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Latin America

Women in Argentina stage 'tetazo' protest

Hundreds of women participated topless Tuesday in a protest against what they called the censorship of and violence against women’s bodies.
8 Feb 2017 – 03:09 PM EST
A participant of the Buenos Aires "tetazo" rallies against the objectification of women: "What's natural cannot be repressed." Crédito: David Fernández / Efe

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Hundreds of women went topless in the streets of Buenos Aires and other Argentine cities Tuesday to demand an end to the objectification and sexualization of their bodies.

The idea for the march arose after a controversial police operation in late January on the Argentine coast. Three women were sunbathing topless in Necochea when some 20 police approached to tell them to cover their breasts or leave the beach.

According to the police, other beachgoers had complained. After the women demanded to know what crime they were committing, police quoted a criminal code, which mandates fines for those who "offend public decency with an act, word, or display."

One judge later ruled that going topless is not a crime: "To agree on what is meant by an obscene act or what constitutes public decency is an impossible task to achieve,” the judge said.

“Irrespective of this legal aspect, the fact is that a topless woman does not represent an objectively injurious act,” the judge added.

Some six months earlier, a woman had been forcibly removed from a plaza in the province of Buenos Aires because she was breastfeeding her son in public. A 'teteada' was organized in several parts of the country, in which thousands of women breastfed their babies in public.

On Tuesday, many women went topless to ask that people stop objectifying their bodies.

“There is a double standard of 'I’ll sell your tits on TV or in a magazine or advertising, but don’t take off your bra,’” said Maira, who is pregnant. “I came to the ‘tetazo’ to change the way in which women’s bodies are owned by men; to disarm the patriarchy a little.”

Patricia, 58, is an anthropologist: “There is nothing wrong with showing the body. The problem is that the body has become an object, but it is not something that can be marketed.”

Patricia came to the Buenos Aires march with her 22-year-old daughter Daniela: "We always come together to marches. I love it, and besides, it's about time: it's the 21st century!”

However, the event was not without onlookers, who went to take photos for their own pleasure. Many men appeared smelling strongly of alcohol and tried to enter the masses where women sang, drank mate (Argentine tea) and painted their bodies. As soon as they were identified, the men were thrown out as protesters sang: "Keep away, keep away, men keep awayt!”

But there were also men who went to support the cause. Many were expelled amidst the turmoil.

"We have to change as a society, we have to think about a lot of issues,” Esteban said from outside the demonstration. "This struggle is carried out by women and men must respect their decisions. But it's a fight for all of us."

"We should not exclude males because they need us to leave behind machismo," said one male university student.

For men in the South American country it is normal to walk around shirtless, especially in the summer. So yesterday, some chose to cover their nipples with tape and even wear bras as an act of solidarity.

Women of all ages showed up to the tetazo, some dressed, others half-naked. There were mothers with their kids and husbands. Men painted feminist slogans on their skin.

In Argentina, 97% of women have suffered some form of harassment. Many say “micro-machismo” is what leads to high rates of femicide: every 30 hours a woman is killed in Argentina.