Neither victims nor entrepreneurs: The feminist mobilizations against the W20 in Buenos Aires

Marta Musić 

While the women’s affinity group of the G20, the Women’s 20 (W20), met from 1-3 October in Buenos Aires with the aim of promoting women’s economic empowerment, the Feminist Forum against the G20 organized in parallel a series of actions to denounce the neoliberal perspective of the W20 while proposing alternatives based on radical, popular feminisms.

“Not in our name”. This was the rallying cry of the Feminist Forum against the G20, which filled the Congress Square of Buenos Aires with artistic interventions, performances, a fair of the popular, social and solidarity economy as well as roundtables to denounce the gathering of the W20 (the women’s affinity group of the G20), criticize its neoliberal policies and discuss the realities of Latin American women, feminists, workers, migrants, indigenous people, afro-descendants and the queer community – in other words, realities which have nothing to do with those of the elitist, entrepreneurial, millionaire, white women organizing the W20.

Created in 2015, the W20 aims to provide recommendations to the leaders of the G20, advocating women’s full economic and social participation in the labour market as well as their financial inclusion and education. This year, the primary goal of the W20 is to promote women’s economic empowerment through four pillars: labour, digital and financial inclusion as well as rural development. Put differently, the program of the W20 supposedly aims to emancipate women by increasing their employability and participation in the labour market, and by facilitating their access to microcredits to finance entrepreneurial projects.

However, behind discourses of so-called ‘empowerment’, the superficial policies of market and financial inclusion advocated by the W20 do not address the structural roots of hetero-patriarchal capitalist domination, gender inequality and gender-based violence. There is no questioning of the sexual division of labour and the invisibilization of domestic and reproductive labour (which ensures the functioning of our current economic system). The integration of women inside the labour market is being promoted without mentioning the double (or triple) exploitation they face, the precariousness of the jobs leading to their so-called ‘emancipation’ or the fact that an increase in participation rates of women in the labour market does not go hand in hand with a bigger participation of men in domestic work. Widely promoted by the W20 as well as the World Bank and the IMF, microcredits supposedly enable the ‘financial inclusion’ of women by allowing them to invest in market opportunities or develop micro-enterprises to improve their livelihoods. However, such schemes only replicate the dynamics of the global financial system and leads to spiralling cycles of increasing indebtedness, dependence and impoverishment, which mostly affect women, who borrow to ensure the subsistence of their families and the functioning of their households.

It is based on this critical line of thinking that the actions against the W20 and its elitist, neoliberal, binary and heterosexual perspective were organized by the Feminist Forum against the G20 – a diverse, international and transversal confluence of feminists, women workers, activists, trade unionists, students, indigenous women, afro-descendants, peasants and the queer community, among others. Grounded on principles of popular feminisms, this forum is a process of collective feminist construction inscribing itself in the continuity of the Feminist Forum against the WTO, held last year in Buenos Aires. This continuously thriving confluence aims to create spaces of resistance against hetero-patriarchal capitalism, embodied by institutions such as the W20, the G20, the WTO and the IMF. In other words, it stands against institutions and policies supporting the current masculinist socio-economic system, responsible not only for the structural, economic, sexist, racist and gender-based violence, but also for the destruction of our planet.

However, the Feminist Forum against the G20 is also a flourishing space for the articulation, construction and consolidation of radical feminist alternatives. The actions carried out this week showed that business women are not the only ones who could (nor should) speak and that unlike the false promises of ‘empowerement’ promoted by the W20, more radical and transcendent forms of emancipation exist, namely popular feminisms. This spectrum encompasses a plurality of feminisms emerging out of the concrete, daily struggles, experiences and knowledges of working class, migrant, indigenous, peasant and afro-descendant women, the queer community, mothers and grandmothers, and many others, who are continuously transforming all aspects of everyday life, how we think about the world and our places within it. Such a wave is sustained by practices of care, assemblies, sorority, solidarity, empathy, active listening, self-reflection and sharing. These feminisms provide the tools to both resist against the devastating effects of our current system and radically rethink our own practices and modes of organization – including within the most progressive movements and collectives. They also allow for the re-conceptualization of our economies and societies not as serving the interests of the market, capital accumulation and growth, but rather as ensuring the viability of our planet and the existence of all living beings.

Considering the unprecedented magnitude and impacts of the systemic crisis we are currently experiencing, it has become more than necessary to reinvent other ways of organising societies and relating to everything and everyone. Today, these feminisms – as the most powerful, catalytic, transversal movements in the world – stand as such an alternative. Indeed, movements such as Ni Una Menos and Me Too, the 2nd international strike of March 8, the campaigns for the legalization of abortion, the recent mobilizations of Brazilian women against Bolsonaro (the misogynist, racist and homophobic presidential candidate of the extreme right) and the actions of the Feminist Forum against the G20, amongst many others, are all expressions of this new, transformative and expanding feminist wave which effectively demonstrates that another world is possible. Declaring that the future – or the revolution – will be feminist or it won’t be is not a mere slogan. It affirms that, today, feminism – in all its emancipatory plurality – is the only viable political project that has the potential to put an end to the structures of domination and oppression of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, anthropocentrism and productivism, all the while ensuring the sustainability of life on Earth.

Marta Musić: Member of the international commission of Attac, France
Member of the “Asamblea No al G20” (No G20 Assembly) and “Foro Feminista contra el G20” (Feminist Forum against the G20), Argentina

To follow the actions of the Feminist Forum against the G20 in view of the Global Week of Action against the G20 and the IMF held from November 25th to December 1st, 2018, in Buenos Aires and around the world, see:

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