2020: Feminism ascendant in a dismal year

From left: Keira Bell, Laila Mickelwait, Yesnia Zamudio, Kim Jayeon, Kaya Szulczewska

I think a lot of us are feeling pretty blue right now. COVID, stressful political transitions, lockdowns, having to wear a mask everywhere we go (and hardly ever leaving the house!)… I could go on.

But if there’s one bright spot in the midst of all this misery, it’s been the remarkable success of feminism worldwide — in particular, radical feminism. Don’t get me wrong: feminism still has its work cut out for it, whether in the ongoing fight for abortion rights in Argentina or the fight against spycam pornography in South Korea. But in these dismal times, some wins for the global women’s movement might cheer you up.

Radical feminism continues to grow in South Korea

Few places around the world have seen a radical feminist resurgence quite like South Korea. Earlier this year, Jen Izaakson and Tae Kyung Kim reported on the intense protests against molka, a particularly invasive form of spycam pornography. Although South Korea has made this form of voyeurism illegal, enforcement of the law has been virtually nonexistent. By 2016, when a woman was murdered by an incel in a mixed sex bathroom, South Korean women had had enough. Since 2018, over 360,000 women have participated in massive protests against molka, femicide, and other forms of male violence.

In March of this year, the first ever Women’s Party formed in South Korea. In a surprise to the South Korean establishment, the party won hundreds of thousands of votes, reflecting the remarkable influence of radical feminism in South Korea. In another victory for feminists in South Korea, abortion up to 14 weeks was finally legalized (for any reason) in October of this year. Although South Korean women continue to face obstacles in their fight for female liberation, the future looks bright for the bold and uncompromising feminists fighting in the country. “We’re ready to work together with other parties, as long as we can agree on the policies for women,” Kim Jayeon, a prominent feminist and founder of the Women’s Party, said. “The Women’s Party doesn’t have a left or a right.”

For those interested in the South Korean women’s movement, Women’s Liberation Front is hosting a talk with three South Korean feminists on January 17, 2021. Register at Eventbrite

Feminism sweeps Latin America

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the women’s movement was sweeping Latin America, as feminists have pushed Latin American governments to loosen some of the world’s strictest anti-abortion laws. In 2018, massive demonstrations for women’s reproductive rights shook Argentina, and this was the year they got results: Argentine President Alberto Fernandez recently submitted a long-demanded bill to legalize elective abortions. In Chile, feminists activists are similarly pushing for a constitutional rewrite that would protect women’s abortion rights in cases of rape, fetal non-viability, and risk to the health of the mother. Lawmakers in Chiapas, Mexico are pushing legislation to halt prosecutions of women who access abortion.

But abortion rights aren’t the only issue at the forefront of feminist activism in Latin America. Mexican feminism in particular has grown increasingly radical in response to Mexico’s growing epidemic of femicide. In February, Mexican feminists hit the streets to denounce the crisis and, frustrated by their leftist government’s ineffectual response, took over a Human Rights building in Mexico City, transforming it into a shelter for women and children. Yesnia Zamudio, a feminist activist whose daughter was killed in a femicide in Mexico City, eloquently expressed the rage and passion driving Mexican feminist activism there in a video that went viral this year:

“I have every right to burn and to break. I’m not going to ask permission from anybody, because I am breaking for my daughter. Those who want to break, break. And those who want to burn, burn, and those who don’t, don’t stand in our way.”

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Women rise up in Poland

In October of this year, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortions in the case of fetal abnormalities would no longer be permitted. The conservative Catholic government could not have predicted what happened next: Polish women took to the streets in the country’s largest protests since the fall of Communism. Called “Strajk kobiet,” or the “Women’s Strike,” these protests pushed the Polish government to indefinitely delay the publication of the court’s ruling. Now, the New Yorker reports, feminists are demanding more than simply a reversal of the tightened restrictions on abortion — they want elective access to abortion in the first trimester legalized entirely.

The protests have struggled with internal dissent. Efforts have been hindered by vicious backlash against feminists who disagree with aspects of leftist theory, particularly transgenderism. This month, Kaya Szulczewska, a feminist influencer and activist, drew intense criticism for defending usage of the term “woman” in discussions around abortion. But radical feminism is making inroads. Earlier this month, Polish feminists and activists concerned with aspects of transgenderism and its impact on women and homosexuals formed the Polish LGB Alliance to push back on leftist misogyny and homophobia within the movement. And the sheer scale of the protests have drawn international wonder and admiration. It’s hard to disagree with the New Yorker’s assessment: these protests are starting to feel like a revolution.

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American women take on leftist misogyny and make big wins

2020 was a year of remarkable success for radical feminists in the U.S. and Canada.

In February, Laila Mickelwait, director of anti-trafficking group, Exodus Cry, created a Change.org petition demanding Pornhub be shut down on account of the site’s longrunning exploitation of women and children. Pornhub has knowingly hosted child pornography and videos depicting the violent rapes of women, with investigative journalists finding dozens of child rape videos within minutes of searching the site. Within a few months of starting the petition, over two million people had signed. Earlier this month, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times published a longform piece on the rape and exploitation of women and girls on the site. This appeared to be a turning point for Pornhub — thanks to increased pressure, the site agreed to remove user-uploaded videos. In an even more stunning announcement, Mastercard and Visa responded by blocking the use of their cards on Pornhub’s website.

The fight against Pornhub wasn’t the only great success for American feminists this year. In January and February, Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) hosted two conferences challenging the misogyny of the modern LGBT movement. Their bold criticisms of the misogyny and incoherence of transgender ideology provoked an internet firestorm, resulting in calls for Seattle Public Library to breach the First Amendment and cancel one of the talks. The women of WoLF were not cowed, however, and continued to push this issue to the forefront of American politics, commissioning public opinion polls that show majority support for women’s spaces and working with state legislators to protect women’s rights.

By the end of the year, WoLF’s efforts were rewarded when Democratic legislator Tulsi Gabbard introduced a house bill to keep women’s sports sex-segregated in public schools and colleges. The women of WoLF will have their work cut out for them in the next few years; with the election of a Democratic president who has promised to sign the Equality Act, which would make “gender identity” a protected category under law, thereby ensuring women’s sports and spaces cannot be maintained as same-sex. But these women have proven themselves to be formidable feminist warriors, and we have full confidence in their continued success.

Gender critical feminism wins big in the UK

In the United Kingdom, radical and gender-critical feminism has dominated the news cycle this year. In January, Women’s Place UK hosted the conference “Women’s Liberation 2020”, attended by a thousand men and women interested in radical feminist and gender-critical thought. And in June of this year, J.K. Rowling published a letter illustrating her concerns about the transgender movement. The moving, elegantly written letter triggered an immediate firestorm of death and rape threats against Rowling, along with an endless stream of think pieces scolding Rowling for daring to express her concerns about the impact of trans activism on women and girls. Nonetheless, Rowling stood strong against a torrent of abuse and, through her example, inspired countless women to go public with their opposition to gender identity ideology. Many of these concerns were validated this month, when detransitioner Keira Bell’s case against the NHS led the British courts to rule that children were almost always unable to consent to puberty blockers — a significant win for radical feminists that will hopefully reverberate within the medical establishment, globally.

Even after a tough year, it’s important to remember that we are moving forward, and that women’s passion, courage, and activism affects real change.

Know of more feminist victories in 2020? Mention them in the comments below!

K.S. Jolly is a software engineer and radical feminist who lives in Seattle. She blogs at Defendingfeminism.com. Find her on Twitter @smolgardenghost

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