In one of the more powerful recent displays of peaceful protest, citizens of Valladolid, Spain, descended upon city hall, bringing with them hundreds of bras to protest statements made by Francisco Javier León de la Riva, the city’s mayor.
Riva drew the ire of many when he stated during an interview, that he believed some of the city’s women were making false accusations of sexual assault in an effort to frame innocent men.
According to the Agence France-Press, Riva said, “I have qualms about getting into an elevator,” during the interview, which ran on a local public radio station. “Imagine you get into an elevator and there is a girl who is out to get you. She enters with you, tears off her bra or skirt and flees, shouting that you have tried to assault her. Beware of this kind of thing.”
In response, citizens surrounded city hall and chained hundreds of bras to the building’s exterior, launching the Twitter hashtag #EscracheDeSujetadores, which translates to “bra protest.”
Riva’s controversial statement came a week after the Spanish Interior Ministry issued a series of guidelines for women to avoid rape. The list was widely panned by women’s rights advocates who believe these suggestions amounted to scaremongering and victim-blaming, and that the country’s focus should be to dissuade rapists from committing the act rather than putting the onus of not being assaulted on women.
As a country, Spain has found itself in a place of self-examination on the topic of women’s rights, assault, and misogyny. Riva’s comments represent the views of some of the country’s more regressive leaders, and clearly struck a nerve with women both in and outside of Valladolid.
In recent months, women’s rights activists have launched anti-violence, anti-misogyny hashtags #MachismoMata and #NoEstasSola, which were designed to fight the stigma associated with reporting sexual assault in a culture in which victims are often ignored and police refuse to take reports seriously.
Powerful displays of peaceful protest like the bra protest in Valladolid represent a rising tide in which women say enough is enough, and demand to be afforded the same rights and safety as the country’s men.