Authoritarians, from Trump to Putin, to Bolsonaro and Erdogan, rely on the myth of the dominating, hyper-masculine leader, who must assert power over women, gender-nonconforming people, lesbian, gay and trans persons, and any type of “weaker” man, such as those from ethnic or religious minorities. Feminist activists, whose agendas directly challenge that patriarchal worldview, are a prime target of authoritarian regimes. They are also amongst the first to sound the alarm about anti-democratic forces.

Women’s movements have proven to be a bulwark against illiberal, authoritarian forces the world over. They are not the only bulwark—but they are often the major one. Whether in Brazil, Poland, India, the United States, Nigeria, Sudan, Myanmar, or Turkey, women’s groups and feminist organizers are leading the resistance and crafting a new vision of the world. In Turkey, women have mounted significant and sustained opposition to the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2018, Brazilian women mobilized a massive popular movement (#EleNão – not HIM) against Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Women also proved a major organizing force against the Trump Administration, beginning with the January 2017 Women’s March, and moving into running and organizing for elections until today.


Read how attacks on reproductive rights act as the canary in the coal mine – they are often an early indicator that a political party or leader is anti-democratic and authoritarian.

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When the danger to democracy and human rights is not clear to most observers, feminist activists see the first signs of what is to come.