Activists, researchers, activist researchers and policymakers share experiences, concerns and tactics, asking “can work on masculinities help to counter patriarchal backlash?” and much more. This fifth and final debate in the series ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash’ will focus on critical challenges and potential solutions for mobilising to counter backlash through different strategies, like intersectional alliance building and men’s engagement in feminist and other social justice struggles.
Starting with reflections on key insights, dilemmas and directions recommended from the series, this debate will take a forward-looking perspective to discuss central questions posed, as we are all facing backlash and explore ways forward. What should we do? That is, as activists, researchers, organisations, networks, and movements? How should we link across social justice movements and counter the onslaught through alliance building, whilst holding ourselves and each other to account? This pair of facilitated two-way conversations – wrapped up with a plenary debate – will be guided by the co-chairs and focused on the ‘road ahead’.
- Title: Uniting to Counter Backlash: A Roundtable Discussion Looking Forward
- Date: Tuesday 1 June
- Time: 9-11am EST; 2-4pm BST; 3-5pm CAT; 6.30-8.30pm IST
- Panellists: Lina Abirafeh (The Arab Institute for Women, AiW/LAU), Bafana Khumalo (Sonke Gender Justice), Neil Datta (European Parliamentary Forum for SRHR) and others, with Joni van der Sand (MenEngage Alliance) and Jerker Edström (Institute of Development Studies) as co-hosts.
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.