1-5 Jan 2018

In 2018 Feminism is a defensive strategy, not a trend

In many Western countries conservative and right-wing parties have found themselves in positions of power again. What they usually have in common are outdated views on women, gender, equality and reproductive health.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
In 2018 Feminism is a defensive strategy, not a trend - NewsMavens
Feminism. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

women's issues, gender

2017 was the year when “feminism” became a household word. TIME Magazine granted the "Person of the Year" title to the “silence breakers” behind the MeToo movement. The term “feminism” was also the "word of the year" according to the online dictionary Merriam-Webster because, over the course of 2017, searches for it went up by 70%.

On the other hand, the fact that so many people had to look up the meaning of feminism shows that there's still a long way to go.

Feminism's newfound popularity has a lot to do with the rise of right-wing, and therefore, usually patriarchal politics. In many Western countries -- with the US leading the way -- populist and conservative politicians have found themselves in positions of power. What they usually have in common are outdated views on women, gender, equality and reproductive health.

The US president Donald Trump is a perfect example of this worldview. Only a few days after his inauguration, he reinstated the so-called "Global Gag Rule", which prohibits international NGOs from openly referring to abortion in their policies, if they want to receive US funding. It is an especially dangerous move for women living in countries with a high maternal mortality rate.

Another example of disrespect for women’s reproductive health, this time from our side of the Atlantic, is the 6,000 euro fine received by a German doctor who informed patients about abortion on her website. The decision was based on a 1933 law that prohibits advertising abortion. The doctor, like others before her, has been reported to the authorities by anti-abortionists.

It is also difficult to be optimistic about the women policy of the newly-formed government in Austria. The two parties that form the ruling coalition are notorious for confusing women’s rights with family policy.

In the past, both parties only mentioned women’s agenda if it suited their xenophobic anti-immigration policies.

On the other hand, the MeToo testimonies, the women's march and many other initiatives have garnered enough attention to empower people worldwide. Many of them, who prior to 2017 had no interest in the subject, finally understood what has been blatantly obvious to feminist activists for years -- that gender equality still has a long way to go.

We need those people. Together we will have to continue fighting for equality, even if feminism goes out of style.

Details from the story:

  • The so-called “Global Gag Rule” or Mexico City Policy was first instituted by US president Ronald Reagan in 1984. It prohibits NGOs that operate globally and receive US funding from mentioning or recommending abortion, even if it is legal in a particular country. The policy has been criticized in the past and both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have suspended it during their times in office. Donald Trump reinstated the rule on January 23, 2017 -- only two days after his inauguration. He also broadened the policy to cover all global health organizations, not just the ones dealing with family-planning.
  • In Germany, it is illegal to advertise abortion. The paragraph that regulates it has been in place since 1933. Many NGOs and liberal political forces demand its abolition.
  • In the fall of 2017, the New York Times published an article with allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the following weeks, many women and men came forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Under the hashtag metoo people all around the globe started to share stories of abuse.
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