The Argentine Green Tide has evolved into a tsunami. The green bandana, characteristic of the feminist pro-abortion movement that began in Argentina earlier this year, is now internationally recognized, as well as their widely published hashtag #AbortoLegalYa (#LegalAbortionNow).
The Green Tide arose in the context of various other feminist social movements such as #MeToo that gained significant followings on social media, and the Irish pro-abortion movement in the light of the referendum this year.
It seems that Latin American feminism has finally broken into the global north and that it has consolidated itself within the international feminist movement. How then has this inclusive feminist movement come to fruition and will it last?
The Green Tide and the feminist mainstream of the global north
The fight to legalise abortion in Argentina is nothing new, and this year was the seventh time that the National Campaign for Legal, Safe and Free Abortion had presented a draft bill to Congress over the past 13 years.
However, this year was revolutionary in that this is the furthest the draft bill has ever gone. Although it was not sanctioned by the Senate during their vote on the 8th of August, it has left the impression that this has become somewhat of a historic milestone from which the pro-abortion and feminist movement can only move forward. It was from this movement that the Green Tide emerged.
Talk about the Green Tide as a truly international movement that had spill-over potential for other nations in Latin America and beyond had already begun when #AbortoLegalYa graced the back cover of the New York Times. With the help of Amnesty International, the International edition of the New York Times displayed a coat hanger (an object still used in many parts of the world to self-induce a clandestine abortion) alongside the word adiós, with a clear message directed to Argentine senators: the world will be watching how you vote.
The New York Times was joined by other western media outlets such as the BBC, the Guardian and Le Monde who provided detailed coverage of the events as they unfolded on the 8th of August.
Many local groups around Europe also mobilised in favour of free, safe and legal abortion in Argentina such as ‘Marea Verde Barcelona’ and ‘Ni Una Menos UK’ who organised pañuelazos (marches of popular resistance with the green bandana as the focal point) outside the Argentine embassies.
After the #NiUnaMenos movement, which also began in Argentina in 2015, reached a significant international audience outside of Latin America mostly due to their role in summoning the first worldwide strike on the 8th of March for International Women’s Day, expectations have arisen that #AbortoLegalYa will follow in its footsteps.
An online revolution
The 4th feminist wave, widely considered as the digital wave, allowed Latin American feminist movements to be incorporated into the feminist movement as a whole.
The ability of the internet to break down barriers, to equalise many power relations that often silence feminists outside of the global north and to easily connect international movements has without a doubt facilitated the spread of both #NiUnaMenos and #AbortoLegalYa around the world.
According to Ni Una Menos UK, “feminists in Argentina have created communicational and organizational networks that keep expanding and becoming stronger”, many of which have been online. “We are also networking around the world, campaigning in the global north. Ni Una Menos has reached not just the UK but Austria, France, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Germany too”.
So what now?
Ni Una Menos UK believes their movement is “strong, sustainable and long-term” and that they are preparing themselves “to continue this fight beyond the #AbortoLegalYa debate” from their base in London, however, they also believe that the hard work is yet to come.
The likelihood that this movement lasting beyond Latin America is unpredictable. This is mostly due to the specific cultural factors surrounding the abortion debate in Latin America that do not apply to the global north. Abortion is already legal in most countries of the global north and the Catholic church, an extremely vocal opponent of legal abortion, does not have quite the same authority.
The #MeToo movement which was largely centred on experiences of sexual assault in the global north did not catch on in a massive way in Latin America according to the New York Times, and the #AbortoLegalYa movement is mostly driven by Latin American women residing abroad.
This indicates that barriers between Latin American feminism and more liberal strains of feminism in the global north continue to exist in spite of the progress that has been made and the representation that has been gained largely thanks to the 4th wave.
What has occurred, however, is the spread of the Green Tide to other nations in Latin America, which have seen an unprecedented growth in a debate surrounding the issue. In Brazil, the issue of legalising abortion has been taken to the Supreme Court, in Chile, a similar draft bill to that of Argentina has just been presented to Congress and awaits discussion, and in Mexico, discussions of elaborating a draft bill have recently begun.
Whether #AbortoLegalYa has a lasting impact in the global north will only become clear with time, but what is already certain is its unprecedented regional impact that has spread across Latin America. Latin America currently has the strictest abortion laws in the world, but this may well be about to change.