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Inspiring Women Talk: Sian Norris on the anti-gender movement

By Genevieve Bland & Eilidh Tannett

On Tuesday 2 August at the Zion Centre in Bedminster, investigative journalist Sian Norris told us of the harrowing realities of far-right extremist groups and their influences beyond borders. 

Sian started her talk by giving a bit about her background and how she came to pursuing a career in investigative journalism. 

Background: “I am so fortunate that my job is my passion”.

Following 6 years of feminist work within her local community in Bristol, Sian Norris fell into writing. Starting off with blogs, Sian has now written for mainstream press, published her own books, and firmly established herself as a freelance writer with feminism at her core. 

The attack on reproductive rights

In the talk, Sian elaborated on the research behind her recently published book: ‘Bodies under siege: How the Far–Right Attack on Reproductive Rights Went Global’ (2023). Through delving into the sinister underbelly of the deep web, Sian was able to predict the rise of the anti-gender movement* far before it hit headlines in cases such as Roe vs. Wade. Predicting how it would sweep through the US and beyond, she explained how (despite what some may think), the anti-gender movement is not a fringe ideology. “It was horrifying to see how things were unravelling as I wrote the book, how these ideologies were becoming more and more mainstream”.

Other ideas Sian explored in the talk were how American far-right religious groups were exerting influence in Europe and Africa, the more extreme ‘Q-Anon-like’ ideas of satanism behind certain anti-gender theories, and the co-option of language by the far-right to weaponise the words of the human rights movement against them. 

Other work

Sian’s investigations also include looking into the scale of sexual harassment in the NHS and sexual violence in prisons; women’s safety while exercising, migrant rights, the war in Ukraine, children and social care, the housing crisis and much more. She has reported from Romania, Bangladesh, Kenya and the UK.

She specialises in journalism focusing on women’s reproductive rights and men’s violence against women and girls.

* Shorthand for a school of thought that opposes reproductive rights, particularly abortion.

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