Ni Una Menos: the feminist movement for livable futures

Julia Marszalkowska is a final year student of International Relations at King’s with interest in human rights and transitional justice. She is passionate about applying gender analysis to all aspects of life and crazy about her cat.

“It’s like a virus,” remarks Veronica Gago, professor at the University of Buenos Aires and one of the main spokespeople for the movement; “you go to Peru, Venezuela or Brazil and you say ‘Ni Una Menos!’” 

What can be translated into English as “Not One (Woman) Less” presents a new form of resistance to violence, exploitation, and extraction. Initially triggered in response to growing rates of violence against women and femicides across Latin America, the movement went viral – both in terms of its reach and scope. What started in June 2015 as a demonstration following the brutal murder of 14-year-old Chiara Paez at the hands of her boyfriend became a rallying cry against hegemony of oppressive power relations. This struggle against “racism, discrimination and xenophobia against indigenous women, black afro-descendants and afro-indigenous women,” the condemnation of transphobia and machista violence, as well as advocating for reproductive rights created a revolutionary model of solidarity on the margins. With its transnational range, Ni Una Menos has gained massive momentum in the strive for intersectional feminist change.

From its inception, Ni Una Menos viewed the private and public as intrinsically linked, and gender-based violence as one of the symptoms caused by the hegemony of gendered structures of power. Thus, by moving away from its initial focus on domestic violence, the movement branched out to create connections and links between struggles across the subaltern. By showing a clear relationship between different forms of violence – such as gendered, economic, racial, colonial, and institutional – the everyday injustices against feminised and marginalised bodies are emphasised, illuminating their roots in their respective relationships of domination. As a result, the movement is built around the concept of transversality which draws attention to the particular ways in which spaces and systems of domination intersect. This highlights the indispensable nuance of the alliance’s approach – not only does it prioritise commonalities, but it is also perceptive of crucial differences between different forms of gendered violence; it is crucial that they are not homogenised as oftentimes different solutions and approaches are necessary to tackle them individually. That being the case, the realisation of the common social condition is fundamental for the Ni Una Menos ethos – according to Gago, feminism is after all “common sense that we’re budling between different conflicts.” Under the feminist umbrella, the lived experiences of the oppressed and marginalised become the driving force fuelling the counter-hegemonic struggle. 

With its transversal approach to feminist activism, Ni Una Menos proves the feasibility of a truly intersectional grassroots movement. In an age where what constitutes mainstream feminism oscillates between the neoliberal individualism of a #girlboss and the dissociative cynicism of the “Fleabag” era, Ni Una Menos is truly revolutionary. It is also significantly different from the MeToo movement, which swept through the United States and Western Europe throughout the late 2010s. While it has been effective in shedding light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, it does not provide a basis for much-needed solidarity. The “Me” in MeToo is striking; while it highlights individual stories, it is insufficient to realise the common social condition of structural marginalisation; rather, it reasserts the tenets of neoliberalism and its focus on individualism – a common tendency within Western feminism. In time of late-stage capitalism, Ni Una Menos highlights the global nature of the feminist struggle which, although incredibly nuanced, at its core is rooted in solidarity. 

As a result, Ni Una Menos does not fit into the traditional feminist typology we are familiar with; individual considerations of concepts such as “decolonial,” “queer,” “radical” or “eco” feminisms fail to grasp the movement’s breadth. Instead, it combines various feminist legacies, linking the experiences of multiple sites of subalternity. It represents what bell hooks famously meant by “understanding marginality as position and place of resistance that is crucial for oppressed, exploited, colonised people;” Ni Una Menos operates on these margins and transforms daily experiences of individual marginality into a collective counter-hegemonic force.

Coming from a Polish background, I view Ni Una Menos as a beacon of hope for Polish feminism in light of the recent political climate. Virtual lack of access to legal abortion, abusive misinformation campaigns and increasingly hostile environments are woven into the daily lives of anyone not conforming to the traditional social norms. Nevertheless, the green scarves first worn during demonstrations in Buenos Aires are increasingly springing up on Polish streets, advocating for the same vision of a non-violent, livable future. Whether in Latin America or Eastern Europe, global mechanisms of oppression invade public spaces – Ni Una Menos provides us with a concrete plan on how to reclaim it.