Susan Watkins in The New Left Review:
Of all the opposition movements to have erupted since 2008, the rebirth of a militant feminism is perhaps the most surprising—not least because feminism as such had never gone away; women’s empowerment has long been a mantra of the global establishment. Yet there were already signs that something new was stirring in the US and UK student protests of 2010, the 2011 Occupy encampments at Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park. In India, mass rallies condemned the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey in 2012 and feminist flash-mobs have disrupted the moral-policing operations of Hindutva fundamentalists. The protests against sexual assault on US campuses blazed across the New York media in 2014. In Brazil, 30,000 black women descended on the capital in 2015 to demonstrate against sexual violence and racism, calling for the ouster of the corrupt head of the National Congress, Eduardo Cunha; earlier that year, the March of Margaridas brought over 50,000 rural women to Brasília. In Argentina, feminist campaigners against domestic violence were at the forefront of protests against Macri’s shock therapy. In China, the arrest in 2015 of five young women preparing to sticker Beijing’s public transport against sexual violence—members of Young Feminist Activism, an online coalition that’s played cat-and-mouse with the authorities—was met with web petitions signed by over 2 million people.
In January 2017, a ‘feminism of the 99 per cent’ declared itself with the million-strong march against the Trump Administration in the US. In Poland, mass women’s protests forced the Law and Justice government to retreat from tightening the already restrictive abortion law. Italy, Spain and Portugal saw huge marches against domestic violence and economic precarity. On 8 March 2017, these movements came together to put International Women’s Day back on the radical calendar, with demonstrations and strikes on three continents. The eruption of #MeToo in October 2017 and the convulsions that have followed are only the latest in a string of mass events around the world.
Yet any attempt to renew feminist strategy today confronts a series of dilemmas. First, we lack convincing assessments of the progress already made. What results have the old feminisms produced and how adequate have these been in meeting women’s needs? How, exactly—by what processes, to what extent—have conditions improved? What changes have been brought about, globally, in gender relations, and where do these now stand?