zizek8_Ying TangNurPhoto via Getty Images_iran protest Ying TangNurPhoto via Getty Images

Women, Life, Freedom, and the Left

Four recent global news stories have revealed the varieties of women’s empowerment, showing how the politics of sex and gender can either challenge or reinforce existing power structures. For Western liberals, understanding these dynamics will be crucial to beating back the new right.

LJUBLJANA – Four events centering around women have made headlines over the past month: Giorgia Meloni’s electoral victory in Italy, Queen Elizabeth II’s death and funeral, the release of the film The Woman King, and the widespread protests in Iran following the killing of Mahsa Amini by the country’s morality police. Taken together, these four stories highlight essential features of the political terrain.

With the left failing to offer an adequate response to the crisis of liberal democracy, the rise of new right-wing governments in Europe is not particularly surprising. But women’s central role in this movement has yet to receive the attention it deserves. Right-wing leaders like Meloni and Marine Le Pen in France are presenting themselves as stronger alternatives to traditional mainstream masculine technocrats. They embody both right-wing hardness and features usually associated with femininity, such as a focus on care and the family: fascism with a human face.

Now consider the televised spectacle of Elizabeth II’s funeral, which highlighted an interesting paradox: as the British state has fallen ever further from its former superpower status, the British royal family’s ability to inspire imperial reveries has only grown. We should not dismiss this as ideology masking actual power relations. Rather, monarchical fantasies are themselves a part of the process whereby power relations reproduce themselves.