There has been an immense shift in our perspective this year. As the months have gone on, we continue to see changes in all major aspects of our lives around politics, health, and even social discourse.
Think about it: the concept of society or social interaction and your capabilities to do so has probably been changed somehow within the last year. How we talk about health—what that looks like and what it means to protect both ourselves and others—no longer looks the way it used to. And in the heat of a US election season, it’s hard not to hear new information at every turn.
As these shifts have continued, they’ve held a whole lot of change within them but also one common thread of similarity:
You’ve probably noticed this too. I’m talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, the Women’s Marches, increased visibility for the LGBTQ+ community…
Though the everyday person may be impacted by a change to one of these major life areas in a multitude of ways, all of them affect marginalized communities more greatly than they impact majority populations. And when that happens, those communities are willing to speak up about it.
One of the groups that have been the loudest not only in the US but throughout the world in protesting against injustice has been womxn. In a recent New York Times article by Southeast Asia bureau chief Hannah Beech and reporter Muktita Suhartono, they highlight Thailand protests where young people have taken to the streets with many womxn found at the front lines.
What are they protesting about exactly, and why does it matter? Let me cover the first part and I’ll circle back at the end to the second.
The Thai protests going on in Bangkok are largely calling for the reform of their political system—more specifically, many are asking for the reform of their monarchy and the curb of its wealth. Many of those participating in the protests, one of the largest in years with over 150,000 people in attendance on Saturday, have been university students.
Most of those students were womxn.
They are not asking for the full abolition of the monarchy, but instead its modernization. Within that modernization, womxn are centering issues like birth control, outdated clothing policing, and other ideas that are seen as strictly female. Sounds like a shift in how they talk about both health and politics, no? Well, it also ties back to societal values.
Even with laws presenting jail time as consequences for speaking out against the king, that is not the only opposition womxn fight against. They fight against the power imbalance of traditional gender roles and patriarchal values upholding that womxn need to know their place. Instead, “they have joined a broader range of voices calling for [a] greater say in a country where democracy has been in retreat, though the challenges for women remain steep even within the protest movement.”
As they continue to fight against the society that actively works against them, those in Thailand are not the only womxn speaking up. We’re seeing this more and more womxn raise their voices across the world here in the US with Black Lives Matter and even in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
In Minsk, The New York Times and the Guardian report that over 300 womxn were arrested on the 5th when 1,000 of them took to the streets in a protest march over the victorious reelection of President Aleksandr Lukashenko. With their own strength in both numbers and consistency with peaceful protesting, these “women have come to symbolize the peaceful nature of protests and offer a stark contrast to the brutality of Mr. Lukashenko’s robust security apparatus.”
Many of us may be familiar with this kind of political unrest as womxn like those in Minsk mirror the actions of those here in the US when it comes to speaking up about personal rights. Young Black teen Zee Thomas and countless others have found themselves leading BLM protests here in the US this year. In her words, “our generation had to grow up too quickly in order to make sure our younger siblings and even our kids will grow up in a world where we are equal and free to be who we are regardless of skin color or gender identity or sexuality.”
These are three different movements in three different countries, all led by womxn. Yet, when you take a deeper look into each movement and why each is happening now, you may realize that they didn’t just happen now. They’re a result of systemic buildup.
The unrest in Thailand has been building for years and the catalyst for what’s happening now was a coup that occurred back in 2014 which led to the creation and recent dissolution of the Future Forward political party. The political unrest in Minsk and the US are more closely tied to elections, a culmination of human rights issues like Black Lives Matter and Women’s Rights movements, and unsatisfying political reigns.
But none of these issues have been sudden; rather they have been a slow boil finally coming to a head now as they have several times in the past. In the same way that the US has seen major changes in the way we think or are impacted by the political, health, and social spheres of our lives, I think we also need to pay more attention to the groups that should be centered in the conversations about these issues.
There are people being left out of the conversation and, at least from the looks of it, womxn are forcing their way back in. We are essential to the rest of life after all, what is a world without womxn?
That world can’t exist. The question is, how can we center womxn and so many other silenced voices better than we do right now in the way our world currently exists?
Think about that. I encourage you to consider what’s going on in the world right now and how the womxn around us are either centered or undervalued. Think about Breonna Taylor, how has she been not only decentered but also tokenized while still being erased. Then consider the broader communities both she and others are a part of.
How can we allow for equity in this world for womxn? You tell me, I’m listening. I hope to hear from you before next week, but until then have a good weekend.