How About A Vagina Mileage-Program?

23 May

germany’s Pirate Party is an issue I try to steer clear of because, you know, eeew…

There is a whole cluster of cringe-worthiness surrounding the Pirates, but the latest example would be again one of… let’s say… gender insensitivity (read: misogynistic assholery). Apparently, the Pirates are now in the middle of a discussion whether gender quotas/affirmative action is totally discriminatory towards men* in their happy post-gender world (that results in new record lows of women* in positions of relative influence and a superb 13.3 per cent of female* members in Berlin’s parliamentary Pirate group) or not.

In case you haven’t heard, the official name for gender quotas, according to one of the Pirate Party’s members of Berlin’s Senate, Gerwald Claus-Brunner, should be (*drum roll*) “Tits Bonus”.

He has now apologized for using this “inappropriate” and “sexist” term and for possibly offending or discriminating against anyone, and is now of the belief that the debate regarding gender quotas in his party is of importance.

Obviously, Gerwald’s grovelling to all the angry bonus tits (…you might call them “women*”) cannot be tolerated – and he’s facing some intra-party criticism for calling his prior evaluation of women’s biggest assets “sexist”.

Stephan V. believes that the expression wasn’t sexist, since expressions can never be anything; putting “tits bonus” in context, however, makes it kinda problematic, because it implied something along the lines of taking advantage. Uttering “bonus” was much more offensive than combining it with “tits”, Stephan V. muses on.

Oppi, on the other hand, thinks this massive ball shrinking exercise has gone on long enough: he asserts that Facts (TM) could never be an insult or discrimination, and what else than preferential treatment (of the tits) would a gender quota be? He gets quite worked up over the fact that he thought the Pirate Party was different from established politics (…you’re dead on there, Oppi – your female* participation levels are even more abysmal!), and that the place where Gerwald had mused about female body parts and privilege, Twitter, was so very informal that the backlash he was facing now was completely blown out of proportion. Even more, Oppi thinks that at least one side of the debate, maybe two, but really one (= women*) were so emotionally invested in this, that they are actually trying to insert a level of reflection, and debate about how people frame and talk about gender issues into the whole thing. That, obviously, was very distracting from the actual issue (tits talk?), and shed a bad light on people who are in need of such dirty “tricks”, since the “tits bonus” folks simply have the “better factual arguments”. Finally, Oppi votes for disregarding these criticisms with “superior ease”, and thinks apologizing is really silly.

Le Sigh…

1. It is wonderful that Gerwald said “Tits Bonus” when referring to affirmative action/gender quotas, because he said (or rather wrote) what many Pirates apparently think. It’s wonderfully clearly objectifying and degrading, it shows how some Pirates actually view women* (or should I say: the assembly of body parts that gives them boners), and it shows that some Pirates believe that women* either have nothing else to show or deserve recognition for than sexualized body parts, have to rely on said body parts to get things done, or really should do so. Because if women* were granted less discrimination without showing some cleavage, what’s the fucking point (…literally)?

2. Some Pirates continue to show an astonishing lack of comprehension regarding discriminatory structures and its inherent tie to language. Stephan V. seems to be unaware of the fact that no expression is free of context and history, and while he thinks that “tits” is a perfectly fine way to talk about vagina issues (whoops! i mean: gender issues, but, you know… whatever, just words, right?) and “bonus” is far worse, the mere tie of “tits” to gender quotas is more than enough to show the underlying attitude people take towards women* in their midst. I guess Stephan V. would also find the N-Word and a couple of other things totally fine – but the simple problem about that is: Stephan V. and his tits-talkers are part of a discriminatory social structure that grants them certain privileges that “tits”-carriers don’t have, that N-word classified people don’t have, and that othered and distinctly classified people don’t have. What makes language discriminating or hurtful to people is not yours to decide, dear Stephan, but actually the prerogative of people who have been discriminated against with the help of, through and because of such words. The context and history of language is ever-present, no matter if you are aware of it or not. Some people don’t have the luxury of forgetting.

3. Affirmative action / gender quotas are not preferential treatment. Affirmative action / gender quotas are, in fact, measures to cut back preferential treatment – namely the unearned privileges white, heterosexual, able-bodied cis-men have come to enjoy during the past centuries; a fact that is happily forgotten by those who claim sole authority over “facts” and “truth” and “universality”, when it is actually just your peculiar point of view that, thanks to your skin color and gender, for example, has been constructed as an alleged default. That fact that Oppi is so adamantly opposed to inserting a “meta level” into the debate is a very unsubtle sign of the underlying uneasiness with which he tries to hold on to the “universality”-claim of his privileges; and Oppi’s insistence that “sovereign” people should not apologize to their inferiors makes things even more transparent.

“Tits Bonus” – just when you thought the Pirate Party could not reach new lows. But every time you think it has hit rock bottom, some of them start talking again. The fact that the Pirate Party is successful in certain circles does not make their approaches right. It is more of a sign of total ignorance, and “tits bonus” is a kind reminder of that.  Eeew.

Update: Here’s a great Tumblr, “Bedauerliche Einzelfälle”, that collects all the unfortunate “incidents” Pirates have caused.

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12 Responses to “How About A Vagina Mileage-Program?”

  1. Samia May 24, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    This article’s title is hilarious. As for the Pirates, I’m happy they keep delivering all these easy ways to dismiss them. This way I don’t have to explain “post gender” to everyone who “kinda likes” them. Also, while reading your article it didn’t occur to me to translate “tits bonus”, but I think it sounds even more disgusting in German.

    • accalmie May 24, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Absolutely – it’s really disgusting in german; it carries much more sexualized devaluation than in English. The Pirates just never stop to amaze me (…in the bad way).

  2. shigekuni May 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Oh, that dude owns the crazy anyway. Iirc, he’s wearing the kuffiyah because no one pays attention to the plight of the palestinians (no-one!) and he won’t take it off, until everybody does! Which is SO HELPFUL.

    • accalmie May 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Ah, I was wondering what was up with that, eew… I don’t think that inadvertently labelling the guy as mentally ill is appropriate for his behavior, though – I think he’s simply a horrible person who has no clue and doesn’t care to learn :/… Calling people like him “crazy” is both underestimating the discriminating thought processes such “incidents” are based on and stigmatizing to people with actual mental illnesses, I’m afraid.

      • shigekuni May 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

        oh yeah you are 100% right. In the heat of internet rant commenting I misspoke. >.<

    • Samia May 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Which is SO HELPFUL.

      Okay, what’s helpful then?

      • accalmie May 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

        I would really rather not have this derail and I believe it’s a much too complex topic for productive blog debates, but let me just say: I think it’s never helpful to try to oversimplify complicated conflicts with politically charged/nationalist symbolism, particularly when this is done by white german people towards very specific states and/or people.

        • Samia May 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

          I know it doesn’t work that way, but still: shigekuni’s the one who started the derail. His rhetorics strongly remind me of the people who, you know, hate Muslims. So I asked him what he meant (instead of just sweating at him). I’m afraid that’s the best I could do.

          • accalmie May 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

            Although I did not read shigekuni’s comment that way, I of course agree that many people tend to speak in either anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic terms about Palestinians/Israelis (a horror that is multiplied by the fact that these “nationalities” and religions are not mutually exclusive…), and I am sorry the “derail” comment seems to be directed at you when I actually meant it as a general note (before we start debating middle eastern conflicts here). I, however, understood shigekuni’s comment as another illustration of Claus-Brunners apparent basic lack of knowledge, sense, and communication skills, and his weird self-perception as a very original, alternative rebel or whatever. The debate about the keffiyeh and its “true” meaning is very muddled, I think (and while some claims seem rather exaggerated, the keffiyeh has a history); I would, however, not call people anti-Muslim for criticizing certain german white men* for choosing exactly this item as a means of “political statements”; at least not when these men* are Pirates (…given the number of “incidents”).

          • Samia May 29, 2012 at 10:54 am #

            I guess it’s mostly the sarcasm, not the criticism per se, that “triggered” me (colloquially, not as in a trauma-trigger). I just find it really, really inappropriate. And suspicious.

            About the problem with white people wearing the Keffiyeh being racist – if that’s what you meant – I’m not so sure.* Because as I recall, these things were being sold to Europeans directly from Palestine a while ago. Expressly desired solidarity =/= cultural appropriation.

            *They’re weird “proxy-nationalists”, of course, just like their blue-and-white counterparts.

            Okayyy, back to topic :D I definitely agree that it’s sickening to see a member of a party this “rechtsoffen” wearing the thing. I only just googled and recognized him; it’s the really off-putting one from all the talk shows. Funny how he seems to apologize to men only (“jedem*”).

          • shigekuni May 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

            Yes, this is how I meant it. “apparent basic lack of knowledge, sense, and communication skills” is very well put. The Kufiyah is a difficult symbol. In Germany it has long since been co-opted by Neo-Nazis (http://www.netz-gegen-nazis.de/category/lexikon/pali-tuch), and its meaning and impact has come a long way from its original symbolic use among Europeans. I react strongly against white Germans using the Kufiyah as a simple way to boil down an enormously difficult and complex situation to a simple set of symbols. Once something has become an important signifier in the Nazi scene I find it a bit strange to continue using it in an unreflected simple way. The fact that it’s being worn by a member of the Piratenpartei is doing little to assuage my uneasiness.

  3. accalmie May 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    alright, i thought it would have been unfair to shigekuni to cut off the debate completely before s/he could clarify, but now: “…aaaand: scene!” :)
    @Samia: i did not want to google him, fearing for the worst; and, of course, there it is… thanks for taking on that unpleasant task ;)! and the worst thing about all this: he might be apologizing (to certain people, as you have rightly pointed out), but he’s not reacting to all the pirate dudes* defending his comments. that’s a weak ass, halfhearted, public relations based non-pology, so, yeah, he’s still a horrible person.

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