On International Women's Day 2019
As I started writing this I realised that my first ever "Thoughts on Things" post was about last year's International Women's Day: thank you so much, dear corionautas, for allowing me this space to just write what I'm thinking! It marked a turning point for this blog and for me starting to feel a bit more free in expressing my opinion. Thank you: here's a picture of an adorable dog and its owner at the march.
Cuando empecé a escribir esto me di cuenta que mi primera publicación para este segmento fue para el Día de la Mujer del año pasado: muchas gracias, queridxs corionautas, por permitirme este espacio para simplemente escribir lo que estoy pensando! Marcó un punto de inflexión para el blog y para mí, que empecé a sentirme más libre en expresar mi opinión. Gracias: acá una foto de un perro adorable y su dueña. Estoy traduciendo este artículo, por favor tenganme paciencia! :)
So, about this year's International Women's Day: as always, I went to the march, and as with any feminist march, I loved it. However, two issues have come up lately in Argentina about what being a "woman" means which have been disturbing to me and I thought I'd address them here: society's perception and patriarchal imposition of what women "should" be regarding motherhood and gender identity.
First, "motherhood." Trigger warning for this part: rape, child abuse. In the wake of the groundbreaking abortion debate in Argentina last year, the way in which women and people with gestation capacity are being forced to give birth has come disturbingly to the fore. More so in the past couple of months where a trend that can only be described as torture has arisen: raped minors being denied abortions, despite their eligibility to do so legally, and after stalling for long enough, subsequently being forced to give birth to extremely premature babies even though it's highly risky and traumatic.
This has happened twice in two months in 2019: yes, we are in March. It should be noted that a minor gives birth every three to four hours in Argentina, so these two highly-covered cases are not in fact a novelty. However, the case of Lucía (not her real name), an 11-year-old from Tucumán, made its mark on the news this year. She was denied an abortion after her grandmother's partner raped her, despite her explicitly asking for them to "take out what the old man put inside me." The judiciary and the government delayed long enough to make the termination impossible and at 23 weeks performed a C-section on the little girl. The baby did not survive.
There are many dimensions to this story that are horrifying: the rape, the idea of an 11-year-old girl having a massive scar reminding her of her ordeals and the fact that the State put her life in danger instead of protecting her. When it comes to International Women's Day, however, I think it's worth mentioning that during the media outcry (before she was forced to give birth), one of the largest national newspapers wrote an anonymous editorial that explicitly said that being a mother is an honour that truly makes a woman a woman. That it is her duty, her privilege even, to accept motherhood no matter the circumstances. Yes, really.
I haven't written on this as a column because I haven't found any international reflection of this. It genuinely disturbed me though, and if I can't put my thoughts here, where else? I think beyond highlighting the dangers of being a woman in Argentina today, the column and subsequent forced birth exemplified that patriarchal idea that women are essentially child-bearers is alive and well.
It seems obvious, but it's worth saying that becoming a parent does NOT make you a "woman" or a "full person," much less at 11 years old. That is not what being a woman means: being a woman means having agency. Having strength, having rights and having the ability to fight for them. Being a woman means whatever the heck she decides that it means. The story of Lucía also showed how abortion rights are intrinsically linked to human rights: people should not be able to force a child to give birth just because they are against abortion.
The second issue that I wanted to talk about really quickly was gender identity. I wrote about this for the Buenos Aires Times on Saturday: over the course of February, a group of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) gained notoriety on social media after calling for all non-cis-women to be blocked from the International Women's Day march.
Let's just to break that down: cisgender means that you identify with the gender assigned to you at birth. These radical feminists believe in what is often called "biological determinism": the bits you were born with define your gender and your life experiences. This is by no means a new idea: it's from the 1960s Second Wave feminism in the United States. I go into this in quite a lot more detail in the article and I'm not going to spend all day rebutting their ideolgy, but that gender essentialism is very much of that era and that era alone: since then we've had intersectionality and the rise of the genderqueer community, which clash directly with the fundamentals of trans exclusionary ideals.
Again, there are many dimensions to this sudden arrival of the TERF mentality on social media: they are probably very young people who joined the feminist movement last year with the abortion debate and the amazing green wave that followed. In the interview I did for the piece, one thing Candelaria Botto told me was that there was also a probable class element to the issue. But above all, this is not a homegrown ideology: it comes from the United States. That does not make it inherently bad, but incongruous: the Argentine feminist movement simply would not exist without the participation of transgender, transsexual, non-binary and transvestite communities. They have been here since the beginning and there's no reason to move forward without them.
Also, as I mentioned at the beginning of the year: a little empathy would go a long way. There is clearly a lack of understanding or worse, a lack of even attempting to put themselves into trans, transvestite and non-binary shoes. That would mean having to admit that they deserve to share their place in the feminist movement that they have helped build, especially on International Women's Day. Trans women suffer for being trans *and* for being women: more than the gender pay gap, they suffer severe unemployment and are often forced into prostitution. Non-binary people, specifically afab (assigned female at birth) non-binary people, suffer for being perceived as women: not because being a woman is bad, but because to treat them as women is to deny their gender identity.
If it seems tiring to think about all these elements, then imagine what it must be like to be trans, non-binary or any other dissident identity. Imagine having to fight to be considered a part of the feminist movement like that. Women have been considered the natural counterpart to men, the ones with power, but we should know better now: there are many gender identities in equal or more need of empowerment in face of the patriarchy. Come on, people.
The takeaways from this? I'm not entirely sure: just to understand that International Women's Day is about equal rights, agency, recognising that what it means to be a woman goes beyond both patriarchal gender roles *and* traditional definitions based on assigned genders. It's not just about women: it's about bringing down the patriarchy that affects us all.
What did you do for International Women's Day? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!
Qué hiciste por el Día de la Mujer? Qué andás pensando? Cuéntenme en los comentarios?