Why we need Feminism today

Some days ago, the police in Innsbruck, Austria, started to give away free pocket alarms to women and girls. The media reported about the campaign and focused on the safety of women and girls in public places.
The campaign is not bad, but the way it is advertised gives the impression that women are more vulnerable than men and need more protection. Although the news about crime in Innsbruck show that men are victims of robberies and violent crimes, too.
This example demonstrates how stereotypes about men and women influence our daily lives. And that’s exactly why we still need Feminism.

Feminism is not about hating men. Feminism is about equality. Feminists do not want to be superior or better than men. They want to be treated the same way as men.

Many men who are against feminism are afraid of losing their control over women. They are scared of losing their partners. They are worried about finding a job if women can apply for the same positions. They are unsure if their voices are heard as soon as women are allowed to share their opinions as well.

However, men’s loss of control over women is not an appropriate reason to stop women’s emancipation. In fact, the control is the biggest issue for women. I am not only talking about the control in intimate relationships. Who ever did some research about the hidden structures of a state, an economy , a society, or any system or organisation, can easily find out that all of them prioritize men.

One reason why these systems work is because there are still many powerful stereotypes associated with women. For instance, women are weaker than men. Therefore, they cannot defend themselves and thus, need men for protection. My example in the beginning only shows one incident in which this stereotype is reproduced. They mostly talk about the protection of women and girls in public places, not about the protection of men and women.

Protection and Masculinity

Protection and violence are very close related. During all conflicts and wars, men are responsible for the protection of their wives and family members. At least, this is what the state wants them to believe. Even though in reality, soldiers protect the state and the interests of a small elite. (but this is another topic)

Who suffers the most in wars? The women, elderly people and kids who are left behind. Many men do not return from the battlefields. This is not only sad, it often means that their wives and kids are not safe anymore, and unable to survive without the help of other family members, neighbors, or relief organisations. In most families, the wives and kids depend on the male family members financially. Without them, they lose everything.
My grandmother was in the same situation after WWII. She was pregnant and forced to flee from Silesia (Poland), a former territory of Germany. Her husband was imprisoned in Russia and could not help her at all.

If women are not emancipated, they depend on men. The outbreak of a conflict or war is the worst thing that can happen to them. Feminist organisations have documented that rape is a weapon of war. It is used to destroy the culture and purity of enemies.
Most rape survivors are female. If a woman survives a rape, she has to live with the physical and psychological wounds of this experience her entire life. Often she is perceived as impure after the crime, and gets stigmatized by her own society.

Masculinity and Right-wing nationalists

These days, right-wing nationalists want the re-awakening of Masculinity. What they mean is that men should become more powerful again, because their current behaviour is too feminime: too weak, too passive, too oppressed. In short, stereotypes about male behavior are used to legitimize hate speech, violence and unrest. At the same time, “female” behavior is seen as inappropriate.

The problem is that stereotypes are very powerful. Men and women are treated according to them in our societies.
For example, many politicians have called Angela Merkel “Mutti” while attacking her policies regarding refugees. Her behavior is perceived as too soft and welcoming, although everybody who has any kind of reasonable understanding of what kind of policies the German government introduced after the refugee influx in August 2015 cannot share this opinion at all. However, a “Mutti” or mother is perceived as too soft for the tough political world.
I personally have encountered people who think that I should not study Political Science because I am a woman. The political sphere is only for men …

Ironically, right-wing female politicians dislike Feminism, too. They want to re-install the bourgeoise ideal of a nuclear family. Women should return to the private sphere as mothers and housewives. At the same time, these female politicians want to remain in the public sphere and profit from the goals of the feminist movement.

In short, women who are not emancipated have to remain in the private sphere. Their voices are not heard and they have no protection. They cannot earn money and they cannot defend themselves.

Crime & the Private Sphere

Most violent crimes occur in the private sphere. Right-wing nationalists want us to believe that women only have to be afraid of aggressive and brutal immigrants in the public spheres. But it is not true!
Every woman is more likely to be abused and hurt by her husband or a family member than by any other person.

Giving away pocket alarms to women is a nice thing, but it does not prevent the unequal treatment of women. It only tells women that they are unsafe in the public sphere and that they have to deal with the consequences on their own. In the meantime, women’s behavior is seen as inappropriate. They should stay at home and let the men take over.

However, the reality shows that countries which take gender equality seriously are very safe. Examples are: Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.
They are less likely to go to war and the equal living conditions benefit the whole society.

In short, politicians who promote Masculinity have one goal: a violent and aggressive society. This is not only dangerous for women. It is dangerous for everybody who wants to live in a peaceful and safe world.

Post-Truth Politics and Post-Factual News

La Vérité sortant du puits

At the moment, it is nearly impossible to not stumble upon the buzz words “post-factual news” and “post-truth politics.”
Somehow, there are journalists, scientists and politicians who claim that we live in a time where emotions are more important than facts and reasonable arguments.

For me, this view is very dangerous, because it gives people the permission to end any kind of discussion and it keeps a lot of progressive programs and policies on hold. For instance, there are many people who still think that women should not be emancipated because they have the feeling that women are too weak for powerful positions. And some people feel afraid of foreigners, because they have heard some worrying stories about them, so they think that it is better if all foreigners stay far away.
Interestingly, these people can only find positive “natural-given” attributes for their own group, because their own group is always the best.

Objectivity

Scientists know that there is no objectivity. They can present their facts, but their experiments and standpoints are shaped by their methods, theories and historical circumstances. That’s why many other scientists can and should disagree with them.
It does not matter if the ideas of Kant, Foucault, Copernicus or Einstein are not relevant anymore. The importance is that they found out something and other scientists could keep on working with their ideas.

Fake news

There is no free press, if politicians are allowed to shut down journalists by calling them “fake news.”
I don’t deny that the media reports false information, or that journalists have certain opinions about a person, or a party. I actually think that this is what the media is all about: different perspectives, various standpoints. And people can decide what kind of news is true, relevant or reasonable for them.

Someone who calls certain media outlets “fake”, thinks that there is some kind of ultimate truth out there. However, the media is owned by people, produced by people and consumed by people. It is culturally constructed, such as nation states, political parties, identities, and everything else that was created by human beings.
Even though many journalists have the noble goal to search for the truth and to report about something as objective as possible, this goal can never be accomplished. News outlets have agendas, and news are framed. And this counts for every news outlet, not only for some of them!
A free press means that all journalists can report what they want, and readers can decide if they believe them, or if they turn their attention to another news outlet.

If politicians, political parties or the government can decide what is true and false in this world, we have to work harder to find our own truth.

2017

It’s 2017. It’s time to look forward and to make new plans. The last year was very exciting and full of lessons for me. Here is what I have learned:

innsbruck

Education

In the beginning of 2016, I finally received my Bachelor’s degree. I did my best, and my family was very proud. I grew up in a working-class-neighbourhood. It is a place where only a few people invest in higher education. For a long time, I thought that my job training in tourism was enough, but to be honest, I was also afraid of failing. But today, I have a very good degree from Germany’s best ranked university. I am happy that I did not give up and finally succeeded. Right now, I pursue a Master’s degree because I want to become a political scientist one day.
Never give up on yourself. Work hard on your goals, and never stop to learn new things. Education is empowering, and the best investment in your future.

Environment

In October, I moved to a beautiful city in Austria. I can spot the Alps from every corner of Innsbruck, and can go hiking as often as I want to. The natural beauty of this place is stunning and I can buy fresh food from nearby farms. I feel more alive and healthy in this natural environment. Plus, I don’t rely on public transport anymore.
Do not loose your connection to nature. We come from it, and we return to it one day. Less consumerism and more time in nature is a great way to stay healthy and to re-new your energy.

People

In 2016, I was struggling with the loss of two friendships. However, I decided to let go, and was rewarded with new amazing friends who suit much better to my personality.
The people who really care about you will never leave you anyway. It is important to surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams.

Gratitude

Many terrible and scary events happened in 2016. The success of neo-nationalist people and parties and the rise of hate against foreigners are very worrying. The influx of refugees is very uncomfortable for many people in the West. However, it brings people who benefit and people who suffer from wars, conflicts, the weapon industry, neo-colonial structures, and capitalism together. Some people decide to shut down, but many others open their hearts and try to understand what is going on in this world.
In 2016, I got to know a young man from Syria, and started to teach German to a family from Afghanistan. I can understand why they decided to flee to Europe and I am very lucky because I have never been in their situation. I cannot imagine how it feels like to leave my family members behind in a war zone, and to watch how my country falls apart on the tv screen. I am more grateful than ever to live in a safe place, and I am more aware of the transnational connections we all share as inhabitants of this world.
In 2016, many events demonstrated the connections between the wealth of the West and the suffering of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. To me, it does not make sense to close borders and to refuse to help. We are all connected. We have to find new solutions for global problems. There is no time to ignore them anymore.

Sophie Scholl: “Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone”

Sophie Scholl portrait

Some days ago, I saw a very interesting theater play: “Sophie and me”, written by the Austrian author Ursula Kohlerts. The story is about a fictional friendship between the two German women Sophie School and Traudl Junge. Both of them have lived under the Nazi regime, but had never met each other in reality. The play brings them together to ask the audience the important question: What would you do?
The women get to know each other as young girls at a “Bund deutscher Mädchen” (League of the German girls) camp and become best friends. The following scenes show how both characters will develop in very different ways.

Traudl Junge

As a young girl, Traudl wants to become a singer and perform on many stages around the world. But after the war breaks out, she is not allowed to pursue her dream. Instead, she becomes a secretary for the NSDAP. Later on, she will become Hitler’s youngest secretary and type his last letter before his suicide in 1945. She survives WWII, and keeps on working as a secretary in West Germany. When asked about her time working as a secretary for Hitler, Traudl answered:

I was 22 and I didn’t know anything about politics; it didn’t interest me.

I admit, I was fascinated by Adolf Hitler. He was a pleasant boss and a fatherly friend. I deliberately ignored all the warning voices inside me and enjoyed the time by his side, almost until the bitter end. It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said things and how he did things.

Sophie Scholl

As a young girl, Sophie Scholl was already fed up with the strict rules of the Nazi regime. She was much more interested in art, music, philosophy and politics. For years, she exchanged love letters with her boyfriend Fritz Hartnagel, who served as a pilot for Hitler’s army. Fritz told her about German war crimes on the Eastern front.
Together with her brother Hans, Sophie distributed leaflets of his activist group, the White Rose. Their aim was to create a resistance movement against the Nazi regime. However, Sophie and her brother were arrested and sentenced to death. In front of the court, Sophie was recorded as saying these words:

Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.

Today, we face many difficulties and crimes in all parts of the globe. People and parties get elected who spread messages of hate and disgust. Violent acts are committed by people who think that they are superior.
Activists like Sophie Scholl can guide, empower and inspire us. While most Germans followed the Nazi regime, she remained conscious and did her best to fight for a better world.

The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.

Book recommendations

  • The memoir of Traudl Junge:
    Until the Final Hour: Hitler’s Last Secretary, written by Traudl Junge, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003.
  • The love story of Sophie Scholl and Fritz Hartnagel:
    With you there is light, written by Alexandra Lehmann,  L&L Media, 2016.

 

Virginia Woolf & Self-publishing

kindle

Today, I re-read Virgina Woolf`s famous essay “A room of one’s own” to encourage myself to write. Although the text was published in 1929, Woolf’s main points about women and fiction writing are still valid.

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

Why did men drink wine and women water? Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor? What effect has poverty on fiction? What conditions are necessary for the creation of works of art?

Writers need time, space and money, and even if a writer can finish a manuscript, he or she needs a publisher and an audience.
Woolf and her husband set up their own publishing house “Hogarth Press” in 1917. It shows that self-publishing is not a new phenomena. I am planning to self-publish my own books because it gives me more freedom and control over my creative work and process.

Nowadays, wealth and social status do not necessarily determine if a writer is able to publish his/her own books. However, there are still many people who do not have access to education, a computer, the internet, or they lack time, space and money.
In her essay, Woolf gives the example of Shakespeare’s sister to demonstrate what happens if a person is not giving the chance to write.

I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting–room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky. too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.

Hopefully, every person will be able to write down his/her own stories one day.