The March 8 Women’s Strike will bring women all over the world together, showing us possible connections within an emerging women’s international. In this regard, Latin America offers us an important model.
region’s revitalized feminist movement has pushed past old
boundaries, aligning itself with the environmental movement, labor
unions, and struggles for expanded sexual, economic, and social
rights. It has effectively withstood a neoliberal onslaught that has,
for the most part, neutralized the region’s progressive forces.
Ni Una Menos (Not One More) collective, a continental alliance of
feminist forces, will participate in the March 8 action, which will
be the second women’s strike in Argentina in less than a year. Born
in 2015 in Argentina as a campaign against gender violence, Ni Una
Menos has become a political counterbalance to what many now
acknowledge as a region-wide war against women. This movement helps
us see how a global movement for women’s liberation can connect
with calls for economic and social justice.
Santomaso spoke with Verónica Gago on the eve of the International
Women’s Strike to better understand how the event is taking shape
in Latin America.
you tell us a little bit about the history of the movement in
of the key precedents for Ni Una Menos is Argentina’s National
Women’s Meeting, now in its thirty-second year. The meeting has
become the largest event of its kind — seventy thousand women
attended last year’s three-day conference. Because of the longevity
and frequency of the meeting, it has become a space where the women’s
movement has been able to develop in light of shifting political
clearest instance of this was at the 2003 meeting with the
participation of the piqueteras, the movement of unemployed women
that had been organizing neighborhood assemblies and street
demonstrations against neoliberalism for years. From that moment on,
the Women’s Meeting became a mass phenomenon, and increasingly
Latin American in its scope. You find women coming from Peru,
Colombia, and so on. It’s become a special moment for women to come
together and share experiences.
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo also form an integral part of our
genealogy. These women, the mothers of the victims of the military
dictatorship, started confronting state terrorism in 1977 and remain
one of Argentina’s most important human rights organizations. We
look to them for an example of politics where women are the
protagonists; the tactics they used, street occupations and so on,
are still important today.
is our way of tracing the current movement’s genealogy, of thinking
about the current struggle in relation to a feminist tradition that,
of course, goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century.
generations have to find fresh ways to relate to that tradition, to
the ancestras, as we sometimes say, and discover the elements of that
inheritance that provide strength in a given political context. It’s
an idea that comes up often in the assemblies of Ni Una Menos, an
idea that basically contradicts the notion that these strikes and
actions are spontaneous: recognizing our own part in a larger
tradition, assuming responsibility for that legacy, and historicizing
our own movement.
cite a recent example, in an assembly held last week with the women
of the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers (CTEP), we saw the
piqueteras’ daughters attending, the daughters of that
anticapitalist movement from the early 2000s. This shows a
commingling of temporalities and generations that is really powerful.
also thinks of the National Campaign Against Violence Towards Women
and the National Campaign for the Legalization of Abortion in
Argentina. These campaigns also have a significant historical
trajectory and their own structures.
those campaigns have been sustained over the years through militant
participation and concrete demands. Today we’re seeing a
convergence of different tendencies — not some spontaneous movement
that appeared out of thin air. The current moment is actually the
fruit of accumulated experiences, discourses, street tactics, and
community activism, which of course all find expression within the
current political context.
8 will be the second women’s strike in Argentina in less than a
year: the first took place on October 19, 2016. The event that
triggered the first strike was the murder of a young woman — a
femicide, to be precise — but the specific issue of gender violence
quickly assumed an economic and social dimension.
Pérez’s murder occurred during last year’s Women’s Meeting, so
the violent nature of the crime felt like a reaction against such a
clear manifestation of women’s autonomy. The fact that Lucía was
murdered by impalement also recalls, as Rita Segato has pointed out,
a particular kind of colonial imagery, a reactivation of the colonial
inheritance in Latin America. And the crime was committed on the eve
of Columbus Day, no less!
I would argue that there is some type of collective unconscious that
is being exorcised on women’s bodies through this kind of violence
and cruelty. This was part of the background against which the
October 19 strike took place.
consider the intersection of gender violence and economic and social
issues a huge step in the right direction. The idea itself began to
take shape through the assemblies that ultimately issued the call for
the strike action, when it started to become clear that by striking
we would leave behind the logic of victimhood. Naturally, there was a
need for mourning after Lucía’s murder, but the time had come to
make a demonstration of our collective power in the streets.
course, underlying all this there is also a certain ambiguity.
They’re killing women all over the place, but as that’s
happening, women are the ones controlling the streets, the ones
exercising a kind of power that has to do with the struggle over our
bodies’ autonomy. By combining these considerations with the strike
tactic, the action assumed a different connotation.
was especially evident in the period leading up to the demonstration:
we drew a lot of attention by calling it a strike and declaring that
we would perform a work stoppage in whatever place we might inhabit —
be that at work, at school, in our neighborhoods, or on our streets.
Even more, incorporating workers from diverse sectors of the informal
economy, the shadow economy, and the domestic economy sent a powerful
message: it pointed to an actual site where violence could and must
so, it made an important statement: the men who commit gender
violence are not psychopaths or isolated cases, nor is the media
responsible for the way they behave. There is a whole sociopolitical
and economic framework that we need to understand in order to better
see how women’s bodies are converted into a territory subject to
conquest (hence the reference to the colonial question). As Rita
Segato says, there is a war being waged against women in Latin
America right now.
it’s important to repeat: we can no longer think of these acts of
violence as isolated incidents, as pathological cases, or “crimes
of passion,” as they’re commonly called here.
is the best way to articulate the connection between neoliberalism
and patriarchy? How does neoliberalism enlist patriarchy in its
debate around neoliberalism helps us see the battlefields on which
subjectivities are being formed and on which women are being
subjected to exploitation through multiple forms of precarity.
Another angle worthy of our attention is how the exploitation of men
in the workplace reappears in the domestic sphere as violence.
flaring up of domestic violence is significant: for the last two
years in Argentina, if not longer, people have been wondering when
the whole political situation will explode, remembering the massive
social revolt that took place in 2001. Once again, we find ourselves
in the midst of a social and economic crisis. My own reading of
neoliberalism, however, tells me that what we’re now seeing is an
implosion rather an explosion, and that this is aimed at the domestic
2000, there were powerful social movements that could take decisive
action within the community, but today there are other forces at work
trying to manage the crisis in their favor. Today’s social
movements have effectively been deactivated — when they’re not
actively repressed — because they’re forced to work within this
oppressively conflict-ridden scenario.
that sense, neoliberalism allows us to take a much more realistic
measure of the terrain and the conflicts unfolding there. It’s only
after we adopt this perspective that we can begin to understand the
connection between gender violence and economics. If we don’t, the
question always returns to that old theoretical ghetto: “Those
women are victims. They’re the one who are most victimized by the
current economic model.”
victim-based analysis is very weak because it doesn’t allow us to
see that the assault on women is really a response to the different
types of autonomy that women are pursuing over and against this
broader social scenario. Clearly, it is difficult to attain any sort
of autonomy when women are being beaten at home and have no income of
their own to escape that situation.
would it would mean to overcome the “ghetto” of victimization,
especially in light of the statement made by Nancy Fraser, Angela
Davis, and others, calling for a strike in the United States and for
a rupture with “neoliberal feminism”? Do the ideas formulated
there make sense in the Latin American context? In other words, is
there a kind of feminism that we should be rejecting here, too?
case of the United States is interesting. What stood out for me in
the January Women’s March was the voice of the African-American
women, as well as the acknowledgment of the Sioux and the indigenous
struggle. I get the impression that the discussion around neoliberal,
white feminism is very complicated, although we are following that
debate here in Latin America.
a general level, we are seeing the emergence of a broad-based,
popular feminism. Put differently, while feminism represents a very
important and interesting tradition, its aspirations have often been
academic, elitist, or just plain corporate — in any case more
restricted in its ambitions. Which is not to detract from the fact
that there is a long, rich history of struggle that can still guide
us. But I think we are witnessing a new kind of feminism, a feminism
of the masses.
Latin America, there is a very interesting discussion taking place
around the idea of community-based feminism, or popular,
communitarian feminism. In practice, this has meant that feminism has
taken part in the struggle for community control over territories,
the defense of natural resources, and so on, which is all clearly
part of the indigenous and peasant struggle. But it is important to
highlight that this communitarian feminism is just as much present in
the urban centers, lest we romanticize it.
Latin America, the present moment is defined by the appearance of
this feminism of the masses. The word feminism used to provoke a
sense of unease. I remember spending time among the popular sectors
of Buenos Aires and hearing the women there describing a set of
political practices that struck me as feminist, but they didn’t see
themselves in that light. That’s no longer the case.
no longer the case in the Villa 1-11-14 [one of Buenos Aires’
larger informal urban settlements], where cases of domestic violence
are now being approached from a feminist understanding, or in
Argentina’s provinces, where an array of political practices are
developing and growing stronger under the feminist banner. This was
not the case in the past. Feminism wasn’t regarded as capable of
adding anything to our political practices, or being particularly
useful in terms of framing experiences, narratives, or tactics.
That’s all changed.
seems that the current feminist movement in Argentina has managed to
achieve a certain unity in diversity that has proven elusive for the
The movement has made diversity a strength rather than a weakness.
It’s an extremely complicated task, but it just goes to show that
the movement is sincere in its ambition to meet the challenges
offered by the current social reality.
example, among the principles we’ve established for the March 8
strike is the idea that feminism is capable of constructing its own
genealogy; that is to say, through feminism, one can produce a
feminist understanding of labor that would lead you through a whole
discussion of the informal sector, the formal sector, and so on.
you decenter the historical idea of March 8 — the date
commemorating the death of women in the factory — by shifting
emphasis to the present moment, where women are not only dying in
factories but also being murdered in their own neighborhoods.
becomes a question of mapping the terrain of the popular economy —
that is, the economy of all those excluded from the formal sector —
and coming to a better understanding of other forms of exploitation
that feminism can also illuminate. How do we relate the femicides in
Latin America to current forms of exploitation and value extraction?
How are these murders giving way to new kinds of struggle?
bodies and sexual dissidents — this is the other principle that we
have established. This principle acts as a charter for producing
subjectivities, for connecting territories, and for building
community. There’s something interesting in this relation between
the intersection of subjectivities and the desire for a community —
community understood not as something complete, the
ever-romanticized, mythical community to which we are always trying
to return, but as the desire to be together and, through being
together, constituting political power.
too, the act of occupying the streets is clearly important. There is
a dispute over who controls the streets, where occupying the streets
produces a collective strength that you can bring back with you —
to the neighborhood, the schools, the university, and so on — as a
kind of mark that recalls a type of collectively built strength. The
connection between these street demonstrations and the everyday
organizing work taking place in different sectors of society is
growing stronger and producing a very powerful dynamic of
it possible to speak of a uniquely Latin American feminism? If so,
what sort of lessons might it offer for those outside the region?
throughout Latin America are now discussing the incidence of
femicides in connection with land appropriation, particularly in
Honduras and Guatemala. We have seen murders, like Berta Cáceres’s,
that specifically target women who are leading the fight against
these cases, we can see how Latin America’s specific contribution
is toward a better understanding of how this new kind of warfare is
unfolding in our territories, a kind of warfare where these femicides
function almost like a counterinsurgency tactic. Likewise, how this
kind of warfare is reconfiguring the current terrain, forcing us to
think about what it would mean to build community power and a
movement where women act as the protagonists. My sense is that Latin
America offers a forceful example of the issues involved in this
dispute over territorial control.
Latin America, we are seeing a new feminist movement that has largely
broken away from traditional political structures emerge: a “women’s
vanguard,” if you will. What can feminism offer to these other
Latin America, the Left and the resistance to the right-wing
resurgence has come to be embodied in the Vatican. The shadow cast by
the Pope, who very vocally criticizes capitalism on the international
stage, has meant that leftist critique tends to gravitate toward his
feminism offers a woman-centered political subject with a markedly
different orientation because, in the first place, it questions
authority and maintains a basic attitude of insubordination with
respect to existing organizations.
call to strike has stirred up a bit of chaos within the existing
trade union structure. Union leadership at all the major federations
has emphatically and publicly said that they would not call for a
strike because, they say, “the strike weapon is ours and ours
that’s happening, young rank-and-file women are forming internal
commissions where they are pressing for the appropriation of the
strike method. For a younger generation of women in Argentina,
participating in the feminist movement and being active in
trade-union politics are part of the same experience. Granted, for a
certain part of the older leadership one can’t possibly be both a
union leader and a feminist, but for the younger generation, the
confluence of the two political tendencies has been astounding.
today has the potential to insinuate a level of insubordination and
noncompliance into all types of organizations — a type of
transversal logic that cuts across all different types of
institutions. As you can imagine, Angela Davis’s ideas and the
concept of intersectionality have also enjoyed a positive reception
Argentina, the women’s movement has managed to displace the Pope as
the authority for left critique, and the Latin American church has
been unequivocal in its reaction to this paradigm shift, branding
this “ideology of gender” — as they call it — as public enemy
number one. Whether you consider the case of the evangelist movement
in Brazil, or the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, or the way Dilma
Rousseff’s impeachment was littered with references to God, the
institution of the family, and so on, it’s clear that the church is
mounting a counteroffensive against the “ideology of gender.”
is a significant amount of animosity toward the strike coming from
certain parts of organized labor. Argentina’s largest labor
federation, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), announced its
plans for a march — not even a strike, mind you — on March 7, the
day before the International Women’s Strike.
media has fallen in line, providing massive amounts of coverage for
that march and the potential significance it might hold for the
realignment of forces within the Justicialist Party [the Peronist
Meanwhile, the March 8 strike has become a sideshow, and on
the rare occasion it gets some coverage, the media always seems to
revert back to its fixation on the idea that these political
mobilizations actually tend to aggravate gender violence. It’s as
if women get to be in charge of feminism, while men are left to deal
with the entire question of organized labor and “politics.” It
seems clear that the increased number of femicides is actually a
disciplinary strategy and a way of challenging women’s autonomy.
have been fifty-three femicides in the last forty-seven days. The
numbers are actually higher than the previous year. They also tend to
be serial in their logic: a series of murders by impalement, and
later, three cases taking place one after another in the prisons. No
one seems to care that the perpetrators go free or that femicides are
being committed inside the penitentiary system. Not to mention the
latest trend, femicides where the aggressor kills everyone — the
sister, the sister-in-law, family members, and so on.
femicides are expressed as a kind of message — Rita Segato has
called this type of message “a pedagogy of cruelty” — and the
media tends to pick up on this and feed on it. The overall message is
a disciplinary one. There is a strong campaign of blame in the works
as we speak, one that will argue that the more women mobilize and
struggle for autonomy, the worse the backlash will be.
too the question of self-defense becomes relevant. On the one hand,
the movement can make demands of the state, and no matter how limited
that horizon may be, we have to continue to demand some reaction from
the state. This, indeed, should form an important part of our agenda.
said that, it’s fairly clear that absent some self-defense
mechanism, some tool for collective self-preservation, there’s
simply no way to alter the current course of things. It would seem
that for every gesture of autonomy a new form of violence also
of the standout topics in the months leading up to the strike was
whether men would participate in the March 8 action. Do you see any
signs suggesting the emergence of new subjectivities or new
masculinities that could participate in building a new feminism and
joining in the fight against patriarchy?
media became really obsessed with this question. There’s an age-old
strategy for infantilizing feminists that basically consists of
accusing the movement of being overly sectarian, and the media always
runs with this. Later, the same debate reemerges in women’s
assemblies, but there the consensus usually focuses on the idea that
female protagonism is paramount and that the men therefore ought to
step aside; or better, they ought to begin to think about how to
participate in a movement where they don’t occupy center stage.
task of sorting out the role that men will play is one that men
themselves will have to figure out.
wondering too about this global convergence that we’re witnessing
around the International Women’s Strike. What can you say about the
processes that are driving this confluence?
has one of the strongest movements. But wherever you look, you can
see that it’s truly massive, with a great deal of organization and
deliberation coming out of women’s assemblies all over the place.
Poland represents an important precedent, and there is also action
taking place in Ireland around the issue of abortion. I also get the
impression that in countries like Germany, France, and Spain the
event will go forward but perhaps on a smaller scale.
America is remarkable for the level of coordination and organization
that has been achieved in the months leading up to the strike. We’re
in contact with all types of organizations, feminist and otherwise,
with lawyers, community organizations, high-school groups, and so on.
A multiplicity of voices is contributing to the organization, and
it’s created a movement that can speak in many different political
example, we’ve been talking with women from Paraguay who are at the
forefront of the fight against big agribusiness and agrochemicals in
their country. A multiplicity of struggles are finding a space within
feminism and dragging that movement out of the ghetto, so to speak.
won’t allow ourselves to be labeled as separatist; we won’t be
painted into a corner as a movement that only thinks in terms of
victimhood. I don’t personally like the term “empowerment,” but
there is a process of building power and experimenting with power
that is important.
current moment’s transnational dimension is very heartening because
it represents a logic that operates within territorial conflicts
rather than at the level of the nation-state. And unlike the
antiglobalization movements from previous decades, I see this current
movement as somehow more embodied and full-blooded. The focus has
broadened beyond the march, beyond the political event. The idea of
putting on a spectacular march is still there, but one senses that a
substantial social base is supporting it now.
it’s interesting to think about the current situation in Latin
America in light of the women’s movement. It’s become commonplace
to recognize that the era of progressive politics in Latin America is
coming to an end — that we’ve effectively entered a
neoconservative cycle. And yet the women’s movement proposes a
different political calendar and a different type of political
analysis that goes beyond the temporal frame of political cycles,
operating on a level that sees past the most superficially apparent
aspects of these governments.
feminist movement is actively involved in exploring topics that
basically transcend the progressive/conservative dualism — topics
like the latest strategies for exploiting women’s bodies, the
exploitation of territories, the ideology of security as it is used
to impose discipline. These and other issues allow us to shift the
center of analysis and politicize areas that deserve more attention.
of the most valuable things we did over these last several months was
to work with the trade unions, which gave us a better understanding
of the inner workings of syndicalism. Between the October 19 action
and the present, there’s been an enhanced and reconceptualized
appreciation of what the strike instrument can mean.
opposed to the idea that the strike is an outdated tool useful only
for a small labor aristocracy — the few who can still strike —
this entire idea of the strike has been repurposed and put to work
for other ends, and can hopefully even provide the impetus to rethink
questions related to the nature of work and exploitation.
>> The interview above was with Veronica Gago, and is reprinted from International Viewpoint.