimes of rape continued into the 21st century in Latin America.

The women in these videos who protested for justice and sang “Un violador en tu camino” for the end of femicide are reclaiming their voice and authority over their womanhood. Culture evolves and the organizational culture of society reacts to that evolution. Church leaders and politicians alike need to reevaluate how their actions or lack of actions perpetuate gender violence, and also redefine what machismo culture should mean in today’s society.

This week, it was thought provoking to consider how innate the body, its reactions, the violence it endures, and its discourse, is to women. It seems that violence itself is inextricable from a woman’s relationship to her body, and under a Latin American context, this violence occurs both physically and discursively to produce a ‘body’ that women have to challenge and reconstruct constantly. The absence of the Virgin in the life of Jesus, and in the Bible and Christian doctrine in general was something I had never considered up until this week, and it offers a significant point of analysis of how women in Latin America are both venerated and made invisible at once. Family-centered culture that I have experienced places an incredible amount of importance and responsibility on women to be centers of their households, to bear children and raise them, to feed them and care for others, and yet these responsibilities all occur in the private sphere of the home. The exclusion of the Virgin happens similarly – she is used symbolically as a mother and as a nurturer but her agentive potential outside of the private sphere is absent, and the insurgent potential derived from the life of Jesus and from Christianity in general occurs publicly, and involves the male body (Jesus’ crucifixion, his birth and ressurection).

The Chilean protest song ‘A rapist in your path’ challenges the notion of women’s privatized, commodified bodies. By making their bodies visible, their protest public, and by explicitly stating the direness of women’s violence in Chile, these protesters subvert the notion that women’s issues can only be addressed in the home, or in the church, and highlights the insurgent potential of the female body and its capability to enact change.

This week’s discussion on Maternal Self-Mourning could be described as a bridge from last week’s discussion and future discussions. We talked about the mother’s body becoming weaker after giving birth because it is no longer just her life. A mother creates a child inside her womb and must care for the child until she dies. Even as children become adults, a mother will always have some type of connection with their child and will always be reminded that her body does not belong to her. Kristeva writes that ” A mother is a continuous separation…” It can be a physical separation, like the transnational mothers and daughters that leave their homes in search of a better life. It can be an emotional separation from their children as they resent their mothers for leaving them behind. Or it can be the separation that occurs from the womb. Kristeva added to the quote above, ” …a division of the very flesh,” and that’s exactly what happens when one becomes a mother. A mother creates her child in the womb with her blood, her nutrients, her flesh, and once that child is born, they are for the world, a part of the mother given to the world. Mothers lose ownership of the child, their flesh, to the world.

I think this fits in perfectly with the videos of the Argentinian protestors and the song created by Chilean women. In the Argentina video, the women are protesting so that the Argentinian government and the church will help stop the violence against their bodies. “Un violador en tu camino” presents the lyric “el patriarcado es un juez que nos juzga por nacer” emphasizes the idea that women are subjects of violence because they were born women. The women in both videos want to make it known that they’ve had enough and have been angry for many many years and NOW, they will hear their voices. As a woman, it’s empowering to see these women taking control over their lives, their bodies, and making it known that they will not put up with it anymore, ni una menos.

One point about our discussion this week that was interesting to me was the focus on Mary and choice. Specifically, the discussion of choice in the Bible and how gender difference decides who has the right to choice and how Mary, seen as being blessed for carrying the Messiah, did not have a choice in getting pregnant. The violence that she experienced due to this pregnancy originates from the fact that this phenomenon was supernatural and, being within the situation, Mary very possibly could not have known whether the life growing inside of her was good or evil, establishing a cause for psychological violence in addition to the physical violence of carrying a baby. When I listened to the Chilean song, “A rapist in our path,” it brought me back to this focal point in Monday’s conversation, specifically the line, “the patriarchy is a judge /that judges us for being born /and our punishment is the violence that you don’t see.” The first half of this line connected me to the right of choice that Mary lacked in getting pregnant and the events surrounding as Mary is idolized very much because she was a virgin. Virginity is a double-edged sword that women are forced to take on the minute they are born due to simultaneous societal expectations of purity and reproduction. That is, Mary becoming pregnant without breaking her virginity is an unrealistic expectation for women everywhere and due to the unrelaism of such expectations, women are judged and set up for failure from birth. The second half of the line brought me back to the physical and psychological violence that Mary had to face in becoming pregnant without a choice. While Mary wasn’t being actively punished as she was an ideal pregnant virgin, the “punishment” for her could be said to be (1) the physical changes and duress that comes with supporting a life within you, as well as the physical pain of giving birth; and (2) the psychological pain of not being able to choose this path of physical pain and of not knowing what kind of life force (i.e. good or evil) she was impregnated with. The class discussion and the song, then, both seemed to cover topics of violence, rape (i.e. in this situation, rape with and without penetration), patriarchal expectations and judgement, biblical applications in reality, and female agency.

In our discussion of the Virgin Mary and her relationship with Jesus Christ, we spoke about the huge toll that birth and motherhood have on a woman’s body. The process of creating life, having a child grow in the womb and the process of childbirth, have profound effects on womanhood. In the case of the Virgin Mary, we are unsure if this was even a voluntary choice on her part, and the bible does not seem to put much importance on her relationship with her son. Even in his final moments, Jesus addresses God but does not put much thought into thinking about his mother, who was weeping his feet. This provides an important insight into motherhood: oftentimes, it is painful and life altering and the relationship between mother and child lasts a lifetime. However, many times our society seems to push aside the concept of motherhood with disdain.
In the video about protests in Argentina, we can see how the norms in the country are being to change. The church has been a huge source of anguish for women historically, and the women protesting were trying to dismantle the power that the church had over women’s lives. Although we read that churches can be helpful as a place to get resources, that is not always the case. Many times, the church has helped abusers and even gaslighted victims into accepting domestic abuse as normal. The women in this video are not accepting that anymore, which is highlighted by one of the phrases the protestors wrote, “un violador en tu camino.” Women in Argentina are no longer accepting the traditional role as submissive, and now they seek agency against the norms self-imposed on them.

In our last discussion, we spent some time looking at female figures in the Bible and their role/place. One thing we seemed to find is that male figures Christian religions recognize today seemed to have had much more choice in the matter of how they answered their “calls” from God. We discussed figures such as Moses, who was asked by God to deliver His people and compared him to the Virgin Mary. Mary was told by an angel that she would be delivering God’s son. There are two differences I can see immediately; the first, being asked versus being told what role God intended for the individual. The second is the fact that God approached Moses directly, while Mary hears of her destiny from a messenger, even though she would be carrying and birthing God’s only divine son. Of course, these points are up to interpretation, but it is still something we can consider when looking at the differences in how men and women fulfilled their purposes.

The two videos we watched show two different forms of protest against sexist violence and femicide. The first video, which showed protestors in Argentina, was interesting to watch because we see the protestors mainly upset with the Church. The first clips are more violent, showing how the protestors throw flaming objects towards what seems to be a cathedral. We also know, based on the description, that they beat up two men speaking in favor of the Catholic Church. I found this video to be incredibly relevant to what we are studying and what we discussed last class because it shows a different role that women are playing relative to the church/religion in general. In different words, we are seeing women take a stand against the Church, refusing to follow the rules and expectations placed by this establishment. We see this in the women who declare “My body, my choice” and in the women who do not allow anyone to silence them, such as the woman playing in the water police officers were hosing her with. Of course, there are probably many women in those protests who still believed in God and worshipped the Virgin but what this shows us is the many ways women can feel empowered; whether that be in going against the Catholic Church or in remaining with your religion.

The song we heard, created by women in Chile, puts in musical form many of the things we see in the Argentine protest. They explicitly refer to the police, the judicial system (judges), the state, the president, and patriarchal society in general as a rapist and oppressor. They express how the patriarchy judges women for being born , and punishes with violence. They declare over and over that the violence against women is not the fault of the woman, regardless of where she was or how she dressed. With this verse, we see a redefining of the role assigned to women to since their birth. In both places, women call out political systems and religious systems for ignoring and enabling gender-based violence.

This week’s discussion and our readings on Kristeva Ramirez’ analysis of maternal self-mourning raised points around the Mary’s positionality as a mother, what she is expected to endure, and the expectations of suffering that define her purpose. Ramirez does a really interesting job of reworking our imagination as readers in order to think about Mary’s subjectivity, her feelings, and how popular understandings of her religious figure perpetuate the idea of a mother as someone who is only meant to nurture and mourn. In a way, Ramirez’ work is not just an act of scholarly analysis, but also one of resistance because she is challenging and breaking down these misconceptions and adding a more human lens to Mary’s significance/importance.

The video assigned on the Argentinian protest against gender violence relates to my reflections on Ramirez because it made me think of how resistance and challenging dominant power structures/frameworks can have similarities and differences. A similar sense of seeking justice and liberation for women and femmes connects both work of Ramirez and the protesters in Argentina. However, I think it’s also important to think about the differences and distance between scholarly work and activism/protest on the ground. What physical dangers and threats are brought onto someone when their body is on the line during protests? How can academics and scholars honor the labor and work of folks on the ground, while still aiming for the same goals of resistance and liberation?

Upon reflecting on last Monday’s discussion, a number of interesting discussion points come to my attention, however, one point I would like to mention correlating to Ramirez’s article was our discussion connecting to our previous discussed topics about motherhood, the changes a mother undergoes both internally and externally upon having a child, and the rise of speaking out for their own selves. As we have talked before about women standing up for themselves against previous societal standards, ideals, or restrictions, the video was especially unique as it portrayed the Argentinian women protesting for the right to stop the subjectivity to their bodies they undergo by men in society. The anger and determination to create a change is evident, and especially empowering. In addition, watching the video led me to think back to our topic of flesh and our bodies, and I found I was able to tie together the concepts discussed about women and their bodies, what their flesh, bodies and identity mean to them in relation to the video of the rise up to have the full control they deserve. Moreover, regarding our discussed points about the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ in terms of their own relationship, this is a connected point because it points to the aspect of the life changing role of entering motherhood as well as the sacrifices it takes to be a mother as we talked about the bible not being entirely clear if Mary’s choice was voluntary. Overall, looking back there were a number of points that well correlated to previous topics in class, which was quite enjoyable upon realization that as a class we have created a strong foundation to create a number of inferences and connect many ideas together under the central themes.

In the Ames and Behnke paper we learn about different reasons why Latinas do not report their domestic violence cases, usually relating to cultural values surrounding privacy and the sanctity of the family as well as other behavioral norms that have been established by the Church. Women often fear being ostracized by the Church, that is why they should be involved in protecting these women and their families. In the videos, we are able to see women protesting for their rights, and against gender violence. These women are crucial since they protest for everyone who is going through domestic violence, and perhaps encourage them to speak up and not be afraid to utilize their voices. These women are no longer willing to live as oppressed bodies, and they are challenging institutions in power such as the Church, in order for them to act on it and help these women who need support in their lives.

The sexual topics are so taboo within the Latinx communities; Machista and Marianist views keep Latina’s insubordination, the Church takes control of their bodies, their husbands give the rules. It is said that there had to be such a specific guide to talk to and to teach Latinas about sexual violence. Latinas are raised to stay quiet about this kind of stuff and raised to not question much about how they are treated. It is upsetting that our own communities haven’t been able to introduce the necessary conversations to help raise awareness and support for those Latinas that are stuck in silence due to years of being guilted into keeping it quiet. Churches have inadequate recourses for sexual violence, for being such pillars of Latinx communities, one would hope there would be enough resources to support their people. In my two years of classes in preparation to complete my confirmation, we were only given one day dedicated to sexual violence awareness and all they did was play a ten-minute video explaining how sexual assault can take place as well as one number for one sexual assault hotline. This lack of education on these topics both in and out of the church and in the communities prevents the women of the community from coming forward and getting the help they need, which is a mission on its own (this country’s inadequate mental health treatment!)

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