Las Hijas de Violencia is an angry, feminist punk group based in Mexico City. They have just one song — but for them, that’s beside the point.
They banded together because they were frustrated with the daily barrage of catcalls and unwanted physical contact in the city’s public spaces.
“The misogyny in this country is super rough, so it’s a risk even to go out in the street,” says Ana Karen, one third of Las Hijas de Violencia.
She started Las Hijas with two fellow performers, Ana Beatriz and Betsabeth. All three avoid using their last names to keep their identities private. Together, they’ve developed a unique way of responding to street harassment.
If someone catcalls them on the street, they respond with toy guns that shoot confetti and a group performance of “Sexista Machista,” the song they wrote specifically for this situation.
“The song says very clearly: ‘You just harassed me. I’m doing this because you just harassed me.’ It’s very literal,” says Ana Karen. “And I think in this way it’s very important for the people who are observing this.”
All three Hijas are performers and studied theater, but they say they’re definitely not musicians. Their inspiration for adding music to the project was Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk group known for guerilla public performances and protests.
“Something they said that motivated us was that to be punk, you don’t have to know how to sing or anything, the only thing you need is to have something to say,” says Ana Karen.
When Las Hijas began, Pussy Riot members were still in jail and they felt real solidarity with these women. The day they sat down to write “Sexista Machista,” they put on Pussy Riot’s music to get in the mood. After a little practice, they started testing this new method out on the streets, and it really seems to work.
Las Hijas think that the element of surprise is key. It’s rare for women here to react to street harassment at all. Most prefer to just ignore it, and this is the dynamic everyone is used to. So responding with playful performance art is a complete curveball. Ana Karen says:
"Normally when we’re doing this, women who are passing by laugh. It’s a party! The women love it. Even men are like that. They laugh too, because the guy is being ridiculed. So the harasser gets humbled because he is the laughing stock of the street."
But confronting a stranger with an in-your-face performance can feel risky sometimes. A few men have responded with violent threats to rape or kill them. Las Hijas insist it’s all talk though, and they feel safe because they’re together. Recently, they started doing more than just responding to street harassment — they’ve staged a handful of performances in busy public places, like crowded weekend markets, to get their message out to more people.
Over the year since Las Hijas started, young women from Mexico and beyond have reached out online to say that the project inspired them. Many wrote to say that seeing Las Hijas in action encouraged them to experiment with new responses to harassment.
Las Hijas don’t think their art is going to solve this problem single-handedly, but at the very least, it’s changed their relationship with street harassment completely. Now, they’re in control.
“In that moment I feel like I can do whatever I want with them,” says Ana Karen. “They’re mine. They’re in my power.”