We are human beings

by Analia Gomez Vidal*

On October 19, 2016, thousands of women dressed in black took over the streets of Buenos Aires in a massive mobilisation. They were also part of a Women’s National Strike, the first one of its kind in Latin America. The main ideas behind these events were: “Vivas Nos Queremos (We Want Us Alive)”, “Miercoles Negro (Black Wednesday)”, “Nosotras Paramos (We Strike)”, and “Ni Una Menos (Not Even One Less)”. All these premises have one idea in common: to stop violence against women in any shape or form.

A lot of controversy has been focused around the idea of Ni Una Menos (Not Even One Less) as a gendered claim, suggesting that it should be focused on crime in general, rather than on a subset of violence (gender crimes). Men and women have expressed themselves, especially in social media, as against the notion that we should highlight the gendered nature of crimes and tackle the issue from a holistic, non-divisive perspective. I agree with them, but not today. Because it is time to claim what is ours.

When a leaked tape of Donald Trump bragging about groping women went public, one of the most noticeable reactions, especially from Republicans, was to condemn these statements because those lewd comments were directed to women who could be “wives, daughters, sisters …” Women who mean something to someone else, to them. Women who matter from a relational perspective. This notion of women’s worth as something we earn based on our relationships or even what others see in us strips us away from our self-worth and dignity. This is also the mobilising factor in Argentina today. We do not matter as wives, daughters, or sisters… We matter as human beings. What matters all along is what we now claim as ours: dignity as human beings.

Women protesting male violence in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Reuters).

Argentine women took the streets for the third time in the last 25 months to claim our dignity as human beings. The triggering element to this massive protest, as well as in previous mobilisations, were high-profile gender crimes covered in mainstream media outlets. It is not only one vicious gender crime (this time, a 16-year-old girl named Lucia Perez was forced to consume cocaine, raped, and tortured to death). It is all of them, those we hear about, and those we do not. Because every 30 hours another woman is killed in Argentina in a gender crime, according to La Casa del Encuentro. Every one of them becomes a hopeless reminder that we are not respected as human beings.

But gender violence is not limited to its physical form. It can also be economic, every time that women earns less than men for doing the same job. Why is that violence? Because it tells us that our time is not worth the same. Gender violence can also be psychological, and it takes so many different shapes and forms. Like every time women are judged by our looks, and the underlying assumption that we need to do more to be respected. Because our dignity as human beings is not recognised. These are just a few examples. Ask any woman you know. I am certain she can give you a frightening amount of personal anecdotes that can illustrate this very point.

In 1995, Hillary Clinton said that women rights were human rights. What seems to be pretty straightforward as an idea is what we still have not been able to implement over 20 years later. Women rights are human rights because women are human beings and should be treated and respected as such. But we still struggle to make this happen in practice, whether it is in Argentina, in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. Because that is another myth we need to address: gender violence, in any form, is not a problem only in Argentina, or in Latin America as a region. It is not a thing only in developing countries, either. Gender violence is still engrained in social, political, and economic relations all around the world. Whether each country is able to take a good look inwards and work to eliminate it, that is a different thing.

So when some people, either men or women, say that crime goes beyond gender and we should advocate for safety for all of us, do I agree with them? Yes. Do I think this is a timely claim? No. Because advocating for all of us to be safe would imply that our dignity as human beings is respected regardless of our gender. But this is not true. It is not true for any of the victims of gender crimes. It is not true when you are not paid the same as your male coworkers. It is not true when you feel the need to cover your body, so nobody catcalls you or hurts you when you are out on the streets. We are not your wives, your daughters, your sisters. We are not yours. We are women. We are human beings.

Analia Gomez Vidal is a PhD student in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research focuses on the intersection of political economy and gender. Her published work has explored the effects of labor-market inequality on gender gaps in economic and political attitudes. She has also written on #NiUnaMenos from a social networks perspective (available here). She has previously pursued her M.A. in International Studies and her B.A. in Economics with minor in Journalism at Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Readers are encouraged to quote, reproduce and share this content for educational, non-profit purposes, provided the source is acknowledged. The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the HR&D team.


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