Bangkok, Thailand, September 24, 2020. Protest waves sweeping the world in 2020 are just now beginning to receive widespread attention in terms of women´s liberation. Lebanon can hardly at this point be cited as any kind of success story, but women have played unprecedented roles in protests in Beirut and elsewhere. Many women, especially young ones, have also been learning to stretch their wings and assume important leadership responsibilities in a rapidly changing, dynamic political landscape as fraught with opportunity as it is danger.
For weeks, tens of thousands of protesters have gathered and some sources even speak of an overrepresentation in these crowds of young women making up more than half of the group.
In years past, women were a distinct minority in protests. But something new is afoot these days, and the protest is not directed just at the traditional patriarchal pillars of society, monarchy, military, and monkhood, but at patriarchy itself.
Many of the earliest and most vocal organizers of protests in 2020 have been female students and now they appear a majority at the most recent protests. Young women in Thailand have much to gain from rebelling against traditional patriarchal authority, hence the enthusiasm. Issues that have been debated for decades in other countries, are only now being aired, such as abortion, and even taxes on menstrual products. School rules that force girls to conform to an outdated version of femininity are also receiving a lot of criticism and resistance.
In their own words going viral across the world, these young women protesters seek to destroy ¨the male superiority structure¨ especially insofar as it is perpetuated ¨under the monarchy¨, revolutionary words indeed.
Of course, this is happening not just in Thailand but something very similar is also going on in Belarus, where hundreds of women were arrested last week while marching in Minsk to protest the return to power of the country’s strongman, President Lukashenko.
Women have taken part in previous protest movements in Thailand and there have been several over the past couple of decades. A core of so-called aunties, many from rural areas ignored by Bangkok’s ruling elite, were integral to an opposition force called the Red Shirts, who occupied downtown Bangkok for weeks before a bloody crackdown in 2010. In terms of protest leadership, however, women had been mostly absent, until now.