Pussy Riot in collaboration with Las Tesis have released a new single condemning police brutality, which seems only fitting to share now in memory of George Floyd and everyone else that has fallen victim to the brutal hand of the law.
Las Tesis, a feminist art collective from Chile, recently become famous for creating the choreography and protest song ‘A Rapist In Your Path’ which became a massive protest sensation around the whole world in 2019.
“May 2020. Either we organize ourselves or we perish. We are facing an unprecedented escalation of state brutality and repression. And with it, the historic opportunity to set it all on fire.”
Furthermore, on the Pussy Riot YouTube page, the collective goes on saying: “Make social workers being in charge of the police institution. Their goals should be to help people to deal with social and economical problems, not to punish them and kill for no reason, as they just killed George Floyd in the US. The government and the police are our servants. Too often they forget about it and think that it’s us who’re here to serve them.
5 STEPS FOR POLICE FROM PUSSY RIOT
1. Refocus police forces towards protection of the civilians instead of oppression and violent suppression of our rights to express and demand what our communities need.
2. We are here to hold the police forces accountable for every act of violence against civilians. Nothing will go unnoticed.
3. We demand that if the police show up at the demonstration, they protect our right to speak our minds freely, act respectfully and peacefully.
4. We are the many, they are the few. We stand together with Chilean protesters, we are women who want to be safe while marching for female rights with Las Tesis. We express our solidarity with Argentinian, Chilean, Mexican, Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian, and all Latin American sisters and street fighters who only want to have a damn right to be in charge of their bodies and their reproductive system (but only get police batons in response).
5. Police forces in Latin America and Russia need to be urgently re-trained to focus on protecting women’s rights, LQBTQ+ community, and the rights of alternatively able people.”
At the time of writing this article Chilean president Sebastián Piñera has declared a state of emergency in his country. In one of the strongest economies in Latin America inequality reigns and the country’s citizens are currently voicing their frustration by taking to the streets in protest.
Economic inequality is far from being the only thing Chileans have
had to protest in recent years. A little over four decades ago its
citizens had to experience a U.S. backed military coup that overthrew
the government. This resulted in more than 2,000 people being killed and
thousands of people tortured, among those internationally acclaimed
protest musician Victor Jara.
Events like these are bound to leave marks on a nation. It was not
until 2004 that the liberty flame that Pinochet ignited in 1975 was put
out. Not only are these flames (popular in many countries) a waste of
energy and usually commemorate war and violence, but for decades
families of those murdered by Pinochet had to see that flame burning.
The inequality in the country shows its teeth in other aspects of
society as well. Femicide (feminicidio), although not as rife as in
Mexico and Colombia, is a grave problem in the country. The term started
being used in Latin America due to the hundreds of women murdered in northern Mexico
since the 1990s. A specific term had to be coined for this type of
homicide to design situations in which women were being murdered solely
because they were women.
One of the main problems for women living through this history of
violence towards them and their sisters is the lack of action from the
governments that are supposed to protect them. Fortunately, this is
changing – in some countries at least. In Chile, law number 20480, now also known as the femicide law, shows amends to violent intrafamiliar offenses
and increases punishment for those crimes. These small steps come with
many hurdles still, because the people in power of the judiciary system
continue to find ways to lower sentences twisting language to their
But all is not lost and today rises a new generation of musicians and
activists that keep the protest flame lit and the legacy that Victor
Jara and other artists left behind alive. One of these artists are the
young women that make punk rock band Sin Lencería (which translates to
The band has been active since 2012 and since day one they have used their voices on and off stage to communicate to their audience the injustice their fellow women face in general society as well as in the very ‘machista’ punk rock scene. Their album Sin Lencería, Ni Miedos came out last August and, as they told me via email, the band has no other plans but to keep speaking up for women around the globe and fighting the good fight.
Halldór Bjarnason: Your music is a fighting
tool against gendered violence. How have you perceived ‘machismo’ and
gendered violence so far in the music scene around you and your
community since the start of Sin Lencería?
Sin Lencería: Even though the punk scene tries to be
more aware of social conflicts, it’s still in debt with gender related
problems. There’s still harassment at gigs and very little participation
of women in the public and as part of the bands and that’s something
that needs to change.
Being female musicians hasn’t been easy, the band started in 2012 and
since the beginning there’s been prejudice against us and the way we
play, some people used to think less of us just because we’re women and
because we look young. And sometimes even the compliments were weird,
like one time a guy told our drummer that she was so skilled that she
“played like a man”. He was trying to be nice but he didn’t even realise
that by saying that he was implying that women usually are bad at
playing their instruments.
But there’s still a bright side. There are some local collectives inside the punk scene that are trying to change this situation like “Femfest” or “Mujeres Al Frente”, they create different types of musical events that encourage inclusiveness and invite women to be part of the scene – providing safe spaces. Women are getting together and we’re raising our voices. “Mujeres Al Frente” has done 4 different feminist shows in these past years in Chile and one in Mexico. We love those events because they’re one of the few times that we get to see so many girls gathered together and at the center of the mosh pit with full energy!
HB: Has your music always been political or made in protest?
SL: Yes, since the beginning we’ve wanted to show
our discomfort and talk about the problems that affect women in their
daily lives. The band starts from that base point, from realising that
it’s time to talk about sex harassment, gender violence, feminicides,
discrimination, prejudice, etc. We need to change that Latin American
culture that’s so patriarchal that needs special words that does not
exists in other languages like “machismo” to explain how bad things are
and the lack of equality that exists.
HB: Feminicidio (feminicide) is a fairly
young term but an age-old problem that furthermore has been quite the
plague on South, Central and North American countries. How do you feel
your government is tackling this problem that you have sung about?
SL: In our country there’s still a long way to go
for these problems to be taken seriously. There’s been some improvements
over time but it’s not enough. A couple of years ago the government
created the “Ministerio de la Mujer y Equidad de Género”
(Ministry for Women and Gender equality) that supports women that are
victims of violence, providing legal and psychological help. There’s
also a “Ley del Femicidio” (Feminicide law), but these laws are
still too soft towards this type of problems and the feminicide law
only works for violence inside legally married couples or couples that
The Chilean law is working on new ways to protect women that are not
married and people that suffer couple/partner violence, but to this date
it’s still not approved. The only thing women can do when they suffer
harassment from a violent partner is to make a legal complaint with the
police and they’re usually very questioned in the process, and even if
they make repetitive complaints the best they can get is a restraining
order in most cases and, even then, they’re left with fear that the
violent partner could easily ignore the charges against them and find
the victims anyway.
An example of the problems with the femicide law in Chile, that also
affected the punk community, happened in 2017 with the murder of Isidora
“Dorito” González. Her case was very brutal and cruel because she
wasn’t only murdered, but her body was also dismembered. Once they found
the culprit and took him to trial, he was initially sentenced to 40
years of prison for femicide. But later his lawyers argued that the
victim and the culprit didn’t have a romantic relationship, nor they
lived together or were married, so his sentence changed from femicide to
simple homicide and they reduced his sentence from 40 to 15 years. And
that makes it clear that the laws are still very basic and don’t reflect
the Chilean reality, where women are still getting killed just because
HB: How do you feel people have been
receiving your feminist music? How do you get your message across to the
people that need to hear it the most?
SL: People have been very supportive in general, we think it’s because Latin America is going through a period of change and we’re speaking up for women rights and diversity. What we like about making songs is to think that the same things we feel and go through are also experienced by other women and at the end of the day we’re not alone, instead, we are a huge net of sisters fighting for the same reasons.
“…we like the fact that the song makes some people uncomfortable, because it’s the first step to start questioning why it makes them feel that way.”
But we’ve also been criticized by some people, especially because of our song “No quiero tus piropos”
(I don’t want your catcalls) that speaks against street harassment and
has some insults in its lyrics. But we like the fact that the song makes
some people uncomfortable, because it’s the first step to start
questioning why it makes them feel that way.
Our message flows in our songs by essence, but we also use other
resources to get our message across. Playing live is very important,
because it can help women to feel represented and motivated to start
their own bands. Sometimes we create zines and sometimes we use social
media to share our thoughts. We also try to participate as much as we
can in collectives like the ones that we mentioned before.
Besides, nowadays is easier to share our music because of technology, in the past the options were limited and even if your music got some recognition, there was the fear that the media would misunderstand your message, like what happened with the press blackout of the Riot Grrrl! movement in the 90’s. In our case we manage our own media and that give us a lot of freedom to express what we want and to have a closer bond with people.
HB: What do you hope to achieve with your music?
SL: We hope that our music works as support for
women that don’t feel protected or represented by social norms. And that
when they listen to us, they can feel freedom to shout as loud as they
can about everything that’s bothering them and that they had to keep
quiet in the past. On the other side, we also hope that singing about
these issues could help people to start questioning themselves and open
up to be a little more understanding and empathetic.
HB: What bands or musicians influence you? Are you following any contemporary protest musicians?
SL: Our strongest influence is Bikini Kill and all
of Kathleen Hanna’s projects in general. We’re also very inspired by L7,
Joan Jett, The Distillers, 7 Year Bitch and other classic punk and
postpunk bands like Ramones, Misfits, The Clash, The Slits and Siouxsie
& the banshees.
On a Latin American level, we have influences from the Peruvian band
Los Saicos, with his classic “Demolición” which we like to play live
from time to time. And we also feel influenced by Chilean bands like Los
Prisioneros, Los Ex and Lilits. In the present, we admire the work of a
lot of our fellow hardcore and punk bands like Portaligas, Dizclaimers
and Límbico. We’re also listening to music from around the globe and we
like bands like Vivian Girl, The Coathangers, The Regrettes, Skating
Polly and Hands off Grettel.
HB: What is on the horizon for you?
SL: At the moment, we want to keep speaking up for
feminism, we plan on continue making music and recording new material,
because we still have a lot to say. And in the near future we would love
to travel around sharing our songs.
HB: Lastly, thank you for participating and for your music. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
SL: Don’t be afraid to make music, don’t be scared to say what you think if you feel something’s wrong, your opinions are important, you are important.
What do you do when you want to fight for the animals and the planet? Petition? March? Make protest art? One Swiss artist, Daniel Hellman, found a way to mix his love for the performance arts, music and animals by creating an alter ego: Soya the Cow, “the gender and species bending drag cow”.
Through the powers of this artistic creature Daniel takes the stage at animal and human rights protest events, gives talks about consent, performs music, is part of the programming team of a sex-positive, feminist art festival and much more.
The creation, Soya the Cow, is wrapping up her first music album and after discovering her work via her fascinating Instagram profile I hit her up with a few questions about her activism and her upcoming album.
Halldór: First of all, for those not familiar with your work, who is Soya the Cow?
Soya the Cow: Soya is species and gender bending drag cow. She is a singer and songwriter, working on her first album that will be released in 2020. She was born to inspire, challenge the status quo and fight for the voiceless. She unites queer-feminist ideas with animal rights activism and poetry. Soya stands for love, social justice and climate justice for every being on this planet.
Halldór: Has your art always been political or made in protest?
the Cow: Before becoming Soya, I have been making theater
projects with political ambitions and topics, dealing with the rights
of sexual minorities or refugees and also with animal rights. But I
had the urge to do more, to reach more people and to speak more
directly to people’s hearts. That’s why Soya the Cow was born.
First only as an idea inspired by fierce drag artists and by my
favourite animals. And with the help of amazing friends and
collaborators, suddenly she was there – with a beautiful face, long
lashes and udders!
Halldór: Your art flows, effortlessly it seems, between different disciplines such as fashion, activism and music. How and why did these different talents or outlets join together?
the Cow: I grew up singing in a Boys’ Choir and since there
were no girls in the choir, I used to play all the female characters
in the theater nights that we organised in our rehearsal camps. It
was just natural for me to put on heels and a wig. Later I became a
professional singer, then a theater maker, then an activist. Somehow
it seems that these different portions of my life, that seemed
isolated in the past, are coming together now in Soya. It’s a very
Halldór: The rights of animals is a large part of your art. When and why did you decide to fight for the rights of those who don’t have a voice in human society?
Soya the Cow: There are many important battles to engage in. But when I was researching for a theater-dance project about meat and death, it really shook me in all my being. It was an earthquake in my internal moral compass. I got exposed to what is actually going on behind the closed doors of factory farms, transport vehicles, laboratories and slaughterhouses, and also in the oceans and fish factories. I allowed it to touch me. I looked into the eyes of cows, pigs, chicken or fishes, and I learned to see them as individuals with personalities, as subjects. Not as mere objects who only exist to satisfy human interests or pleasures.
Once this shift had happened, I knew that I had to do my best to end or at least reduce this insane amount of unnecessary suffering. The brutality is so extreme and it’s happening every single day, it’s part of our daily lives to the point that most humans don’t even realise any more that we are part of such a violent system. I have gone through this myself and there is just no justification. That’s why I want to use my voice for ALL animals, for climate justice and the liberation of everybody.
Halldór: You are about to release your debut album. Can you tell us a bit about your musical background and how the process has been creating this piece of work?
Soya the Cow: I studied classical singing, but was bored with the stories told in the opera world. As a queer person of the 21st century, I needed to create work that made sense for me. For my album, I teamed up with the producer Phil Constantin. He has a background in jazz and electronic music and we share an openness towards many musical styles and forms.
For this album, I have been writing lyrics and songs that take the subjective experience of a dairy cow as a starting point to reflect on questions that reach far beyond the topic of animal rights – from the loss of a child to the threat of extinction. Drag has always been playing with imitation and appropriation, it is absolutely serious and hilariously exaggerated at the same time. We also have this element in our music. We visit different musical styles and make them our own. With lots of love, sadness and a good dose of humour .
Halldór: Some protest artists and musicians perform at very specific events with therefore a limited audience. How do you reach the people that most importantly need to hear your message?
Soya the Cow: That’s an important question. I have performed at the Animal Rights March in Berlin in front of a few thousand animal rights activists, that was of course wonderful! Similar when I was performing at street blockades of Extinction Rebellion. But I have also been singing in the context of contemporary art festivals, where killing animals for food is still the norm. Soya is a rebel and trouble maker at heart, and I’m open and willing to be exposed to audiences that might find Soya very disturbing. Maybe I can even sing at the Eurovision Song Contest one day!
Halldór: Are you following other contemporary protest artists? How do you feel about the scenes you work in (the drag scene, the visual arts scene or the music scene) in regards to protest and activism? Are people using their voices?
Soya the Cow: I see many artists doing incredible work. Powerful, political and challenging. In all fields. I do not make a big distinction between art and activism any more. The only thing that changes is the context. But it’s people with a vision and something to say and to share, who use their creativity to raise awareness, to give space for voices and ideas that are not listened to enough.
I also think, that art and activism are not sufficient. We can inspire or create a spark. But this spark needs to travel and spread. We need artists, activists, scientists, journalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, healers, teachers and much more… If we want to bring the transformation the world so desperately needs, all of these people are essential.
Halldór: How about other musicians or artists, who are your influences or motivations?
Soya the Cow: There is a long list of artists who I admire deeply for their art and their capacity to touch us and to inspire whole movements. I think of eternal muses like Nina Simone or David Bowie, or today I’d love to mention Janaelle Monae. Equally important for me are anti-speciesist activists like Earthling Ed, who manages to reach hundred thousands of people with his speeches and his smart and always respectful conversations with meat-eaters. Or my friend, animal rights activist and writer, Virginia Markus, who runs a sanctuary where humans, cats, chicken, horses, pigs, cats, donkeys and goats live peacefully together as one big family. It’s a magical place that gives me hope.
Halldór: What other extra curricular activism activities do you partake in beside your music?
the Cow: I’m part of Animal Rebellion. We are a branch of
Extinction Rebellion, fighting the inaction of our governments in
regard to the climate and ecosystem crisis. We demand climate justice
for all animals, the end of animal agriculture and the fishing
industries and the transition into a plant based food system.
also working in the programming team for the sex-positive, feminist
art festival La Fête du Slip in Lausanne (Switzerland). This is my
contribution to a more diverse representation of genders and
sexualities in the art world.
Halldór: Some people seem to believe that arts and activism should be separated. What do you feel about that?
Soya the Cow: I believe that nothing should be separated. We need more connection, more conversations. There are artists whose work is unpolitical and that’s ok with me. I might also enjoy looking at it or listening to it. It’s just not the type of work I want to dedicate my time for. What I find more important is that we stop harming others in the sake of art. Or fashion or food.
Halldór: What is on the horizon for you?
Soya the Cow: At the moment, I’m running a crowdfunding campaign, to finance the album and my first three music videos. I want to collaborate with a women’s video collective in Switzerland. And the album is due to be released in the spring. From there on, it’s an open journey and I’ll show up where my voice and message are needed.
Halldór: Thank you very much for participating and for your work! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
the Cow: Be kind with all animals, including yourself! And follow
me on social media, if you want to stay tuned when my music comes