By Jamie Lindsey
To many women in the United States, it may be easy to identify feminists that have made significant changes to the sexist culture that surrounds us. Idols such as Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and RBG have been constant figures in our lives and have continued to stand up and fight for women’s rights. But how many of us are aware of international feminists, feminist movements and sexist cultures from around the world? Are we, as feminists, paying attention to what is going on in other countries? Are we aware of the lives women live in other nations and the stigma that they endure because they are women? It is important that we not only continue to fight sexism at a domestic level, but at international levels as well.
Let us not forget our international feminist icons that have had significant impact on girls and women around the world. This is no competition of “who has it worse than we do,” but, rather, a collective understanding of what it means to stand up and fight for women in every nation. Let’s look at different movements from around the world, and what we can continue to do to support women’s rights everywhere.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women in China started to begin their own movement but faced backlash from government administration. Skillfully using social media, negotiation techniques, and support systems, they tried what they could to change the status quo of sexual harassment and assault in the country. China is a censored country, and those that challenge the state can face serious consequences. According to an article by Simina Mistraenu called “China’s #MeToo Activities Have Transformed a Generation,” women in China have to “walk a careful line between balancing their unleashed anger to an authoritarian, patriarchal regime that has cracked down fiercely on any group that might threaten its power.” This includes being told to cancel rallies and distribution of anti-sexual harassment stickers can be considered “propaganda” and could lead to arrests and jail time.
In fact, the Feminist Five, a group of women who planned an event like the one described above, were arrested and detained for 37 days because they refused to cancel their rally. Much like the #MeToo movement in America, Chinese women were also coming out about their stories and women continue to fight for just legislation that benefit women and children of abuse. The article later states, “The real change will likely not stem from legislation. Some Chinese laws are purposefully written vaguely so that they are difficult to enforce because the government prioritizes stability and economic growth over civil rights.” Now, student activists and human rights lawyers are arrested in mass amounts, online speech is tremendously censored, and many more ethnic minorities are detained in internment camps.
Imagine, being detained for marching in the Women’s Marches that are held locally in Joplin or Springfield. Let us continue to support women in China, and do what we can to spread the atrocities of human rights violations on this massive scale.
Women in Saudi Arabia have always been seen as “property” and cannot do many things without their father or husband’s permission. We have all seen videos of the Saudi teenager, Rahuf Mohammed al-Qunun, who locked herself in her Thai hotel room, pleading for help to seek asylum in Canada or the United States. She knew that going back to Saudi would mean death. After the media uproar on the issue, many other Saudi women have sought asylum, trying to get away from abusive fathers or husbands. Activists, much like those in China, are sought and detained by the authoritarian regime.
Loujain al-Hathloul is a Saudi feminist and activist who continues to fight against policies that demean women. She has been arrested several times in Saudi, once for trying to drive her car for which she was detained for 73 days. Although activism in the country has made great strides in women’s rights, they are nowhere near having basic human rights. Women’s guardianship laws have eased, and women no longer have to have men’s permission to access government services and open businesses but still have to have permission to travel or marry, according to an article in the Washington Post called “The high price of feminism in the ‘new’ Saudi Arabia.” Feminism and women’s rights are a complex issue in Saudi. We must continue to support and fight for these women who may not get opportunities to fight for themselves. Even with peaceful protests, women are being persecuted for terrorism and spending the rest of their lives in prison.
We should highlight the feminist group in India that shames rapists and fights back against them. The Gulabi Gang, or Pink Gang, will literally beat a rapist until they are bruised and bloody so they don’t dare to wrong any woman or girl again. The movement, according to an article in Aljazeera, now has over 400,000 women in 11 different regions of the country. A million kudos go out to these badass women!
There are many more movements like these happening all over the world.
Let us always stand up for the rights of women and girls. Let us never forget that we are not the only ones who face criticism, stigma, and assault. Let us always do what is right for our sisters around the world.