Covid has unleashed the most severe setback to women’s liberation in my lifetime. While watching this happen, I have started to think we are witnessing an outbreak of disaster patriarchy.
Naomi Klein was the first to identify “disaster capitalism”, when capitalists use a disaster to impose measures they couldn’t possibly get away with in normal times, generating more profit for themselves. Disaster patriarchy is a parallel and complementary process, where men exploit a crisis to reassert control and dominance, and rapidly erase hard-earned women’s rights. (The term “racialized disaster patriarchy” was used by Rachel E Luft in writing about an intersectional model for understanding disaster 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.) All over the world, patriarchy has taken full advantage of the virus to reclaim power – on the one hand, escalating the danger and violence to women, and on the other, stepping in as their supposed controller and protector.