#MT4FP: Me Too for Foreign Policy

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Written by Coby Jones

The #MeToo movement is changing the status quo in the workplace and has the potential to change the world. This simple hashtag has propelled a grassroots movement forward, giving women the security and confidence to speak out against sexual harassment in the workplace, and is forcing a very important conversation globally about misogyny and discrimination against women. If we take a few of these principles: grassroots movement, changing the status quo, and disrupting global misogyny, and apply it to the United States foreign policy strategy, we could finally see a strong, comprehensive strategy that takes the United States back to the global influencer it used to be.

The United States needs a foreign policy strategy overhaul anyway. Donald J. Trump marks the third presidency in a row of weak foreign policy. George W. Bush started a useless war, Barack Obama, though beloved, was not a strong foreign policy strategist, and Donald J. Trump doesn’t have a foreign policy strategy, instead choosing to focus on ‘America First’. Nearly two decades of ineffectual foreign policy strategy leaves the United States in a precarious position on the global stage.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is the perfect catalyst to call for this change. IWD this year comes on the heels of a powerful global movement and general atmosphere: the #MeToo movement. It’s time for #MeToo Foreign Policy or #MT4FP. #MT4FP would be a foreign policy strategy that centers on gender justice and equality in all aspects.

#MT4FP would not be the same as feminist foreign policy. So, how does this differ from a #MeToo Foreign policy?

#MT4FP would focus on gender quality in the same way that feminist foreign policy does but the method through which gender equality is achieved would be different. The #MeToo movement is a grassroots movement and foreign policy needs to invest at a grassroots level in order to create sustainable change. Melinda Gates recently wrote about the effectiveness of investing in local grassroots movements to achieving sustainable change and the United States foreign policy needs to invest in a strategy that does this. This foreign policy strategy needs to go further and call on grassroots mobilization with the support and funding of higher political office in order to advocate for true gender justice and equality with the United States at the helm.

Visualizing this rather sweeping move in foreign policy will take some imagination, but here are a few examples of what a #MT4FP strategy would look like:

Trade Agreements

The United States throws its weight around in trade agreements already, most recently in President Trump’s decision to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. The domestic steel and aluminum industries have suffered in the United States since 2000, but Trump’s decision could begin a trade war with the European Union, Canada, and China already vowing to propose counter measures in the coming days. The United States already has the power to influence the global trade market in the name of the economy, but #MT4FP would call on the United States to exert it’s influence in the name of gender justice. For example, under #MT4FP, the U.S. would impose tariffs and exert it’s influence in trade with countries such as India. India was ranked last of all the G20 countries for women’s empowerment and women’s safety but is home to a large democracy with a bourgeoning feminist movement. Progress for India has been slow and achieving lasting change has proven difficult. As an ally of the United States, India would have an incentive to change, and change fast in order to avoid the trade repercussions imposed by the United States. Gender in #MT4FP then becomes a tool in hard power agenda discussions.

Global Development

Through USAID, the focus of development and foreign policy strategy thus far has been one of empowerment. Women’s empowerment in its own right is needed to create sustainable change, but often in the implementation of empowerment, women are reduced to their economic incentives, not acknowledged as full citizens with equal rights. #MT4FP would flip the script. USAID would work on the ground with local development organizations to give them the capacity to help women realize their full potential as active citizens. #MT4FP would force the United States to think outside of the patriarchal structures that currently exist globally and force a strategy that pushed development from the bottom up with women’s rights as equal citizens at the center. This International Women’s Day is calling on rural and urban activist to propel change and a #MT4FP would pay homage to this and push further into rural areas to reach the most marginalized and impoverished women to drive change.

With International Women’s Day right now is the perfect time to call for this change. The United States’ foreign policy strategy needs a complete rewrite, so why not use the success of the #MeToo movement as a guide for this new strategy? It’s clear that women around the world are demanding equality and the United States should listen and respond to the grassroots cry for justice.

It does this through a comprehensive, grassroots foreign policy strategy devoted to justice and equality for women globally. A new world order of equality is on the horizon. Women are standing up and demanding change and won’t go back. Institutions that resist this change will fall behind. The United States should get on board with the #MeToo movement and use it’s role as a global leader to influence other countries and their commitment gender justice globally. It’s about time for #MT4FP.