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Buenos Aires: Feminist Bird Watchers Collective - Fighting the "patriarchy" while watching birds

"We are the granddaughters of all the witches who could not be caged" says the motto of this feminist initiative that was born at the height of the feminist movement, in mid-2018, as a result of a group of women who did not feel comfortable in the traditional Bird Watchers Clubs that operate in the country.
With the name of the Feminist Bird Watchers Collective, this space seeks to claim information on female species, "which are always relegated" in bird guides and organize bird watching trips for women and dissident identities

On International Women's Day, Perfil interviewed Mercedes Fino, a member of the Feminist Bird Watchers Collective. She is a political scientist, university professor and conservation biology specialization student at the National University of Misiones.

How did the initiative come about?
We are a group of people who come from different backgrounds. But the first call was of 3 or 4 girls who saw the experience of Molly Adams's “Feminist bird club” in the United States and at the local level, at the height of the "Ni Una Menos" ["Not one less", in Spanish. A movement against femicides and gender violence], in mid-2018, crossed by questioning all the patriarchal logic, the idea of ​​making a space of sisterhood came up. Here in Argentina there are the COAs (Bird Observers Club), which have a patriarchal structure that organizes outings to nature and many of us have been putting some of them under stress.

What are the issues that distance you from the traditional Bird watchers Clubs?
In these spaces it is usually believed that nature is not political and that only birds are going to be seen. And that generated tension for us because in general they are always led by men and since there is authoritarianism, many times there is little voice and visibility to women who had an important journey in territory, beyond academics. We propose to know the territory and the neighborhood conflicts that are many times present.

And how did you come together to set up the Collective?
The call was made and thus we were inviting women. We had a meeting on a Saturday that lasted several hours. We took the acronym and called it the Feminist Bird Watchers Collective and as these spaces usually have an emblem bird, we chose the Witch Heron, making a play on words and we put the slogan “we are the granddaughters of the witches that could not be caged”. It was thus that we toured in a careful space, where a day could be shared on the basis of respect, which did not happen in the COA.

And what do you mean by "politicizing the environment"?
That the concept of environment includes people and to assume that the environment is a territory in conflict, where interests coexist and from that space we understand that the gender perspective affects diversity according to the way in which we relate. So we started to come together under that logic. The last one was in Santa Catalina and it is not just taking out the binoculars and observing birds, we contacted the local people to find out their claims, as well as learn about flora and fauna.

You also raise the visibility of females
Yes, part of what we set out to do was that we need a gender perspective to cut through the bird guides. First, the male is usually shown with illustrations and the female is always presented in second place and not because of its own identity, but as a difference from the male and you never have illustrations. So, we started to take the females and show them first, we created a section called #FridayOrnitoFeministas, an outreach section with photos. Many times we change the name. For example, "yellow cardinal." It is a disruptive medium like speaking in inclusive language. But it is a gesture with which we open the debate, and many COAS began to adopt it.

How do you know when they are female?
When species are sexually dimorphic, that is, biologically distinct, you can tell by their behavior or their plumage. In many species, the females are larger or less conspicuous. Some will be in the nest, camouflaged, hidden, protecting the young. But it depends on the families. In other cases, it is the males that are in the nest. For example, with birds of paradise, the male is more showy and dances and has showy feathers because there are few females and they have to attract attention to mate.

What are the most common birds in the City of Buenos Aires and its surroundings?
In Buenos Aires, the most common birds are usually red thrush, bienteveo, hornero, chimango, carancho, which are seen a lot. There are also woodpeckers, musician thrush, sparrow, chingolo, parrot, pigeon.

And the Witch Heron?
I saw the other day two in Parque Centerario. They are associated with water space. Their size is large and they are usually in open parks. Observing birds changes you because you begin to understand their behavior.

Source: Perfil
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