Over the past few months, countless feminists have taken to the streets to protest gender inequality. On Jan. 21, women’s marches took place everywhere from Canada to Kenya to bring awareness to such issues as women’s healthcare, female representation in government and ignorance of sexual assault. Advocates of gender equality have begun to recognize similarities in gender disparity from nation to nation, and a new brand of global feminism has entered its nascent stages.
Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, notes the ways in which outcry from women in the U.S. echoes that of women in the Middle East. She attributes it to Western surges in populism, a type of appeal that often caters more closely to men than it does to women. This development may explain why women’s healthcare has been trivialized under the current U.S. administration while resources for men have remained untouched.
Shafak encourages women to continue the conversation about these issues and warns them against complacency, insisting that “the future is not necessarily more developed than the present, and sometimes countries can go backward.”
Shafak makes a good point. Indeed, feminist efforts have garnered the attention of leaders around the world. At the 54th Africa Day anniversary event last week, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama called for keener gender equality efforts, highlighting the issue of girls’ education. New French President Emmanuel Macron made headlines earlier this month when he appointed 11 women to his 22-seat cabinet.
Though many advocates of gender equality are eager to band together and create opportunities for women, others have reservations about the movement and about the word “feminist” itself. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked if she is a feminist at a panel last month, she answered that she would opt for a different label altogether, as there are certain aspects of the movement that she rejects.
In addition, Shafak prefers the term “sisterhood” to feminism, as she believes it to be more accessible to Middle Eastern women.
Whether the movement is called global feminism, sisterhood or something else, its supporters are undoubtedly making progress in drawing attention to issues of gender equality. Regardless of varying preferences among leaders and advocates around the world, persistent conversations about widespread injustice can only serve to forge a more equitable world.
– Madeline Forwerck