The State of Feminism and World Politics

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Help Reverse Women's Narrative

Even as democratic institutions are in decline, threatened by the rise of the so-called “strong man,” women are running for office. In Mexico this year, women ran for election in record numbers. As Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assumed the Presidency, Claudia Sheinbaum succeeded him as Mayor of Mexico City, a first for a woman. “Sheinbaum's was the most high-profile victory of the more than 3,000 women candidates who ran in local and state elections across the country, in what the Mexican media dubbed ‘the year of the women,’ noted Newsweek. “She won between 47.5 and 55.5 percent of the vote, according to exit polls, El Financiero reported.”

In the United States, anger against the misogynist-in-Chief Donald Trump is driving women running for office. By April of this year, the number of women running for Congress had reached the record, according to the Rutgers Center for American Woman and Politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now the staff of legend, defeated an out-of-touch Democrat Establishmentarian in line to be the next House Democrat Leader. Ocasio-Cortez seems to be at the tip of the spear of a pro-women, anti-Establishmentarian movement. “MJ Hegar, an Air Force veteran and young mother running for Congress in Texas as a Democrat, said that ‘women are sick of’ male elected leaders promising to protect women’s rights,” says FiveThirtyEight. And we have not yet heard the response to Trump’s Supreme Court nominee or the administration’s breastfeeding resolution before the UN. Trump, to put it mildly, is not pro-women’s rights.

However, not everything is getting better with regards to women running for office. Quotas, which are used to increase representation of women in political power in various countries, are often subverted by men, despite the best intentions. In Brazil, where there are quotas to bring the representation of women up to the percentage of the population (52%), there are ghost candidates. And in Pakistan, despite the fact that the Election Commission of Pakistan requires a 5% minimum quota of female participation in elections, not much has changed. Benazir Bhutto was the first and last female Prime Minister of that country. "Despite having the world’s first female to head a Muslim-majority country through a democratic government, who was alive just a decade or so ago, women are not considered important participants in politics,” says the Express Tribune. “The minimum quota for female candidates was craftily exceeded by just a few numbers by each party, which was patronizing rather than charming.”

Australia is in a particularly dark place with regards to women and politics. “Only two per cent of girls aged 10 to 14 wanted to work in politics, rising to five per cent for those aged 15 to 17, and no women aged 18 to 25 had aspirations to work in politics,” reports the Australia Associated Press. "'For too long, outright sexist barbs have been hurled at female politicians,’ (Plan International Australia) director of advocacy Hayley Cull said on Tuesday.” The sexist barbs refers to an appalling incident of slut-shaming that took place on the floor of Australia’s Parliament earlier this summer. Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Senate on 28 June that senator David Leyonhjelm told her she should “stop shagging men” during comments in a debate about women’s safety. She told him he was a creep and he spewed profanity at her. On Monday, Sarah Hanson-Young confirmed she will sue David Leyonhjelm for defamation.

The pendulum swings. Now is not the time to become discouraged. There is a pink wave occurring in the United States. Women of color are taking the helm in large cities like Atlanta and New Orleans. Both frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Georgia were women.

Overseas, things are looking up. There is a Muslim woman mayor in the UK. First Ladies are becoming far more than the ceremonial figures of generations past. They are setting up health centers, lifting up women and children, dealing with the ravages of HIV, particularly in Africa. And in Senegal, where women participate in politics more than most sub-Saharan African countries, the gender gap appears to be closing. There is some good news in South and Latin America. Argentina is progressing. The Vice President of Columbia is a woman. The single mothers who raised Brazil’s World Cup players, a source of national pride, are getting a heroines reception (finally). Soccer coverage, in general, is getting feminized in Latin America. And that is a good thing, a surprisingly political-influential issue.

Hyper masculine “strong men” are, unfortunately, on the rise everywhere. In Italy the far-right is ascendant; rising oil prices are strengthening Vladimir Putin; Erdogan won re-election and appointed his barely qualified son-in-law to run the Turkish economy; Trump and his son-in-law are making a mess of the Middle East. Chauvinistic, nativist, nepotistic, authoritarian and anti-feminist regimes tend to follow from these men – and it is invariably men – that are skeptical, even sometimes hostile to democratic norms. Democracies across the globe are in grave danger, from within and without, from these hyper masculine, thuggish types. It is perhaps not a big surprise the horrific treatment of illegal immigrants in America, separating them from their children, just a morbid symptom of greater malady inflicting a country that, at present, overvalues brute force over diplomacy.

 Cover via Huffington Post