Transnational feminist solidarity and lessons from the 2011 protests in Tahrir Square
Transnational feminist solidarity can be and has been very effective at bringing about social change in local, regional, and global contexts. It works by uniting local actors with other individuals and movements around the world. The discourse of women’s human rights often animates transnational feminist solidarity, but such collective action across and through borders responds to countless injustices and ought to be thought of expansively as including efforts to alleviate or end material deprivation, physical violence, social marginalization, cultural domination, and political tyranny. Solidarity, as a moral and political concept, captures the pull of the dynamic relations of individual actors addressing a particular situation or engaging in efforts for social change. Transnational feminist activists, however, must be attentive to cultural differences in the very notions of ‘solidarity’ and ‘feminism’ themselves, as well as the means and methods of protest employed to challenge unjust or oppressive social, material, and political conditions. Although their particularity makes transnational feminist solidarities difficult to theorize, some key elements may be identified that situate them in relation to both new social movements and older or more traditional feminist activism. Solidarity is by no means a universal concept; nevertheless, there are some lessons to be learned from seeing how the concept has been employed in different transnational feminist contexts. I use the protests in Tahrir Square in 2011 to suggest some important elements of transnational feminist solidarity while also examining the prospects and obstacles that it must confront. This exercise reveals both the power of transnational alliances and the need to attend to the
cultural, political, and gender-based differences that accrue when women and men from widely divergent life situations come together to advocate for change.