Rita Segato sat down in an interview with Pagina 12 to discuss and analyze how femicide and sexual abuse politics are evolving and how they should evolve further.
Rita Segato is an accomplished academic in the study of anthropology and an outspoken feminist. In an interview with Pagina 12, she puts an anthropological lens on recent high-profile sex abuse cases and what they mean in a cultural context.
The backdrop for this interview was the 2016 drugging, raping, and death of a teenage girl, Lucia Perez, in Argentina by two men. The horrifying nature of this case, known as the Mar del Plata case, set off an international movement, #NiUnaMenos (Not One More), calling attention to femicides across Latin America and the toxic culture that both allows and encourages it.
The perpetrators were eventually imprisoned but not on sexual assault charges, but on drug charges. The basis of the ruling was focused on Lucia’s personal life and ostensible licentiousness and drug use. The ruling set off another outcry that indicted society’s and the legal system’s handling of abuse cases worldwide
Another more recent case in Argentina, in which a well-known actress, Thelma Fardin, publicly accused a famous actor of raping her in 2009 was received very differently. In this case, the public quickly rallied around her in a show of solidarity.
These cases have significance both for cultural analysis and for the modern feminist movement.
The victim, the hero, and the monster
Segato, when asked about the different reactions to the two cases, said, “It’s important to link (the Thelma Fardin case with) the failure of what happened two weeks ago in the death of Lucia Perez. ... society is becoming more informed and is becoming more sensitive to sexual aggression, harassment, and other forms of abuse, which is good news.
She also reflected on the media’s culpability and responsibility for reporting the news saying that “there is a problem with sensationalism.” In more cases of femicide and sex scandals, the media has been good at showing “the monstrosity of the aggressor.”
But the problems is that “this monster, for other men, becomes a tempting figure, because the monster is virile. The monster is a predatory character, a plunderer, which is how men are supposed to be as commanded by masculinity. … Men want to show how powerful they are.”
Her solution to the problem is for professors of communication, journalists and editors to all come together, especially in Latin America to discuss the patterns of sexual aggression.
According to Segato, some in the media have painted Thelma Fardin as the victim/heroine comporting with many fairy tales but says that that story is a dangerous one to promote because that story always ends the same way, with a prince that comes to save her.
Rather than expand on the victim/heroine narrative, the media should treat, she opines, the woman subject as a person who is discovering her own role in challenging the patriarchy through her political capacity. In addition, the narrative should show how it really is — women helping women in a political process that will drive the entire continent towards better solutions. Essentially, she says, “There is no prince.”
Additionally, as in the case of Lucia Perez, Segato believes that society at large needs to change its idea that a victim, especially a female victim, has to be “good or pure to be understood as a victim.” Lucia Perez was not a virgin, and perhaps she engaged in drugs, but according to Segata, that shouldn’t enter into the equation of justice — that fact shouldn’t erase her personhood.
Segato concludes by providing insight into the ways that both men and women are damaged by the status quo, and that feminism shouldn’t be painted as a “feminism of antagonism” in which women are pitted against men because sometimes the patriarchy is headed by and enforced by other women. Thus, thinking politically is important in this context because the real enemy is a system and not individuals.