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We’re in Poland in the unpredictable summer of 2013. Progressive movements are collectively rolling their eyes at an attack on gender equality from the fringes of the religious right. It looks ridiculous: an attempt to discredit what they call ‘gender ideology’. The gender equality ‘agenda’ is denounced as a threat to social order; sexuality education, they say, is a tool used by paedophiles. Members of the progressive movement—including feminist and LGBTI groups and academics—are writing sneering responses in the media: teaching gender equality in schools is about improving the prospects of young girls; and no, masturbation lessons are not on the agenda.
But by 2014, the progressive movement is in emergency response mode: it’s no longer just the fringes of the right-wing who are using these arguments. They’ve spread across the establishment and, despite facing ridicule from much of the media, are deeply embedded in the (particularly rural) public consciousness. Academics in the field of gender theory are receiving death threats. A ‘Stop Gender Ideology’ committee is set up in Parliament. And it actually looks as though the Istanbul Convention (which sparked off the whole debate) might not be ratified by the Polish government.* On the other side of Europe, in France, these arguments were being simultaneously used in protests that erupted around the legalisation of equal marriage, largely under the banner of La Manif Pour Tous. They were victorious in halting the extension of adoption and surrogate rights to gay couples.
Across the water, in the Irish Republic, the received wisdom at this time has been that this traditional, Catholic nation will never accept rights for LGBT people. By early 2015, this is completely overturned, when the public discourse is claimed by campaigners for equal marriage. The Yes Equality campaign successfully tells the story of an inclusive, fair, generous and equal Ireland that the population agrees with. The shift is palpable: and the referendum for marriage equality results in a resounding win.
Understanding framing is key to understanding social change
What do these stories have in common? They’re all about dedicated and effective campaigning. And they’re about effective framing: telling stories, creating meaning, shifting discourse, influencing thinking. The different ways the issues we care about are framed can dramatically impact how we respond to them. Understanding framing strengthens our movements. Read more