Disaster patriarchy: how the pandemic has unleashed a war on women
As Covid-19 has swept the world there has been an explosion of violence against women, and a full-blown assault on their rights. It’s time to fight back against a system that allows women to be sacrificed, erased and violated
Covid has unleashed the most severe setback to women’s liberation in my lifetime. While watching this happen, I have started to think we are witnessing an outbreak of disaster patriarchy.
Naomi Klein was the first to identify “disaster capitalism”, when capitalists use a disaster to impose measures they couldn’t possibly get away with in normal times, generating more profit for themselves. Disaster patriarchy is a parallel and complementary process, where men exploit a crisis to reassert control and dominance, and rapidly erase hard-earned women’s rights. All over the world, patriarchy has taken full advantage of the virus to reclaim power – on the one hand, escalating the danger and violence to women, and on the other, stepping in as their supposed controller and protector.’
I have spent months interviewing activists and grassroots leaders around the world, from Kenya to France to India, to find out how this process is affecting them, and how they are fighting back. In very different contexts, five key factors come up again and again. In disaster patriarchy, women lose their safety, their economic power, their autonomy, their education, and they are pushed on to the frontlines, unprotected, to be sacrificed.