Yes, the title of this post is almost certainly controversial! It should be.
I will explain the reason I chose the title towards the end of the post – and respect to you if you can guess it earlier. First, however, let me introduce the actual topic:
image by Richard Potts
image by sejanc
It is called meninism, neo-masculinism, anti-feminism, MRA (Men’s Rights Advocacy) and a lot more. To be clear, all these titles carry different implications for those involved, which means the movement is by no means unified, but all actors share a certain belief in the wrongs of feminism.
This week, out of a sudden, my social media was trashed with antifeminism, a topic which I had banned from my mind for the last few months, after I handed in my Masters dissertation in September. One of the leading activists in the US, and founder of one of the websites I analysed for my dissertation, made it into all kinds of different newspapers: Roosh V. Given the recent rumble around one of the websites I analysed in my dissertation, in this post I want to share a glimpse of my analysis with anyone interested in a discussion of the topic that goes beyond: “these people suck” (be it directed at MRAs, men, women or any other kind of social or not so social group).
The first time I (left) ever wore the headscarf was in Cairo in spring 2012
This picture was taken in Egypt and it was the first time that I ever wore the headscarf. Since then, I have talked to many people about it, I have worn it again several times in several countries, with different people and facing different reactions. It is still always kind of an adventure for me to put it on, because I know that people react differently to women wearing the headscarf. Therefore this is a call to try to see the headscarf differently and unveil it from the whole political and religious assumptions with which it has been covered for at least the last 12 years!
It happens everywhere. It happens to every woman all over the world. There are definitely differences in the extent and severity of the actions and the reactions but the ideas it is based on are everywhere just the same.
I’m talking about sexual harassment.
Street at night in Bishkek
Square at night in Berlin
Yes, I have to write about it. And I’m sorry, because I can already hear people sighing because of that topic but this is exactly the reason that makes it so pressing. Due to some recent events (Brüderle, Tahrir square) on different levels of society, we have been talking a lot about the social acceptance of sexual harassment and the frequency and severity in the West – and still there is so much misunderstanding.
Some politicians (guess what party…) in the USA recently wanted to make a difference between illegitimate and legitimate rape (whereby they stated that illegitimate rape could naturally NOT result in pregnancy – yeah guys: “alles klar”), whereas other voices created initiatives (in Germany for example #Aufschrei – a hashtag on twitter where women could share their experiences about sexual harassment). So, yes it is a pressing topic but regarding the current discourse as well as ongoing practice it is, in my view, still not discussed with enough rigour, let alone follow-up actions. For all those sighing, I titled the paragraphs with the most common defensive arguments of the current situation in society. Would be great if you also read between them!
A family ought to consist of mother, father and at least two children. The parents live their life to provide for the children, work hard, build a house and have a dog that carries the newspaper into the house every morning!
Call me crazy, I call that ideal you can still find in most Hollywood movies, series and books, outdated. Don’t get me wrong I respect those, who chose this way for themselves. I grew up in the “perfect family” structure and would not miss it for the world. Nevertheless I don’t think it is the one and only right way and we should start thinking outside the box. And it’s not only me: In feminist and queer literature you can find other voices calling for surpassing the limits imposed by the “perfect family”. Mainly because the idealization of this lifestyle leads to a discrimination of LGBT relationships – just remember all those voices calling same-sex-marriage (in German I prefer: “geschlechtsunabhängige Ehe” which is unfortunately hard to translate) or adoption a threat to heterosexually structured families. However, In many views (3 out of 4 in Germany stated support for same-sex marriages), it is just a legitime claim of a right to do what everybody else does – to live up to the above-mentioned ideal.
Because of that, from another, perhaps more radical perspective, you can state that same-sex marriage and adoption rights exceed the limit of the “perfect family” only in a quite narrow way. By that I mean, that they only demand a change in the family’s sexual and gender composition but do not necessarily question the lifestyle and ideas and norms (work, child, house, dog) attached to it.
Not long ago, in april 2013, US feminist Jillian Keenan was causing a media outcry because she quoted Republican politicians warning about same-sex marriage being the first step into legalization of polygamy – and considered the latter to be positive.
Change of scene: in Kyrgyzstan I came across the issue of polygamy already several times. Mostly people were talking about someone. But I also met a person who apparently is married to two wives. A friend told me she was approached by a friendly older man, offering to take her as his additional wife so she wouldn’t have to worry about her income and financial situation. Although not quite obvious and people don’t seem to be too eager to talk about that topic (with foreigners), polygamy (or better polygyny – the fact of one man having several wives, while polygamy is possible in both ways) apparently exists and is accepted and also practiced by at least part of the society.