By Eva Martin, Rosa Organiser
A quick snapshot of media coverage in the last years tells a dark tale of femicide, gender violence and LGBTQ-phobic hate crimes. Brianna Ghey, a 16-year-old trans girl from England brutally murdered by two other teenagers; 15-week pregnant Natalie McNally murdered in her own home; a 17-year-old male teenager sentenced for stabbing and killing a woman walking home from work in Dublin three years ago; rates of sexual assault and domestic abuse through the roof; stalking; huge increase in viral misogyny and image-based abuse. Gender violence here and internationally sky-rocketed in the pandemic. Now, the economic crisis, uncertainty and the cost-of-living crisis fuel it further.
We are witnessing a backlash against #metoo as well financed online influencers like Andrew Tate target young men, seeking to normalise sexist attitudes and violence against women by pushing a dangerous narrative that women are objects to be controlled by men. Millions of boys and young men are being targeted online via “the manosphere”; an enormous collection of websites, blogs, and forums promoting toxic masculinity, male entitlement, and opposition to gender equality.
A feminism of struggle
The most important drivers of change are strong and active social movements — being active in and building campaigns will literally save lives, push back the alt-right misogynists and challenge backward attitudes generally. If not for the protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of Sarah Everards murder Wayne Couzens would not have been convicted to the fullest extent. The uncovering of the Met Police’s rampant misogyny would not have been carried out fully without the pressure from protests and demonstrations. ROSA was part of this movement, organising demonstrations in the aftermath of her murder. Despite intimidation from the state, issuing fines against ROSA organisers we continued to protest.
Rights were never granted freely from above. Winning abortion rights north and south of Ireland was won by struggle from below. Young women were an important driver of this change. Many thousands took to the streets demanding the repeal of the 8th Amendment in the South and the decriminalisation of Abortion in the North. ROSA played a key role in this struggle. Utilising tactics of civil disobedience ROSA engaged in a series of extremely high-profile actions that made available and created awareness of abortion pills, which are entirely safe and can be self-administered. These included an abortion pill train and buses travelling the country – effectively making the law unworkable. The pressure brought to bear was too much for the establishment and they relented
The #MeToo movement challenged misogynistic attitudes in society and exposed high profile abusers like Harvey Weinstein who were previously thought to be untouchable. At every level #MeToo gave confidence to challenge sexism and misogyny. We urgently need to build movements now to tackle gender violence and the current growth of misogyny both online and in the streets.
A Feminism that is anti-capitalist
Capitalism relies on oppression, sexism and misogyny at such a fundamental level. ROSA is an anti-capitalist, socialist-feminist organisation. We understand that a system built to maximise the profits of the super-rich, that creates homelessness, requires low pay, exploitation and is the root cause of environmental degradation everywhere, is the enemy of freedom and equality. Feminising the ruling elite will not achieve our liberation – we must tear down the whole system which necessitates inequality and repression.
Getting active urgently and building campaigns will not only help force governments to make moves on key issues essential to tackling gender violence including proper social housing and funding public services – it will also push back against the rise of reactionary forces and the far right, and will literally save lives.