It was just a matter of time before all this detonated massive resistance, which drew on the deep wellsprings of opposition over the last few decades. In 2015, the Ni Una Menos movement, which translates to Not One Less, a movement against femicide and gendered sexual and domestic violence, exploded in Argentina.
It was triggered, like many movements around violence, by specific cases that were reported in the media. One of them was the femicide of Daiana Garcia, a 19 year old who was found by the roadside in a small city in the province of Buenos Aires, with her remains stuffed inside a trash bag.
Three months later, Chiara Paez, 14 years old and a few weeks pregnant, was discovered buried in the garden of her boyfriend’s home. She had been beaten to death by her boyfriend after being forced to take medication to terminate her pregnancy. He confessed and admitted that he was helped by his mother.
In response to the murders, thousands of people took to the streets, there was a hashtag, there were growing discussions about gendered violence among family members, friends, in schools, on social media. Twenty-four hours after the march ended, the government announced that a registry of femicides would be set up to compile statistics.
The next year, after another femicide came to light, the Ni Una Menos collective organized the first national women’s mass strike, which consisted of a one-hour work and study stoppage in the early afternoon, with protesters dressed in all black. These protests became region-wide and spread and gained international momentum. There were other strikes and demonstrations in many other countries, such as Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Spain, and Italy.
Amid the economic crisis, Ni Una Menos, and other movements, the abortion movement—which had been organizing for years—really took off as a very concrete struggle with demands, with a horizon, with an effect on mass consciousness. It eventually culminated in the legalization of abortion as part of the country’s socialized healthcare system. The day of the victory in December 2020 was a day of mass celebration.
This struggle exemplifies how feminism in Argentina has taken on a distinct collective and class dimension. It’s not just about my body, my choice, it’s not about an individual right, even though those are important. The struggle rests on an understanding that my body does not exist separate from other bodies. It does not exist separate from what happens to the land, water, the planet, Indigenous struggles, police violence, and austerity imposed by our government to pay the International Monetary Fund for a debt we are not responsible for. What the feminist movement was able to do was make everything a feminist issue.
This broadening that became characteristic of contemporary feminism in Argentina is a weaving together of all these different ways the Argentinian people have experienced crisis and violence, and also a weaving together of how they have experienced themselves as primary agents of political change. It has opened up new ways of thinking about what is happening in society—how we think about gender, violence, work, disenfranchisement, dispossession—and has begun breaking down the almost binary understandings of the domestic and the public, the streets and the neighborhoods.
Verónica Gago makes this point beautifully: the importance of this is critical, because we are often taught to think that a mass movement requires a conciliatory element, that massivity always requires political compromise. And while I’m not saying that there weren’t or aren’t debates or internal dynamics or that certain arguments didn’t have to be made, I am saying that, on the whole, in Argentina, the opposite was true. The feminist movement was everywhere, both fighting around what are considered “traditional” feminist demands like gendered and sexual violence or abortion, and at the same time—and often because—it was meeting, organizing, and fighting around other demands, which are also feminist but are not traditionally thought of in that way.1Verónica Gago, Feminist International: How to Change Everything (New York: Verso Books, 2020). Every issue is a feminist issue, and our movements must reflect that.