By Erica Chenoweth and Zoe Marks
March/April 2022 (posted Feb 8)
The pantheon of autocratic leaders includes a great many sexists, from Napoléon Bonaparte, who decriminalized the murder of unfaithful wives, to Benito Mussolini, who claimed that women “never created anything.” And while the twentieth century saw improvements in women’s equality in most parts of the world, the twenty-first is demonstrating that misogyny and authoritarianism are not just common comorbidities but mutually reinforcing ills. Throughout the last century, women’s movements won the right to vote for women; expanded women’s access to reproductive health care, education, and economic opportunity; and began to enshrine gender equality in domestic and international law—victories that corresponded with unprecedented waves of democratization in the postwar period. Yet in recent years, authoritarian leaders have launched a simultaneous assault on women’s rights and democracy that threatens to roll back decades of progress on both fronts.