2023 was the hottest year on record. And it wasn’t just a year of extreme weather – the political climate also became more heated, with the far-right gaining traction around the world. In the US, Republicans banned books, censored discussions of gender identity, and tried their best to prosecute any woman who dared to so much think of having an abortion. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government went on a crusade to erode LGBTQ+ rights. In Afghanistan, two years of oppressive Taliban rule have resulted in what some activists are terming ‘gender apartheid.’ From Kabul to Kentucky, it feels like we went backwards in 2023 when it comes to the rights of women and minorities.

While it’s been a bad year politically for women, things have been a little brighter in popular culture. 2023 was a banner year for female sports with events such as the Women’s Six Nations, the Women’s World Cup and the women’s Ashes notching up record viewing figures. It was also a big year for women in film, with Barbie leading the charge: Greta Gerwig’s feminist take on the plastic, anatomically incorrect doll, topped $1bn in global box office ticket sales and spawned approximately 9 million thinkpieces. As one viral tweet noted, we’ve all got a little Barbie in us (the microplastics).

It’s been quite the year, eh? To help you look back, here are 10 memorable moments from the year in patriarchy.

After decades of boasting about being a sexual predator (“When you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything … grab ‘em by the pussy”) and facing zero consequences for it, Trump’s past finally caught up with him. In May, a New York jury found that the former president sexually abused the advice columnist E Jean Carroll in a New York department store changing room in 1996. Will the fact that he has been legally branded a sexual predator stop Trump from having a second go at the presidency? No, of course it won’t. There’s a very real chance that Trump is going to get a “revenge term”. God (who may or may not be a woman) help us all.

Ardern, who was the world’s youngest female leader when she was elected, said very honestly that she “no longer had enough in the tank” to do the job. Two men called Chris then battled it out to replace her.

Spain beat England and won a historic victory in the World Cup. It should have been a moment of pure joy, but the players immediately had their success marred by the misogyny of Luis Rubiales, then head of the Spanish football federation, who grabbed his crotch in celebration then planted an unsolicited kiss on Jenni Hermoso’s lips. He could have just said sorry and everyone would have moved on, but instead he threw a fit and acted like a victim, drawing the story out for weeks. (His mother – from whom he may get his taste for drama – also locked herself in a church and went on a short-lived hunger strike in support of her son.) Eventually, following a Fifa disciplinary committee investigation into his conduct, Rubiales was banned from all football-related activities for three years.

Thanks to the success of ChatGPT, 2023 was the year that artificial intelligence went mainstream – indeed, AI was crowned “word of the year” by the Collins dictionary. And as AI technology proliferated, so too did AI-generated deepfake porn: apps which let people create lewd imagery to order were suddenly everywhere – even in high schools. In October, a New Jersey high school found itself in the middle of a deepfake scandal after it transpired boys in the school had used AI to create pornographic photos of their female classmates, some of whom were just 14. The scandal helped move US lawmakers into action, and there is now a growing push to provide legal recourse for people who find themselves victims of deepfake porn.

Since Roe v Wade was overturned in 2022, almost two dozen US states have banned or limited access to abortions. 2023 was filled with harrowing stories of women who have been forced to carry life-threatening pregnancies, or to flee to other states because of restrictive abortion laws. But there were also moments of hope: activists won a number of ballot measures to preserve abortion rights, even in conservative states such as Ohio. Going into 2024, access to abortion pills will be front and center. In December, the supreme court agreed to consider arguments that could determine the future of mifepristone – the pill used in most abortions in the US. A decision in the case will probably arrive next summer.

The incident was believed to be hate-motivated and stoked by rightwing fear-mongering in North America over gender and gender studies. “A rightwing culture war and transphobic propaganda is never just about discourse, debate, or the ‘potential for violence’,” said one gender studies professor in response to the attack. “It’s about actual violence.” And it seems depressingly inevitable that that violence will only escalate.

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Swift, who was named Time magazine’s person of the year, has always been ridiculously successful but 2023 was the year she went stratospheric. As she’s pointed out herself, however, she’s not the only female artist in the spotlight – women dominate the 2024 Grammy dominations. “If we’re going to look at this in the most cynical way possible, feminine ideas becoming lucrative means that more female art will get made,” Swift said in her Time interview. “It’s extremely heartening.”

According to figures from UN Women from 22 December, almost 13,000 women and children have been killed due to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza. Almost one million women and girls have been displaced from their homes, two mothers are killed every hour, and 50,000 women in Gaza are currently pregnant. They are now facing cesareans without anaesthetic or painkillers and facing an increased risk of premature births. Giving birth safely in a hospital has become impossible.

Last September a 22-year-old man, Mahsa Amini, died in custody after being detained by the “morality police” for allegedly not wearing a headscarf properly. Her death set off nationwide protests which, in turn, were met with brutal government violence. While the fight for women’s rights in Iran may no longer command the headlines it once did, it’s still very much ongoing.

It wasn’t just a year of extreme weather and extreme politics – the dial on pretty much everything this year seems to have been turned as far as it could possibly go. Including fashion. Standout moments in the world of couture include cleavage going all out with the rise of “circumboob”, the no-pants trend, and the rise of the “weird-girl aesthetic”. The world is growing increasingly berserk, and it seems everyone is dressing accordingly.

QOSHE - The Week in Patriarchy The year in patriarchy: abortion bans, circumboob and deepfake porn - Arwa Mahdawi
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The Week in Patriarchy The year in patriarchy: abortion bans, circumboob and deepfake porn

5 2
30.12.2023

2023 was the hottest year on record. And it wasn’t just a year of extreme weather – the political climate also became more heated, with the far-right gaining traction around the world. In the US, Republicans banned books, censored discussions of gender identity, and tried their best to prosecute any woman who dared to so much think of having an abortion. In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government went on a crusade to erode LGBTQ rights. In Afghanistan, two years of oppressive Taliban rule have resulted in what some activists are terming ‘gender apartheid.’ From Kabul to Kentucky, it feels like we went backwards in 2023 when it comes to the rights of women and minorities.

While it’s been a bad year politically for women, things have been a little brighter in popular culture. 2023 was a banner year for female sports with events such as the Women’s Six Nations, the Women’s World Cup and the women’s Ashes notching up record viewing figures. It was also a big year for women in film, with Barbie leading the charge: Greta Gerwig’s feminist take on the plastic, anatomically incorrect doll, topped $1bn in global box office ticket sales and spawned approximately 9 million thinkpieces. As one viral tweet noted, we’ve all got a little Barbie in us (the microplastics).

It’s been quite the year, eh? To help you look back, here are 10 memorable moments from the year in patriarchy.

After decades of boasting about being a sexual predator (“When you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything … grab ‘em by the pussy”) and facing zero consequences for it, Trump’s past finally caught up with him. In May, a........

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