The women's liberation movement is reorganizing, after some relatively dormant decades. The feminist movement experienced a quieter period in the 1980s, when many people were trying to break gender stereotypes and women began to have greater visibility in the labor market. But the last few years have sparked a feminist awakening as women’s basic rights are rolled back by a regressive narrative that reinforce gender stereotypes instead of trying to dismantle them.
The academia, specially in the English speaking regions, have been pushing ideas such as “born in the wrong body”, “biological sex is a spectrum”, “sex changes”, “there’s no such a thing as the female anatomy” and a complete disenfranchisement of women’s rights, claiming that “females are not oppressed anymore”.
The words “woman” and “female” have been deemed “dirty”. Many institutions are refusing to say these words in women’s health campaigns. Instead, they are calling women and girls by dehumanizing phrases like “uterus/cervix havers” or “birthing people”.
From this perspective, it is necessary to look at the whole picture that appears before our eyes: female oppression not only exists, it has increased and worsened during the past year after decades of progress. This stark reality is motivating and mobilizing women across the globe. If the rise in modern misogyny has you wondering how you can make a difference, this post is the introductory guide to getting involved in feminist action for you.
In a time when on-the-ground organizing can be difficult, online activism can provide a seemingly easy solution. Hashtag campaigns for a cause such as #MeToo, #BlackLives Matter, and #EndSARS have all been instrumental in creating real-world change.
But, in order to have reach, it is necessary to organize. Much of the behind-the-scenes work that activists do to make hashtag campaigns succeed can fly under the radar, leading inexperienced organizers to think creating a catchy slogan is the end of the job. Before starting your hashtag, build a network to help it make an impact by following the other steps in this guide first. Once you have a community rallied behind your cause, then is the time to start an online campaign.
Know the subject
In order to be effective advocates, campaigners must understand the main issues involved, the source of the problem, and in which ways it is possible to fight. In the case of female oppression, there is daily evidence of what each one of us experiences: sexual harassment and assault, low wages, obstetric violence, low political representation, negligence in medicine, or the massive objectification of the female body.
Even so, there is a current narrative that women are no longer oppressed because they "can already vote", "wear pants", and "marry whomever they want". So it is necessary to take a deeper look at the issue, which is only corrected with study groups formed to listen to women’s concerns and for reading and discussing feminist theory. It helps to start following feminist publications such as Feminist Current, AfterEllen Magazine, Radical Notion, Meeting Ground, and (of course) 4W.
A strong grounding in feminist theory and history will also help you contextualize your experiences and provide you with language to use to describe them. Check out this reading list compiled by the Women’s Liberation Front for a great introduction to important feminist works to inspire your activism.
Talk and listen to other women
Activism can start at home. Then with friends. Neighbors. Classmates at school. Neighborhood. Mum’s online forums. Co-workers. Unions. Activism is going to start somewhere, so it's natural that it starts around you.
You can start by looking for more people who believe that women need to stick to their rights. Unity is strength. Therefore, forming a group is an important step in starting the change.
2020 has seen an explosion of feminist collectives around the world, created to keep women’s sex-based rights. Maya Forstater, a British feminist, has been collating information about feminists groups on the platform Gender Dissidents, and plans to extend it to compile organizations from all over the world with a presence on social media.
Woman’s Place UK it’s an example of a group that started locally, with a meeting of about eight women, that since then became a national institution with meetings attended by hundreds of people before lockdown measures. They continued to spread awareness of the issues regarding the redefinition of the word “woman” and the misrepresentation of the Equality Act online. “We started Woman’s Place UK in September 2017 to ensure women’s voices would be heard in the consultation on proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act. We had 5 demands and we didn’t expect the campaign to last more than 3-4 months”, says in their website.
During lockdowns, women and girls also gathered online to respect social distancing. In Brazil, a small group of teenage girls created a group called Sementes Coletiva (Collective Seeds) to talk about female oppression, and since then, they have been joined by hundreds of other girls from several regions from the country.
If there’s not already a local group started in your region, connect with women online to network in your area and build connections. Be careful when organizing online, and always be sure to thoroughly vet each other before meeting up in person.
Joining forces with other women in your region is not only a good first step for activist organization, but can also provide much-needed connection, sisterhood, and support as women in patriarchy are intentionally isolated from each other.
Educating and training new activists to spread the word
When you have a good grasp of the issues yourself and have teamed up with other women, you can start training other women to talk about the issues. While it’s great to reach out to bloggers, Youtubers, or influencers to help spread the message, this can also mean encouraging and training women to talk about the cause with other women in their daily lives. These conversations are hard to have, so if you get good at them, share your knowledge with others.
Accessible lectures about feminism on video calls like the WHRC (Women’s Human Rights Campaigns), online study groups, all are valid initiatives to share knowledge and train activists. Share content you learn about or resources you find with other women either in person or through feminist social networks like Ovarit and Spinster.
WEDO created a useful tool kit for planning online meetings, which contains details about choosing technology, organizing the meeting structure, and logistics. The guide is available in English, Spanish, and French.
Woman’s Place UK also has a whole section on their website about how to organize feminist groups, bringing resources on organizing meetings, how to lobby you local MP and current legislation. For the US, WoLF has resources that can also be useful when lobbying such as poll data and language on resisting certain bills.
Understand local, national, and international politics
Start with your neighborhood. Are there support groups for vulnerable populations, or women’s groups? Propose conversations and debates. If not, try to open a group. Go to schools and propose talks on women’s rights. Interacting with groups from other neighborhoods and looking for common ground will strengthen the movement.
Don’t be afraid of getting deplatformed when organizing an event. Every time a group is deplatformed, this can be turned into a larger story which gains even more attention for the cause. Considering the nearly total press blackout on the issue, anything that can be used to generate press is good because it gets the issue on the table.
Does your city have a branch of a political party? Does the political party you are affiliated with have a feminist wing or council? Look for affiliation or membership. These groups are usually connected to national groups and therefore they will have valuable information that can be more fluid, constant, and comprehensive. Watch out for female candidates who propose guidelines that advance women's rights and seek to support them.
With this approach, it is possible to push for change. The success of this tactic was recently demonstrated by the feminist resistance to dangerous aspects of a Scottish amendment to a bill in support of survivors of sexual violence. The bill was going to state that female survivors would be able to choose their forensic examiner based on the nurse’s “gender”. Thanks to feminist resistance, the approved amendment will now state that survivors will be able to choose the sex of the forensic expert. Writing to your local authorities (city councilors, mayors, MP, State senators, etc) will ensure that women’s concerns at least can not be forgotten.
In the international field, it is important to note that there are several aspects of female oppression that are unifying. Worldwide, for example, the main food production workforce is made up of women. "Between 60 to 80 percent of food production in the Global South is done by women (50% in the world)." Keeping your local advocacy also aligned with the issues that unite women across the globe such as the extreme lack of female bodily autonomy and poverty will make your advocacy stronger.
Organizing protests and demonstrations
Protests and demonstrations can be organized to fight against harmful legislation to women’s rights. British journalist Julie Bindel’s protested at an event where Professor Selina Todd had been dis-invited on unjust grounds, demanding she be re-invited and holding the organizers accountable for suppression of free speech. Her peaceful disruption of the the event generated press around the cancellation which would have otherwise been ignored.
In September, UK activist Posie Parker and two other women were arrested in Leeds while protesting for women’s rights. Their arrest brought wide-spread attention to the unfair treatment of feminists by police, and is part of a long history of feminist civil disobedience that has proved successful time and time again in changing the conversation.
Other possible actions include open letters, petitions, and social media campaigns backed by an organized team of activists. Public acts of support for women’s rights activists, like JK Rowling’s tweet in support of Maya Forstater in December 2019, can also help to show that the issues raised are not isolated cases and that many women are concerned about the way female erasure is under way.
Activism works. Protests, demonstrations, campaigns, and other initiatives to mitigate female inequality are tools of extreme need in a world created by men and for men, where the female voice is erased and devalued. The change begins now, with the organization of a movement that fights to liberate all women from their lack of bodily autonomy, political representation, and financial independence.
Organizations you can join today
These are just a few of the many, many organizations you can join today to start taking action for women.
Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) - US
WoLF is a radical feminist organization based in the United States focused on policies related to gender identity and the sex trade as they impact women and girls. Membership is open to women 18 years and older. Apply to become a member here:
Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) - International
Women's Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) is a group of volunteer women from across the globe dedicated to protecting women's sex-based rights. They hold weekly lives and anyone from around the world can sign their Declaration of Women’s Rights, or contact them to talk about speaking in one of their panels.
Woman’s Place UK
Woman’s Place UK started in September 2017 to ensure women’s voices would be heard in the consultation on proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act. Supporters can donate, download their Manifesto and post it to their MPs.
Resisters United - UK & Ireland
ReSisters United is an international group including the UK and Ireland, formed from local, grassroots feminist groups in order to coordinate and organise national and international action. Local ReSisters groups work independently of each other, or in coordination with other local groups as and when necessary. ReSisters United solely focuses on the coordination of large-scale efforts. To join, contact ReSisters so you can be connected to your local group.
Gender Dissidents - UK
Gender Dissidents is a web page created by Maya Forstater to document the dissident movement pushing against gender ideology in the UK. In the Resources section, there are dozens of groups listed, like Standing Up For Women, Fair Play for Women, Safe Schools Alliance, Transgender Trend, FiLia and many more. Anyone can nominate more groups, which is now looking for nominations of groups outside the UK.