Flashes of bold UN talk on feminism, masculinity, patriarchy

Sep 24, 2022, 9:04 AM | Updated: 9:10 pm

President of Spain Pedro Sanchez, center bottom, addresses the 77th session of the United Nations G...

President of Spain Pedro Sanchez, center bottom, addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

              Prime Minister of Andorra Xavier Espot Zamora addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
              President of Liberia George Weah addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
              President of Congo Felix Tshisekedi addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
              President of Bolivia Luis Arce addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
              President of Spain Pedro Sanchez, center bottom, addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Few men in power have delved deeply into gender equality on the main stage of the United Nations this month, but the ones who did went there boldly: claiming feminist credibility, selling “positive masculinity” and resolutely demanding an end to The Patriarchy.

On the first day of the General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Bolivian President Luis Arce touted 2022 as “The Year of the Cultural Revolution for Depatriarchalization” for his country, and urged the United Nations to adopt a decade-long effort to do the same.

Arce said his country wanted to promote policies to “transform this regrettable reality that is caused by patriarchy as the most ancient system of oppression, and that is also linked to colonialism and capitalism.”

Gender equality, as one of the United Nations’ primary goals, has long been a safe talking point for world leaders, and there were many brief and polite mentions of progress made toward female empowerment, including promoting women into prominent roles, ensuring equal educational opportunities for girls, and supporting women’s autonomy over their own bodies.

There were also some leaders who did not say the words “women” or “girls” at all during their time on stage — the king of Jordan, the president of Cyprus, the prime minister of Japan.

At other times, “feminism” — considered an f-word by many for generations — was used proudly.

Liberian President George Weah declared himself “feminist-in-chief.” Andorran Prime Minister Xavier Espot Zamora acknowledged that “feminism is one of the great challenges of the present moment.” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez trumpeted “the feminist agenda and the struggle for gender equality.”

“We are living in times in which demanding basic rights is still a revolutionary act,” Sánchez said in his U.N. address. “The global threats to women’s sexual and reproductive freedom are yet another example of how painfully slowly the world is moving towards guaranteeing full equality. Worse still, is the fragility of our past social gains, which have fallen victim to backsliding in certain advanced democracies — something quite inexplicable at this stage of the 21st century.”

It was an impassioned jab, apparently directed at the event’s host country, where a recent Supreme Court ruling ended the constitutional right to abortion. In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden offered only a passing mention of abortion rights — even as the court decision continues to ripple across the nation.

“The future will be won by those countries that unleash the full potential of their populations, where women and girls can exercise equal rights, including basic reproductive rights,” Biden said in his speech.

The contrast was a stark reminder that words matter, said Sylvia Maier, a global gender studies professor at New York University, who said the unabashed use of progressive language by some world leaders on this prominent stage was new, unusual and surprising. The largest gathering of world leaders remains a forum that is dominated by men.

“It’s about time we stop using euphemisms and beating around the bush,” Maier said. “It’s about time that we start talking about what we’re facing in no uncertain terms. … We cannot resolve these issues — which are all interlinked — without really calling it what it is.”

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said in his speech that he was a “champion for positive masculinity,” claiming a need for “radical change” while highlighting an African Union men’s conference to tackle a surge in violence against women. “Because equality is not a gift given to women,” Tshisekedi said.

The United Nations has defined positive masculinity as “an innovative approach to engaging and involving men, and making them allies in gender equality and peacebuilding efforts in conflict and post-conflict settings.”

Maier said it’s important to model the so-called idea of “what a good and honorable man should do” — from resisting violence and speaking up as a bystander, to understanding consent, believing survivors of gender violence and creating services to help those in crisis.

“It’s hard work changing social norms, which are really gender stereotypes,” Maier said. “Positive masculinity really means a reinforcement of positive character traits but all of these character traits, they shouldn’t even have a gender.”

The issue is especially acute for Congo. One of the poorest and least developed nations in the world, the country has long struggled with high rates of sexual violence, domestic abuse and child marriage.

“The problem is not masculinity,” said Ousseina Alidou, a professor who leads the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and serves as president of the African Studies Association. “Who we are is not the problem, but what we embrace as an ideology.”

Alidou said it is commendable that Africa is taking the issue seriously as part of the continent’s healing from its painful history of colonization.

“Patriarchy has been the framework for which colonialism has manifested itself, in the most inhumane way on the African continent,” Alidou said. “Patriarchy is not a monopoly of only one region of the world. It is a world phenomenon.”


Follow Sally Ho on Twitter at http://twitter.com/_sallyho and for more AP coverage of the U.N. General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A person shows their scan card for their personal selection numbers for a ticket for a Power...

L.B. Gilbert

$1.2 billion Powerball drawing nears after 11 weeks without a winner

A $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot will again be up for grabs Wednesday night after an 11-week stretch without a big winner

6 hours ago

FILE - A man walks through wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2023. Federal authorities...

Associated Press

Cleanup from Maui fires complicated by island’s logistical challenges, cultural significance

Cleanup of areas destroyed in the Maui wildfires could end up being one of the most complex to date, federal officials said, given the island's significant cultural sites, its rich history including a royal residence and possibly remains of people who died in the disaster.

13 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023...


New York judge issues limited gag order after Trump makes disparaging post about court clerk

A New York judge imposed a limited gag order on defendant Donald Trump Tuesday after the former president disparaged a key court staffer during his civil business fraud trial.

1 day ago

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the introduction of the integration of Microsoft Bing sea...

Suman Naishadham, Associated Press

Microsoft CEO says unfair practices by Google led to its dominance as a search engine

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday that unfair tactics used by Google led to its dominance as a search engine, tactics that in turn have thwarted his company’s rival program, Bing.

2 days ago

This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Portland Field Office shows a ...

Associated Press

Man accused of kidnapping Seattle woman, kidnapping charges in separate case

A man accused of abducting a woman in Seattle, driving her hundreds of miles to his home in Oregon and locking her in a makeshift cinder block cell 

2 days ago

A person browses offerings in the Raven's Nest Treasure shop in Pike Place Market, Dec. 10, 2021, i...

Associated Press

Man who faked Native American heritage to sell his art in Seattle sentenced to probation

A Washington state man who falsely claimed Native American heritage to sell his artwork at downtown Seattle galleries was sentenced Wednesday to federal probation and community service.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Flashes of bold UN talk on feminism, masculinity, patriarchy