Journal of History of Design and Curatorial Studies
Parsons School of Design
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

History of Design and Curatorial Studies
Parsons School of Design
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Design & Activism 

Verde Que te Quiero Verde (Green I Want You Green)

Amanda Forment

A crowd of people holding up green bandanas in front of a building with columns.

Fig. 1 Photographer: Santiago Tamargo, February 18, 2018

An endless sea of green surrounded el Palacio del Congreso de la Nación Argentina on December 30, 2020 (Fig. 1). After a long and intense overnight debate, at about four in the morning the final vote was cast. Argentina’s Senate approved a bill to legalize abortion in a 38–29 victory, marking a historic moment in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, the homeland of Pope Francis. Abortion will no longer be criminalized in Argentina and women will be allowed to terminate pregnancies of up to fourteen weeks for free in public hospitals. The fight for the legalization of abortion took over seventeen years and thirteen draft bills. Over the past few years, green handkerchiefs have become the symbol for women’s reproductive rights, quickly adopted by feminists all over the country. The official green handkerchiefs bear the rallying motto of the movement: “Educación sexual para decidir, anticonceptivos para no abortar, aborto legal para no morir.” (Sexual education to decide, contraceptives to avoid having an abortion, legal abortion in order not to die.)

Handkerchiefs have been used as a long-standing symbol of female resistance in Argentina. During the Military Dictatorship, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, in an act of defiance and courage, wore white handkerchiefs to draw attention to the disappearance and murder of their loved ones. At extreme personal risk, this group of women would meet every Thursday in front of La Casa Rosada (the Presidential Palace) to hold a vigil for their children, assassinated by the Dictatorship. Decades later, women in Argentina are still donning handkerchiefs, this time in green and no longer worn necessarily on their heads. Now they are seen tied to purses, backpacks, wrists, hair-ties, necks, and even dog collars. From schoolgirls to octogenarians, the use of green handkerchiefs has become ubiquitous, especially in urban centers of Argentina. The green handkerchief as a symbol of the pro-choice movement has also spread to other Latin America countries in what is known as “La Marea Verde” or the “Green Wave.” There is no doubt that the wave will continue gaining more and more strength, fueled by women and allies who believe that there can be no gender equality without reproductive autonomy.

On the night of December 30, the voices of thousands of women could be heard singing, “¡Y ahora que estamos juntas! ¡Y ahora que sí nos ven! ¡Abajo el patriarcado, se va a caer, se va a caer! … ¡Y ¡arriba el feminismo que va a vencer! ¡Va a vencer!” (And now that we are together! And now that we are seen! Down with the patriarchy, it’s going to fall, it’s going to fall! Long live feminism it will overcome! It will overcome!) As I waited during the long hours until the decision was made, I had my own green handkerchief tied around my neck where it still remains—a reminder of all that was fought for and accomplished but also all that is yet to come. 

Amanda Forment (she, her, hers)

is a student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies MA program at Parsons School of Design and is a curatorial fellow in the Contemporary Design Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is particularly interested in the material culture of Latin America.