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The Time Has Come

In PerspectiveIt is crucial to recognize that adhering to Western-based narratives of feminist waves is irrelevant when it comes to mass protest movements originating or progressing mainly in the Global South or in Eastern European countries. However, the current paradigm shift in feminist praxis is undeniable, both politically and epistemologically

A few weeks ago, a large group of Rammstein fans and around 300 feminists clashed at the main entrance of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. The feminists were protesting against the band, particularly its lead singer Till Lindemann, due to multiple allegations of sexual assault (1). Despite the protesters’ demands to cancel Rammstein concerts in Berlin, the shows still went on.

Several feminist activists and groups have been attempting to transform this #MeToo case into a substantial political movement that affects a large number of people rather than just a few. However, despite their efforts, the city’s authorities failed to cancel the concerts, and Berliners were unable to effectively rally to defend the city’s reputation as a bastion of strong feminist voices and a relatively welcoming place for women and gender dissidences.

It is evident that feminism has gained significant momentum in North America and Western Europe in recent years. However, concerns have arisen regarding the limitations to its radical potential due to the rise of neoliberalism and right-wing politics, which may have influenced the current feminist landscape. A recent survey conducted in Germany on authoritarianism reveals antifeminist sentiments in society. As an example, about 25 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that women would exaggerate their accounts of sexual violence in order to benefit from the situation. Additionally, 23 percent of respondents expressed concern that feminism could disrupt social harmony and order. Moreover, cases of domestic violence in Germany increased by 9.4 percent in 2022, with women comprising 80 percent of the victims. Notably, reported incidents of rape and sexual assault had also risen by 20 percent compared to the previous year. These gender-based prejudices are not unique to Germany or “Western” countries, as a United Nations report indicates that nine out of ten people worldwide still harbour biases against women and their abilities and characteristics.

These are just a few examples of the concerning and prevalent phenomenon of the backlash against contemporary gender politics which is sweeping across the world and which has grave repercussions. Far-right groups and authoritarian governments, as key components of their political agendas, have embraced movements which are anti-feminist or which oppose modern gender politics. It is imperative to acknowledge the widespread impact of this trend.

It is not uncommon for activists to experience disappointment and despair regarding the current political climate, particularly within feminist politics in the so-called Global North, where identity politics has gained popularity. Although identity politics has previously succeeded in redefining notions of belonging and power dynamics, it has recently failed to provide a vision of radical change beyond existing power structures, or to mobilize en masse. At present, identity is often viewed as the true essence of individuals, influencing their behaviour, thoughts, and relationships within a reactionary framework of identity politics. This shift can be attributed to the impact of neoliberal ideologies of individualization, which emphasize a fixed concept of identity and arguments based solely on privilege and marginalization without adequately addressing multiple power structures. In this context, personal identification and relative privilege become critical factors.

Does all this mean that feminism in its current popular forms has lost its transformative potential, radical vision, and political relevance? Or can we still think of feminism as a liberatory collective movement against the status quo and the multiple regimes of oppression; a movement that will not be constrained to the realm of identity politics and individualization?

Feminism Alive and Present

It is worth noting that there exist “other feminisms” that eschew fixed categories and instead prioritize transversality in their daily politics. This approach entails “identification with” others and sharing values, ideals, and common goals. In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of large-scale feminist and gender movements in various regions, particularly in the so-called Global South. These movements have taken to the streets and introduced a new feminist politics that challenges systems of domination and presents a political vision capable of mobilizing the masses and moving beyond the constraints of identity politics. This phenomenon is observable in many places: for example Kurdistan and Iran, Latin America, as well as in Eastern European countries.

In Iran, the protest against obligatory hijab in recent years climaxed in a mass movement in reaction to the state femicide of the Kurdish-Iranian woman Jina Amini by the so-called “morality police” in September 2022. The streets of Iran in the most marginalized corners of the country, as well as in Tehran and other big cities, were filled with people: chanting the slogan of the Kurdish feminist movement, “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî” (“Woman, Life, Freedom") in different languages. During these mass protests, women and gender dissidents played a prominent role in an uprising that successfully mobilized diverse groups from various backgrounds and united them in their opposition to and rejection of the Islamic Republic.

Women in Kurdistan have played a critical role in political and armed resistance against fascist, fundamentalist, nationalist, and colonial forces, including Islamic State (IS), and the Syrian and Turkish states, for the past decade. These women are dedicated advocates for gender equality and steadfastly challenge patriarchal norms. They view the women’s movement as a politically transnational project with a broad vision for society as a whole.

Since 2015, Latin American feminist movements such as Ni Una Menos in Argentina have been diligently working to combat gender-based violence and femicide, while also advocating for reproductive rights. These movements have played a crucial role in promoting broader social justice struggles and have been pivotal in mobilizing mass protests to reclaim public spaces. In Chile, the feminist movement gained significant momentum in 2018 as a response to the widespread outrage over gender-based violence. Nationwide feminist protests were sparked by incidents such as the nido.org case, where non-consensual explicit content was shared on the website, as well as other cases of harassment and abuse by teachers, university professors, and prominent figures. During this movement, women took to the streets and protested en masse against sexual violence and victim-blaming.

These are just a few examples of massive demonstrations and strikes that have also influenced feminists in the Global North to adopt similar protest methods. The women’s strike movement in Europe has grown in popularity in recent years, addressing a range of feminist concerns. Significant protests that have taken place include the 2016 feminist protest in Poland and the women’s strike of 2017 and 2018 in different countries. These protests have brought attention to crucial issues such as reproductive rights, workplace discrimination, and gender-based violence.

The Feminist Movement is Gaining Momentum

Over the past decade, there has been an undeniable surge in mass movements spearheaded by feminists and gender dissidents. Although it may not have been their primary objective, the presence of these movements in everyday politics contributed to challenging the deeply entrenched systems of capitalism and patriarchy that are inextricably linked. Although the momentum is often acknowledged, it can be difficult to effectively articulate the important aspects of the growing transnational feminist movement. Some suggest a return to the ideals of second-wave feminism and a reinvention of left-wing feminism that prioritizes social reproduction in feminist discourse and action (2). Others advocate for the creation of a new feminist international movement based on the intersectional mobilization of gender, race, and class (3). Encouraged by the successful mass mobilization of the militant international strike on 8 March 2017, influential left-wing feminists released a manifesto for “feminism of the 99 percent”(4), which proposes a transformation of dominant social relations in their entirety. Some even argue that this new wave of feminist protests could lead to the emergence of the fifth wave of feminism (5).

It is crucial to recognize that adhering to Western-based narratives of feminist waves is irrelevant when it comes to mass protest movements originating or progressing mainly in the Global South or in Eastern European countries, such as Poland. However, the current paradigm shift in feminist praxis is undeniable, both politically and epistemologically. Nevertheless, as neoliberal capitalism has evolved into multiple and mutating forms (6), feminist struggles have also advanced in different forms across the world and encountered multiple mutations: in their intellectual and political project, in their strategies and tactics for grassroots resistance, and also in their visions for the future. 

Thus, articulating and comprehending the key aspects of the emerging new feminist subjectivity in its multiple and diverse forms can prove to be a challenging task. Establishing enduring links between these different movements presents an even greater difficulty.

Beyond Equality: Feminisms Reclaiming Life 

The recent internationalist gathering that took place at Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), Beyond Equality: Feminisms Reclaiming Life, must be seen in this context for facilitating the encounters between the unfolding feminist movements originating from the Global South and putting them in conversation with each other. The curatorial collective (7) states that for invited movements and individuals from the Global South, “feminism is more than a quest for equality or individual empowerment — it is a political project that aims at social justice and structural transformation: decolonization and planetary care work, political sovereignty, socialization of social reproduction, and revolutionary democratization of the everyday”. 

During the three-day gathering held from 30 June to 2 July 2023, the curatorial team hosted a variety of panels and workshops delving into the theme of feminisms beyond equality. The opening panel on the first evening dealt with the necessity of feminism that addresses issues beyond gender. The second day focused on how feminist movements in the Global South resist liberal feminism and fight against extractivist capitalism. Throughout the day, various feminist collectives, mainly based in Berlin, discussed pertinent issues as part of diasporic and BIPOC feminist communities. Workshops covered topics such as planetarian feminism, feminist revolutions in the MENA region (8), feminist anti-war resistance, transnational queer solidarities, and femicide and gendered violence. In the evening assembly, participants, panellists, and curators came together to share and brainstorm ideas, based on the day’s discussions, on the main question of the gathering: “what feminism do we want?” 

During the final day of the gathering, the discussions centred on crucial topics such as neoliberalism, far-right movements, and feminist counter-strategies. The panel on queer and gender dissidence brought to light the pressing issue of gender violence against queer and trans individuals. Furthermore, it addressed the problematic use of diversity in mainstream neoliberal feminism. Other panels shed light on anti-racist and migrant struggles in Germany, which have emerged due to the rise of the New Right. Subsequent workshops delved into crucial topics, including the political economy of gender and race, abolitionist feminism, feminist media strategies, the role of emotions in movements, and feminized labour (9).

For the curatorial team, without any illusion about the frontlines of the Global South feminist movements and their daily struggles, the gathering was just a step, but an essential one, toward identifying the common elements as well as acknowledging crucial strategic and tactical differences between these movements in their fight against the common enemies. In addition, the event provided a vital opportunity for well-known feminist movements, researchers, and activists to establish or fortify networks with each other, including those from the Latin American, Kurdish, Iranian, and North African liberation movements, as well as queer and trans-feminist positions.

What Kinds of Feminism?

Summarizing the broad array of topics and discussions covered in the event may present a challenge. Nevertheless, certain concepts and elements were repeatedly emphasized in various panels and workshops. Below, we will highlight some of these recurring themes, providing insight into aspects of feminisms that extend beyond equality.

At the gathering, discussions were held on the feminization of politics, particularly in the Global South. Despite prevailing gendered violence and anti-feminist politics, it was noted that feminists are playing significant roles not only in conventional political arenas but also in everyday politics. It was made clear that transnationalism is a key aspect of all movements, and states and their transnational allies are increasingly using similar strategies and mechanisms to suppress people and emancipatory movements. The current revolutionary movement in Iran, inspired by the Kurdish women’s movement in the MENA region, is proof that many feminist movements around the world have learned from and been inspired by each other. Transversality, both in theory and practice, was a central theme of discussion among panellists. Mass feminist movements in many contexts have successfully bridged struggles and spaces of resistance that were previously divided or disconnected. The emphasis on collectivism was made on different occasions as a counterpoint to (neo)liberal feminisms, which prioritize individual victimhood over collective subjectivities to transform society. It was highlighted that emotions and affective-driven politics are strategically important in building feminist alliances and promoting a liberating feminist imaginary. The fight for life was a key feature of the different movements that attended the gathering. Colonization has drained life from us by extracting essential resources from nature, Indigenous territories, and gendered bodies. Thus, the defence and fight for bodies and nature against multiple forms of violence is at the heart of any attempts to reclaim life for all and radically change everything! Lastly, the claim of universality in feminisms was an implicit theme of many conversations both on and off stage. The discussions focused on acknowledging and embracing various perspectives and ethical considerations, including non-Western knowledge, and challenging previously accepted assumptions about politics, social justice, gender, and even feminism itself.

Feminist movements, which strive for more than just equality, have also encountered challenges in achieving their goal of creating and sustaining a transversal political vision and sustainable relations. These are some of the important concerns that were addressed during the gathering:

1) The pandemic has worsened the global economic crisis, which has led to further impoverishment of vulnerable groups, especially women, and intensified the crisis of reproduction and care work.

2) The global shift towards authoritarian neoliberalism and the emergence of far-right movements have increased armed conflicts and gender-based violence.

3) Neoliberalism poses a threat to mass feminist movements in the Global South as it commodifies and co-opts feminist struggles.

4) Neoliberal extractivism is the main destructive force behind the repression, dispossession, and colonization of bodies and territories, and climate disasters in the Global South. Feminized bodies and Indigenous populations are the most affected by the consequences of this mass destruction of nature and exploitation of gendered bodies.

5) Climate change, authoritarian rule, war, extractivist capitalism, and the enhancement of border regimes are displacing the most vulnerable people, exacerbated by the rise in racist and nationalist discourse worldwide.

6) The discussion also touched on the dilemma of how to link local feminist causes to the transnational feminist movement sustainably while acknowledging the unique forms of mobilization and differences in each locality. Essentially, how can feminists promote a transversal and transnational perspective while taking action at the local level?

Back to the Olympic Stadium incident in Berlin, it appears that the dominant feminist movement “here” is relying more heavily on defensive tactics rather than a long-term strategy for radical change. Unsurprisingly, it has not been successful in making a significant impact on the public and mobilizing the masses. Rather than linking the issue of sexual harassment to larger societal and political problems and making transversal politics a priority, mainstream feminism still holds onto the belief that gender equality and justice can be achieved separately through online campaigns about individual cases or legal or political solutions offered by the current system. Taking to the streets, in this approach, is not seen as part of a strategy to organize a mass movement and connect different struggles but as a tactic to put pressure on the state to accept their demands. In contrast, there are feminist perspectives operating in many parts of the world that have offered other solutions for emerging from the dead-end of individual and liberal discourses of gender equality. By engaging in discussions and gaining knowledge from these feminist movements and perspectives, which have advanced feminism beyond demanding an equal share within the system, it is possible to develop concrete political visions and strategies for the future in different localities and frontlines. The gathering taught us an important lesson — we need a change “here” and “now”, not “there” and “tomorrow”! The time has come for us to unite our efforts and connect our struggles towards a common goal of collective liberation. After all, “none of us can truly be free until we are all free”.


 1. Lindemann’s case is part of a recent development in the #MeToo movement, and one which has gained widespread international attention. In late May of this year, allegations of sexual assault were made for the first time against Till Lindemann, the singer of the well-known band Rammstein. Investigations carried out by NDR and the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) described in detail a solicitation system. Numerous women have shared with reporters from NDR and SZ their experiences of being targeted by members of Lindemann’s entourage, either through Instagram or at concerts, and invited to exclusive afterparties. Despite the ongoing investigation by Berlin prosecutors, the band continues to tour Germany. Feminist groups have organized protests in every city where they perform, but the concerts have not been cancelled as a result.

2. J. Littler, Left Feminisms, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2023.

3. V. Gago, Feminist International: How to Change Everything, London: Verso Books, 2020.

4. A. Davis, B. Ransby, C. Arruzza, K.-Y. Taylor, L. M. Alcoff, N. Fraser, R. Y. Odeh, and T. Bhattacharya, “Beyond lean-in: For a feminism of the 99% and a militant international strike on March 8”, Viewpoint Magazine, 3 February 2017, available at https://viewpointmag.com/2017/02/03/beyond-lean-in-for-a-feminism-of-the-99-and-a-militant-international-strike-on-march-8/. Last accessed on 7 August 2023.

5. S. Walker (2017), “Feminism 5.0”, Women's Equality Party, 8 March 2017, available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/we_launch_the_fifth_wave. Last accessed on 7 August 2023.

6. W. Callison and Z. Manfredi (eds.), Mutant Neoliberalism: Market Rule and Political Rupture, New York: Fordham University Press, 2020.

7. “Beyond Equality: Feminisms Reclaiming Life” was curated by a Berlin-based collective of women* situated in struggles like the Iranian Revolution, the Kurdish Liberation Movement, diasporic and migrant movements, as well as in feminist anti-extractivist, media and artistic articulations between Latin America and Germany. The collective consists of Firoozeh Farvardin, Barbara Marcel, Camila Nobrega, Bahar Oghalai, Bafta Sarbo, Elif Sarican, and Margarita Tsomou.

8. The MENA region refers to the Middle East and North Africa.

9. Footage of some of the panels is available online.

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