Last Sunday, on “Día Internacional de la Mujer,” Argentinian women gathered on Plaza de Mayo and demanded to be heard. They had a lot to say about what it means to be a woman in Argentina in 2020–some were concerned, many were just angry, and rightly so.
One of the issues at stake is access to access to safe and legal abortion services—Argentina, like most Latin America countries, still hasn’t passed pro-choice legislation. Recently elected President Alberto Fernández had promised he will move to legalize abortion after taking office, but Pope Francis, still involved in the politics of his home country, openly opposed to legal abortion.
This was just a preview of Monday’s massive march and strike in Buenos Aires. The following day, work stoppages were held in support of equal pay, pro-choice laws and legislation aimed at fighting femicides.
I caught up with the march on Avenida 9 de Julio, halfway between Plaza de Mayo and Congreso. Everybody was wearing “pañuelos” (“scarves”)—green is the symbol of the pro-choice fight, purple is the symbol of all feminist fights.
“La deuda es con nosotras, ni con el FMI ni con la Iglesia”—“The debt is owed to us, women, not to the IMF or the church,” they chanted. “Aborto legal, ya!” said most signs.
Although this is very subjective, I can feel the “machismo” and patriarchal culture in the air in Buenos Aires. Take any of the classic pizza joints or restaurants—men-only teams of waiters, pizzaiolos and cooks. I often see “help wanted” ads in stores that say “Buscando chica, 18-21” (“looking for girls, 18-21”) as if you had to be young and pretty to sell bread or clothes. Then there’s the way some older men talk to me, for instance when I ask for directions or during basic customer service interactions—it’s hard to explain, but they sound either dismissive either overprotective, as in “oh, you poor little woman.” It was a bit of a surprise coming from Brazil because while there’s a struggle for women’s rights too, society felt less gender-segregated. Hell, I’ve seen plenty of female taxi drivers in Rio and it’s not an easy job for obvious (non-gender-specific) safety reasons.
Good luck, Argentinas. You’re kicking ass.