Meet the Argentine Women Behind Ni Una Menos, the Feminist Collective Angela Davis Cites as Inspiration

A protestor holds a sign in front if Buenos Aires' Congreso Nacional. Photo: Flor Downes for Telam.

Florencia Minici laughs into her cortado as a surly waiter bustles past our table.

“You’re seriously asking me to give Angela Davis advice?”

We’re having coffee in Los 36 Billares, one of Buenos Aires’ oldest bars dating back to 1894, located a few blocks away from the presidential palace where Eva Perón once gave an impassioned balcony-side address (yes, the one immortalized by Madonna in Evita).

“I don’t think I’m in a position to do that, but ok. If I could tell the Americans something, I’d say this.” She leans in, puts her elbows on the table and interlaces her fingers into a bridge. “The wall that Trump is building on the border with Latin America is the wall that feminism must destroy. Feminism bears that responsibility in this historic moment. No other political actor or social force can do this, only feminism because of its massive, pluralistic and democratic nature.”

She sits back and grins. “How’s that?”

Florencia Minici. Photo: Mariana Leder Kremer Hernandez
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On March 8, women from over 30 countries went on strike to protest the economic forces that put them at a disadvantage around the globe. In the US, the measure was spearheaded by the leaders of the January 21 Women’s March on Washington, including civil rights and women’s liberation titan Angela Davis, who penned their call to arms in a letter in The Guardian.

The women behind Ni Una Menos are a cross between Gloria Steinem, Joan Jett and guerilla fighter Juana Azurduy.

In it, they pointed to Argentina’s Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) collective—the face of Argentina’s feminist movement—as their inspiration for embracing a feminism for the 99%. On the other side of the globe—el culo del mundo, as Argentines endearingly call their homeland—Minici, an academic, and the dozen other founders of Ni Una Menos, were thrilled, if slightly bemused.

“The fact that the American girls want to oppose capitalism is a triumph,” Agustina Paz Frontera, a poet and essayist, told me. “It’s incredible. Here in Argentina, it’s hardly radical to be anti capitalist, it’s something we feel all the time.”

“Knowing that a group of activists in the US read our literature and believe in it makes us proud,” Florencia Alcaraz, a journalist, added.

Florencia Alcaraz. Photo: Mariana Leder Kremer Hernandez
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A motley crew of artists, journalists and academics with an anti-capitalist bent and reverence for anarchist shakers of yore, the women behind Ni Una Menos can be thought of as a cross between Gloria Steinem, Joan Jett and guerilla fighter Juana Azurduy. To them, the link between financial empowerment and female autonomy has always been clear.

Minici traces her feminist roots back to Argentina’s financial crisis in 2001.

“The fact that the American girls want to oppose capitalism is a triumph. Here in Argentina, it’s hardly radical to be anti capitalist.”

“Back then, we were a country in which people were going hungry, and women were the hardest hit,” she explained. She’d always been involved with workers’ unions and was alarmed by how the economic downturn and wage gap made women more vulnerable to financial instability and domestic abuse.

Paz Frontera began her own brand of activism in 2005 after a friend, Florencia Pennacchi, disappeared, most likely sold into human trafficking. Police conducted a half-assed investigation before quickly giving up, leaving Paz Frontera and her friends to pick up the slack (in vain: Pennacchi was never found).

Alcaraz, on her end, was galvanized by the media’s macho tone and perspective. After a neighbor was shot by her boyfriend in 2002, she was appalled that headlines read, “He killed her out of jealousy.” “We all knew he was a violent guy. You know this stuff when you live in the barrio, everyone talks about it. You hear the screams,” she said.

Agustina Paz Frontera. Photo: Mariana Leder Kremer Hernandez
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Along with a handful of other women, they formed Ni Una Menos in 2015 on the heels of two events: the 10-year anniversary of the disappearance Paz Frontera’s friend, Florencia Pennacchi, and the murder of Daiana García, a 19 year old found tossed off the side of the road in a burlap sack. They began meeting at informal assemblies to discuss the most extreme manifestation of machista violence in Argentina: femicide, or the gender-based murder of women. A few months later, when 14-year-old Chiara Páez was killed by her boyfriend after he found out she was pregnant and intended on keeping the child he ostensibly didn’t want, the women set a date to protest. On June 3 2015, 40,000 people marched onto Buenos Aires’ Congress.

An aerial view of the June 2015 Ni Una Menos protest.
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Two nationwide rallies and two international strikes later, Ni Una Menos is at the center of a growing network of sister chapters throughout Latin America and Europe. That’s even if many Argentine women probably wouldn’t call themselves feminists: you’ll often hear the phrase “ni machista ni feminista” from women uncomfortable with the designation.

With one woman murdered every 30 hours in Argentina, Ni Una Menos’ onus is on femicide, but the founders are adamant about viewing gender violence as a structural issue.

“When we talk about gender violence, the most terrible thing that can happen is that they kill you. But then there’s a whole framework before you reach that point,” Paz Frontera explained. The framework that puts women at a disadvantage is largely determined by economic forces, she said—hence the March 8 strike. “In a context of domestic violence, if you don’t have money, it’s impossible for you to get out, and it’s impossible for you to tell the guy to leave.”

Although little progress has been made at the state level—in fact, the government recently cut 67 million pesos from a gender violence prevention and eradication fund, leaving little more than 4 pesos per woman—Ni Una Menos takes hope in what appears to be a cultural shift on a more granular level.

“There’s less tolerance for micro-aggressions in the workplace, the street. We’re all saying, ‘Enough.’,” Alcaraz said.

As to their budding relationship with the US? “We’re all part of the same global movement, anti-system, anti-capitalist,” Minici says. March 8 was proof of that.