This year let's celebrate … the US backlash against sexism | Jessica Valenti

International Women's Day: The Republican primaries have thrown up shocking misogyny, but the response is heartening

This last year has been a particularly exciting one for feminism in the United States. Women's issues are on the radar like never before, and though we've suffered setbacks, the backlash against sexism is hitting fever pitch.

The old-school sexism that's come up during the Republican primary race – be it the Rick Santorum funder who told women to put "aspirin between their knees" in lieu of birth control or Rush Limbaugh calling a woman who testified about the cost of contraception a "slut" and a "prostitute" – has actually been a boon for women's rights activists.

While it's certainly depressing to know that these kinds of antiquated views of women still exist (though feminists have long known that they do), the blatant misogyny demonstrated by conservative and Republican leaders and their allies has been too egregious to ignore.

And thanks to committed and passionate online feminists, the attacks on women are being answered with resounding force.

When the breast cancer foundation Komen cut their funding to Planned Parenthood – for cancer screenings for low-income women – the incredible anger online prompted the organisation to restore funding within days, and a high-level executive there to resign. After Virginia legislators tried to pass a bill that would force women seeking abortions to undergo a mandated transvaginal ultrasound (an invasive procedure that would force women to be penetrated against their will), feminists launched online campaigns calling it "state rape". Once Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show took aim at the legislation, it was amended to exclude that particular kind of ultrasound. Feminists are still trying to get the bill killed altogether – just last week over 30 peaceful activists in Virginia were arrested by police in full riot gear. And now, Rush Limbaugh is in danger of losing most of his advertisers thanks to the quick action of feminists online and off.

There's no doubt that there's still a tremendous amount of work to be done – and I don't expect that the American war on women will slow down – but seeing the passion and commitment of so many women create change is inspiring. It gives me hope not just that feminist issues will get the political attention they deserve, but that mainstream America will start to see just how much feminist issues matter to them and align with its values.

• To comment on this article please visit our interactive map of what can be celebrated around the world this International Women's Day

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Jessica Valenti

The GuardianTramp

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