Nearly three decades ago the UN World Conference on Women at Beijing appeared to be uniting the international community around the most progressive platform for women’s rights in history. Instead of steady advancement, we have seen uneven progress, backsliding, co-option, and a recent rising tide of patriarchal backlash.
The global phenomenon of ‘backlash’ is characterised by resurgent misogyny, homo/transphobia, and attacks on sexual and reproductive rights. It is articulated through new forms of patriarchal politics associated with racialised hyper-nationalist agendas, traditionalism, authoritarianism, and alterations to civic space that have become all too familiar both in the global North and South. A wide range of actors and articulations are involved and influenced by underlying drivers and dynamics. A clearer view of the patriarchal nature of current backlash is a prerequisite for building a cohesive movement to counter it, strategically engaging researchers, activists, policymakers and donors in development.