Updated: Feb 8, 2021
By Arianna de la Cruz
Image via NPR
Authentic feminism begins with the fundamental principle of feminism, securing and recognizing women's liberty and equality of opportunities in all facets of life as a critical priority. To this end, it is essential to eradicate all patriarchal orders of society, patriarchal concepts and their underlying structural foundations. While it is not possible to outline a uniquely valid system for all patriarchal systems at all times, it is possible to describe in general terms the features that tend to be present in patriarchal societies. The general characteristic of women's status within patriarchal systems is that they are held in subordinate roles with no legal status of their very own.
Latin American feminism takes on multiple perspectives, many of them in tension with each other. It centers on the critique of the work that women have undergone in response to the political forces that built oppressive systems. Different regions and their histories approach cultural and political reforms in their own capacities.
In Latin America, there are still many traces of the patriarchal structuring of society in modern societies. Women are considered the primary housekeepers and caregivers of children, so their capacity to compete economically with men is often limited. The marked Latin cultural patterns and violent dictatorial ideologies that are still in place limit women's economic, political and social equality, and affirm the belief that women are inferior to men as a gender group, inferiority that is mixed with the subjection of class and race.
The widely demonized, both in politics and rural areas, Latin American feminist movement has pushed forward multiple movements to get justice for sexual assault victims. It calls out openly sexist attitudes from diplomats and politicians who genuinely believe their crimes and aggressions can go unpunished or that they have some sort of “immunity” for being men in positions of power. The Argentine Green Tide movement for an instance, helped eradicate the criminalization of abortion, thus preventing the incarceration of women who abort in Argentina.
But why do we need Latin American feminism?
Gender-based violence in politics, for example, in Latin America, is a new strategy to prevent women's political activism. Electoral violence generally occurs in one of two forms: cases of ethnic or societal conflict in which incidents of violence occur or increase around election times, and cases in which actors use violence to manipulate election outcomes through acts such as vote-rigging and interference in voter and candidate registration processes. While both men and women can be victims of electoral violence, data from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems reveals distinct patterns in the types of violence experienced: men were more likely to suffer physical harm, while women were primarily victims of intimidation or psychological abuse.
According to the International Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, violence against women is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, whether occurring in public or in private life, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty". Global campaigns advocating that "women's rights are human rights" thus focus on violence against women as an affront to human dignity "clearly related to the fact of being a woman."
Women in Latin America and the Caribbean are deserving of being listened to and of healing. The centuries of aggressions and sexual abuse cannot be ignored, the resilience of Latin American women has to be acknowledged. We must tear down the statues and set the record straight, the role of indigenous women in history cannot continue to be undervalued. The millions of women, men, girls and boys growing up in poverty in Latin America deserve a voice, they deserve the help without the burden of social prejudice.
Written by Writer Arianna de la Cruz