Event: Uniting to counter backlash – roundtable

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’.

Register now (select 1 June)

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.

Event: Movement-building to counter patriarchal backlash

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)


The UK’s ‘anti-protest’ bill is a symptom of broader backlash

Global progress on gender equality is under threat. We are living in an age where major political and social shifts are resulting in new forces that are visibly pushing back to reverse the many gains made for women’s rights and to shrink civic space. This push back is not just about ‘men’ or ‘women’ however, but also the gendered structures through which power is enacted or shut down.

The proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the UK is a symptom of broader backlash on gender equality and progressive values. Following the heated debate in the House of Commons, the controversial policing bill was passed after its second reading on Tuesday.

If accepted in parliament this Bill will:

  • Introduce new police powers to decide where, when and how people can protest
  • Impact the ability to organise including how trade unions protest and picket
  • Increase penalties for those breaching police conditions on protests
  • Creates new trespass offences

One component of the Bill is a proposed 10-year prison sentence for ‘damage to statues’ – standing in direct contrast to the much shorter sentences (very rarely) served for sexual assault. It represents a clear disregard for the call precipitated by the Black Lives Matter movement to remove and dismantle statues that commemorate colonialism; those who ‘damage’ these stone homages to slavery, racism and colonial patriarchies are vilified, while the pervasive and normalised threat of sexual assault continues to be routinely disregarded.

Chloe Skinner, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, examines global manifestations of backlash, working in partnership with academics and activists in Bangladesh, India, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil and Lebanon to counter backlash against gender and social justice. The Countering Backlash programme explores the many forms of backlash and how they often appear in seemingly innocuous and hidden ways.

Chloe argues that this Bill embodies ‘patriarchal backlash’ as an archetypal exemplar of the clampdown on even the possibility of moves toward gendered, racial and social justice. She states that “white and male supremacy live on, palpably demonstrated by the restrictive and regressive laws laid out in the anti-protest bill.”

Comparisons can be drawn to India, where Countering Backlash partners Gender at Work highlight the extent of the government’s effort to curb dissent in the country through draconian laws and policies. As the programme demonstrates and explores, backlash is global. To counter it, we must understand its diverse manifestations – from the subtle to the spectacular, the hidden to the explicit. The proposed anti-protest Bill in the UK is one such expression to resist.

On 18 March at 1pm, Countering Backlash partners will also be participating in the IDS event “Global perspectives on countering backlash against women in politics” chaired by Liz Ford, Deputy Editor, Guardian Global Development.

Event: Hijacking Gender? Backlash in Policy and Practice

Join Countering Backlash for the third session in the ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash against Gender Justice’ Ubuntu Symposium. This discussion will explore anti-feminist backlash and co-option in policy spaces and its implications for policy and practice on gender equality.


In part picking up on issues identified in the Backlash, Body Politics and Online Misogyny and Understanding the Global Tide of Patriarchal Backlash sessions, this unlikely combination of activist researchers and policymakers will bring a unique set of contrasting perspectives to debate critical issues of how backlash ‘engages’ with – and impacts on – policy and practice on gender justice and equality itself, at both national and global levels.

The discussion will cover observations on backlash machinations in gender(ed) policy spaces, such as international conferences and commissions, how policy frameworks and approaches are restraining or enabling backlash in policy processes at country levels, and how progressive actors in development agencies experience the realities of international policy co-option and backlash, including any resulting tensions and/or trade-offs. We also explore the implications of this for policy and practice on engaging men in gender equality strategies.

Register now (select March 11)


Backlash, Body Politics and Online Misogyny

On Thursday 4 February, Countering Backlash will host the second session in the Ubuntu Symposium series ‘Countering Patriarchal Backlash against Gender Justice’. This session will delve into two key arenas in which backlash is playing out in today’s world – the body politics of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and the rise of online misogyny and the ‘manosphere’.


  • Neil Datta, European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
  • Alex di Branco, Institute for Research on Male Supremacism
  • Dr Becky Faith, Institute of Development Studies and Countering Backlash
  • Maria Alicia Guttiérez, University of Buenos Aires
  • Magaly Marques, MenEngage Alliance Global Secretariat
  • Loke Bisbjerg Nielson, DARE Gender
  • Sabina F Rashid, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health
  • Nikki van der Gaag, Senior Fellow, Promundo

Time: 3:00PM – 5:00PM Central Africa Time. Click here to see what time that is where you are.
Language(s): English and Spanish
Translation: Subtitles available in 18 languages.


We would also welcome your engagement on Twitter: @CounterBacklash. You can also sign up for regular updates from Countering Backlash.

Understanding the global tide of patriarchal backlash

As the Third MenEngage Ubuntu Symposium launched last month in Kigali, Rwanda, it continues to host a series of events until mid-2021. On 1 December, Countering Backlash will host its first event as part of the #UbuntuSymposium on ‘Understanding the global tide of patriarchal backlash‘.

Global progress on gender equality is under attack, and new forces are reversing many gains made towards gender justice and human rights. This session, part one of a series on countering patriarchal backlash, seeks to open a broad debate on the complex nature of this current wave of backlash. Through a series of conversations spanning different contexts, continents and time-scales, it will explore the links between anti-gender backlash, ethnonationalism and white/majoritarian supremacy, and the use of tropes and narratives around masculinity and traditional gender ideals by conservative forces.

The session will provide a historical and contextually diverse global overview in order to open up an exploratory conversation on how to connect these diverse histories and current dynamics of backlash in different regions, with local-to-global – or transnational – connections.  Three pairs of thinkers will engage in a conversation around the following topics:

  • Indo-European ethno-nationalisms and backlash, East and West
  • Colonising racialised masculinities and backlash, North and South
  • Long View of the Big Picture: The politicization of religious neoconservatism, authoritarian populisms and contestations over gender and sexuality

Importantly, the session will seek to present a ‘big picture’ view of backlash, from the local to the global, through cross-regional conversations.

Simultaneous translation will be available in English, Spanish and French.


Introducing the session – Jerker Edström, Institute of Development Studies, UK

Indo-European ethnonationalism and backlash, East and West                    

  • Sana Contractor,  India
  • Eva Zilén, Kvinna-till-Vinna, Sweden

Colonising racialised masculinities and backlash, North and South 

  • David N. Tshimba, Refugee Law Project, Uganda
  • Alan Greig,  Challenging Male Supremacy Project, USA

Long View of the Big Picture: The politicization of religious neoconservatism, authoritarian populisms and contestations over gender and sexuality 

  • Deniz Kandiyoti, SOAS University of London, UK
  • Sonia Côrrea, Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW), Brazil

The conversations will be asking: Why is this backlash happening now and what factors are influencing it? How do these groups use traditional narratives around masculinity to appeal to their supporters? How can we connect these diverse histories in different regions with local-to-global connections and dynamics?

To participate in our session, there is still opportunity to register for the Men Engage Alliance. We would also welcome your engagement on Twitter: @CounterBacklash. You can also sign up for regular updates from Countering Backlash.