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9 Protests by Women That Changed the World

Amina Mama said, “the greatest threat to women (and by extension humanity) is the growth and acceptance of a misogynistic, authoritarian, and violent culture of militarism.” Throughout history, women have fiercely resisted male-driven imposition of sexist policies and culture through protests.

Here are some amazing protests carried out by women who took fighting the patriarchy to the next level.

1. Uganda: “The miniskirt law” Protests


Uganda’s miniskirt protest

Women protested against a law which blamed victims for their own rape by outlawing “indecent clothing.” The law, signed on February 6th 2014, became infamously known as the “miniskirt law” after men attacked and stripped women in the streets for alleged infractions of the law. Women attempted to march through Kampala, but had to instead gather outside the national theater when police prevented the march.

2. China: White Wedding Protests


Chinese women protest domestic violence.

Feminists in China are resisting patriarchal violence, sexual harassment, and illegal crackdowns against activists. One of the most visually impactful protests took place in Beijing, China, when women marched through the streets in white wedding dresses stained with blood. Last year, the government detained five activists leading up to International Women’s Day protests, calling them “guerrilla terrorists.”

3. United States: Black Lives Matter/Say Her Name Protests


Black Lives Matter activists protest police killings of black women.

After the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded by female activists, protests raged across the country against the police murders of unarmed Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so many others. Soon after, activists launched the hashtag #SayHerName, and scheduled a day of action to bring attention to state violence against black women and girls. At least 17 cities participated in the day of action, and the names of women such as Rekia Boyd and Sandra Bland began to get attention in mainstream discourse.

4. United Kingdom: Black Friday Protests

A suffragette struggling with a policeman on 'Black Friday', Westminster, London, 18th November 1910. The Conciliation Bill (which would have given the vote to women who occupied premises for which they were responsible) was shelved by the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. On learning of this, the Women's Social and Political Union marched on the House of Commons, a riot followed and the women were assaulted - some being severely beaten - by police and others. The newspaper Votes for Women reported that 115 women and 4 men were arrested. The WSPU quickly learned the lessons of that day and a policy decision was made to pursue their campaign using different tactics. Large deputations were considered to be too dangerous and from this moment the suffragettes went underground and waged 'guerrilla warfare' (their phrase) against the Liberal Government. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

A suffragette struggling with a policeman on ‘Black Friday’, Westminster, London, 18th November 1910.

Black Friday was a women’s suffrage protest that happened on November 18th, 1910. The protests were a response to the British Prime Minister’s opposition to the Conciliation Bill. which allowed about 1 million women the right to vote. The Women’s Social and  Political Union held a protest, where 200 women who tried to run past police were manhandled and assaulted. Women responded with a long campaign against the state’s violence against and oppression of women, and were granted partial voting rights in 1918, and full voting rights 10 years after.

5. Iceland: Women’s General Strike


The women’s general strike in Iceland.

An incredible general strike occurred on October 24th, 1975 when 90% of women in Iceland refused to work. The strike not only included female laborers, but also women who worked at home. For one day, almost no women went to work, cooked, cleaned, or took care of children. Of course, society as people knew it ceased to operate and the protest put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.

6. Peru: ‘Line in the sand’ Protests


An illustration of Peru’s “Line in the Sand” protest

On March 7th, 2014, In Lima, Peru, feminists dressed in red sprawled out on the pavement in front of the “Ministry of Women.” The protest was meant to honor the women who have been abused by Peru’s government, who have received no fair treatment or recognition, and was a metaphor for the trampling of women’s rights. The line looked just like a line in the sand, and was a powerful statement about the state of women’s rights in 2014 Peru.

7. Afghanistan: Malalai Joya


Afghani activist Malalai Joya.

Malalai Joya is a world-famous activist and politician, who was robbed of her role in parliament in May of 2007. She was an outspoken critic of the United States as an imperialist power, and of the Karzai administration for being complicit in all it’s crimes and coups. She was promptly dismissed from her position despite outcries from activists around the world.

8. India: The “Pink Chaddi” Campaign


Members of conservative group Sri Rama Sene holding up pink underwear they received as part of the protest.

After a group of women were attacked in a pub in Mangalore, India, the “Pink Chaddi” or “Pink Underwear” campaign was launched by the Consortium of Pub-Going Loose and Forward Women in February of 2009. The campaign sent thousands of pairs of pink underwear to conservative fundamentalist group “Sri Ram Sene,” which some of the attackers belonged to. The idea was to humiliate the men who were responsible for the attack.

9. London: Grunwick Film Strikes


Grunwick strike leader Jayaben Desai.

This strike not only served as an exposition of the exploitation of female immigrant workers, but it also exposed the corruption in the trade union movement. Activist Jayaben Desai led the strike, which lasted from 1976-1978, and was composed mostly of Asian East African employees at the Grunwick Film Processing laboratories. Police brutalized the strikes, but the workers pushed the trade union movement in London to confront its own racism and sexism.

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