When anti-feminism is king

From online trolls to the Casa Rosada, the government explicitly rejects Argentina’s feminist movement. Less than six months in, it’s proven deadly

Buenos Aires Herald Editorial

June 3 is the anniversary of the first Ni Una Menos march in 2015 when thousands took to the streets nationwide to raise awareness about gender-based violence. It’s considered a seminal moment in Argentina’s recent feminist history and marked a turning point regionally. Nine years later, President Javier Milei’s administration explicitly embodies the movement’s political backlash — and has shown how deadly it can be in less than six months.

While Milei is the most highlighted for misogynistic comments and specifically targeted the Argentine feminist movement as the enemy in his World Economic Forum speech, such retrograde attitudes permeate the government. The president’s comments about Spain’s first lady caused a diplomatic row when he spoke at a Vox rally a couple of weeks ago: Secretary of Worship Francisco Sánchez also gave a speech there that didn’t cause the same furore but is worth revisiting as a clear display of the government’s extreme views on gender and reproductive rights.

Sánchez’s comments went beyond condemning abortion and same-sex marriage to include divorce, seemingly wishing to strike down a law that has been in place in Argentina since 1987. He also claimed that the previous administration promoted “gender ideology” laws to “pervert” children and “damage society” — classic harmful discourse deployed by those who see the fight for gender equality and the existence of the LGBTQIA+ community as a shadowy global threat.

“We have to recover those traditional values that Spain gifted the world in 1492, values which we must sustain, and also fight to recover the ones that should have never been left behind,” Sánchez said. The “traditional values” apparently being those of the Spanish Inquisition, a striking wish to turn the clock far beyond 2015.

Milei himself has stated that overturning legal abortion is not on the government’s agenda but has also railed against the legalization and activists since becoming president. In a speech given in March at his alma mater, Cardenal Copello, Milei called abortion “murder aggravated by a bond” and activists committed to the cause — known as pañuelos verdes, green scarfs — “murderers.” 

Having gone from online trolling and private living-room conversations to the Casa Rosada and international political forums, these sorts of talking points and hate speech have gained unprecedented power in the last few months. Few things could have made the dangerous consequences of this Overton window more tangible than the brutal triple lesbicide which left the queer community reeling, both in Argentina and abroad. 

A man threw a homemade explosive into a room where two lesbian couples were sleeping in the neighborhood of Barracas: three have died and the other remains in hospital with nowhere to go. The fact that they were living in a boarding house working odd jobs highlighted the context of brutal austerity and the reduction in the number and scope of programs destined to protect women and marginalized genders. But it also exposed anti-LGBTQIA+ hate speech, particularly within the government’s environs. 

Days before, Milei’s biographer and friend Nicolás Márquez made strong homophobic statements on one of Argentina’s most popular radio shows. Following the massacre, in a comment that has since been deleted, Márquez said the women shouldn’t have chosen to be lesbians and described it as a “good opportunity to revindicate being straight.” The official response so far has been Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni denying that it was a hate crime and minimizing the issue: he later took to X (formerly Twitter) to falsely claim that the term “lesbicide” doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, the Buenos Aires City Legislature, deputies of the ruling coalition La Libertad Avanza abstained from voting on a declaration condemning the Barracas massacre. This silence speaks volumes and is of deep concern.

With the arrival of the new administration, hatred toward the Argentine feminist movement has become institutionalized and the destruction of any policy targeting gender-based violence or systemic inequality is now state protocol. Making it the scapegoat du jour doesn’t wipe the reality of its importance but the consequences aren’t worth it.

Cover photo by Valen Iricibar

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