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.