Few men in power took a serious stand on gender equality on the main stage of the United Nations this month, but those who did went there boldly: claiming feminist credibility, selling “positive masculinity” and resolutely demanding end of patriarchy.
On the first day of the General Assembly of World Leaders, Bolivian President Luis Arce touted 2022 as “the year of the Cultural Revolution towards depatriarchalization” for his country and called on the United Nations to strive for decades to do the same.
Arce said his country wants to promote policies to “transform this unfortunate reality caused by patriarchy as the oldest system of oppression and also linked to colonialism and capitalism.”
Gender equality as one of the main goals of the United Nations has long been a safe topic of conversation for world leaders, and there have been many brief and polite mentions of advances in women’s empowerment, including the promotion of women in prominent roles and ensuring equal educational opportunities for girls; and supporting women’s autonomy over their own bodies.
There were also some leaders who did not say the words “women” or “girls” at all during their time on stage – the King of Jordan, the President of Cyprus, the Prime Minister of Japan.
At other times, “feminism” – considered an F-word by many for generations – was used proudly.
Liberian President George Weah declared himself “Chief Minister”. Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora acknowledged that “feminism is one of the great challenges of our time.” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez trumpeted “the feminist agenda and the fight for gender equality”.
“We live in times when demanding fundamental rights is still a revolutionary act,” said Sanchez in his UN address. “The global threats to women’s sexual and reproductive freedom are another example of how painfully slow the world is moving towards ensuring full equality. Worse still is the fragility of our past social achievements, which have fallen victim to relapse in certain advanced democracies – something quite inexplicable at this stage of the 21st century.”
It was a passionate blow apparently aimed at the event’s host country, where a recent Supreme Court ruling ended constitutional abortion rights. By contrast, US President Joe Biden made only passing mention of abortion rights — even as the court decision continues to make waves across the country.
“The future will be won by countries that unlock the full potential of their people, where women and girls can exercise equal rights, including basic reproductive rights,” Biden said in his speech.
The contrast was a stark reminder that words matter, said Sylvia Maier, a professor of global gender studies at New York University, who said the unabashed use of progressive language by some world leaders on this prominent stage is new, unusual and surprising. The largest gathering of world leaders remains a male-dominated forum.
“It’s time we stopped using euphemisms and beating around the bush,” Maier said. “It’s time we start speaking out in the clear about what’s ahead of us. … We cannot solve these problems – which are all interrelated – without really calling it what it is.”
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said in his speech that he was an “advocate of positive masculinity”, called for the need for “radical change” and highlighted an African Union men’s conference to tackle the rise in violence against women. “Because equality is not a gift given to women,” Tshisekedi said.
The United Nations has defined positive masculinity as “an innovative approach to engaging and engaging men and making them allies in efforts for gender equality and peacebuilding in conflict and post-conflict settings”.
Maier said it’s important to model the so-called idea of ”what a good and honorable man should be doing” — from resisting violence and speaking as a bystander, to understanding consent, believing in survivors of gender-based violence and survivors to create services to help people in crisis.
“It’s hard work changing social norms that are actually gender stereotypes,” Maier said. “Positive masculinity is actually an amplification of positive character traits, but all of those character traits shouldn’t even have a gender.”
The problem is particularly acute for Congo. As one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, the country has long struggled with high rates of sexual violence, domestic violence and child marriage.
“The problem is not masculinity,” said Ousseina Alidou, a professor who directs the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and is president of the African Studies Association. “Who we are is not the problem, but what we adopt as ideology.”
Alidou said it was commendable that Africa is taking the issue seriously as part of the continent’s healing from its painful colonial history.
“Patriarchy was the framework for which colonialism manifested itself in the most inhumane way on the African continent,” Alidou said. “Patriarchy is not a monopoly of just one region of the world. It is a world phenomenon.”
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/09/25/flashes-of-bold-un-talk-on-feminism-masculinity-patriarchy/ Flashes of bold UN talks on feminism, masculinity, patriarchy