"What Woman?": International Women's Year and the Challenges of Transnational Feminisms
Amid the geopolitical and social turmoil of the 1970s, the United Nations declared 1975 as International Women's Year. The capstone event, a two-week conference in Mexico City, was dubbed by organizers and journalists as "the greatest consciousness-raising event in history." The event drew an all-star cast of characters, including Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, Iranian Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, and US feminists Flo Kennedy and Betty Friedan, as well as a motley array of policymakers, activists, and journalists.
Organizers juggled geopolitical rivalries and material constraints amid global political and economic instability; the conference ended up showcasing conflicts over issues ranging from abortion to Zionism. While participants expressed dismay at levels of discord and conflict, these combative, unanticipated encounters generated the most enduring legacies, including women's networks across the global south, greater attention to the intersectionalities of marginalization, and the arrival of women's micro-credit on the development scene.