You Walk Alone.

23 Sep

[Content note: rape culture, sexual(ized) assault and violence and language, victim blaming, racism]

Ever since a police officer told a group of of students in 2011 to not “dress like sl*ts” so they wouldn’t get sexually assaulted, women* in Toronto, Canada, started out a quickly spreading action movement against this culture of sl*t shaming and victim blaming by initiating the so-called “sl*t walks” in protest. In an effort to reclaim the word sl*t and (at least partially) regain access to the discourse about women*’s sexuality and rights to bodily integrity, demonstrations titled “sl*twalks” took place in 75 cities worldwide at the end of 2011. In Berlin, germany, the first walk took place in August last year with about 3,500 participants; another sl*t walk marched just last week.

The under­lying rea­sons for a pro­test move­ment like the “sl*twalks,” Fe­mi­nism ™ agrees on that, are tre­men­dously important: the fight against rape culture, sl*t shaming, victim bla­ming, sexual(ized) violence and (street) ha­­rass­ment, objectification, trivialization and the common disregard for women* who are being thought of less than a human being in (public) space. Sl*twalks are a non-centralized, diverse action movement that seems to profit and suffer from the same strategies and in­herent difficulties that the (non?)political concept of “openness” brings with it – a chance for people who are not politically organized to participate anyway, but the inevitable perpetuation of systematic social discrimination when one does not explicitly reflects and/or strongly advocates and acts against it (cf. the remarkably similar – no, that’s not remarkable, that’s irony – problems of the Occupy Wall Street movement). Importantly: having an open movement like sl*twalks that invites as many women* (and men*) as possible to participate, it is not only about preventing discrimination, and, in certain regards when establishing this “open” concept, discrimination is basically part of the deal; the reaction to incidents or even whole structures of discrimination becomes vital, and here is where many sl*twalks fall short.

There has been anti-racist criticism of sl*twalks – and not just once, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. There has been anti-classist, anti-heterosexist, anti-ableist, anti-cis-sexist, … criticism of sl*twalks – and not just once, here and here and here and here and here and here.  And these links are just the result of a quick Google search, by the way – there’s a whole lot more.

A lot of anger and frustration has been expressed towards the sl*twalk alliance in Berlin – most recently arti­culated by Der Braune Mob, given the incident at the sl*twalk last week that featured a (white) woman* who thought it a good idea to literally paint a niqab on her body. There are several things wrong with that (surprise!), but the most offensive ones may be that 1) (Every form of) “Black­face”*** (cf. comment section) is a really bad idea, 2) thinking that you as a white and probably german woman* can speak for women* who wear niqabs is a really bad idea, 3) even though cultural relativism usually shows a lack of solidarity, using politicized religious symbols as symbols of negated women’s* rights in countries that are not the country you happen to be a citizen of turns the whole idea of sl*twalks upside down: namely the fact that sexism is a worldwide systematic structure of oppression, and that’s why the protests are happening all over the world. Solidarity usually is best expressed postcolonially, when actually inviting and asking people who suffer from it in different forms than you to speak up rather than to  impersonate and speak for them in an almost parodic manner; especially when it plays into an anti-Muslim, right-wing discourse as it does in a country as germany that is always happy to point the finger, and where conservatives po­li­ti­cians suddenly realize their deep-seated anti-sexism when it comes to women* wearing headscarves – Thilo Sarrazin might enjoy a sl*twalk like that one.

As stated before, in a movement like sl*twalk, you cannot avoid people who act and speak in discriminatory ways – it becomes about your reaction to incidents like that one. Unfortunately, Sl*twalk Berlin isn’t up to the task, quite to the contrary – and it is precisely the reaction of represenatives of sl*twalk that annoy me the most, not even the stuff that happens “casually” on the side. What has started out as heated online debates was (again: surprise!) exemplified “in real life” yesterday at a panel discussion at the 5 year anniversary of “Mädchenmannschaft,” where the intended discussion about feminist (internet) activism quickly deteriorated into white whining that is is “SO HARD” to include people who don’t share your privileges by representatives of the Berlin sl*twalk alliance.

At first, I actually felt for their re­­presen­­tative on the pa­­nel, be­­cause (and that was a delightful surprise, for a change) she seemed to have the whole room (in­­clu­­ding re­­pre­­senta­­tives of Mäd­­chen­­mann­­schaft, Bühnen­­watch and Holla­­Back! Ber­­lin) against her, given what had only happened a week be­­fore and again that after­­noon, when sl*twalk Berlin decided to publish the photo of said painted niqab woman* and repeat the rather ex­­haust­­­ing racist justi­­­fi­ca­­­tions they had brought for­­ward before. The panelist said she had only been a member for five weeks. The mere fact that the sl*twalk alliance in Berlin would send forth someone who has been involved for this small amount of time to face one of the most basic and major discussions in a room of feminist activists who have ada­mantly opposed the alliance’s actions speaks volumes to me. My empathy quickly vanished, however, when she and, more strongly, the four or five other sl*twalk orga­nizers who sat in the audience and decided on speaking up, did exactly that: speak. Because if there ever was an example of making things worse by talking, this was it.

Exemplifying greatly as to why there is not a single woman* of color in their organizing team, the five white women* re­presenting the sl*twalk’s orga­nizational team were determined to make every person of color and anti-racist ally cry: “BINGO!” with every sentence – too many to repeat all of them, but here are a few pointers for you to know what I’m talking about: It was said that sl*twalk Berlin wasn’t faced with con­structive criticism, but with a lot of evil bashing. I beg to differ, see the links above. Moreover, if you happen to be faced with a lot of anti-racist “evil bashing” by other feminists who just won’t stop, you might want to overthink your strategies.

In answer to a woman* of color’s criticism that “sl*t” was a term that carried an additional set of impli­cations for women* of color and that, in her view, reclaiming the term in this manner was impossible, it was answered that Sl*twalk Berlin’s goal was “not to reclaim the term anymore.” So what the fuck is your actual goal, then? If you’ve given up on reclaiming the term, then still calling yourself sl*twalk makes no sense at all anymore, and your sole purpose is to still exclude feminists who won’t or can’t march against rape culture under that banner. The whole idea behind sl*twalks was to find an entry point to the mainstream debates about women*’s sexuality and to change the conversation by occupying this term and trying to turn it around (which, and I would agree, is a highly complicated endeavour). If you don’t even want to do that anymore, what exactly is the point of calling yourself sl*ts, then, and why is it unthinkable to rename the walk to be more inclusive if it’s not about reclaiming that term? Showing “worldwide” solidarity with other sl*twalks can’t be it, since they have NOT given up on reclaiming the term. Is it simple media recognition? This isn’t an explanation, this makes things even worse. There’s a whole lot of expressions to choose from out there. In Hamburg, the same, highly important goals of countering rape culture are now pursued under the name “enter the gap,” for example. If you don’t like that one, there are tested phrases within feminist movements, e.g. “No means No,”  “Yes Means Yes,” “Not An Invitation,” “It’s My Body,” “Reclaim X/Y/Z,” … Or you could come up with something yourself.

It was said that thinking of all the other forms of systematic discrimination and being inclusive was “totally” hard, in an actually exasperated voice of a person looking for consolation and cookies. Sorry, I’m all out of fucks to give for white whining. It was said that the only panelist of color seems to claim to be “the voice of PoCs,” and why did PoCs even think they’re “a collective” anyway. No one said that, not the panelist, nor PoCs – but it sure is telling that this is your perception. PoC is a term born out of the commonality of discriminatory experiences due to racism for a certain group of people within a given society – PoCs aren’t a homogenous collective, and no one says so. If a group of PoC, however, all claim that you are behaving in a racist manner, the wrong answer is to question their knowledge or perception or analysis by trying to undermine their lived experiences and political positioning, and think you as a white person know better than they do what racism actually is and what your imaginary PoC friends think (and this “friend” of color some white people use as their get-out-of-jail-freecard every single time isn’t proof of your self-professed anti-racism, everybody knows that.) It was said – apparently, to counter the racism reproach – that there had been “sl*twalks in the Congo too” (!!1!). That’s great! What exactly does that have to do with the anti-racist critique of Sl*twalk Berlin? Why would you refer to an African country when trying to tell PoCs that sl*twalks in Europe or the US supposedly aren’t racist? Wait, let me guess…

It was at this point that I (and others) left the room, and “Mädchenmannschaft” broke up the discussion to put an end to this racist crap – much to the dismay of the sl*twalk representatives who quickly left the anniversary party without another word (except consoling ones to each other – the display of white privilege sure is exhausting). The plan was for Noah Sow to perform that evening as the headliner of the event, but clearly, neither Noah nor anyone else of the people I talked to were in the partying mood after this, so Noah donated her stage time for an impromptu panel for PoC participants to vent and reflect these events (thanks for that again!).

Most importantly, to me, Noah pointed out that this isn’t an abstract discussion of racism and white privilege and bad excuses – this is real life for PoCs, and has very specific consequences for women* of color. She further said that it is a testimony to the pervasiveness of racism that there still is no such thing as a safe space, even at events that explicitly position themselves as anti-racist, and that much more has to be actively done to ensure a safe space for PoC by implementing the knowledge of how to create safe spaces for (white) women*, for example – how can it be that this is so hard to transfer to other social groups who face discrimination?

Personally, this incident was on the lower end of my personal annoyance scale – perhaps because I mostly felt the behavior of the sl*twalk group was cringe-worthy and at times preposterous-funny, and I was actually pleasantly surprised that someone besides PoC countered them during the debate and told them to shut up at some point. The problem, however, is that this “point” lies too far ahead – there’s a whole lot to be said before many (white) people realize where this is heading. This is closely related to the tone “argument” and the “you’re oversensitive:” I can’t predict the future, but I still know where the hell this is going when people start with the remarks the sl*twalk alliance has started with. It is always only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t get me wrong: I think it is totally justified and important to react strongly and quickly to “incidents” like the niqab one. But one of the reasons this is necessary is not only the racist bullshit that is paraded in said incident, but the much bigger racist bullshit that lies beneath. The sl*twalk alliance has brilliantly exemplified that yesterday by digging their own hole deeper and deeper and not realizing that, sometimes, you literally should Stop Talking. Pointing me to the “Congo” when trying to show how really non-racist you are is… well… yeah. Let’s call it: not effective; rather a prime example of cognitive dissonance.

And as PoC left the room, some people said that “They [the sl*twalk representatives] should go!” and that “The wrong people have to leave the room!”  I appreciate that – to me, it’s a surprising sign of progress when people realize these things. It would be even greater if the envelope wasn’t pushed so far as to necessitate ostentatious exits by either PoC or the poster men*_women* of white privilege.

I realize that the “Congo” remark and related ones might seem small to some people – but they’re not. They’re in line with someone in the audience actually asking what “PoC” means. They are in line with sl*twalk representatives talking about allegedly “accepting” criticism, but not being able to stop themselves from going down the “What’s the big deal? Suck it up for The Greater Good ™!” line. The problem is: solidarity only ever goes one way here. It are only ever feminists of color, LGBTQ feminists, working-class feminists, non-ablebodied feminists, … who are asked to “suck it up” for Feminism ™ – repeatedly, constantly, aggressively. And yet, somehow, if you criticize this, you’re the “splitter,” the non-solidary whiner, the nit-picker, the party pooper, the person who just can’t let it go. That’s true, I can’t let it go – because you just won’t let go of actively perpetuating privileges.

This is also a debate and a necessary reflection that Mädchenmannschaft won’t let go. After being subjected to valid criticism that the group wasn’t able to provide the safe space it intended, I am sure there will be a discussion about this. I would be glad to hear your take on the situation (if you were there or weren’t) and possible suggestions as to how to react and handle this.  These are basically just some of my ungathered thoughts to begin a discussion. Again: if you don’t want to write in English, you are most welcome to write in german.

[Update]: After re-reading, I think I should at least mention that up until that point, I had an in­te­rest­ing and in­for­mative and good time at Mädchen­mann­schaft’s anni­ver­sary par­ty – inci­dents like this one (rightly and unavoidably so) phase out po­si­ti­ve ex­pe­rie­nces, but I feel it is im­por­tant to state a po­si­tive memory in its own right, especially when I per­so­nally know how much ef­fort and work some people have put in­to creating this party. Also, Sharon Dodua Otoo’s reading was awesome. Clear­ly, that doesn’t take away the necessity to discuss the events and potential consequences.

[Update 2]: This needs clarification: three of the five participants of the spontaneous WoC panel are (to varying degrees) part of the “Mädchenmannschaft” author group, including myself since the beginning of September.

[Update 3]: Thanks to the efforts of many people, “You Walk Alone” has been translated into german here at antiblog.

[Update 4]: Mädchenmannschaft has published a statement and apology here.

[Update 5]: The three WoC at Mädchenmannschaft – Nadia, Sabine and I – have written a collaborative post (in german) over at Nadia’s blog:  “Schulterklopfen für die Opfer”.

[Update 6, January 2013]: The riddle has officially been solved, by the way: as people who witnessed the “Niqab” performance at Berlin’s sl*twalk have said before, this performance was staged by women active in “Femen.” Two of these women are white, German, non-Muslim university students; one of the women is from Albania, whose religion has not been disclosed but who has been a member of and active in the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) for two years (cf. EMMA, January/February 2013). Femen’s latest performance included painting the Auschwitz slogan “Arbeit macht frei” on a wall in Hamburg’s red light district when protesting against sex work… Enough said (exept for: HOLY. SHIT. Are you serious? “Hey, we’re racists already – why not combine that with anti-Semitism and make this really German?!”).

27 Responses to “You Walk Alone.”

  1. Nadi September 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR UR POST!!!! Its so great to see i m not alone with the whole sw-orga crew and it feels so very good too get all this support— its not a privat matter ! so anyways thanx your articel is preety damn great!!

  2. Leeni aus Tampere September 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Interesting “story” about SlutWalk Berlin – a new thing for me. Thank you for writing that! I have only one critical comment: your thoughts were really ungathered (as you wrote in the end). It disturbed me by making the reading of this entry here and there a bit difficult. Planning entries and writing just plain English doesn’t hurt anyone ;)

    • zweisatz September 24, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      Seriously? You have a problem with the style? It’s damn disrespectful to critique style without being asked. If you don’t understand parts of an article, just ask.

      • zweisatz September 24, 2012 at 9:44 am #

        PS: I am white and no one has ever critiqued my sometimes really strange style of writing. I wonder why your are not the first one to do it here.

        @accalmie Sorry for so much derailing. Thank you for your summary and analysis, also for people who haven’t attended like me.

  3. accalmie September 24, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    @Nadi and zweisatz: Many thanks, I appreciate it :)!

    I thought I’d let the critique of Leeni through, because it isn’t overtly insulting in any way, and of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion about my self-professed ungathered thoughts, bad language skills and underplanned spontaneous posts; and I do have a slight tendency *cough* for overly long, multiple clause sentences…

    It is a good example, though, of some people’s priorities when reading a text like this and deciding to leave a “drive-by” comment, and, as zweisatz has pointed out, it only ever, magically happens when I post something about racism (…because this is where I seem to lose every trace of eloquence and logic, apparently).

  4. Chris (@clarityandchaos) September 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Great text, thank you.
    (Btw: I really enjoy your style of writing.)

  5. kiturak September 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Hi, first, like zweisatz said, thank you for the excellent summary for people who weren’t there (like me).

    This has become really long, I didn’t really know if that’s welcome or too much – in the latter case, please just don’t publish it? I’ll try to make it shorter then.

    not important said on the thread at Mädchenmannschaft (there’s a new one specifically to leave thoughts and criticism as well) that zie wonders why the invitation to the S-Walk-team was not cancelled after how they reacted in their facebook-thread of doom.
    In my opinion, this goes much deeper, and they should never have been invited in the first place, and neither should the whole S-Walk have been supported by (race-/class-)privileged feminists, including advertising in blog posts etc. After ignoring all the criticism you linked to since the very beginning (starting with not changing the name), but especially since they ignored the invitation by LesMigraS and Hydra for discussion and support, the persons responsible made it very clear that they are just not interested in respecting those with less privilege and their opinions and struggles.
    So if I organise a political event, for me it’s very simply a question on who do I want there? who do I exclude? and why? – And if I’m privileged and I invite those who systematically hurt and exclude those with less privilege, and who are not even interested in changing that, I have made a choice from the very beginning. I’m showing on whose side I stand, and I will make it impossible or hurtful for those who criticised to participate, if they even want to.
    So I don’t know if a situation that was, in my opinion, fucked up from the very beginning, could have been handled better. On the marginalized perspective, I can’t say anything – I have (limited) class and racist privilege, so I’ll just try to give support and solidarity to those who’ve been hurt by this. All my respect to all those on the improvised panel – that sounded incredibly awesome.
    From the privileged side – obviously, the racist/*ist/hurtful/excluding/ comments shouldn’t have been given any room from the beginning. If *ist shit occurs and we’re privileged it’s our fucking job to immediately intervene and make it stop. And for fuck’s sake it’s about time white German feminists quit using the tone argument to excuse assholes and delegitimize many of these interventions by calling them “dominant” behaviour! You bet I won’t be polite in the face of *ist assholery most of the time, especially not if it hurts me directly. To interrupt someone saying *ist, hurtful shit is completely legitimate, as is being loud and angry.
    But not giving this any room would have included not giving those persons a respected position who made their attitude clear from the beginning.
    So I don’t know – as to how to react/handle this, I’d guess on the part of privileged feminists/activists present, responsible or just interested in all of this, we/they should think about the political alliances we/they form, or have formed in the past, own up to ALL of the shit that happened, also as a consequence of choosing the wrong alliances, apologize to those hurt, try and partially make up for it, if there’s any possible way for that, and make actual political changes.
    Go and visit the workshop by Hydra/LesMigraS, if the offer still stands at all.
    More generally (and I really would like to see this beginning to happen, also as a marginalized person), don’t wait that marginalized persons come to privileged spaces and political projects, but show support and solidarity first, and then begin to think about if there’s anything they/we can do together.

  6. accalmie September 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    @Chris: Ha! I appreciate that, thanks ;)!

    @kiturak: Um… word. Thank you. I have nothing to add to this, really, except for saying that Mädchenmannschaft seems to be in full swing of discussing the incidents, failed concepts, structural racism and lack of awareness and as to how to deal with them and which consequences must be taken right now. This is far from being over.

    Evidently due to my own obliviousness, and role at the event, I didn’t know a representative of SW Berlin was even going to be on the panel up until she* was introduced – I didn’t really know how to react then, being part of the audience. I personally believe that if you have certain rules in place (and the ones at MMwird5 clearly didn’t work…) in a critical setting, this could have been a legitimately constructed opportunity for SW Berlin to reflect (read: apologize for) their actions (granted: arriving late, I had not heard about the newest gate only the week before and earlier that morning until shit started to hit the fan during the discussion)…? It is a risky task, however, and I’m quite unsure and a little scattered about all of this… I guess I’ll ultimately have to agree that this escalation was very likely to happen anyway, no matter what further precautions could have been taken, and I think you are absolutely right when questioning what actual benefit was to be expected from inviting SW Berlin in the first place, given their traditional behavior. You are right that there would have been countless alternatives of guests who could have been invited instead, and who would not have contributed to the perpetuation of racism, and that is a conscious choice one has to make from the beginning.

    @whom it may concern: the one thing that irritates me in this overall reaction to MM so far, however, is the (false) idea that MM is a unified front of white people with the same ideas and approaches; and some people tend to ignore the fact that three of the five WoC* on the impromptu panel were actual authors of MM. That brings a whole new cluster of problems and ambivalences and awkwardness in itself, of course, but “THE ENEMY ™” isn’t clear-cut.

    The other thing I tried emphasize in this post: This event was, on the whole, still one of the more “conscious” ones than I am used to – how sad is that ;)?! Many people actually reacted to the bullshit the SW Berlin people (and maybe others?) were saying, and the SW organizers were eventually cut off.

    Clearly, as I tried to make the case, that was too little, too late, and I think kiturak is spot-on in questioning the whole invitation policy in the first place.

    However, I think that while it was a Mädchenmannschaft event and Mädchenmannschaft is most certainly to blame for the escalation and other little incidents due to a lack of a broader awareness concept and strategies on how to avoid these “incidents” or how to adequately react to them, this wasn’t solely their (white) representatives’ fault and individual responsibility. This wasn’t a “consumer” event, this was an interactive gathering of feminist activists, so I expect everyone to “help out” when it comes to countering discrimination; and the fact remains that while MM reacted belatedly, while many more white people than I expected spoke up this time and while people are absolutely right in their criticism of the events, about half of the “audience” did not react at all in my perception (additionally, there were questions of non-SW Berlin people who were borderline clueless about racism, not only on this panel…). At an event like this, racism is a bigger problem than solely MM not having a (further worked out) awareness concept and making enraging mistakes. But the one thing that is completely on MM is inviting people from SW Berlin and this decision’s aftermath. And that’s just my very own personal opinion, not the “official” MM one, for the record.

    [edited for clarity]

  7. Sandra S. September 25, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    As the panel representative of SlutWalk Berlin I sincerely apologize to the People of Colour whose feelings I hurt during my appearance at the 5-year anniversary of Mädchenmannschaft.
    I especially apologize to the PoC who no longer felt safe in the space in question and/or whose views were not or not adequately heard during the the panel due to the way the event played out.
    I made big mistakes in my attitude, my choice of words and my overall demeanor that are inexcusable.
    I thank everyone involved for their intervention and will educate myself both through individual reading and by attending workshops on whiteness and privilege.

    • accalmie September 25, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      @Sandra: Many thanks for your statement and apology, I appreciate that!

  8. pistachio September 25, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    thank you for the great text. :)

    does anyone know why everyone seems so sure that the women* who did the burqa/niqab/blackveiling/-facing are 1) white (have white privilege, are not subjected to racism by ‘Mehrheitsdeutsche’), 2) (mono-national) german or not descendants from nationals from countries that self-identify as ‘islamic’, 3) non-muslim or from a non-muslim background?
    couldn’t find any hint that anyone had talked to them, did i read over it?

    • accalmie September 25, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      @pistachio: thank you. i am relying on eye witness reports and photos here and the first minute sof panel discussion at MM’s party, but i really can’t be bothered to look at the debate over at SW’s facebook page. if anyone else could point pistachio to a written statement or anything the like here, please feel free to do so. in turn, if the localization of said “performers” that has been brought forward is actually untrue and they have said something about it, i would be glad to know. honestely, i severely doubt that muslim feminists would choose to show up like that…

      *** @all: i think i also should mention this, as i have read several complaints (that i partially agree with) about the term: i agree that there’s a difference between “blackfacing” in its traditional sense and this “niqab” incident; that’s explicitly why i have put blackface in quotation marks and qualified the expression in the text. as i have tried to show in the post, however, the similarity and common issue here is to think that a white/privileged person can impersonate a non-white/non-christian/marginalized person by literally “darkening” and thus “othering” themselves in putting black paint on their body, unavoidably turns the whole thing into a stereotyped parody, and continues the exclusion of people who are only ever talked about and talked for in contexts like this, never asked directly what they think. See, more generally: Second Wave Feminism.

      [edited for clarity.]

  9. DaniSojasahne September 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    As a white person who has been there, I want too say I’m deeply sorry for waiting too long saying something, for not being loud enough, for not being forceful enough. I know, this isn’t going to help anybody. Right know, I’m in a discussion with friends to analyze our behaviour, to learn getting better in intervening, to use privilege for something good. I hope that at least in the future I can hold up to my own morals.

  10. Karolina Hagegård September 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    “a (white) woman* who thought it a good idea to literally paint a niqab on her body. There are several things wrong with that (surprise!), but the most offensive ones may be that 1) “Black­face” is a really bad idea, 2) thinking that you as a white and probably german woman* can speak for women* who wear niqabs is a really bad idea”

    This is silly! How do you know what her purpose was? If you have talked to her, you missed to refer her view before trashing it. You are putting words in her mouth just as much as you claim she does to women wearing niqabs. You have over-simplified and interpreted her protest, in a way that maybe was not at all how she meant it! Maybe she has symbolic points that you are not aware of. Maybe she knows a lot more about niqabs and wearing them than you know. In fact, you say yourself that you don’t even know if she’s german… So easy with the uninformed criticism!

    • accalmie September 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      @Karolina: if you had continued to reading point 3 of the paragraph (hint: the most important one about this whole charade…) and my further comments on it in the comment section, you might have come to a different conclusion than merely offering simplified reproaches. also, i said i relied on actual witnesses here of what happened – so given that you think that you are more capable of judging the supposedly underlying artistic and political profoundness of what has happened without having talked to people and without having looked at the photos and without having heard or read other criticism of this “performance” or its justifications, you are making the exact mistake that you say i was making: you are criticizing my conclusion without being informed, neither about the actual incident nor about racism/white privilege.

      i, moreover, question how one can think that anything, including the reception of this, could be any more oversimplified than mutely protesting with a painted-on niqab for “unveiling the right to unveil” in the context of a german sl*twalk; especially one that has a history of edging out WoC*. again: cf. what i have written on actual solidarity that does not pater_maternalistically exclude the people you think you are protesting “for.”

      i can also only repeat the very basic formula that intent is not magic. i don’t care what their self-professed “purpose” was. if muslim and non-white and non-german women’ are offended by your form of “protest” and your “symbolic points” that they might not be “aware” of, as you claim, and you think that a white person who paints black body paint all over her body to impersonate women’ who actually (have to or choose to) wear niqabs for whatever reason in “solidarity,” you clearly don’t understand what solidarity or awareness or symbolism or protest mean.

      finally, i would appreciate if, for once, criticism of (in your view: only perceived) racist or otherwise privileged actions wasn’t judged as “silly” and oversensitive – another point i was trying to make in the post that you have obviously not registered.

      • TochterEgalias September 27, 2012 at 12:27 am #

        I agree with Karolina. “PoC” cannot speak in the name of other “PoC” only because they also face a form of racism. There are huge differences among us and differences in the form of racism we are affeced by. I perceive it as presumption to deny “white” people to express an opinion about racism that does not directly affect them, but then on the other hand judge others by yourself under the cloak of the label of “PoC”.
        Yes, if it realy was blackfacing, then I as a “black” women could feel directly affected. But this ist not blackfacing, if any, it is “islamic-facing”. It would be suitable to not confuse these.
        And as Karolina says, why this arrogance to judge about the motive and position of the niqab activists without having talked to them? Why this foregone conclusion that they have to be “white” women without a muslim background? Isn’t that racism as well?
        And yes, I was at the MM Event and yes I have seen the photos on Facebook, and most of all, I read the posts there and the horrfying diskussion about them, which are now removed, where every different thought and opinion about them was bashed with a hint to skin color, according to the motto, you as a “white” person cannot say anything about this case!
        Who has actually the right to judge whom? And who is bashed for doing the same?
        Something here goes terribly wrong.

        • accalmie September 27, 2012 at 12:39 am #

          My goodness this pisses me off. Do people actually read stuff before they comment redundantly? Like the paragraph where I say that PoC aren’t a homogenous group? Or the fact that there has been criticism by actual eye witenesses (including Muslima) of this “performance”? Like the comment where I clarify why I have put Blackface into quotation marks here but still think this is an act of parodic impersonation? Or the one where I point to one of the most basic elements of activism, namely the fact that motives don’t justify means, a.k.a. intent isn’t magic?

          If your concept of expressing “an opinion about racism” is to put on black paint and think you have the right to talk for other people of whose experiences you know nothing, then you are an asshole. And what goes terribly wrong here is that people don’t have a fucking clue about the systematic nature of racism but cling to pseudo-liberal concepts of “but we’re all the same.” Yep, in theory. In reality, people are actually occupying different places and spaces.

          But there is such a thing as anti-racist solidarity, especially between people who share the one thing of not having white privileges. And I am so tired of having to explain that all the time – especially to people who don’t even get the point of this post, apparently. And this, to me, is what goes terribly wrong. No one forces anyone to be part of the PoC conception. But you know what would make sense? Not putting words in my mouth while aggressively ignoring what I have actually written, and not selectively focusing on one (falsely presented) aspect of the criticism while turning a blind eye to everything else.

          @all: I am so over people trying to read between the lines here and making this about their interpretation of what I have neither written nor said anything about – this is not an article on the Niqab “incident” or the people who have “performed” or judged it; it is, and only in a small part, about its implications for the german SW and primarily on what transpired at the “MMwird5”-Party. People seem to not have had a forum to vent about “Niqab” performances at SW Berlin and what they think about it, so some of you seem to think this is the right place. No, it’s not, it is derailing. If you personally think the whole “incident” and its aftermath are not an example of pervasive “othering,” then great: there are many more to choose from. And if some commenters here actually bothered to read just one of the many links provided, we wouldn’t have to go round in circles about PoC definitions and who can speak for whom and bla. The back and forth comments on Niqab or the claim that I allegedly think all PoC are the same, despite the fact that I repeatedly wrote the opposite, won’t be published; so in the further run, please save your breath.

          [edited due to omment section chaos].

    • distelfliege September 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      There are several factors, even without having been there and without having spoken to the activists, which suggest that the people who did the niqab-bodypaintings were non-muslim white women*. Most of them have to do with the situation of muslim women* in germany and the political discourse in germany about muslim women* covering their hair. Within this discourse, muslim women* covering their hair are often ridiculed and demeaned by the mainstream as oppressed or religious fanatics, unmodern, provincial and so on. If I were a muslim woman* in germany I would think twice before taking part in such an action, and chiming in with the racist discourse against me and my peers. That’s only one thing that makes me assume the activists were white german women*.

  11. distelfliege September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    As another white person who was there, and after having slept over it for a few days, I realised how much I had acted from a positition of white privilege when I came late and didn’t say anything during the event. I’m also deeply sorry for that. I only want to repeat what DaniSojaSahne said, and I also know this doesn’t change anything now, but I also hope to learn from it and learn how to be an ally in the future. Thanks so much for your article!

  12. Nilufar Ginette September 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Hi. I read Mädchenmannschaft occasionally because I find it very educating. However, sometimes I feel intimidated because I dont have all that knowledge of how to properly gender a text or comment in an elaborated manner. I didn´t go to that event because of the same impression that I get from sw and also sometimes from the website: It is merely a white space to me (The PoC statement on the MM site seems to have come to a similar conclusion if I understand it correctly). I sometimes follow the debates on muslim women or PoC and I didn´t ever feel invited nor that I would benefit from discussions like this. Very often I get the impression that people are not aware of other people´s living conditions (eg women in Egypt). I am of oriental origin and find it totally normal that I have friends who are islamic and some of them wear scarves, I also find it normal that I know people who have been through a lot of hardship in their lives because they are not white or havbe not been born in the “western world”. I love them, I love discussing with them and I am interested to hear about their beliefs. I have the impression that for the average MM user this is not the case because I cannot see an attempt in discussions like these to honestly understand PoC, muslima, you name it, who are different. I ask myself do they ever talk to people who wear scarves for example? In my everyday life I am already mostly surrounded by young people who call themselves feminist but still wonder about my lifestyle, by making “amazed” comments that make me feel very aware of the priviledges I don´t have (security for my family members in a democratic state, money, whiteness, heterosexuality). So why should I go in the end? I dont feel like I should be there if white priviledged feminists are celebrating themselves. I was not mentioning these things to derail but because this was the reason the toleration of the racist incidents at the MM event somehow did´t surprise me. Sorry, this might seem hateful, but that´s how I feel till today. I (still) don´t feel invited and don´t see what it has to offer that is so great except the online education that I actually do value very much but whose commentators make me feel stupid all the time. If people now tell me I commented wrong for this or that reason or that I have no right to say this or that, then fine, I won´t say anything and stick to the people who I feel care about me. I am angry. I hope this gets better in the future.


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