By Mike Nunes
Elizabeth Borland, associate professor of sociology at the College, studied abroad in Argentina in 1995. While in Argentina, she took a class on what was going on in the country and found herself drawn to the feminist rights movement.
Borland held an open political forum on the age composition and dynamics of social movements on Thursday, Nov. 15. She drew from her experience with the feminist movement in Argentina, specifically regarding reproductive rights. The reproductive rights movement was in response to the Beijing conference which saw the Argentine government installing restrictions on things such as abortions and the right for women to divorce their husbands in cases of domestic violence.
After the Beijing conference in 1995, Argentina’s stance on abortion was a rather conservative, stating it was illegal except in cases of rape. In cases of rape however, government bureaucracy often held up the process until it was far too late. This inspired a reproductive rights movement all over the country, specifically in the nation’s capital.
In the process of writing a paper, Borland interviewed many reproductive rights activists and found something that surprised her.
“Most of the women were older than I was,” Borland said. “In fact they were almost beyond child-bearing age.”
This was in stark contrast to the women’s rights movements in the U.S. which has a very active group of young women. Borland was welcomed into the movement.
Coming out of a dictatorship in 1983, Argentineans have been taught to keep quite over political issues in fear that the government might silence them. In those years, many young people did not get involved because they were afraid of the government and were taught not to speak out. This led to social movements being dominated by older people, often over the age of 60. In the feminist movement, they called these older women the “Historicas.”
Over the years, as younger women joined the movement, Borland found that the older generation who was there since the start didn’t really respect the younger generation. This generational difference caused a gap within the movement.
Perhaps most of the generational differences between the two groups were their tactics. Borland referenced one occasion in which the younger feminists had a rock group sing pro-abortion songs at one of their rallies. The Historicas, which generally stay within the realm of petitions and picketing, didn’t agree with the youths ideas. Especially since the lead singer of the rock group was a man.
“It was difficult to integrate the young into the movement,” she said.
Another demographic that has changed with the feminist movement was the addition of men who supported the feminist movement because they knew someone, whether it be a sister or a girl friend who are involved in the movement.
As the older members of the reproductive rights movement became too old to attend protests, the movement is now starting to lean towards the younger members. The youth now number in the majority and are taking up the banners of their predecessors.
As far as social movements go, the reproductive rights movement does not get a lot of publicity in the U.S.
“It was a presentation on something I wasn’t aware about, you don’t really hear about feminist movements in other countries,” said James Ferrie, senior biomedical engineering major.
Borland gave her presentation to a packed house for the second to last political forum of the year.
“I thought it was very interesting,” said Iman Saad, junior political science and journalism double major. “I liked the concept of looking at generational differences because you could see that in a lot of different organizations both in the U.S. and other countries whether they’re feminist or not.”