Oh, the times, they are a-changin’… but Argentine feminism doesn’t quite know what to do. The local pop culture that gave us certified dirty old man Cacho Castaña, highly-publicized drama between famosas, and gender violence victim-blaming arguments finally seems to be catching up.
Enter Jorge Rial, host of network TV hit “Intrusos,” one of the most relevant, highly-rated afternoon talk shows in the country. During the last week of January, a series of statements by actress Araceli González, in which she claimed that she was “not a feminist” because she had “beautiful boys” (sic.), triggered an unprecedented debate about feminism within pop culture. It was a new kind of dilemma, especially when, within feminism, optimism can often be conflated for conformism. Rial could well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, vouching for the interests of those marginalized now that it’s (kind of) fashionable, while maintaining his behavior and position in power, no harm done.
But we digress. During that week, six women from different walks of life, political views, and areas of interest and influence, were guests on the show. They are Florencia Freijó, Virgina Godoy (aka “Señorita Bimbo”), Luciana Peker, Ingrid Beck, Julia Mengolini, and Malena Pichot.
Far from a shiny, cheap, and agreeable version of feminism, they showed how the ideology can be open to true conversation. That conversation includes – must include – dissent in order to be political. Feminism is for everybody, even straight, white men like Jorge Rial or cis, white, privileged women like Araceli Gonzalez, who claim they don’t need it.
It’s been eighteen years since the famous formula by bell hooks, one of the few third-wave black feminists that managed to go from academia to a larger audience, was coined: Feminism is for everybody. Yes, by everybody we really do mean everybody. At the time, such an idea was much more radical than it sounds today; back then, the feminist movement had yet to include intersectional issues of race, class, and identity politics in its wider discourse. It was also more or less explicitly divided into those who believed men could and should be allies, and those who vouched for a sort of “true femininity,” with which men could and should not be involved. In a way, this sixties-like radicalism ended up excluding diversity more than accepting or incorporating it.
This debate (of who can act in name of the cause, and whether or not people with certain privileges are taking up space in a battle which is not theirs to win nor claim), is still pretty much going on today. Within the context of 8M, there was a plea circulating among social media platforms, asking men to stay at home, take care of the kids, do housework, to ensure all women could make it to the march. “Las calles son nuestras” (The streets are ours to take), said most captions. In other words, what was at stake was a sort of tension between being there for the women who attended, just showing up, and doing show and tell, a sort of activism-without-action. All in all, reactions were mixed, and men were spotted at the march, though largely outnumbered by women. However, the problem, bell hooks reminds us, is much more general and abstract and harder to grasp: men are not the issue; sexism is.
Feminism is for everybody, but as the years went on, another question was posed within the movement: Can everybody be a feminist? If so, how skeptical should we be of change, reformation, and repentance? Granted, January’s televised debate was not without structural faults: Rial himself was accused of harassment by a coworker halfway through that week, and there were plenty of doubtful statements coming from his usual panel of opinólogos, but this showcase of feminism, and real, live feminists is hard to ignore. Especially because, according to Revista Anfibia, the show had the same rating during the feminist segment than it had with any other topic.
We should know by now that television and the content it puts out are not only shaped by the medium itself but by those who consume it and produce meaning. In other words, with the integration of social media and online platforms to traditional television, the viewers have at least some agency over what content they consume and how, actively influencing what’s being debated. What’s happening with Intrusos is an example of how ideas (feminism, in this case) that are circulating outside the mainstream can be successfully introduced on a massive scale. And that is powerful in and of itself.
Never mind ratings, what’s key here is that these women are speaking and being heard (for the most part). Another example is activist, economist, and journalist Estefanía Pozzo, currently a part of C5N’s “Esto Recién Empieza.” In other media, especially print, the contrast is much more stark (and not necessarily more visible, at that!). In the last two months, for example only 15 percent of opinion pieces were written by women.
So, if you’re interested in getting to know these six women in a flash -what they do, who they are, what they stand for, and what projects they’ve been involved in- read on. We can assure you it’s going to be a bumpy ride from here on out. So let’s not focus on the “she-said/she-said” part of the debate and rather dive into the voices (both new and old) that are making strides for us all.
1. Florencia Freijó
- Who she is: Originally a Political Science major and consultant whose main interest lies in articulating the feminist movement with environmental protectionism.
- What she does: Freijó is currently collaborating in Economía Feminista, a portal dedicated to investigating and spreading information on economic inequality between women and men. She also has her own blog and works as a political analyst.
- What she said: “In Argentina ten percent of homes are run by single mothers;” “I do my political activism in the ‘mommy groups’ on WhatsApp;” “The media are always trying to find aggression within feminism.”
- What she brought to the table: The live conversation with Araceli González [see above] was surely a highlight. You can practically hear Araceli changing her mind as Freijó gives logical arguments and basic reasoning to her questions, along with respect and sorority during the whole conversation. Through Freijó’s questioning and prompts, Araceli revealed that she had herself been a victim of sexual abuse.
- Best recent Tweet:
Ayer en la charla que dimos junto a la genia de @RoFerrerIlustra sobre el final, un Marcelo decidió explicarme como deberíamos prepararnos para el 8. Bueno, yo decidí explicarle que es el MansPlaining.
Marcelo nunca más va a explicarle a nadie nada.
— FlorFreijo (@Florfreijo) 3 de marzo de 2018
2. Señorita Bimbo
- Who she is: Virginia Godoy (aka “Señorita Bimbo”) is a writer, actress, and comedian. She is also a representative of the movement of gordas (fat activism). Daughter of actress and tango singer Virginia Luque, she is a self-proclaimed representative of TV antiheroes.
- What she does: Virginia directs the program “Furia Bebé” (“Fury, Baby”) in Futurock, a feminist radio show created and managed by Julia Mengolini [see profile below]. But until recently, she worked on radio show “Un mundo perfecto” with Roberto Pettinato (eyeroll, please). After ending her collaboration, she accused Pettinato of harassment.
- What she said: “I don’t come as a stand-in for anyone, I only come here so other feminists can have a voice;” “We’ll take any doors that open for us for the girls who watch ‘Intrusos’;” “Saying you’re afraid of ‘extreme feminism’ when we have one dead girl a day is a complete lack of respect;” “Abortion is not necessarily a traumatic experience for everyone.”
- Best recent Tweet:
No llego dar RT a todo. Lean mis mentions, sobre todo varones y lxs que cuestionan enojos y modos. No me acostumbro. Me duelen. Quisiera borrarles todo, que no les hubiera pasado. Amor a todas. Ya no estamos solas, estamos juntas.
— Señorita Bimbo (@srtaBimbo) 28 de febrero de 2018
3. Ingrid Beck
- Who she is: Journalist, head of political satire magazine Revista Barcelona and TEA Arte. She’s one of the founders of the #NiUnaMenos movement. You can also listen to her on the show “Bichos de radio,” AM 870.
- What she does: Apart from being an unstoppable fighter at the head of #NiUnaMenos, Beck is also involved in the cause #InfanciaEnDeuda, an NGO focused on improving the lives of children in Argentina.
- What she said: “Legislators are putting personal beliefs ahead of an issue that has to do with public welfare;” “In 2016 there were 12,000 tubal ligations. Do you know how many vasectomies there were? 92.”
- Best recent Tweet:
-¿A que no sabés quién escribió un texto en contra de la legalización del aborto en La Nación?
-No, parecido: Barra.
— Ingrid Beck (@soyingridbeck) 5 de marzo de 2018
4. Julia Mengolini
- Who she is: With a degree in Law from the University of Buenos Aires and another in Jounalism, Julia Mengolini is a former contributor to the news channel C5N, and a former secretary for Frente para la Victoria legislator Juan Cabandié.
- What she does: She is currently at the forefront of radio “Futurock,” which also features Señorita Bimbo and Malena Pichot.
- What she said: “Feminism is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes;” “It is evident that Justice lacks resources on gender;” [Referring to the possibility of a women’s quota in the Senate]: “I want to enjoy the right to be mediocre and reach the top [of my field] anyway.”
- Best recent Tweet:
#SoyFeminista porque me doy cuenta que las mujeres no recibimos el mismo trato ni las mismas oportunidades que los varones y eso me parece injusto. (Es tan simple como eso).
— Julia Mengolini (@juliamengo) 24 de enero de 2018
5. Luciana Peker
- Who she is: Journalist, writer, and regular contributor for Página|12. She has received several awards for journalistic excellence and activism. Her articles have been published everywhere, from Harvard Press to Para Ti magazine to the Universal Health Forum.
- What she does: Author of “La revolución de las mujeres,” a recently published book that compiles a series of articles published on women’s rights and the feminist movement since 2015, the year that #NiUnaMenos was founded.
- What she said: “[Actors called out for harassment] should not be at the front of TV shows watched by young girls;” “There don’t have to be lots of allegations for them to be taken seriously.”
- Best recent Tweet:
En la Argentina el 60% de quienes empiezan la carrera científica son mujeres, pero el 75% de quienes ocupan puestos jerárquicos, de decisión y poder son varones. El ajuste y el machismo tiran para atrás https://t.co/nQYx76q9IY
— Luciana Peker (@lucianapeker) 12 de febrero de 2018
6. Malena Pichot
- Who she is: Stand up comedian, part-time jazz singer, and actress of “La loca de mierda,” “Cualca,” and “Por ahora” fame (the three are independently produced sketch comedy web series, though “Cualca” aired on TV show “Duro de Domar“). Pichot has been known to stir up a racket: Her often hot-headed reactions have lead to controversies in the past – and even now, having been called out for openly insulting a guest on “Intrusos.”
- What she does: Even though she rose to fame with “La loca de mierda” (which translates to something like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), she’s now doing a stand-up show called “Persona,” currently at Santos 4040. She’s also a regular contributor to the Página|12 column, “Enojate, hermana” (“Get riled up, sister”). Her new Netflix special “Complex Stupidity,” has just come out, and it’s good.
- What she said: “If you support women’s rights, you are a feminist;” “Men are testing the limits of their own impunity;” “Feminism is about social justice and that’s a concept a lot of people find very scary”.
- Best recent Tweet:
El feminismo no es una emoción ni una sensación ni una enumeración de adjetivos positivos en femenino como la publicidad de clight. Es un corpus teorico. Una ideologia compuesta de conceptos definidos hace años. Una definición no puede dolerles así.
— malena pichot (@malepichot) 4 de marzo de 2018
What we call “the industry” (production, distribution, and promotion by small to large-scale media companies) may well continue to operate by the same parameters of olden days. The only real difference between TV and print, apart from the “nowness” of television, is that in a show like Intrusos women’s images are up for sale as tokens. It’s hard to un-see that big flat-screen behind Florencia Freijó showing her personal pictures in parties or at the beach, or Julia Mengolini’s glamour shots.
That said, and as Virginia Godoy echoed, the average television-watching Joe or “Doña Rosa” is most likely dead (as in, has been left behind by the new generation of consumers). So why keep making content for old and crumbling structures that not only don’t work, but also are largely not watchable anymore? And where does that leave a figure like Rial? All these guest appearances seem to be asking for is what the feminist movement calls “deconstruction.” Which is to say, that the wolf – not men, but masculinity in a broader sense – looks in the mirror to recognize itself, its fangs and claws – its privilege, its past actions – and starts to shed some of the heavy layers that make him comfortable with who he is. Do not flee, these women say, take responsibility. Be accountable. In the meantime, the space opened by Intrusos, the one taken up by these six women, is one of contemporary Argentine feminism’s most valuable conquests yet.