A little over a year now I’ve belonged to a Facebook community called #LasRespondonas (which could be roughly translated as “the women who talk back”). The community and the group came into existence as a response to the infamous declarations of our still incumbent Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Peru: that’s the adjective he employed to talk about the (female) Minister for Health and some (female) government officials – though in a pejorative manner – when these women were debating about the emergency contraception.
The community was formed and now it comprises over 15 thousand people – men and women alike (yes, men). It is a closed group, where you can only get in only via invitation or requesting admission, and there we discuss about feminism, female masturbation, spreading the knowledge about the female body, the female orgasm and maternity. We have also shared books about feminism as .pdf files to download, so that everyone could have access to them.
According to my point of view, there are two kinds of publications that stand out from the rest:
- The sharing of a personal experience made by one of the members of the group: the woman or man in question confesses having been a victim of violence during her/his childhood or teenage years, who was the perpetrator and the reason why she/he kept quiet about it. If the victim actually took legal steps to get satisfaction, she/he tells us how the judicial process works. Some of them share their tales of violence suffered because of their having a different sexual orientation. Others share their stories about being witnesses of violent acts (at home, on the streets or at the workplace) and how they reacted.
- Whatever they share is always well received by the group as a whole. There are questions asked, but above all, they get words of support, words of comfort, brotherly and sisterly words, and – more often than not – sometimes some people open up and share their own experiences. It’s overwhelming, but at the same time, it strengthens the vision of women who don’t know each other in person, but despite that, they bond over emotions and courage in a virtual level.
- The other kind of publication I consider empowering is when one of the members of the group DENOUNCES a despicable act. She/he shares a story – whether it’s happened to her/him or to a friend of hers/his, who may or may not be a member of the group #LasRespondonas. It could be someone who has been touch without her/his consent, who has been harassed in social media, who has felt insulted due to the distribution of photographs without her/his consent, or – even worse – who has been physically or sexually assaulted. It is then that the whole group #LasRespondonas reveal their true beauty. The story is swiftly shared and it goes viral via Facebook and Twitter, tagging several broadcasting media. If the aggressor is identified, all his public info available in the internet is dug out (name, last name, ID number, workplace, whether or not he’s got a partner), and then the story is shared tagging his workplace or his university (some of us even send emails to these institutions, asking them to make their rejection for those aggressions manifest, and to expel him if possible). We write to his relatives, to his bosses, to his teachers and to his girlfriend, to the television networks, to the Ministry for the Women, to the Ministry of Justice. This group works as a machinery to make these kinds of stories viral in less than 30 minutes, and we’ve succeeded in getting answers in less than 3-4 hours.
A month and a half ago, one of our mates (that’s how we call each other because THAT’S WHAT WE ARE) denounced having been touched and harasses on the streets by a man. She took her complaint to the police and identified her aggressor. She even took a photograph of him. Her friend shared the story in the group #LasRespondonas, and little time it took us to find out that he was a medical doctor, and to find out where he worked. Twenty-four hours later, after incessant sharing of the story until it made the front page in a few newspapers, the hospital where he worked released a statement saying that he had been let go due to his unethical behaviour. It was a glorious step forward for us all.
A week ago, one of our mates listened to two broadcasters of a radio station (Oxígeno.FM) making fun of the story of a woman who had been raped while taking a census of the population during the Peruvian National Census (her case had been in every newsreel and front page of every newspaper). Despite the fact that the matter was so violent and execrable, these broadcasters found it a cause of laughter in their program. That drove us to a rage. In under 30 minutes, we denounced those broadcasters in every social media possible. Within the hour, one of the broadcasters issued a public apology via Twitter, but that wasn’t good enough for us. The following day, their program was not aired, and they were separated from the broadcasting station. WE DID IT AGAIN.
We are called FemiNazis, extremists, crazy, hyper-sensitive, scandalous, evil, stupid, anarchists, whores and bitches. I firmly believe that they name us as such because they are afraid, and they are afraid because we are no longer afraid. We now denounce, we now spread news, we now take photographs, we now search and find the name of the aggressor and make HIM feel ashamed (because it is not our place to feel ashamed for what has happened to us).
We stopped being victims. We are survivors now, we are fighters, we are angry feminists because the government does nothing to improve the laws with regard to our rights and our safety. We are the women who answer back: #LasRespondonas.