Some thoughts on Argentinian feminism by Kitty Sanders
On July 18, 2014 I attended the first session of Jovenes PRO’s women branch. Jovenes PRO is the youth organization affiliated with Argentinian center-right Propuesta Republicana party. PRO is a classic example of a moderately rightist, progressive, anti-populist party, which should have been capable of actually doing some good, but is instead forced to waste its efforts on survival under the conditions of overbearing government regulation, chokehold on the free enterprise and prevailing of the leftist ideas. Still, they are the only right-wing opposition in Argentina with any real political weight.
The women branch of Jovenes PRO upholds the rightist-feminist ideals, real equality, does not force stereotypical thinking on anyone and abstains from violence. They fight for women’s rights, without falling into radical fallacies like anti-feminine behavior or misandry. Their position is best be described as follows: “One should not force others to change their lifestyle, unless it’s criminal or involves violence. Violence, as well as violation of equality, should be fought and eliminated.”
The first thing I noticed at the convention was a very good level of preparation. The auditorium was excellent, albeit somewhat marred by the Partido Justicialista ornamenting the walls and the ever-vigilant Juan and Eva Peron staring down at the participants. The working environment comfortable, with all the participants’ needs thought of in advance. The organizers provided everything, including even such trifles as pens, notepads and fliers with short summary of the debated issues and advertisements of the women’s organizations and public campaigns, like “Cortá con la Violencia”. Such level of organization is normal for Germany or the US, but for a political, feminist conference held in Argentina this was a new experience for me. Being familiar with most of the feminist organizations in Buenos-Aires and having attended their various conferences and lectures, such level of forethought was a nice surprise. The discussions were accompanied by a movie and slideshows, the microphones and other equipment worked fine, the eyes and ears were not taxed – in short, it was a rare experience for an Argentinian conference-goer.
The main speaker was a lawyer, one Silvia Maria Almara; she made a very good impression. Educated in the University of Seville, she specializes in gender issues. She has European manners, she is correct, tactful, and quite practiced in directing the discussion. She also gave some interesting insights into the history of feminism and gender studies in Argentina.
The overall feeling of the conference was that of benevolent, unhurried discussion, which was doubly important because some of the topics carried objectionable emotional weight. There were participants of both sexes.
Feminist movements in Argentina are mostly leftist, and is supported by some left organizations and political parties. The left-wing feminists are usually more concerned with the ‘left’ than with the ‘feminist’. They use the feminist phraseology to achieve political goals. They combine superficial arguments with rabid propaganda.
The leftist feminism – whether in Argentina, Chile, US or Europe – scores victories mostly due to its aggressive behavior. In Europe, for instance, there is full-fledged cooperation between the left feminist movements and the left-wing parties which use every opportunity to threaten their opponents and organize strikes. They adopt and enforce restrictive, fascist laws, e.g. prohibiting “wrong” industries and censoring the Internet. The left feminism in the USA works other methods – they take their opponents to courts and manipulate the “rights of the minorities” (without consulting those minorities first, of course).
The right-wing feminism can be described as calmer, more scientific. Its goal is to determine the cause of the problem and find a reasonable solution. This is PRO’s approach. The speaker, Ms. Almara, turned the conference’s attention time and again to the importance of high-quality unbiased education, knowledge of the problems’ history, studying the psychology and gender models instead of the superficial political slogans. There is no need to prohibit that which can be desacralized and peacefully demolished. Femininity and masculinity are no more than two stereotypes of behavior descriptions, there is no reason to outlaw either or swap their roles. It should be a person’s choice whether or not to adapt to his or her traditionally-assigned role. The task which the rightist feminists set to themselves is that of achieving legal equality, easing the access to alternative behavioristic models, removing the psychological basis of violence (victimhood and relative poverty of women), as opposed to remaking the humankind behavioristic patterns with violence and prohibitions.
Part of the conference’s time was devoted to viewing several scenes from an Argentinian movie “La mosca en la ceniza”. The chosen episodes discussed several kinds of domestic violence – mostly with women as victims, as this issue is of greater local import, but the subject of violence against men was also kicked around seriously. This is significant not only for Argentina and other Latin American countries but also for the CIS and for developing countries in general. In the former USSR republics, for instance, domestic violence is sex-mutual and symmetric – the husbands beat and kill their wives, the wives injure and mutilate their husbands with whatever is handy, from rolling pins to axes. Obviously, the rejection of violence both physical and psychological should be mutual.
The topics of lectures at the conference were varied – from the rights of women to the Argentinian legal system to various help, security, protection and legal organizations.
Overall, the conference left a good impression. Even though PRO finds itself in a defensive position, under constant bombardment not only by the government but by the whole leftist Argentinian congregation, they work hard, spread the vital information to those they choose to help and do not sink to the level of hysterical accusations.