Join Countering Backlash for the fourth session in the ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash against Gender Justice’ Ubuntu Symposium. This will be an interactive space for reflecting on experiences of anti-feminist backlash in our own contexts, and how to explore strategies to support feminist movements in countering backlash.

  • Title: Movement-Building to Counter Patriarchal Backlash: A Conversation Space (Ubuntu Symposium Concept Session (5)
  • Date: Thursday 13 May
  • Time: 9am EST; 2pm BST; 3pm CAT; 6.30pm IST
  • Facilitators: Sinead Nolan (Chair) with Jerker Edström and Chloe Skinner.

Reflecting on insights from previous sessions on backlash, this penultimate session of this series creates an open space for conversation among participants to share practical strategies used in different contexts and begin to collectively consider some concrete steps that members of the MenEngage Alliance can take to build on and link with efforts from other gender justice movements to counter backlash.

The format involves two rounds of breakout room discussions with some three-to-five participants per breakout room, interspersed with an opening, two feedbacks and a closing in plenary. Key outcomes of the session will feed into the final plenary of the series on 1 June tying together the series and proposing ways forward for the Alliance, as per the commitment in the Alliance’s new strategic plan for 2021-24.

Register now (select May 13)

Countering Patriarchal Backlash against Gender Justice Series

Global progress on gender equality is under threat. So is democracy, freedom of opinion and assembly, and the very notion of human rights. Women’s and human rights actors and organisations in diverse contexts are facing conservative backlash to their work, including from religious fundamentalist groups, “men’s rights” groups, political parties and think tanks, media corporations, new movements and states who are anti-womens’ rights and dispute key aspects of gender equality.

New forces are pushing back to reverse many gains made for gender justice as well as to frustrate implementation of commitments and forestall further progress, but this backlash is also far deeper, more insidious, and complex than the recent trend of religious fundamentalisms, or a mere pushback on gender policies. While these are visible manifestations of patriarchal backlash, other actors and forces are also at play in nuanced ways, often under the radar, deploying and producing old and new power hierarchies across intersections of identity, beyond and including gender.

Such diverse, diffuse and networked backlash ‘others’, demonises and disempowers those who seek to advance gender justice. It entrenches binary understandings of gender and re-valorises patriarchal gender roles, appealing to ‘traditional family values’ founded on patriarchal ideologies of male supremacy. These forces tend to deploy polarising politics, mobilising populist narratives, promiscuously comingling misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia, with scant regard for evidence or truth.

Our series at the MenEngage Ubuntu Symposium explores this pressing global trend, advancing understanding of these movements and how the men and masculinities field can strengthen efforts and better support feminist movements to counter this backlash.

Our understanding of backlash must go beyond simple linear visions of social change – as in ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Diverse forms of patriarchal backlash appear to function in interaction with arrays of other oppressive dynamics, including de-democratisation and the capture of civic space, the rise of populism, ‘strongman’ demagogues and a global rightward turn, predatory capitalism, inequality and precarity. Furthermore, some argue that ill-conceived policy and practice on gender in development may itself play into the hands of backlash forces, who are said to be co-opting existing policy processes for gender. Yet, all of this is happening in plain sight. New opportunities, mobilisations and intersectional strategies in struggles for gender justice are likely to evolve.

The series will result in several knowledge products in line with the overall knowledge development strategy for the symposium. Products may include bitesize videos, a learning page on the Alliance’s website including webinar recordings and related reading materials and a report/thought piece providing deeper analysis and focused on promising practices and ways forward for the Alliance.

About this update

approachCapacity building Convening