Dissent has taken a center stage in the conversation around change, and the mainstream perception of protesting involves men at the forefront is contrary to how many protests and revolutions have panned out.
Dissent or resistance is often seen through the lens of masculine courage, as protests become breeding grounds for violence, trauma, and encounter with brutal authorities. However, female participation in activism and its many heroic feats of resistance have proven otherwise. From the Suffragette Movement began this journey of resistance against debilitating circumstances, as women in the States fought for the right to vote and live as first-class citizens, for autonomy over their reproductive rights, winning over the men that encroached on their personal and public liberties.
Inspired by this, a global wave of women dissidents was birthed. While they continued to fight for equality internationally and reclaim the political and economic independence that they had been denied, women also started protesting other causes. Be it symbols like Rosa Parks or Angela Davis who played significant roles in the civil rights movement or poets like Maya Angelou, women have brought about large-scale changes on many accounts- protesting oppression, inequity, and breaking free from their shackles of fear.
Women have increasingly fought for the environment, challenging the ugly forces of exploitative industries and governments. This happened in India during the Chipko Movement as women protested the government’s policy of allowing industrial giants to utilise forest produce for making profits. A group of thirty women guarded the trees which were to be felled, challenging them to shoot down the women before touching the trees.
This led to an investigation into the case and the ultimate withdrawal of the company. Ecological protests have also taken shape in the West, in instances such as the Protest at Standing Rock, wherein tribal women pioneered a movement in North Dakota, USA, against a crude oil pipeline to be set up under the main water source of that area. The two slogans that emerged out of this protest were “Water is sacred” and “Women are sacred” thus capturing the essence of the fight.
Women have also starkly protested for human rights, like the women of Shaheen Bagh who pioneered the anti- Citizenship Amendment Act and National Registers of Citizen (CAA-NRC) protests against the systemic stripping of Muslim citizenship rights. The government sneered at them, ridiculed their dearth of money and influence, but the women persevered in the cold winters of Delhi, singing and protesting, and indefinitely waiting for their voices to be heard. Similar women vigilantism is intrinsic in the fight of the Gulabi Gang, a group of women in India fighting against gendered social oppression, who wore pink sarees and carrying bamboo sticks, smashing down the gatekeepers of patriarchy and trailblazing activism and dissent.
Women have protested their perceived powerlessness by becoming agents of resistance and change- they will not be silenced, and they will persevere until their demands are met.
Image Credits: Alraf Quadri
By Riddhi Mukherjee