Black Wednesday: A feminism that centers ending male violence against women

Image: Lucia Perez Montero/Facebook
Image: Lucia Perez Montero/Facebook

The first regional strike to protest violence against women and girls took place on Wednesday in Latin America.

An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets in Argentina after a 16-year-old girl named Lucia Perez Montero was abducted, raped, and impaled by a gang. After being plied with drugs and assaulted, her three rapists washed her, dressed her, and brought her to a drug rehabilitation center (while still alive). The center treated the case as a drug overdose until they discovered Perez Montero’s sexual trauma. She died the next day, on October 8th.

Activists called the October 19 protest, which saw many walk out of work to take part, “Black Wednesday.” Participants dressed in black and carried signs reading, “If you touch one of us, we all react.” In a heartbreaking public letter, Lucia’s brother, Matias Perez Montero expressed support for Black Wednesday, writing:

“We have to be strong and take to the streets. So that we can all together shout out, now more than ever ‘Not one less.’ Only this way can we prevent the murder of thousands of more Lucias.”

Image: Fabian Gastarena/Clarín
Image: Fabian Gastarena/Clarín

In Argentina, a woman or girl is murdered every 36 hours.

The night before the march, supreme court judge Elena Highton de Nolasco told the press: “This is a march against femicide. Cases of femicide are growing in number, they are becoming more violent, more perverse — we even had the news today that there have been 19 femicides in the last 18 days.”

Western media has often failed to accurately address the misogyny and violence women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean face. Reporting that 235 women were murdered in Argentina in 2015, The Independent explained “femicide” as a term used to describe “gender-based killings.” But “gender” doesn’t accurately describe this violence: “femicide” is a legal and political term that exists precisely to highlight the fact women and girls are murdered because they are female.

Similarly, The Guardian reported that Black Wednesday protesters were fighting “gender-based abuse and killings,” concluding that “the campaign against gender-based violence has gathered momentum.”

The protests and strikes that took place across Latin America on Wednesday were not about “gender-based violence.” On Black Wednesday, Argentinians were joined by thousands more in Uruguay, Paraguay, Perú, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, México, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Spain to fight back against the violence perpetrated by males against women and girls.

We desperately need a feminism that centers ending violence against women and girls. A feminism that isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out against male violence, masculinity, and a culture of impunity. Latin America has the highest rate of femicides worldwide and men get away with 98 per cent of those murders, facing no jail time. It is important for feminists in the region to make this the focal point of our struggle, but it must also be part of a concerted effort worldwide —  all sisters must join together in this fight.

This is not the time for gender-neutrality. Black Wednesday demonstrates what a feminist movement focused on ending violence against girls and women looks like. It is time for all of us to follow in the footsteps of Latin American women and name the problem — not tiptoe around it.

And if that makes some people uncomfortable… Well, to quote a popular slogan of the Latin American fight against femicide, “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are being murdered.”

Image: The Independent
Image: The Independent

 

Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP

 

Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP

 

“Indifference kills. #NotOneLess.” Image: David Fernández/EFE
“Indifference kills. #NotOneLess.” Image: David Fernández/EFE

 

“Not One Less.” Image: Aizar Raldes/Getty
“Not One Less.” Image: Aizar Raldes/Getty

 

Image: Cuartoscuro
Image: Cuartoscuro

 

“Enough machista violence.” Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
“Enough machista violence.” Image: Eitan Abramovich/AFP
"Sorry for the inconvenience, we're being murdered." Image: AFP
“Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re being murdered.” Image: AFP

 

“MOTHERS VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING. Brothels are clandestine rape centers.” Image: Nicolás Stulberg/AFP
“MOTHERS VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING. Brothels are clandestine rape centers.” Image: Nicolás Stulberg/AFP

 

Image: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters
Image: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

 

 

Raquel Rosario Sanchez

Raquel Rosario Sanchez is a writer from the Dominican Republic. Her utmost priority in her work and as a feminist is to end violence against girls and women. Her work has appeared in several print and digital publications both in English and Spanish, including: Feminist Current, El Grillo, La Replica, Tribuna Feminista, El Caribe and La Marea. You can follow her @8rosariosanchez where she rambles about feminism, politics, and poetry.

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  • Helen A. Handbasket

    Yup. Men don’t like their brutal treatment of women to actually be shown to them: every woman they catcall, every female office subordinate they harass, every prostituted woman they pay to rape — It hurts their manly feelings to show them reality instead of the fiction they’ve cooked up inside their heads. Though the careful language might actually be to shut up all the MtT people who are deeply offended by the word “woman.”

    • Liz

      heh, yes, at one point she threw out a halfhearted “even though our name has ‘women’ in it, we help men and transpeople too” and then moved right along!

      i have read others who say men don’t like to be made aware of it, and they also don’t like to hear that a woman is aware of it. I can’t decide which they probably dislike more! with the former, women are hurting their fee-fees and affronting their ego. with the latter, women are dangerous.

      • lagattamontral

        Well, some men ARE victims of sexual violence – almost always at the hands of other men. And transpeople face horrific levels of extreme violence, sexual and otherwise. I don’t think a male-to-female transperson is the same as someone who is born a woman, but he (she?) is certainly entitled to protection from violence and bigotry. Isn’t this an extreme type of homophobia among macho men? Hardcore machos can’t abide any signs of “femininity” among men – even gentleness, for example. They are disgusted by trans men.

  • This kind of mobilization is amazing. (I missed a take back the night march here yesterday because I am not in the loop here, and I regret it.)

    Is the gender vs sex thing a problem in other languages too? Or does it only become a problem when it’s translated into English? I wish we could just abolish the word “gender”.

    • lagattamontral

      In Latin languages, “gender” (genre, genere, genero) is above all a grammatical concept. If I’m not mistaken, words in all neo-Latin (or “Romance”) languages are masculine or feminine, but I don’t speak Romanian at all, and may be missing some. There is usually no grammatical gender in English for inanimate objects (except for a few remnants such as a ship traditionally being “she”) but in German, which is also a West Germanic language, there are masculine, feminine and neuter genders.

      Among feminists, gender and sex don’t refer to exactly the same thing. Simone de Beauvoir’s seminal work was “The Second Sex” (not gender) but she also famously wrote “on ne naît pas femme, on le devient”. It is a socially constructed role under patriarchy. I think Meghan can explain this better than I can…

      I don’t think the problem here is the word “gender” (used for things other than grammar) but the way it is used, to obscure sex-defined roles and sexism.

      The mobilisation is stunning. ¡Brava las chicas! Lucia was a visual artist and won a scholarship for her drawings and paintings; she also loved animals and was planning to become a vet. (That is she was me at her age…). 🙁

      • I agree, it’s the way “gender” is used that is the problem. I used to correct people when they said gender instead of sex, but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle right now, because I’m going against religious beliefs at this point.

  • Gaiauchis

    In Brazil there’s a law, signed by our ex-president Dilma Rousseff called “lei do feminicídio”, something like “feminicide law”, which sets tough new penalties for domestic violence and murder of women and girls. Can you guess which “sex/gender” opposed to it claiming inequality??? 🙂

    • lagattamontral

      I am SO pissed off at what the machist right wing did to Dilma Rousseff. They wouldn’t have dared to try that against a male leader of the Workers’ Party, such as Lula. She wasn’t suspected of any hint of corruption or graft, it was simply a question of budget reallocaiton. Chrétien did that to a far greater extent in Canada in terms of the Unemployment Insurance fund, to say nothing of Harper…

      While of course there is much to criticise about the PT governance (as anywhere) bringing in the Bolsa Familia lifted a huge number of people out of the most dire poverty, especially women-headed families and people of colour. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income_in_Brazil This has had a huge positive impact on the lives of women and of people of colour (and especially, women of colour).

      That law is similar to many laws addressing hate crimes. Femicide is a hate crime.

  • fxduffy

    From my experience, most of the domestic violence groups in this country refrain from naming the agent in order to “reach more people” and “be more effective.” And I might add, “entice more members,” and “raise more money” because there are far more liberal feminists than there are radical feminists. And it is naming the agent that sets radicals off from liberals (certainly individuals may fall somewhere in between but organizations rarely do)

    And of course, the avoidance of anger, verbal and physical attacks are also achieved (at least in their extremer form) if the agent goes unnamed. But the liberal approach not only offers men a way out, but ensures a kind of victory.

    Yes, it’s liberating to hear of a powerful march like this where the agent is clearly proclaimed.

    • Liz

      I did ask myself…would I be brave enough to say “men are doing this” in her shoes. I don’t say that a radical-tinged presentation would have been appropriate, we the audience were there to learn about different organizations and civic groups in our area. So people from all walks of life and probably at the very least she would never have been invited back 🙂 Who knows how she really feels? And i hadn’t thought about the funding angle, thank you for pointing it out.

  • Kendall Turtle

    Unsurprisingly this hasn’t been talked about at all in US media.

    • lk

      I don’t think I have seen this story mentioned on a single US news channel or website.

      • Liz

        It was on Jezebel. posted by one of their biggest sex-pozzie, porn-don’t-need-no-condoms, won’t-someone-listen-to-only-the-sex-workers authors

      • mail_turtle

        It’s mentioned on democracynow.org

    • lk

      I’m saddened by the lack of coverage in the US media because I feel like news helps to keep us ignorant about what life is like for women in other parts of the world. It is only by having knowledge of what women in other parts of the world face that we can remain in solidarity with each other. These stories remind us that rape culture is real, misogyny is real, that fear of male violence is not just female “paranoia”..that our fear is rooted in real fear that something like this can happen to any woman, any girl.

  • lk

    I think language is incredibly important here..Why are people so uncomfortable with acknowledging the reality of male violence against women? This horrendous case is not just about violence, but about a specific type-men’s violence against a girls body.

    I feel like anytime FC posts an article highlighting the issues of male violence against women or girls, there is a barrage of comments about how women commit acts of violence too/how its sexist to discuss male violence/how we should focus on ending all violence and etc…

    I really think we should start using the phrase sex-based violence as opposed to gender-based…I think the phrase male-violence is accurate because most people understand male to be synonymous with men/man.

    • will

      “I think the phrase male-violence is accurate because most people understand male to be synonymous with men/man.”

      I have always used that phrase too, but now I question the language from the point of view that if we are arguing that violence is NOT an inevitable behaviour in men, but that it is socialized, it could be constructive to reflect that with our words somehow, despite the fact that it is men who perpetrate almost 100% or sexual violence. I myself get confused sometimes about this: if male violence is inherent (which follows the faux-scientific arguments for women’s subjugation as inevitable), then we have a whole other set of propositions for preventing that behaviour than if we believe that male humans are socialized to be unethical, violent narcissists – a.k.a. masculine. Maybe by naming masculinity as the agent of violence, we introduce the notion of adopting a different set of behaviours? (I’m hypothesizing more than arguing).

      • I think male violence is an interaction between maleness (testosterone, male boisterousness) and upbringing. Bringing up girls the same way doesn’t seem to produce the same amount of violence, partly because men are bigger and stronger on average, and therefore more successful at violence. So the violence is not inherent, but it is easier to teach it to boys than girls.

      • lk

        Does the phrase “male violence” necessarily indicate the idea that men are just inherently violent and can’t help it?

        I’m not sure it does, I think male violence against women=men committing violent acts against females.

        I think the issue with language like masculist violence or violence caused by masculinity is that it focuses on an idea and not the people committing violent acts (i.e men who have embraced the idea of masculinity and live their lives degrading/abusing girls and women, acting in ways that reinforce the idea that men are superior to women and etc).

  • lagattamontral

    Sadly, Lucia wasn’t even allowed to make it to womanhood, she was a teenager, only 16 years old. The solidarity is absolutely outstanding, among women of very different countries and origins.

  • The problem with “women’s movement” is that “woman” no longer means biologically female. I like “gynocide”, though.

  • midwifemama

    Thank you for writing this, Raquel. It’s very inspiring to read about the global women’s uprising.

  • Alienigena

    Sort of a problem that the terminology we are choosing has to be deemed safe … that is, chosen because it won’t aggravate ‘they who shall not be named’ … like Voldemort, because I don’t want to give their cause any more oxygen than it already has.

    • I’m not worried about aggravating them. I’m trying to avoid having them aggravate me by saying that whatever terms I use mean something other than what I meant. For me it’s more of a “don’t argue with me, bub” thing. But imagine if we could just use our own words (respect my nouns!) and insist that they mean what we say they mean. They keep trying to steer us into using ‘cis’, and I’m trying to avoid that.

  • Anon

    I can’t believe I just found out about this. So inspiring.