Feminism in Latin America

“We must show that feminism is not white but colourful”, was a thought stated by Mariana, one of Layouth’s leaders, which on multiple levels points towards some relevant points discussed at the our online event held at the 24th of November. Within the framework of the community projects, we, the student association Layouth, organized a two-hour round discussion about intersectional feminism with a focus on Latin America. Almost 30 participants showed up in the digital room to exchange their thoughts, experiences, and questions on this highly interesting topic.

Feminism in latin america
Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Initially, the literal sense of the above stated quote was examined by Ella Roininen, Professor of International Management with a focus on Gender Diversity and Inclusion at the Karlshochschule, who academically introduced the topic of feminism by providing a deeper understanding of feminist theory and practice.  Having explained the first, “women are people, too”, second, “the personal is political”, and third wave of feminism, “deconstructing gender concepts”, Ella addressed the criticism that feminism was mainly considered a White theory. Hence, additionally to gender other attributes such as race, class or education must be recognized.

This intersectional feminism highlights the dynamics of those social positions and the privileges which are followed by specific combinations of those marginalizations. Ella convinced us that it is desirable to be conscious about our own position above the privilege line regarding some social identities and below the line regarding some other. A tangible example for intersectional feminism was included in one of Silvana’s, a Colombian Medical Engineering student living and studying in Germany, personal experiences. She shared her feeling of insecurity she observed whenever she could not locate the source of the rejection towards her work, whether it was owed to her gender, her origin, or her actual professional skills.

Following the academic viewpoint, a civil society approach was offered. 17-year old Yara, vice president of the Mexican organization “¿Y yo, porque no?”, introduced herself as a stubborn feminist activist which is constantly learning, trying, and asking new questions by encouraging others to raise their voices, as well. She shared the work of the NGO which combines art with feminism, provides workshops on topics such as gender violence to young women, and works towards a greater youth representation in politics. As diverse as Latin America is within its countries, regions and even within its cities, as diverse are their different clubs which focus on their different contexts representing their intersectional approach.

Starting into our round discussion, German Politics, Philosophy, and Economics student Teresa who has lived in Bolivia for one year, illustrated her perception of the different gender relations in both societies. She could relate with Mariana and Silvana in feeling safer in German streets due to the sexualization of the female body in Latin America owing to more predominant and traditional gender roles. They described the phenomenon of needing a man to be respected as women. Nonetheless, Teresa also addressed the other side of the coin, feeling she was given more value in Bolivia’s society as something purer and better educated.

Last but not least, Lukas, who works at the SENSE centre for civic engagement and responsible management at the Karlshochschule, completed our colourful discussion round by adding a male perspective on feminism. Lukas shared his thoughts and strategies on how to make people new to the topic question the current system. As the term feminism is often emotionally loaded, he acknowledged that confrontations and self-reflections can be difficult and that desired change instead of finding a scapegoat ought to be debated in order to change people’s perception of the topic. Moreover, it was indicated that through the pressuring gender stereotypes, the power relations addressed by feminism are not only affecting women, but men, as well.

Especially in the second half of the evening, the diverse and inspiring speakers who shed light on the topic of intersectional feminism from many different angles enabled an open space and vivid discussion atmosphere where many participants shared their opinion, asked questions and led the debate into various areas such as the importance of social media or the right language to deal with the topic. A common ground was found that differences and similarities of different cultures and between the genders should be recognized and that feminism should predominantly be encouraging. Encouraging to share thoughts, to decolonize the world and to give all sexualities equal rights. Encouraging to support and be proud of other women and men. And encouraging to normalize the discussion and to start somewhere even if the ones talking about inequalities are not yet perfect.

We wholeheartedly thank all participants and speakers and hope that through this event, we could offer a more colourful perspective on feminism by not only explaining its intersectionality but including diverse ideas which portrayed its relevance in every aspect of our daily lifes.

Do you want to learn more about how Karls encourages gender equality, diversity and inclusion? Check out our diversity statement!

Article by Jule Spohn *JS – International Relations

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