Women’s rights and women wronged in 2023

The year saw progress on women’s rights in some countries, such as Spain’s introduction of menstrual leave, France’s bid to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution and the arrival of the #MeToo movement in Taiwan. But there were also setbacks in 2023, from Taliban edicts tightening restrictions on Afghan women to what the UN called a “global epidemic of femicide”.

The year 2022 was marked by major convulsions in women’s rights across the world, from the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade to the “Woman, life, freedom” chants in Iran, which were followed by a massive government crackdown.

This year saw more gradual developments, from the continuing assaults on and pushback against diminishing abortion rights in the US to the steady disappearance of women from public life in Afghanistan.

FRANCE 24 looks back at some of the major developments in 2023 that left their mark on women’s rights across the world.

Spain becomes first European country to introduce menstrual leave

Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero after a parliamentary vote in Madrid, on December 22, 2022. © Thomas Coex, AFP

In February, Spain became the first European country to pass a law creating menstrual leave for women suffering from painful periods. Equality Minister Irene Montero – from the far-left Podemos party, part of the Socialist-led ruling coalition – called it “a historic day for feminist progress”.

The law, which passed by 185 votes in favour to 154 against, entitles employees experiencing period pain to time off, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, it requires a doctor’s approval. The length of sick leave was not specified in the law.

The new legislation also allows minors aged 16 and 17 to have an abortion without parental permission, reversing a requirement introduced by a previous conservative government in 2015.

Read moreSpain passes Europe’s first menstrual leave law

The #MeToo wave reaches Taiwan’s shores

Chen Chien-jou, 22, during an interview in New Taipei City, Taiwan during the #MeToo movement crisis.
Chen Chien-jou, 22, during an interview in New Taipei City, Taiwan during the #MeToo movement crisis. © Sam Yeh, AFP

It was a Netflix series that triggered the #MeToo movement in Taiwan – more than five years after the Harvey Weinstein abuse case sparked the social media-driven awareness campaign in the US and many parts of the world.

“Wave Makers”, an eight-episode Netflix drama released in April, is a political thriller that revealed the inner workings of a fictional presidential campaign team – and how women in power on the island deal with sexual harassment.  

The effect was instantaneous. Over the weeks that followed, several Taiwanese women broke social taboo to reveal their experiences at work. Female employees of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party kicked off the first major wave by accusing powerful politicians of sexual harassment and assault. The phenomenon spread to cultural and academic circles, with alleged victims accusing celebrities, doctors and professors.

A year after Roe v. Wade overturned, abortion battles rage in the US

Abortion rights demonstrators at rally in Washington, DC on June 24, 2023.
Abortion rights demonstrators at rally in Washington, DC on June 24, 2023. © Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, AFP

In its June 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ended a half-century federal protection of abortion rights and allowed each state to legislate on the issue.

In 14 states, abortion has been outlawed, in some cases without exceptions for rape or incest. On the other hand, 17 states enacted laws or held referendums to protect abortion rights.

In other states, access to abortion is not prohibited, but is threatened by laws designed to restrict or prohibit the procedure. This is notably the case in Montana, Wyoming, Indiana and Ohio.

In April, a legal battle over the abortion pill opened a new front in the US battle for reproductive rights when a Texas district court judge invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill.

Days later, an appeals court struck down parts of the Texas judge’s ruling, but affirmed many restrictions on access to mifepristone, the abortion drug. The Justice Department under the Biden administration as well as the company manufacturing mifepristone sought emergency relief from the Supreme Court, which temporarily halted any changes.

In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by the FDA and mifepristone manufacturer Danco Laboratories. A decision is expected by end-June 2024, making abortion rights a likely campaign issue ahead of the 2024 US presidential election in November.

South of the US border, Mexico decriminalises abortion

A demonstrator in favour of decriminalizing abortion in Mexico City on September 28, 2023.
A demonstrator in favour of decriminalizing abortion in Mexico City on September 28, 2023. © Silvana Flores, AFP

Going against the grain of other Latin American countries and the US, Mexico decriminalised abortion across the country on September 6.

In a landmark judgement, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that criminal penalties for terminating pregnancies were unconstitutional.

Abortion was already decriminalised in a dozen of the country’s 32 states. The capital, Mexico City, was the first jurisdiction in Latin America to authorise abortions, in 2007.

Macron announces a bill to enshrine abortion rights in France’s constitution

Placards read
Placards read “My body my choice” (L) and “Abortion in the Constitution” at rally outside the Senate in Paris, February 1, 2023. © Ludovic Marin, AFP

In a speech on March 8, International Woman’s Day, President Emmanuel Macron announced a plan to put forward a bill enshrining abortion rights in France’s constitution.

The commitment was made during a tribute to feminist activist Gisèle Halimi, who played a key role in the passing of the 1975 Veil Act granting women the right to abortion and contraception.

Seven months later, the French president stepped up the pace, when he revealed that a draft project would be submitted to the State Council, France‘s highest administrative court, so that “by 2024, women’s freedom to have an abortion will be irreversible”.

Read moreThe challenge of enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution

Taliban slides into ‘gender apartheid’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ terrain

Afghan women wait to receive aid from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Ghazni, Afghanistan on October 31, 2023.
Afghan women wait to receive aid from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in Ghazni, Afghanistan on October 31, 2023. © Mohammad Faisal Naweed, AFP

The year began with a Taliban ban on Afghan women from working in national and international aid organisations. It ended with an edict forcing the closure of all-women beauty salons, one of the few places left in Afghanistan where women could gather outside their homes.

Since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, Afghan women’s rights have been steadily rolled back, exposing the impoverished country to the “most serious women’s rights crisis in the world”, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Taliban have “completely dismantled the system” that had been developed to respond to domestic and gender-based violence in Afghanistan, noted the New York-based rights organisation. The beauty salon ban spelled the closure of “one of the last havens for mutual support among Afghan women”. Around 60,000 women lost their jobs in the process.

In a joint report to UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, said the Taliban’s actions “could amount to gender apartheid”.

The report also noted that the severe discrimination “may amount to gender persecution – a crime against humanity”.

Read moreAfghanistan’s NGO ban for women exposes rifts in Taliban ranks

Iran toughens penalties for women defying hijab rules

A woman holds up a placard with a picture of Mahsa Amini at a solidarity demonstration in Hasakeh, in Syria's Kurdish northeast on September 25, 2022.
A woman holds up a placard with a picture of Mahsa Amini at a solidarity demonstration in Hasakeh, in Syria’s Kurdish northeast on September 25, 2022. © Delil Souleiman, AFP

On September 20, a few days after Mahsa Amini‘s first death anniversary, the Iranian parliament approved a bill increasing prison terms, fines and penalties for women and girls breaking the country’s strict dress codes.

Penalties were also increased for employers as well as management of shopping malls and small businesses for failing to enforce the dress code.

The legal measures came after nearly a year of protests that saw women appearing in public without their hijabs as anger over Amini’s death while in custody exploded on the streets across Iran.

Following a brutal crackdown on the protests, many Iranian women continued to record and post anti-hijab clips and posts on social media. The new measures include penalties for “mockery of the hijab” in the media and on social networks.

Before the bill becomes law, it must be approved by Iran’s powerful Guardian Council.

Read moreYear after Mahsa Amini’s death, Iran crushes anti-veil protests

Morocco’s monarch nudges family code reform – again

On September 26, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI sent a letter to the country’s head of government, Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, instructing the latter to ensure the revision of the country’s family code.

The letter followed a speech by the monarch on July 30, 2022 – marking the country’s annual “Throne Day” festivities, when Mohammed VI called for a revision of the Mudawana, Morocco’s family code.

The speech raised the hopes of Moroccan women – deprived of numerous rights such as inheritance, alimony and custody – to see enhanced gender rights in the kingdom.

In his letter to the prime minister, the king stated that the family code needed to adhere to the principle of “broad participatory consultation” with all concerned parties, including civil society activists and experts.

The king also asked the prime minister to speed up the reform so that a first version of the text could be presented to him within six months.

The family code, which had already reformed in 2004, has enabled joint responsibility between spouses, raised the minimum age of marriage to 18, granted women the right to request a divorce and the freedom to choose a husband without the authorisation of a guardian. But the weight of tradition and the discretion left to judges – much to the regret of women’s rights activists – have created a significant gap between the text and enforcement of the family code.

Feminicide hits global record high

A woman wears a mask during a
A woman wears a mask during a “Not One Less” demo against feminicide outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. © Luis Robayo, AFP

Around 89,000 women and girls were deliberately killed in 2022, the highest yearly number recorded in the past 20 years, according to a study by the Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women.

In a joint statement issued ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women called for an end to the “global epidemic of femicide”.

While #MeToo and other movements “have broken the silence and demonstrated that violence against women, girls and adolescents is happening throughout our communities, they have not always been followed by adequate reforms of laws and policies, nor have they produced much needed results and changes in women’s daily lives”, the statement noted.

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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MeToo, for Israeli victims too: Gaza war drives wedge between French feminists

French feminist groups have come under fire for purportedly turning a blind eye to the sexual violence unleashed on Israeli women during the October 7 attacks by Hamas, echoing the anger levelled at rights organisations elsewhere. The accusation is indicative of the competing narratives and loyalties elicited by the devastating conflict. It also reflects a failure to rapidly investigate and establish the specific, gender-based nature of some of the atrocities committed. 

Efforts to place the focus on the violence inflicted on Israeli women and girls triggered an incident in Paris last week at the annual November 25 march to condemn violence against women, which organisers said brought some 80,000 demonstrators to the streets of the French capital. 

A group of around 200 protesters, some carrying Israeli flags, claimed they were confronted by pro-Palestinian activists and effectively barred from joining the march. The protesters wore clothes stained with fake blood, a reference to the searing images of bloodied female victims of the October 7 massacres, filmed and posted online by the perpetrators of the attacks, in which an estimated 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians.  

The protesters had planned to “carry the voice of the Israeli victims of Hamas and denounce the deafening silence of feminist groups”, French daily Libération cited the activists as saying. They brandished placards reading “MeToo, unless you are a Jew” and “Feminists, your silence makes you complicit”. 

Tens of thousands of people marched in Paris on November 25 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. © Geoffroy Van der Hasselt, AFP

Reports of the incident spread widely on social media, feeding into wider condemnation of an alleged bias among advocates of women’s rights. “The ‘Nous Toutes’ (We All – France’s equivalent of MeToo) that has been proclaimed for years is a becoming a ‘Nous Toutes unless you’re Jewish,” wrote prominent journalist Rebecca Amsellem in an Instagram post, a day after the Paris march. Writing on X, author Sophie Gourion lamented the “double standards” she claimed many fellow feminists were guilty of.  

Government ministers and senior politicians also stepped into the fray. “One doesn’t choose which violence (to condemn) based on nationality or the type conflict,” said Gender Equality Minister Bérangère Couillard, warning that state subsidies for advocacy groups were conditional on the respect of “such universal values”. Senator Laurence Rossignol, a former minister for women’s rights, spoke of a “split among feminists, unlike any seen before”. 

Organisers of the Paris march hit back in a joint statement on Tuesday, stressing their “unambiguous condemnation of the sexual and sexist crimes, rapes and femicides committed by Hamas” on October 7. They also blasted an attempt to “instrumentalise” the fight against gender-based violence and accused far-right activists of stoking tensions at the march and seeking to discredit its organisers.  

Sexual violence overlooked 

The criticism voiced in France echoes complaints targeting rights groups and international organisations in other Western countries and in Israel. United Nations agencies such as UN Women have faced particular scrutiny over their alleged failure to condemn the specific violence inflicted on women on October 7. 

Ahead of the UN’s international day for the elimination of violence against women, Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog published an opinion piece in Newsweek expressing outrage and betrayal over the international community’s failure to condemn the gender-based sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas. 

“A Hamas video from a kibbutz shows terrorists torturing a pregnant woman and removing her foetus. Our forensic scientists have found bodies of women and girls raped with such violence that their pelvic bones were broken,” wrote Herzog. 

On Wednesday, a UN commission of inquiry investigating war crimes on both sides of the Israel-Hamas conflict said it would focus on gathering evidence of sexual violence in the October 7 attacks. Navi Pillay, the commission’s chair, told reporters she would pass the evidence onto the International Criminal Court and call for it to consider prosecutions, amid criticism from Israel and families of Israeli hostages that the UN had kept quiet. 

Critics contend that the gruesome footage taken and posted on social media by Hamas militants, as well as CCTV images and the accounts of first responders, provide ample evidence of the horrific crimes committed by the Islamist group and other factions that took part in the massacres in Israeli communities and at the Supernova rave that was taking place close to the Gaza Strip. 

Many war crimes experts, however, stress that the harrowing images must first be corroborated by material and other evidence – a painstakingly slow task further hindered by the unprecedented nature of an attack that caught Israel completely off guard.

Céline Bardet, a war crimes expert and funder of the NGO We Are not Weapons of War, said the acrimony and mistrust surrounding the subject highlighted the need for an independent and thorough investigation into the crimes committed on October 7. The criticism levelled at feminist groups and UN bodies “is a little unfair”, she added, noting that the authorities had been slow to establish the specific gender-based nature of some of the most horrific violence.

“We know that, due in part to the ongoing fighting, the investigation of sexual violence was not made a priority in the days and weeks following the attack. That means a lot of the work still needs to be done, but it’s much more difficult now,” she told FRANCE 24, warning that much of the evidence is likely to have been compromised.  

“Israeli police have never faced such a challenge before,” she added. “We are ready to help them if they seek our expertise.”  

Women’s rights groups in Israel have warned of significant failings in preserving forensic evidence that could have shone a light on the scale of sexual violence committed against women and girls in last month’s Hamas attacks. 

Tal Hochman, a government relations officer at the Israel Women’s Network, told the Guardian: “Most of the women who were raped were then killed, and we will never understand the full picture, because either bodies were burned too badly or the victims were buried and the forensic evidence buried too. No samples were taken.” 

While grisly footage of the carnage soon spread on social media in the wake of the attacks, detailed reports of sexual violence were much slower to emerge.  

On October 24, Israel published a first video of a soldier citing evidence that women had been raped, followed by more such accounts over subsequent days. On November 8, local media reported the first testimony of a survivor who described the gang-rape, murder and mutilation of a woman at the Supernova rave. A week later, on November 14, police announced they had opened an investigation into “multiple cases” of sexual violence committed on October 7, citing video evidence, DNA samples and witness accounts. 

Israeli authorities have been playing catch-up, Haaretz’s Allison Kaplan Sommer wrote the next day, highlighting the role of civil society groups in pushing for the investigation and recognition of the gender-based violence that had been overlooked not just by international organisations – but the Israeli government too. 

“Whether it was an effort to protect the (…) victims and their families, an inability to handle the ugly details or simply one of the many systemic failures of Israel’s leaders in the initial days after the October 7 attack, the full extent of the sexual atrocities committed were not detailed or documented enough to make national or international headlines,” she wrote. “And so an opportunity was lost: the chance to gain a greater degree of recognition and sympathy from international rights organisations as to the depth of the brutality and viciousness of the Hamas attack.” 

‘Pitting one side’s sorrows against the other’s’ 

In recent weeks, the Israeli government has stepped up its efforts to obtain greater recognition and support for the victims of sexual violence. 

On November 5, the Israeli state issued an appeal on its official X account “calling all feminists” to “support all of the Israeli women who were raped, tortured, murdered and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists” – and drawing a parallel with the international support for Iran’s Mahsa Amini. The following week, Israel’s foreign ministry launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #BelieveIsraeliWomen. 

Speaking on FRANCE 24, French writer Sarah Barukh said many feminist groups had failed to “abide by their core principle: to tell Israeli women, ‘we believe you’.” 

Claims of a lack of evidence smacked of “hypocrisy”, she argued, adding: “It’s somewhat strange to argue that more proof is needed, when it was all filmed live and published on the Internet by Hamas.” 

Barukh said the silence on the subject betrayed a bias on the subject. She described the habit of “systematically comparing the suffering of Israelis with that of the Palestinians” as a way to “minimise” the former.  

Weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip and the forced displacement of its population have shifted much of the media focus on to the plight of women and girls trapped in the enclave and the spiralling civilian death. Health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory say women and children account for two thirds of the more than 15,000 people killed.

Journalist Olivia Cattan, the founder of the advocacy group “Paroles de Femmes” (Women’s Voices), argued that many feminist campaigners’ views on the decades-long conflict roiling the Middle East had clouded their judgement and blinded them to the atrocities committed against Israeli women. 

She wrote in a blog post on the Mediapart news site: “I am not asking for your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; I am simply asking that you pass judgement on this massacre of women and children. Full stop.” 

Such remarks mirror the divisions that have also roiled left-wing movements in France and abroad, with critics arguing that sympathy for the Palestinians – widely identified as the oppressed party in the conflict – has at times prevented forceful condemnations of the October 7 attacks. 

In a column on MSNBC, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, a historian of gender at The New School in New York City, suggested the “minimisation” of violence against Israeli women was “the result of an ideological turn among some feminists and progressives that elevates an ‘antiracist’ agenda above the core feminist commitment to defend the universal right to bodily autonomy for all women”. 

She added: “This argument contends that because Israel is a colonial power oppressing the Palestinians, any resistance is a justified dimension of decolonisation.” 

Others have voiced the opposite argument, bemoaning a lack of empathy for Palestinian women driven from their homes, scrambling for shelter from the bombs, giving birth with no anaesthetics, no painkillers, no electricity. 

Read moreMalnourished, sick and scared: Pregnant women in Gaza face ‘unthinkable challenges’

In an op-ed published by Mediapart on the eve of the eve of the November 25 march, Nobel literature laureate Annie Ernaux joined several activists and academics in condemning the “dehumanising and gender-based violence” perpetrated on October 7 – while also denouncing “the double standards applied to an occupied people – the Palestinian people – and an occupying state, a double standard that also applies to feminism: as if the lives and sufferings of Palestinian women had no value, no density, no complexity”. 

Hanna Assouline, of the women’s group Guerrières de la Paix (Warriors for Peace), bemoaned a widespread tendency to take sides in the conflict and amplify divisions, instead of calling for unity and peace. 

“We’re witnessing a sad spectacle of selective empathy and pitting one side’s sorrows and deaths against the other’s,” said Assouline, whose advocacy group has helped organise silent gatherings for peace, with neither flags nor slogans.  

“It’s as if we were incapable of displaying a united front of humanity facing all this horror,” she told FRANCE 24. “The only way forward is to step out of our respective solitudes and mourn together, mobilise together, and voice our common indignation.”

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How did Spain’s Equality Minister fall from grace?

Montero, who was hailed on the cover of Time magazine as the saviour of feminism in Spain now faces a completely uncertain political future. But why?


Her jaw clenched as she spoke, Spain’s former Equality Minister Irene Montero last week wished her successor courage – not luck.

“Today, Pedro Sánchez is kicking me out of this government,” Montero said, referring to the newly re-elected Spanish prime minister’s cabinet appointments.

Sánchez, who is known for his unexpected cabinet reshuffles, decided not to count on her to continue leading the Equality Ministry and appointed a surprise new minister for feminism, the unknown Ana Redondo.

“I hope they never leave you alone and that you have the courage to make the president’s 40- and 50-year-old male friends uncomfortable,” Montero said angrily, minutes before handing Redondo the gender equality portfolio.

Her voice, which threatened to break, managed to hold up during the speech.

Hailed on the cover of Time magazine only last February as the saviour of feminism in Spain, Montero now faces a completely uncertain political future.

“Since she became minister in 2020, a nation that not 50 years ago required women to obtain their father’s or husband’s permission in order to work has consolidated its position among Europe’s most feminist countries,” said the publication.

But why did the former minister go from front-page news to being removed from office?

A fall from grace?

The daughter of a removal man and a teacher, Montero – whose only job before entering politics was as a supermarket cashier – rose to the top of Spanish politics with Podemos.

It was in 2015 that the insurgent left-wing party became a dazzling star, putting an end to the two-party system that had been in place in Spain since 1982.

Four years later, Spain’s ruling Socialists entered into a coalition agreement with Podemos, and Montero took over the equality ministry.

“There is a lot of polarisation around her, especially from people outside her party. She is a minister who generates resentment and antipathy. She is not the typical candidate who generates transversality. But this is not a yardstick to judge whether she has been a good minister or not,” political scientist Lluís Orriols told Euronews.

“There are ministers who seek transversality and consensus and other ministers who want to push an agenda that they know will generate a lot of opposition because it touches on some very entrenched elements in the political culture of a country,” he adds.

The minister herself told Time magazine that she had a choice to make: “Are we going to dare to be part of the democratising impulse coming from the feminist movement and civil society, or are we going to maintain a more timid or conservative attitude?”

Although Equality has always been a controversial ministry, Montero’s tenure has been particularly turbulent.

Many have criticised her for “hijacking feminism”, to the extent that the feminist movement became subservient to the ministry.

“She followed a pattern that sounds like enlightened despotism. The ministry said: ‘This is what really protects women. This is what we should really do with transgender people. This is what is authentic, this is what is progressive and this is what we are going to impose,” Fernando Vallespín, professor of political science at the Autonomous University of Madrid, told Euronews.

“It wasn’t necessary for Irene Montero to be there for feminist advances to be consolidated under a progressive government. It seems to me very questionable that she was so fundamental for women’s rights”.


“But what she has really worked for is the inclusion of all LGTBI people, especially transsexuals, as part of feminist rights. A qualitative leap that is not without risk,” he adds.

What is clear is that the impact of her policy has not gone unnoticed by the international press.

The infamous ‘only yes is yes’ law

Many believe that Montero’s resignation is the political price she had to pay after the approval of the new rape law, popularly known as “only yes is yes”.

A law whose consequences eventually became unbearable for the government.

The controversial law, which came into force a year ago, was intended to be stricter than the previous code, but instead resulted in reduced sentences for more than 1,000 sex offenders convicted under the previous legislation.


The reform was a direct response to the infamous ‘La Manada’ case, in which a young woman was gang raped by five men during the San Fermín celebrations in Pamplona in 2016.

The reform revised the penal code by making sexual consent the key factor in determining assault cases, in an attempt to define all non-consensual sex as rape.

The law abolished the lesser charge of sexual abuse and classified all offences as sexual assault. However, it also reduced the minimum and maximum prison sentences, resulting in offenders having their sentences reduced on appeal.

Montero ignored warnings from judicial institutions about these consequences before the reform was passed and went ahead with her plan.

“This law was supposed to be the one that would give Podemos political credit, it was supposed to be its star law. Instead, it was very problematic, it wore down the government. What ended up on the public agenda was that many rapists were released from prison,” Orriols points out.


“Instead of becoming the law that would make Irene Montero one of the icons of the feminist struggle, it became a major crisis,” he adds.

Probably her biggest mistake, according to experts, was not realising that it was necessary to stop the release of rapists by reforming the newly introduced law.

The ruling Socialist Party had to initiate the new amendment, which was passed with the support of the conservatives and against the will of Podemos.

From that moment on, the minister became the target of everyone’s scorn, becoming the worst-rated minister in the government.

Although not everyone feels the same.


“For the Woke culture, it is possible that she is even seen as a goddess, because she has fought hard in everything else, but for others this is not the case at all. She has become the minister who has made the most noise,” says Vallespín.

Time magazine itself asked: Is this crisis a sign of unbridgeable divisions between the progressive, feminist Spain that Montero envisions and a conservative, patriarchal reality that remains entrenched? Or is it a lesson in the perils of applying ideology to society at large?

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Feminist foreign policy: Can Scotland succeed where Sweden failed?

Scotland will be the first part of the UK to adopt a feminist approach to international relations. But is it merely symbolic or transformative?


Scotland has become the latest country to adopt a feminist approach to its foreign policy. 

International Development Minister Christina McKelvie made the announcement at a forum on women’s leadership in Iceland on Monday, and although Scotland has a limited foreign policy scope under its devolved agreement with London, McKelvie says it was important to refocus efforts. 

“We want a feminist policy that questions colonialism, that’s actively anti-racist, that targets patriarchy and in some ways the capitalist, imperialist, male-dominated power structures,” McKelvie told Euronews.

“One of the things we want to prioritise is peace and how peace can protect the rights of women and marginalised groups,” she added.

Scotland becomes the first part of the UK to take a feminist approach to international relations, helping women and girls in less developed countries.

Several other European countries have adopted similar policies over the last decade with variable long-term follow-through and mixed results, leading many to question whether adopting such policies is merely symbolic or has real transformative potential.

So can a feminist foreign policy be a game changer?

‘Is this Wokeness gone mad?’

What was born as a way to challenge the status quo of international politics is seen by some as a necessary reframing of a staid foreign policy narrative, while others are sceptical.

In the absence of a concrete definition, each state has its own interpretation of what exactly a ‘feminist foreign policy’ entails.

The term came into use first in Sweden in the midst of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and an incursion into Swedish territorial waters. In this context, the international media joked:  could Vladimir Putin be intimidated by Swedish feminism?

As the feminist movement has gained momentum, and since Sweden took the first step, other countries have followed suit, including Canada, Mexico, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Libya, Germany, the Netherlands and Chile.

“There’s been a lot of development work on what works and what doesn’t and how other countries have approached this. We’ve learned a lot from countries like Spain about how to implement this policy,” says McKelvie.

“When we announced it, we had the usual ‘this is Wokeness gone mad’ or ‘what does it mean? It’s all about being fluffy and cuddly’. Patriarchal organisations will laugh, but we know we are committed to making a difference for people around the world,” she added.

Scotland is still debating the total amount of money it will allocate to the policy, but the minister has already said she plans to “spend every penny in the budget”.

“It’s hard to put a price tag on what we want to do,” McKelvie added.

The cautionary tale of Sweden

When Swednen’s then-Foreign Minister Margot Wallström announced in 2014 that her country would be the first in the world to adopt a feminist foreign policy, the proposal was greeted with no small amount of amusement.

The idea was to make gender equality a priority in Stockholm’s relations with other countries.

Although the Nordic nation has recently, officially, scrapped the policy, other foreign ministers both inside and outside the European Union took notice at the time and embarked on their own journeys to a more feminist foreign policy stance. 


The country that pioneered feminist foreign policy was also the first to repeal it.

After eight years in force, a conservative government came to power in last year’s elections, putting an end to feminist diplomacy.

Sweden’s foreign minister, the conservative Tobias Billström, argued that it had become a ‘counterproductive label’.

“Their reasoning was that such a label of feminist foreign policy obscures the policy behind it, and that they were still somehow focused on prioritising gender equality, but they felt that the feminist label was just an empty label,” Jennifer Bergman from the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, told Euronews.

While organisations such as Human Rights Watch criticised the country’s move, there was much internal disagreement over the policy’s performance.


The most notorious incident involved a diplomatic dispute between former FM Wallström, and Saudi Arabia, after she was sharply critical of repression in the Middle Eastern theocracy. 

Speaking in the Swedish parliament, she described the 1,000 lashes to which the blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi had been sentenced as a “medieval punishment”.

Saudi Arabia reacted furiously to this first diplomatic strike, blocking a speech Wallström was due to give to Arab leaders on women’s rights and temporarily severing ties with Sweden.

The row did not stop there. 

In retaliation, Sweden stopped selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which was its main customer, and cancelled a multi-billion dollar deal that was to be implemented in the future.


Balancing feminist ambitions with national interests?

Although this incident was never officially cited as the reason for the country’s reversal of its feminist foreign policy stance, the Swedish arms industry previously had a turnover of more than €1.2 billion in sales to the Arab country.

“Even though Sweden has a long tradition in politics of promoting gender equality, the parties on the left that have implemented these policies have been more in favour of using the feminist label, whereas the parties on the right tend to be more against it,” says analyst Jennifer Bergman.

Another challenge for Swedish feminist politics was the balance between national interests and the lofty ambitions of its feminist diplomacy, according to Inés Arco Escriche, a researcher at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs.

Sweden tightened in 2016 its asylum and border control policies, making family reunification almost impossible.

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in its action plan that feminist diplomacy aimed to protect and empower women in other countries, including refugees and migrants, the tightening of migration policies left thousands of women in refugee camps or living in war-torn countries.

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Injury of 16-year-old Iranian girl not wearing headscarf in Tehran sparks anger

A mysterious injury suffered by a 16-year-old girl who boarded a Metro train in Iran’s capital without a headscarf has reignited anger just after the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini and the nationwide protests it sparked.

Issued on:

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What happened in the few seconds after Armita Geravand entered the train on Sunday remain in question. While a friend told Iranian state television that she hit her head on the station’s platform, the soundless footage aired by the broadcaster from outside of the car is blocked by a bystander. Just seconds later, her limp body is carried off.

Geravand’s mother and father appeared in state media footage saying a blood pressure issue, a fall or perhaps both contributed to their daughter’s injury.

Activists abroad have alleged Geravand may have been pushed or attacked because she was not wearing the hijab. They demand an independent investigation by the United Nations’ fact-finding mission on Iran, citing the theocracy’s use of pressure on victims’ families and state TV’s history of airing hundreds of coerced confessions.

Geravand’s injury also comes as Iran has put its morality police – whom activists implicate in Amini’s death over her alleged loose hijab – back on the street, and as lawmakers push to enforce even stricter penalties for those flouting the required head covering.

“Girls are subjected to violence on the streets, and then their families are compelled to protect the government responsible for that violence,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

For observant Muslim women, the head covering is a sign of piety before God and modesty in front of men outside their families. In Iran, the hijab – and the all-encompassing black chador worn by some – has long been a political symbol as well, particularly after becoming mandatory in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran and neighboring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are the only countries where the hijab remains mandatory for women.

Since Amini’s death and the large-scale protests subsided, many women in Tehran can be seen without the hijab in defiance of the law.

Geravand suffered her injury Sunday morning at the Meydan-E Shohada, or Martyrs’ Square, Metro station in southern Tehran. Rumors about how she suffered the injury quickly circulated.

By Tuesday, the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, which reports on abuses in Iran’s western Kurdish region, published a photograph it said showed Geravand at the hospital, her head wrapped in bandages as she remains in a coma.

Geravand “was physically attacked by authorities in the Shohada station at Tehran Metro for what they perceived as noncompliance with the compulsory hijab,” Hengaw alleged, citing reports it said it received. “As a result, she sustained severe injuries and was transported to the hospital.”

The Associated Press has not been able to confirm the exact circumstances of what caused Geravand’s injuries.

Late Wednesday, Iranian state television aired what appeared to be nearly all the surveillance camera footage covering the 16 minutes Geravand spent inside of the Metro station before her injury. She entered at 6:52 a.m., then went down an escalator. The sole gap, about a minute and a half, occurs before she reaches the turnstile gate where she uses her Metro card. The footage includes her shopping for a snack, then walking to and waiting on the platform for the train.

In the mute footage, Geravand, whom activists describe as a taekwondo athlete, appears calm and healthy. An AP frame-by-frame analysis of the footage showed no signs of the aired video being manipulated.

At 7:08 a.m., Geravand enters the No. 134 train car – the last on the train and likely a women-only compartment. A new conductor for the train walks up as she enters, his body blocking the view of door she walks through. Within four seconds, a woman steps backwards out of the train and just a sliver of Geravand’s head can be seen as she lies on the floor of the train. Women then pull Geravand’s limp body out and run for help as the train moves off.

Iranian state TV’s report, however, did not include any footage from inside the train itself and offered no explanation on why it hadn’t been released. Most train cars on the Tehran Metro have multiple CCTV cameras, which are viewable by security personnel.

“Refusing to publish the footage only increases doubts about the official narrative,” the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said.

Emergency medical technicians took Geravand to Fajr Hospital, which is at a Iranian air force base and one of the the closest medical facilities to the station. In the time since her injury, security forces have arrested a journalist for Shargh newspaper who went to the hospital, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Shargh, a reformist newspaper, helped lead reporting surrounding Amini’s death as well.

Already, Geravand’s injury has drawn international attention, something Iran’s government has sought to dismiss. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote online: “Once again a young woman in #Iran is fighting for her life. Just because she showed her hair on the subway. It’s unbearable.”

U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley also wrote that he was “shocked and concerned about reports that Iran’s so-called morality police have assaulted 16-year-old Armita Geravand.”

Iranian authorities likely worry about this incident escalating into popular anger like in Amini’s case. Women continue to ignore the hijab law despite the growing crackdown. That includes what Shargh described as Tehran’s city government hiring of some 400 people as “hijab guards” to give verbal warnings, prevent uncovered women from entering subway cars and hand them over to police.


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Southern Baptists Solve Shrinking Membership By Reminding Girls They Aren’t Allowed

The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, voted Wednesday to finalize the expulsion of two member churches because they have women pastors, something they’re quite sure Jesus would not approve of. The Prince of Peace hasn’t even once shown up to disagree with anything else Southern Baptist leaders have done since the denomination was founded in 1845, when the SBC broke with other Baptists so it could advocate slavery without any backtalk.

The SBC had actually expelled the two churches in February, along with three others that didn’t appeal the decision. At the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans, delegates — called “messengers” because it’s more Bible-y — refused to reinstate California’s Saddleback Church, the megachurch led by rightwing evangelist Rick Warren, who didn’t even get a pass for hating gays and abortion or even for calling Barack Obama an enemy of Christianity years ago, even though he’d been inexplicably invited to pray at the first Muslim president’s inauguration.


Defensive Obama Team Defensively Defends Stupid Rick Warren

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Rick Warren Joins Furious Wingnuts: Obama’s ‘Freedom To Worship’ Is War On Religion

Bonus: Yr Editrix on Saddleback, from the Before Times at OC Weekly

But Saddleback has some lady pastors, so it couldn’t be reinstated, and neither could the smaller Fern Creek Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky. Lord knows you wouldn’t want to risk a lady pastor leaning over the pulpit and accidentally brushing against the Holy Bible with her dirtypillows.

The SBC’s “statement of faith” holds that only men can be pastors, because of some Bible verse that is as indisputable as the fact that Earth was created out of nothing about 6,000 years ago (to the great surprise of the Sumerians, who had already figured out agriculture, math, and writing at the time). So it wasn’t terribly surprising that the votes were overwhelming; 9,437 to 1,212 to reject Saddleback’s appeal, and 9,700 to 806 to refuse readmission for Fern Creek.

“I knew they would uphold the expulsion. However, I guess I am a bit naive. I did not think it would be that drastic a result. I thought there were more people left in the Southern Baptist Convention who support the autonomy of the local church, if not women in ministry,” said the Rev. Linda Barnes Popham, Fern Creek’s pastor.

She said some messengers came up to her to say while they disagree with her, they “appreciate our passion for the Gospel.”

She’s from Kentucky, so she should certainly know that the messengers couldn’t be taken literally when they said “well bless your heart.”

Before the vote, Warren appealed to the good sense and Christian forbearance of the messengers, apparently forgetting for a moment that he is himself a Southern Baptist:

“We should remove churches for all kinds of sexual sin, racial sin, financial sin and leadership sin – sins that harm the testimony of our convention,” Warren told the convention. But churches with “women on pastoral staff have not sinned,” he said. “If doctrinal disagreements between Baptists are considered sin, we all get kicked out.”

Well sure, and Jesus never said anything about gay people or abortion, but here you are. Or aren’t anymore.

The Associated Press helpfully clarifies that since all Baptist churches are independent, the convention can’t boss them around, but it can expel them, or in the official parlance, can declare they are “not in friendly cooperation,” or in severe cases of doctrinal disagreement, “not in friendly cooperation, motherfucker.” The AP also notes this appears to be the first time any churches have been booted for having women pastors.

The AP also notes that posting a big NO GURLS ALLOWED sign on Southern Baptist pulpits, the messengers also did some less dickish things like

upholding the expulsion of Freedom Baptist Church in Florida over its alleged mishandling of a sexual misconduct allegation.

They also voted to give a task force in charge of implementing abuse reforms more time to work. The task force launched last year.

The task force has also set up a website that includes a database of “pastors and church workers credibly accused of sex abuse,” so thank Crom those particular groomers aren’t being covered up. Any more.

The messengers also returned to terrible form by passing a resolution condemning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, who, the resolution said, are pursuing “a futile quest to change one’s sex and as a direct assault on God’s created order.”

You could say the same of automobiles, modern medicine, and Michael Bay movies too.

Just to make sure affiliated churches don’t go getting any funny ideas about women being allowed to have authority over men, the messengers voted to amend the denomination’s constitution to make absolutely clear that Southern Baptist churches are to

“affirm, appoint or employ only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” To go into effect, it needs to be approved at the next annual meeting.

Sarah Clatworthy, member of Lifepoint Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, advocated for the amendment, urging the SBC “to shut the door to feminism and liberalism.”

“In a culture that is unclear about the role of men and women, we have to be crystal clear,” she said. “We should leave no room for our daughters or granddaughters to have confusion on where the SBC stands.”

We will simply observe that no matter what Ms. Clatworthy says about doctrine, there’s no guarantee that Baptists’ daughters or granddaughters will buy into it going forward — as, indeed, they aren’t doing now, what with 2022’s decline in membership being the single greatest drop-off in a 16-year-trend of shrinking attendance. Also, we aren’t quite sure what one would need to do to be worthy of clat in the first place.

After being declared unfriendly and uncooperative, Warren issued a statement calling for Christians to party like it’s AD 99:

“There are people who want to take the SBC back to the 1950s when white men ruled supreme and when the woman’s place was in the home. There are others who want to take it back 500 years to the time of the Reformation,” he said. “I say we need to take the church back to the first century. The church at its birth was the church at its best.”

That would be pretty sweet, what with speaking Aramaic like Jesus, the Romans keeping the streets clean, Paul’s letters being fresh in your email inbox (including presumably the ones he didn’t write, because who’d fact-check ’em even then), and of course the opportunity to really be martyred instead of pretending that martyrdom consists of Target having a Pride display, the end.

[AP / Onion / AP / Photo (cropped and photoshooped) by Gerry Dincher, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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These women ran an underground abortion network in the 1960s. Here’s what they fear might happen today | CNN


The voice on the phone in 1966 was gruff and abrupt: “Do you want the Chevy, the Cadillac or the Rolls Royce?”

A Chevy abortion would cost about $200, cash in hand, the voice explained. A Cadillac was around $500, and the Rolls Royce was $1,000.

“You can’t afford more than the Chevy? Fine,” the voice growled. “Go to this address at this time. Don’t be late and don’t forget the cash.” The voice disappeared.

Dorie Barron told CNN she recalls staring blankly at the phone in her hand, startled by the sudden empty tone. Then it hit her: She had just arranged an illegal abortion with the Chicago Mafia.

The motel Barron was sent to was in an unfamiliar part of Chicago, a scary “middle of nowhere,” she said. She was told to go to a specific room, sit on the bed and wait. Suddenly three men and a woman came in the door.

“I was petrified. They spoke all of three sentences to me the entire time: ‘Where’s the money?’ ‘Lie back and do as I tell you.’ And finally ‘Get in the bathroom,’” when the abortion was over, Barron said. “Then all of a sudden they were gone.”

Bleeding profusely, Barron managed to find a cab to take her home. When the bleeding didn’t stop, her bed-ridden mother made her go to the hospital.

At 24, Barron was taking care of her ailing mother and her 2-year-old daughter when she discovered she was pregnant. Her boyfriend, who had no job and lived with his parents, “freaked,” said Barron, who appears in a recent HBO documentary. The boyfriend suggested she get an abortion. She had never considered that option.

“But what was I to do? My mom was taking care of my daughter from her bed while I worked — they would read and play games until I got home,” Barron said.”How was either of us going to cope with a baby?

“Looking back, I realize I was taking my life in my hands,” said Barron, now an 81-year-old grandmother. “To this day it gives me chills. If I had died, what in God’s green earth would have happened to my mom and daughter?”

Women in the 1960s endured restrictions relatively unknown to women today. The so-called “fairer sex” could not serve on juries and often could not get an Ivy League education. Women earned about half as much as a man doing the same job and were seldom promoted.

Women could not get a credit card unless they were married — and then only if their husband co-signed. The same applied to birth control — only the married need apply. More experienced women shared a workaround with the uninitiated: “Go to Woolworth, buy a cheap wedding-type ring and wear it to your doctor’s appointment. And don’t forget to smile.”

Marital rape wasn’t legally considered rape. And, of course, women had no legal right to terminate a pregnancy until four states — Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington — legalized abortion in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.

Illinois had no such protection, said Heather Booth, a lifelong feminist activist and political strategist: “Three people discussing having an abortion in Chicago in 1965 was a conspiracy to commit felony murder.”

Despite that danger, a courageous band of young women — most in their 20’s, some in college, some married with children — banded together in Chicago to create an underground abortion network. The group was officially created in 1969 as the “Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation.”

But after running ads in an underground newspaper: “Pregnant? Don’t want to be? Call Jane,” each member of the group answered the phone as “Jane.”

Despite their youth, members of Jane managed to run an illegal abortion service dedicated to each woman's needs.
From left: Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Pariser, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk.

“We were co-conspirators with the women who called us,” said 75-year-old Laura Kaplan, who published a book about the service in 1997 entitled “The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service.”

“We’ll protect you; we hope you’ll protect us,” Kaplan said. “We’ll take care of you; we hope you’ll take care of us.”

What started as referrals to legitimate abortion providers changed to personalized service when some members of Jane learned to safely do the abortions themselves. Between the late 1960s and 1973, the year that the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, Jane had arranged or performed over 11,000 abortions.

“Our culture is always searching for heroes,” said Kaplan. “But you don’t have to be a hero to do extraordinary things. Jane was just ordinary people working together — and look what we could accomplish, which is amazing, right?”

Even after several members were caught and arrested, the group continued to provide abortions for women too poor to travel to states where abortion had been legalized.

“I prayed a lot. I didn’t want to go to jail,” said 80-year-old Marie Learner, who allowed the Janes to perform abortions at her apartment.

“Some of us had little children. Some were the sole breadwinners in their home,” Learner said. “It was fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds.”

Marie Learner opened her home to women undergoing abortions. Her neighbors knew, she said, but did not tell police.

The story of Jane has been immortalized in Kaplan’s book, numerous print articles, a 2022 movie, “Call Jane,” starring Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver, and a documentary on HBO (which, like CNN, is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery).

Today the historical tale of Jane has taken on a new significance. After the 2022 Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade and the mid-term takeover of the US House of Representatives by Republicans, emboldened conservative lawmakers and judges have acted on their anti-abortion beliefs.

Currently more than a dozen states have banned or imposed severe restrictions on abortion. Georgia has banned abortions after six weeks, even though women are typically unaware they are pregnant at that stage. In mid-April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would ban most abortions after six weeks. It won’t go into effect until the state Supreme Court overturns its previous precedent on abortion. Several other states are considering similar legislation. In other states, judicial battles are underway to protect abortion access.

“It’s a horrific situation right now. People will be harmed, some may even die,” said Booth, who helped birth the Jane movement while in college.

“Women without family support, without the information they need, may be isolated and either harm themselves looking to end an unwanted pregnancy or will be harmed because they went to an unscrupulous and illegal provider,” said Booth, now 77.

A key difference between the 60s and today is medication abortion, which 54% of people in the United States used to end a pregnancy in 2022. Available via prescription and through the mail, use of the drugs is two-fold: A person takes a first pill, mifepristone, to block the hormone needed for a pregnancy to continue.  A day or two later, the patient takes a second drug, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract, creating the cramping and bleeding of labor.

In early April a Texas judge, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk – a Trump appointee who has been vocal about his anti-abortion stance — suspended the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone despite 23 years of data showing the drug is safe to use, safer even than penicillin or Viagra.

On Friday, the Supreme Court froze the ruling and a subsequent decision by the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals at the request of the Justice Department and the drug manufacturer. The action allows access to mifepristone in states where it’s legal until appeals play out over the months to come.

However, 15 states currently restrict access to medication abortion, even by mail.

The actions of anti-abortion activists, who have been accused of “judge shopping” to get the decisions they want, is “an unprecedented attack on democracy meant to undermine the will of the vast majority of Americans who want this pill — mifepristone — to remain legal and available,” Heather Booth told CNN.

“This is a further weaponization of the courts to brazenly advance the end goal of banning abortion entirely,” she added.

If women in her day could have had access to medications that could be used safely in their homes, they would not have been forced to risk their lives, said Dorie Barron, thinking back to her own terrifying abortion in a sketchy Chicago motel.

“I’m depressed as hell, watching stupid, indifferent men control and destroy women’s lives all over again,” she said. “I really fear getting an abortion could soon be like 1965.”

Chicago college student Heather Booth had just finished a summer working with civil rights activists in Mississippi when she was asked to help with a different kind of injustice.

Heather Booth, 18, with civil rights heroine Fannie Lou Hamer during

A girl in another dorm was considering suicide because she was pregnant. Booth, who excelled at both organization and chutzpah, found a local doctor and negotiated an abortion for the girl. Word spread quickly.

“There were about 100 women a week calling for help, much more than one person could handle,” Booth said. “I recruited about 12 other people and began training them how to do the counseling.”

Counseling was a key part of the new service. This was a time when people “barely spoke about sex, how women’s bodies functioned or even how people got pregnant,” Booth said. To help each woman understand what was going to happen to them, Booth quizzed the abortion provider about every aspect of the procedure.

“What do you do in advance? Will it be painful? How painful? Can you walk afterwards? Do you need someone to be with you to take you home?” The questions continued: “What amount of bleeding is expected, and can a woman handle it on their own? If there’s a problem is there an urgent number they can call?”

Armed with details few if any physicians provided, the counselors at Jane could fully inform each caller about the abortion experience. The group even published a flyer describing the procedure, long before the groundbreaking 1970 book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” began to educate women about their sexuality and health.

“I don’t particularly like doctors because I always feel dissatisfied with the experience,” said Marie Learner, who spoke to many of the women who underwent an abortion at her home.

“But after their abortion at Jane, women told me, ‘Wow, that was the best experience I’ve ever had with people helping me with a medical issue.’”

Eileen Smith, now 73, was one of those women. “Jane made you feel like you were part of this bigger picture, like we were all in this together,” she said. “They helped me do this illegal thing and then they’re calling to make sure I’m OK? Wow!

“For me, it helped battle the feeling that I was a bad person, that ‘What’s wrong with me? Why did I get pregnant? I should know better’ voice in my head,” said Smith. “It was priceless.”

Like many young women in the 60s, Heather Booth often protested for civil and women's rights.

Many of the women who joined Jane had never experienced an abortion. Some viewed the work as political, a part of the burgeoning feminist movement. Others considered the service as simply humanitarian health care. All saw the work as an opportunity to respect each woman’s choice.

“I was a stay-at-home mom with four kids,” said Martha Scott, who is now in her 80s. “We knew the woman needed to feel as though she was in control of what was happening to her. We were making it happen for her, but it was not about us. It was about her.”

Some volunteers, like Dorie Barron, experienced the Jane difference firsthand when she found herself pregnant a few years after her abortion at the hands of the Mafia.

“It was a 100% total reversal — I had never experienced such kindness,” Barron said. Not only did a Jane hold each woman’s hand and explain every step of the process, “they gave each of us a giant supply of maternity sanitary pads, and a nice big handful of antibiotics,” she said. “And for the next week, I got a phone call every other day to see how I was.”

Barron soon began volunteering for Jane by providing pregnancy testing for women in the back of a church in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

“It wasn’t just abortion,” Barron explained. “We also said, ‘You could consider adoption,’ and gave adoption referrals. And if the woman wanted to continue with her pregnancy, we said, ‘Fine, please by all that is holy make sure you get prenatal care, take your vitamins, and eat as best you can.’ It was women helping women with whatever they needed.”

Most of the women who contacted Jane were unable to support themselves, in unhealthy relationships, or already had children at home, so the service was a way of “helping them get back on track,” said Smith, who, like Barron, had begun working for Jane after her abortion.

“We were telling them ‘This isn’t the end of the world. You can continue to leave your boyfriend or your husband or continue to just take care of those kids you have.’ We were there to help them get through this,” said Smith, who later became a homecare nurse.

From left: Eileen Smith, Diane Stevens and Benita Greenfield were three of the dozens of women who volunteered for Jane.

Diane Stevens says she came to work for Jane after experiencing an abortion in 1968 at the age of 19. She was living in California at the time, which provided “therapeutic abortions” if approved in advance by physicians.

“I’d had a birth control failure, and I was coached by Planned Parenthood on how to do this,” said Stevens, now 74. “I had to see two psychiatrists and one doctor and tell them I was not able to go through with the pregnancy because it would a danger to both my physical and mental health.

“I was admitted to the psychiatric ward, although I didn’t really know that — I thought I was just in a hospital bed. But oh no, ‘I was mentally ill,’ so that’s where they put me,” said Stevens, who later went to nursing school with Smith. “Then they wheeled me off for the abortion. I had general anesthesia, was there for two days, and then I was discharged. Isn’t that crazy?”

Sakinah Ahad Shannon, now 75, was one of the few Black women who volunteered as a counselor at Jane. She joined after accompanying a friend who was charged a mere $50 for her abortion. At that time, Jane’s fee was between $1 and $100, based on what the woman could afford to pay, Shannon said.

“When I walked in, I said, ‘Oh my God, here we go again. It’s a room of White women, archangels who are going to save the world,’” said Shannon, a social worker and member of the Congress of Racial Equality, an interracial group of non-violent activists who pioneered “Freedom Rides” and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963.

What she heard and saw at her friend’s counseling session was so impressive it “changed my life,” Shannon said. She and her family later opened and operated three Chicago abortion clinics for over 25 years, all using the Jane philosophy of communication and respect.

“It was a profoundly amazing experience for me,” she said. “I call the Janes my sisters. The color line didn’t matter. We were all taking the same risk.”

Sakinah Ahad Shannon and her daughters went on to open and run three abortion clinics in Chicago.

It wasn’t long before the women discovered a “doctor” performing abortions for Jane had been lying about his credentials. There was no medical degree — in the HBO documentary, he admitted he had honed his skills by assisting an abortion provider.

The group imploded. A number of members quit in horror and dismay. For the women who stayed, it was an epiphany, said Martha Scott. Like her, several of the Janes had been assisting this fake doctor for years, learning the procedures step by step.

“You’d learn how to insert a speculum, then how to swap out the vagina with an antiseptic, then how to give numbing shots around the cervix and then how to dilate the cervix. You learned and mastered each step before you moved on to the next,” said Laura Kaplan, who chronicled the procedure in her book.

By now, several of the Janes were quite experienced and willing to do the work. Why not perform the abortions themselves?

“Clearly, this was an intense responsibility,” said Judith Acana, a 27-year-old high school teacher who joined Jane in 1970. She started her training by helping “long terms,” women who were four or five months along in the pregnancy.

“Remember, abortion was illegal (in Illinois) so it could take weeks for a woman to find help,” said Arcana, now 80. “Frequently women who wanted an abortion at 8 or 10 weeks wound up being 16 or 18 weeks or more by the time they found Jane.”

The miscarriage could happen quickly, but it rarely did, she said. It usually took anywhere from one to two days.

“Women who had no one to help them would come back when contractions started,” Arcana said. “One of my strongest memories is of a teenage girl who had an appointment to have her miscarriage on my living room floor.”

The group also paid two Janes to live in an apartment and be on call 24/7 to assist women who had no one to help them miscarry at home, said Arcana, a lifelong educator, author and poet. “But many women took care of it on their own, in very amazing and impressive and powerful ways,” she said.

Judith Arcana learned how to do abortions herself and wrote about the Jane experience in poems, stories, essays and books.

Any woman who had concerns or questions while miscarrying alone could always call Jane for advice any time of the day or night.

“People would call in a panic: ‘The bleeding won’t stop,’” Smith recalled. “I would tell them, ‘Get some ice, put it on your stomach, elevate your legs, relax.’ And they would say ‘Oh my gosh, thank you!’ because they were so scared.”

For women who were in their first trimester, Jane offered traditional D&C abortions — the same dilation and curettage used by hospitals then and today, said Scott, who performed many of the abortions for Jane. Later the group used vacuum aspiration, which was over in a mere five to 10 minutes.

“Vacuum aspiration was much easier to do, and I think it’s less difficult for the woman,” Scott said. “Abortion is exactly like any other medical procedure. It’s the decision that’s an issue — the doing is very straightforward. This was something a competent, trained person could do.”

It was May 3, 1972. Judith Arcana was the driver that day, responsible for relocating women waiting at what was called “the front” to a separate apartment or house where the abortions were done, known as “the place.”

On this day, a Wednesday, the “place” was a South Shore high-rise apartment. Arcana was escorting a woman who had completed her abortion when they were stopped by police at the elevator.

“They asked us, ‘Which apartment did you come out of?’ And the poor woman burst into tears and blurted out the apartment number,” Arcana said. “They took me downstairs, put cuffs on me and hooked me to a steel hook inside of the police van.”

Inside the apartment on the 11th floor, Martha Scott said she was setting up the bedroom for the next abortion when she heard a knock at the door, followed by screaming: “You can’t come in!”

“I shut the bedroom door and locked it,” Scott said, then hid the instruments and sat on the bed to wait. It wasn’t long until a cop kicked the door in and made her join the other women in the living room.

“We tell this joke about how the cops came in, saw all these women and said, ‘Where’s the abortionist?’ You know, assuming that it would be a man,” Scott said.

By day’s end, seven members of Jane were behind bars: Martha Scott, Diane Stevens, Judy Arcana, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Pariser, Sheila Smith and Madeleine Schwenk. Suddenly what had been an underground effort for years was front page headlines.

“Had we not gotten arrested, I think no one would ever have known about Jane other than the women we served,” Scott said.

Top: Sheila Smith and Martha Scott.
Bottom: Diane Stevens and Judith Arcana.

An emergency meeting of Jane was called. The turnout was massive — even women who had not been active in months showed up, anxious to know the extent of the police probe, according to the women with whom CNN spoke.

Despite widespread fear and worry, the group immediately began making alternate plans for women scheduled for abortions at Jane in the next few days to weeks. The group even paid for transportation to other cities where abortion had already been legalized, they said.

News reports over the next few days gave further details of the bust: There was no widespread investigation by the police. It was a single incident, triggered by a call from a sister-in-law who was upset with her relative’s decision to have an abortion, they said.

“It wasn’t long after I was arrested that I came back and worked for quite a few months,” said Scott, one of the few fully trained to do abortions.

“I like to think I was a good soldier,” Scott said. “I like to think what did made a difference not only to a whole bunch of people, but also to ourselves. It gave us a sense of empowerment that comes when you do something that is hard to do and also right.”

As paranoia eased, women began to come back to work at Jane, determined to carry on.

“After the bust, we had a meeting and were told ‘Everybody needs to start assisting and learn how to do abortions.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’” said Eileen Smith, who had not been arrested. “But you felt like you really didn’t have much of a choice. We had to keep the service running.”

Laura Kaplan volunteered for the Janes, later immortalizing the group in her book,

The preliminary hearing for the arrested seven was in August. Several of the women in the apartment waiting for abortions the day of the arrest suddenly developed amnesia and refused to testify. According to Kaplan’s book, one of the women later said, “The cops tried to push me around, but f**k them. I wasn’t going to tell on you.”

It didn’t matter. Each Jane was charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion, with a possible sentence of up to 110 years in prison.

As they waited for trial, the lawyer for the seven, Jo-Anne Wolfson, adopted delaying tactics, Kaplan said. A case representing a Texas woman, cited as “Jane Roe” to protect her privacy, was being considered by the US Supreme Court. If the Court ruled in Roe’s favor, the case against the Jane’s might be thrown out.

That’s exactly what happened. On March 9, 1973, three months after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in the US, the case against the seven women was dropped and their arrest records were expunged.

Later that spring, a majority of Janes, burned out by the intensity of the work over the last few years, voted to close shop. An end of Jane party was held on May 20. According to Kaplan’s book, the invitation read:

“You are cordially invited to attend The First, Last and Only Curette Caper; the Grand Finale of the Abortion Counseling Service. RSVP: Call Jane.”

Today, most of the surviving members of Jane are in their 70s and 80s, shocked but somehow not surprised by the actions of abortion opponents.

“This is a country of ill-educated politicos who know nothing about women’s bodies, nor do they care,” said Dorie Barron. “It will take generations to even begin to undo the devastating harm to women’s rights.”

In the meantime, women should research all available options, keep that information confidential, seek support from groups working for abortion rights, and “share your education with as many women as you can,” Barron added.

As more and more reproductive freedoms have been rolled back over the past year, many of the Janes are angry and fearful for the future.

Abortion rights demonstrators walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York nearly two weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

“This is about the most intimate decision of our lives — when, whether and with whom we have a child. Everyone should have the ability to make decisions about our own lives, bodies, and futures without political interference,” said Heather Booth, who has spent her life after leaving Jane fighting for civil and women’s rights.

“We need to organize, raise our voices and our votes, and overturn this attack on our freedom and our lives. I have seen that when we take action and organize we can change the world.”

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The challenge of enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution

During a speech given on International Woman’s Day, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the decision to put forward a bill enshrining abortion rights in the country’s constitution. Despite being lauded by women’s rights groups, changing the constitution may be more difficult than it appears.

Perhaps in an attempt to divert attention from the backlash his government is facing over the recent pension reform proposal, Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, March 8 announced his intention to cement abortion rights in the French constitution as he paid tribute to feminist activist Gisèle Halimi, who greatly influenced the passing in 1975 of the Veil Act granting women the right to abortion and contraception.

“Progress made through parliamentary talks initiated by the National Assembly and informed by the Senate would allow, I hope, to inscribe this freedom in our founding text through a bill amending our constitution  introduced in the coming months,” Macron said at the Palais de Justice courthouse in Paris.

The two parliamentary chambers both recently voted – the National Assembly in November, the Senate in February – on adding abortion rights to the constitution, though in different terms.

While the news was warmly welcomed by women’s rights groups, which saw the move as a “victory”, consecrating the right to abortion in the Constitution is still far from reality.

On one hand, a bill put forward by the government is voted on by parliament in a joint session and passes with a three-fifths majority, contrary to a bill submitted by legislators, which is voted on via referendum and seen as more risky.

On the other hand, contrary to the legislators’ proposal, Macron’s government is opting for a bill that looks to bring about wider change in current institutions instead of one that is specifically targeted at consecrating abortion rights.

The draft law is expected to include changes such as the redrawing of current regional borders and the redefining of elected officials’ mandates, according to people close to the president.

Macron has himself evoked the possibility of returning to a seven-year presidential mandate with mid-term elections to uncouple presidential and legislative elections, according to an interview with Le Point magazine given in April 2022.

Conditions for amending the constitution have “never been less favorable since 1962”

But burying abortion rights in a myriad of other institutional reforms is largely criticised by the opposition, which cites fears of being coerced.

“Emmanuel Macron is starting to take some steps and it’s a good thing. But it’s doomed to fail if he wants to make us agree to things that are inacceptable, such as the return of the seven-year term and the proportionality feature,” left-wing political party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) head legislator Mathilde Panot said, adding that the failure of the project would then be entirely the president’s fault.

Indeed, with a fractured National Assembly and no absolute majority, it appears quite implausible for Emmanuel Macron to obtain the 60% of parliamentary votes needed to amend the constitution.

“It seems completely unrealistic,” said Benjamin Morel, a public law professor at the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas. “The conditions for amending the constitution have never been less favourable since 1962. The Senate and the National Assembly currently exhibit different political colours, and the presidential party doesn’t even have an absolute majority in the Assembly. When Nicolas Sarkozy amended the constitution in a significant way in 2008, despite having a relatively large majority in the Senate and Assembly on his side, the bill passed by a single vote.”

Emmanuel Macron already had a taste of defeat during his first term as president when he submitted a constitutional amendment bill in 2018. This bill included the “dose of proportionality” feature regarding legislative elections, in which the parties would potentially be awarded a number of legislators in line with their results at the national level in addition to the legislators elected in each district, as well as a 30% reduction in legislators, a limit on accumulated mandates, and the abolishment of the Republic’s Court of Justice. The Benalla affair that came to light in the summer of 2018 put a stop to the reform. It was reintroduced in 2019 before being buried once and for all by the Covid-19 crisis.

Has Macron learned his lesson? At a meeting in early February with his presidential predecessors François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, he evoked the subject of amending the constitution. According to our information, he aims to create a cross-party commission on the subject of reform, which had already been mentioned during the last presidential campaign. This commission would aim at “reaching a consensus along the lines of what currently exists on abortion rights”, the Élysée Palace indicated.

“Freedom” instead of “right”

Macron’s strategy, however, is unlikely to convince the opposition, especially given that the political left doesn’t present a united front on abortion.

The Senate, with its right-wing majority, has voted in favour of enshrining “women’s freedom” to access abortion in the constitution. This wording leaves out the idea that it is a “right” to access abortion, which the political left in the National Assembly prefers. It is thus the Senate’s wording that Macron adopted in his  speech on Wednesday.

This clash over semantics is anything but trivial. While Emmanual Macron seeks to appease Senators from the conservative party Les Républicains, the use of the word “freedom” instead of “right” has legal consequences, according to Mathilde Panot.

“It’s a pity and dangerous that Emmanuel Macron is choosing the Senate’s version,” she said. “The National Assembly had a strong desire to reaffirm that abortion is a fundamental right for women. By using the word ‘freedom’, they weaken the text,” she added.

Benjamin Morel, however, does not share this view, and considers that access to abortion is guaranteed by either of the wordings. “The difference between ‘right’ and ‘freedom’ is the fact that the Senate’s version leaves the various methods of access to abortion for the Parliament to decide, while the ‘right’ to access abortion as written in the National Assembly’s proposal would hand this power to the Constitutional Council”, he explained.

Still, the whole debate could very well be a show in political manoeuvring, taking into account the unlikelihood that the constitution will actually be amended. When asked for more information, the Élysée Palace had little to say on the exact content of the future constitutional amendment bill, as well as on the timing and the way in which the cross-party commission on the subject would be organised.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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French museum of feminist struggles aims to shed light on neglected histories

In a first for France, the University of Angers has announced plans for a museum of feminist struggles, drawing on its ample archival resources and expertise to give the history of women’s fight for emancipation and equal rights a permanent home.

France is home to several thousand museums, ranging from the world’s most visited – the Louvre in Paris – to more obscure venues dedicated to themes as diverse as absinthe, vampires and cork screws.

Look for a women’s history museum, however, and you will find none.

In its index of museums dedicated to women, an A to Z of more than 150 virtual and physical venues from Albania to Zambia, the International Association of Women’s Museums counts just one French entry: Muséa, an online exhibition platform launched in 2004 by a group of historians at the University of Angers in western France.

Almost two decades later, their dream of a full-scale, physical museum is starting to take shape, soon to be housed in the university’s library and archival centre, which has established itself as a leading French hub for research on feminist movements.

“France had fallen behind other countries in not having a women’s history museum, whereas our history is full of things to talk about!” said Christine Bard, a historian at the University of Angers and one of the project’s key instigators.

Bard recently curated an exhibition at the Carnavalet museum of Paris history chronicling two centuries of women’s battles for emancipation, from their overlooked role in the country’s revolutionary upheavals to the mass mobilisations for the right to vote, divorce or have abortions. She says the exhibition’s runaway success is evidence of growing public interest in the topic.

“We’re carried by a very favourable context, with a new wave of feminism spurred on by the #MeToo movement,” Bard explained. A museum documenting women’s struggles for emancipation will have “a clear social utility”, she added, at a time when feminist conquests are ushering in profound societal changes and still need consolidating.

‘Museum of women’s conquests’

The #MeToo wave has helped “generate huge interest in discovering the women whose ground-breaking contributions to science, politics and the arts have been largely forgotten by history”, said Magalie Lafourcade, a magistrate and human rights expert who has teamed up with Bard and others to work on the future museum.

She highlighted the glaring discrepancy between younger generations’ growing awareness of gender-based inequalities and the lack of attention afforded to such topics both in schools and museums.


In May last year, as feminists around the world reacted in shock at the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down abortion rights, Lafourcade penned an op-ed in French daily Le Monde calling for the establishment of a “museum of women’s conquests”, envisioned both as an educational facility and a sanctuary for women’s rights. Such a place would help “legitimise women’s place in all fields of the arts and knowledge”, she wrote.

Lafourcade’s plea landed at the right time for the University of Angers, which had just secured a €10 million budget to renovate its library. The combination of abundant archival resources and a refurbished venue made it a natural candidate to house the first museum dedicated to the history of women’s emancipation in France.

The contours of the future Musée des féminismes were unveiled at a conference in Angers on Wednesday, March 8, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day. The plan is to get the first exhibitions up and running as early as next year, ahead of a full opening to the public in 2027.

Focus on fine arts

The forthcoming museum has revived a dormant project for Bard, coming two decades after officials in Paris asked her to work on plans for a women’s history museum in the French capital, only to abandon the project altogether.

Historian Nicole Pellegrin, who worked with Bard on the Muséa online platform, points to a mix of cultural and political reasons for the lack of women’s museums in France.

“French museums have long privileged the fine arts, often disconnected from the civilisations that gave birth to them,” she said. “On top of that, you have the anti-feminist tradition of a masculine political establishment that claimed women were sufficiently represented without the need for them to wield any power.”

>> ‘Françaises, Français’: Could the French language be less sexist?

Unlike in the United States, where women’s museums are often sponsored by advocacy groups, such private initiatives are unusual in France, said Bard. She noted that elsewhere in the world, “state-backed women’s museums sometimes tend to instrumentalise their struggles to fit a heroic, nation-building narrative”.

Sheltered in an academic environment, the planned Musée des feminismes is opting for a third way, she added, “free from political pressure and firmly anchored in rigorous, scientific research”.

Cultural outreach

For the university of Angers, the forthcoming museum is not just a welcome spotlight. It is also a chance to fulfil an obligation often neglected by French museums, said Nathalie Clot, who heads the university’s library and archives.

“France’s state universities have three missions: to teach, carry out academic research and foster ‘cultural dissemination’ among the broader public,” she explained. “The latter mission has only recently been rediscovered. Our audience should not only be academia.”

While Clot is accustomed to welcoming researchers in Angers, she is also stunned by the number of demands from members of the public who wish to visit the university’s archives on feminist movements. She pointed to the Glasgow Women’s Library, the UK’s only accredited women’s history museum, as a model to emulate, praising its rich collections and array of public events.

“Here in Angers we are lucky to have a wealth of documentary and archival material, as well as students and expert staff, and a building to house the lot,” Clot added. “Now we need the money to turn it into a museum.”

Spearheading the hunt for sponsors, Lafourcade says she has encountered “enthusiastic responses” at the ministerial and parliamentary levels. She is now waiting for them to translate into concrete funds.

Meanwhile, the museum’s instigators are celebrating the success of their first crowdfunding campaign, which will enable them to purchase a painting by Léon Fauret depicting the French feminist and suffragist Maria Vérone as she campaigns for the “rights of man” to be renamed as “human rights”.

Féminismes, plural

While the Musée des féminismes is hoping to acquire more artworks by and about women over the coming years, its instigators stress it will not be an art institute. They noted recent progress in giving female artists greater visibility in French museums, though adding that a lot more needs to be done.

Far from exonerating other museums from addressing gender-based discriminations, the museum in Angers hopes to complement such efforts, acting as a catalyst and a source of expertise.

“We’re seeing more and more exhibitions focused on women, but what is still lacking is a focus on women’s struggles for rights and exposure,” said Pellegrin. “We need a museum that shows women not just as victims, but as fighters.”

Highlighting the struggles of LGBT groups as well as racial, religious and other minorities will be equally important, said Lafourcade, stressing the need for an interdisciplinary approach to battles for rights and emancipation. She pointed to the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, France’s main Holocaust museum, whose broad range of activities and focus on other histories have bolstered its reputation as a hub for research and education.

The desire to be inclusive, and to tread carefully at a time of growing divisions between feminist movements, is reflected in the museum’s use of the plural form féminismes.

“Feminist movements have very different histories, focuses and sensibilities, and some have enjoyed very little exposure,” said Bard. “Our job is to respect, display and contextualise this diversity.”

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The Andrew Tate case shows we must find a way to confront woman-haters

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Ever since the Romanian authorities arrested Andrew Tate in late December along with three others for alleged rape, human trafficking, and forming an organised crime group, the international press has been obsessed with the hypermasculine misogynist influencer — but not always for the right reason.

Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan are a much bigger, transnational example revealing a major overlap between technology-facilitated gender-based violence, socio-economic grievances, radical right tenets, and the failure of institutions and digital platforms to protect women’s rights and democracy. 

I am fully aware that these are all “big words” to tackle. 

Yet, we should have a serious conversation, addressing these issues that go well beyond the usual worldwide voyeurism accompanying highly-publicised and sordid cases like Tate’s.

We are hesitant to do something while damage keeps getting worse

Sexual exploitation of women hardly comes as a surprise given the self-professed online narratives where Andrew Tate boasted about women as properties of men, women as responsible for getting raped, and women as relegated to the sphere of domesticity. 

At the same time, I sincerely doubt one can dissociate between Tate’s digital world persona and the alleged narrative that “Tate is a decent human being in real life.” 

I’ll let the justice professionals address the contents of his criminal record. 

However, the blunt sexism professed by the digital “star” deserves to be discussed more broadly, expanding the conversation beyond a questionable — and all-too-simplistic — explanation grounded in the idea of resentment against women and their achievements.

Scholars and activists have warned everyone for a long time about the deeply ingrained misogyny of the radical right and an increasing “manosphere” that encourages resentment and hatred towards women and girls. 

But we are failing to act while they are getting stronger.

Any attempt to dismantle sexist-dominant beliefs about women that range from denial of agency to brutal commodification has become more difficult as the online networks of mostly male “bros” continue to grow in size and reach.

The hyper-masculine views they peddle, such as by the likes of Tate, support a culture that risks normalising abusive behaviour, including gender-based violence. 

The existing and compelling research on the rise of the radical right, their use of digital media, forceful mobilisation of anti-gender campaigns and opposition against feminism should be convincing enough to address undermining women’s rights and social cohesion.

We are, however, still hesitant while the damage continues to compound. If we allow this to ossify, we risk normalising harmful beliefs that will eventually become impossible to undo.

Some of it is the internet’s fault

Despite a wider-shared belief that “women are all right in the 21st century” and so are their rights, political and institutional developments show otherwise.

Illiberal actors take advantage of gender conservatism to gain support and shift the fragile gender equality and women’s rights agenda. 

And then there are the social networks of today: although digital platforms have not invented sexism or radical right, they did become best friends over the years.

Poorly regulated, they offer opportunities for diverse actors to loudly voice their radical right views and gain followers and make money. 

Needless to say, there is a match made in heaven between platform algorithms, polarisation and controversial harmful narratives boosting visibility and reach for commercial interests.

In the case of Tate and his “brotherhood,” digital platforms allowed the dissemination of sexist content even after banning him for infringement of rules. 

In this sense, research on digital media highlighted that it could play a significant role in the erosion of democracy itself. 

Tate is not the first or the last — but we can make it harder for his ilk

The politics of resentment, especially online, are also intrinsically linked to the not-so-convincing responsiveness of countries and their governments in addressing gender inequality.

And there is a reason why the likes of Tate want to capitalise on the weaknesses of societies like the one in Romania.

After all, the Balkan country is struggling to advance gender equality and has ranked second to last in 2022 in the European Gender Equality Index.

One can hardly argue that the country is a haven for women’s emancipation. 

Gender conservatism and populist and nationalist narratives strongly infused with religious tropes alongside increased opposition against gender equality and feminist politics do not create the atmosphere for a constructive, positive change towards a more just society. 

In this sense, the radical right leanings require a multilayered discussion that includes a critique of neoliberal governance and political economy, their focus on the entrepreneurial individual and capitalist market relations, and the precarity of housing and the labour market, to name a few issues that contribute to the problem.

Tate is not the first or the last internet sexist advocating for a radical right world, while capitalising on explicit or latent gender conservatism. 

But he needs to be stopped, so that others can see we are taking this seriously.

Nowhere should “owned by Tate” — a disturbing phrase seen tattooed on some of the women who worked for his webcam enterprise akin to a branding — become a trademark. 

Nor should the Tate brothers grow into a Tate brotherhood. 

This is not only a women’s or feminist struggle. It ought to be a core issue for democratic societies that have come to recognise the human dignity of women, question the outcomes of neoliberalism, and also envision a new social contract online.

_Dr Oana Băluţă is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Studies at the University of Bucharest. Her research interests include topics such as contemporary feminist politics and movement, gender-based violence, and media, gender and politics. She has been a women’s rights activist in Romania for over 15 years.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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