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Substitution Activism: The Impact of #MeToo in Argentina


Garibotti and Hopp analyze the impact of #MeToo on Argentine feminist mobilization. Even though anti-rape politics did not advance in any meaningful way after the social media uprising, #MeToo provided feminists with an opportunity to access mainstream media and discuss their local agenda, namely the legalization of abortion. Due to the influence of #NiUnaMenos, another social media campaign that commenced in 2015, by the time #MeToo was launched in 2017, feminist movements were highly organized, had a clear agenda and used the occasion to push for the legalization of abortion. The chapter illuminates an understanding of #MeToo as a movement that provided a new arena for women’s voices and new ways of organizing feminist mobilization. Ultimately, the chapter reveals that #MeToo’s scope has the potential of offering a broader, more substantial agenda than just sexual harassment.


  • #MeToo
  • Argentina
  • Substitution activism
  • Abortion
  • Feminist activism

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  1. 1.

    From protests against human rights violations in the last dictatorship to the piqueteros, social movements in Argentina have been a key tool for democratization. See Thalhammer and Branigan (2017) and Bukstein (2012).

  2. 2.

    The term is attributed to US sociologist Diane Russell and Jane Caputi (1992), and it refers to men’s violent killing of women.

  3. 3.

    Argentine law criminalizes abortion as a general rule, but it allows it when pregnancy endangers the life or health of the pregnant woman and when pregnancy is the result of rape.

  4. 4.

    That would eventually fail to pass the Senate.

  5. 5.

    Human rights activism (Keck & Sikkink, 1998), labor unions (Tarrow, 2005) and genetically modified organisms (Motta, 2015).

  6. 6.

    International regimes have been key for the construction of transnational movements that reflect basic understandings of norms and rules and shape the transnational policy discourse (Motta, 2015).

  7. 7.

    According to Tarrow (1994), there are four main properties of social movements: (i) they present a collective challenge, (ii) they have a common purpose, (iii) they foster solidarity and (iv) they sustain collective action.

  8. 8.

    Since 1986, feminist movements have organized an annual National Encounter of Women, where women gather to discuss diverse topics that affect women’s lives (Bellucci, 2014).

  9. 9.

    Between 1930 and 1983, Argentina suffered six military coups that imposed dictatorial governments. In 53 years there were only 19 in which the government was elected through democratic elections without fraud. However, during that period, there were two democratic elections in which the majority party was not allowed to run.

  10. 10.

    Abortion is the primary cause of maternal mortality in Argentina (Ministerio de Salud de la Republica Argentina, 2016).

  11. 11.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.

  12. 12.

    By 2015, the legalization of abortion had been a central issue for feminist organizations for a decade. In 2005 the National Campaign for the Legalization of Abortion was launched. Its main strategy was to draft a proposal to amend the law on abortion, but all political parties systematically blocked the debate. Since the main aim of the movement was to change a law, lawyers played significant roles. However, the legislative agenda limited the strategy, and younger lawyers, eager to achieve change, developed alternative legal paths centered on increasing the provision of abortion services under the existing law. Firstly, they challenged the restrictive interpretation of the law, which made abortion unattainable even in cases that were legally allowed. Concomitantly, other activists created a parallel strategy, which was to focus on providing information that would make it safer for women to get an abortion outside the formal health system by using misoprostol. This strategy ultimately developed and spread throughout the territory, as feminist organizations founded offices where they could meet face to face with women who needed help to get a safe abortion and they started sharing their experience of medical abortion (Bergallo, 2014, 2016). Legal arguments about the duty of the state to guarantee access to legal abortions were the subject of litigation and reached the Supreme Court in 2012. The Court stated that the Federal and Provincial governments had to ensure women were able to access the practice in the cases contemplated by the law. Finally, the information campaign caused the decrease of deaths related with unsafe abortions and transformed the experiences of women who decided to terminate their pregnancies.

  13. 13.

    It should be noted that for many years, abortion was considered an issue piantavotos (in the local lunfardo dialect, piantavotos means an issue that repels rather than attracts voters) with virtually all political parties excluding it from their agendas. Graciela Fernandez Meijide in 1999 was a well-known pro-choice human rights activist, and she had to face public scrutiny for her position.

  14. 14.

    Frug (1992, p. 1050) holds that the Law maternalizes women’s bodies when it: ‘reward(s) women for singularly assuming responsibilities after childbirth and with those that penalize conduct—such as sexuality or labor market work—that conflicts with mothering. Maternalization also occurs through rules such as abortion restrictions that compel women to become mothers and by domestic relations rules that favor mothers over fathers as parents. Another meaning of “female body”, then, is a body that is “for” maternity. Legal discourse supports that meaning’.


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Garibotti, M.C., Hopp, C.M. (2019). Substitution Activism: The Impact of #MeToo in Argentina. In: Fileborn, B., Loney-Howes, R. (eds) #MeToo and the Politics of Social Change. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-15212-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-15213-0

  • eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)