When online solidarity is not enough. The need for stronger European feminist alliances in times of growing populism and anti-feminist ideologies.

 

Populism and anti-feminist ideologies in Europe are on the rise. We can no longer look the other way, while right-wing groups defy the rights that feminists have fought for. The past years we have seen how feminists have made their voices heard though online activism challenging anti-feminist ideologies. However, stronger alliances between European feminists are needed to defend women’s rights and to make Europe into a more equal union that truly encompasses intersectional feminist values.

 

“Stronger alliances between European feminists are needed to defend women’s rights and to make Europe into a more equal union that truly encompasses intersectional feminist values.”

 

International solidarity between feminists has a long-standing history, and continues to foster discussions mobilising actions around the globe. During the first wave of feminism, organizations such as the ‘International Woman Suffrage Alliance’ successfully brought feminists across Europe and North America together to advocate for women’s suffrage. Women’s suffrage was not only seen as a political fight on national level, but on an international level as well, that needed a strong and well-organized international alliance.

 

Photo by Zuza Gałczyńska

This tradition of international feminist alliances continues until today and has acquired new dimensions thanks to digitalization. Online activism allowed activists to connect with other activists all over the globe and made international solidarity easier than ever before. The #MeToo-movement is a great example of the long-standing feminist issue of sexual abuse and sexual harassment being brought to the forefront of public perception through online engagement. Women have found online spaces to share their stories and express solidarity with feminist actions. Yet, European activists and feminist organizations fall short to put online solidarity into action when anti-feminist policies in Europe attack our rights.

 

“We are not doing enough to by simply voicing solidarity through online actions instead of taking to the streets when women’s rights are attacked in a neighboring European country.”

 

For instance, when the Polish parliament passed a new law that puts a near-total ban on abortion in October 2020, all eyes were on the brave activists in Poland. Despite COVID-19, they managed to mobilize thousands of supporters for peaceful protests for weeks. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, the ruling has entered into effect in January 2021. Their protests received support from feminists all over Europe but we have not witnessed a united feminist voice to support the fight. The same problem arises when discussing LGBT-rights in Hungary, where a new law banned same-sex couples’ adoption and a change in the constitution made same-sex marriage impossible. Why wasn’t there a louder protest from European feminists?

 

Photo by Zuza Gałczyńska

We should not and cannot see these attacks on feminist issues across Europe as isolated events, restricted to their national context, but rather see them as an attack on the European feminist movement as a whole. Every attack on feminism within European borders, gives more weight to European populists and anti-feminist actors. This puts the European feminist movement in a dangerous position, where rights that were once acquired, risks being overturned by a growing coalition of right-wing forces. We are not doing enough to by simply voicing solidarity through online actions instead of taking to the streets when women’s rights are attacked in a neighboring European country.

 

Connecting with like-minded people has never been easier, but European feminists lack the alliances to make these connections sustainable. What we need, is to invest in more mobility and more on the ground action in collaboration with different European feminist organizations. We urgently need to start sharing our platforms and our networks, to develop new strategies to push back on populism and anti-feminist ideologies. Especially young feminists and activists need to be better connected with their European allies. We need to come together as one, while not ignoring our different backgrounds and stories, but celebrate these differences. Any attack on women’s rights in one country is an attack on women everywhere and feminists need to unite their voices in response.

Anke De Malsche
ankedemalsche@msn.com
Anke graduated with a Master’s Degree in Gender and Diversity, and Communication Management, she currently works as assistant and valorization manager at the University of Ghent and the University of Antwerp. Previously, she worked as an intern at UNFPA South Africa and volunteers at the Gender and Human Rights Team of Amnesty International.

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