Tag Archives: Because Feminism

Sure, of course you “knew it.”

1 Jul

As it can be taken from several media sources, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (see post about “honeytrapping” and his case here) has been released from his house arrest today because the prosecution is not sure anymore whether they will be able to make a strong case against him in a rape trial at all, since the potential victim has apparently lied about several details concerning her past and the course of action in the immediate aftermath of the potential rape.

Jill at Feministe has written a great post about it, “There Are No Perfect Accusers,” and I personally just have a couple of things I’d like to add.

First, some of the articles and many of the comments I have read in the german press were remarkably smug (“I told you so! “-like), and most of them did not cover any basic facts whatsoever (as in: when did she lie? About what? Did she lie about the potential rape? What evidence is there to support this claim?). It is often simply insinuated that some “lies” concerning her case made it impossible for Strauss-Kahn to be further prosecuted, so one is left to assume that the potential victim just made the whole story up. It is only through reading a whole bunch of articles from different (international) media sources that one gets a fuller picture, namely, that the prosecution has actually not said that she was lying about the potential rape, but about some aspects concerning its aftermath, and about unrelated incidents in her past.

Second, it is alleged that the potential victim, an immigrant from Guinea, has lied on her application for asylum in the US and thus severely impaired her credibility. Let me start by saying that lying about certain things in your past does not make you a liar for life, and most certainly does not make you less believable as a crime victim. Furthermore, lying during your application process for asylum is the best bet for many people to get out of horrible situations. I personally cannot see anything wrong with that, given the viciously protected borders (European/African and US/Mexican, for example) that people who happen to not be born in some of the world’s richest countries encounter, the racist attitudes immigrants are confronted with, and the ridiculously hard processes they have to go through to actually qualify for a short-term stay.

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Too Much Incense Makes People’s Brains Go Fuzzy.

29 Jun

Joachim Cardinal Meisner, the arcbishop of Cologne, has always been known to be an asshat. Not only did he casually equate abortion to the Shoah in a sermon and revoke an openly gay priest’s license to teach in his diocese, he makes it a point to express the most reactionary filth on a monthly basis. Catholicism – always a  pleasure…

This time, Meisner continues his personal crusade against abortion (and women in general, obviously). Since the repetitive mumbling of canonised fairy tales isn’t cutting it anymore when it comes to defending the church’s disproportional influence on german politics, Meisner has picked a more recent topic, germany’s nuclear phase-out programme, to make a point about “unborn life” [sic].

He asserts that whoever may be occasionally wondering about the country’s social and ecological future should be more concerned with abortion than with, uh… well… little incidents like Fukushima or Chernobyl; abortion happens to be the ultimate “daily, secretive worst case accident” of our times, in his view. Make sense?

In his little quest to equate women to nuclear power and abortions to nuclear accidents (does that mean my uterus can actually split atoms? Awesome!), he goes on to say that nuclear power stations are completely safe – as opposed to women, I presume, who are just so darn hard to control these days and certainly cannot be trusted when it comes to decisions regarding their own lives and bodies.

Completely safe…? Tell that to the prefecture Fukushima in Japan. Or to Harrisburg in the US. Or to Prypjat, near Chernobyl, in the Ukraine. Or to Seascale, near Sellafield, in the UK. Or to Biblis in Hesse in germany (…where the atomic pile Biblis A nearly tried to kill me when I was three years old, living 2 miles away). Although I guess nuclear disasters do look rather “meh…” compared to the biblical apocalypse?

Eager to make an impression (and he does alright), Meisner moves on to spread the lie that 8 million fetuses were aborted in the last decades in germany, thus “more than ten class rooms are wiped out everyday.” Actually, the number of abortions performed in germany last year was 110,440, and it has been basically consistent since 1996 (when the infamous §218 concerning abortion in germany’s penal code was altered after the german reunification, regulating the requirements for impunity for abortions in certain circumstances). Hence, as a rough calculation, there were about 1.6 million abortions within the past 15 years. If I was mean, I would say that Meisner obviously isn’t in touch with reality much (duh!), and his math skills are not up to speed either.

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Adjust Yourself.

23 Jun

So, one of the reasons I had (and have) to dial down a little on blog posts is that there’s loads of other work to do… Not that I’m actually doing it; I went on holiday to Madrid. And yet – even in between tapas, red wine, glorious sights, handsome men and sunny, summery weather, some people have taken their one chance to piss me off on my last day, when I discovered this in the subway:

That’s right. An advertisement for the gastric band. The poster features a naked fat woman, “Marta”, allegedly 28 years old, an architect and – gasp! – single. The poster goes on to say that Marta has difficulties when it comes to social relations, and that she suffers from joint pain and depression (…in that order). In comes the gastric band: it is advertised as “the definite solution,” and one can pay it off by monthly instalments of 177 Euros…

Seriously. Seriously? Where do I begin… First of all, the mere idea of proactively advertising major abdominal surgery (and yes, whereas surgeons try to perform it as minimally invasive as possible – it is still major abdominal surgery) is just mind-boggling to me. You might as well start to advertise appendectomies (because who needs that little stomp and it’s a preemptive strike, right) or tonsillectomies (which are less invasive than a lap band surgery…). Apparently, being fat is such a horrible state of existence that advertisements like these are totally ethically justified. The European Union has established the imprint of warnings on the mortal danger of smoking on every damn cigarette pack around the continent – and yet, lap band advertisements are completely fine. True, it is probably a lot cleverer not to mention the risks, side effects and the utter uselesness of the gastric band in some cases – probably no one would voluntarily do that to hirself, then.

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You’re Blocking Me In.

22 Jun

Isn’t it curious who calls themselves “feminist” lately? Sure, not Kristina Schröder, germany’s current secretary for family, women and youth affairs (the one person you might have expected to do so) who pretty much is the most unsuitable and outright irritating person in that position since Angela Merkel and her frilly blouse twenty years ago.

Her predecessor, Ursula von der Leyen, however, a member of the conservative christian democratic union (CDU) and mother of seven children, had no problem claiming feminism (albeit in a conservative twist) as her brand, and was  the one to implement “Elterngeld” (which losely translates as “parents money,” federally sponsored monetary support for new parents who take a leave of absence from work during the first 12 to 14 months of their child’s life) and somewhat half-compulsary “Vätermonate” (“father’s months”, which means that for at least 2 out of the 14 months parents are entitled to “Elterngeld,” the other parent – usually the father – has to take a leave of absence from work to claim the money).

[I might add here that it’s funny how early this term, “father’s months,” has caught on, even though it’s not specified who of the parents (in the official definition: mother and father – this is without a doubt another rampantly heterosexist piece of legislation) has to take the shorter span of time doing care work, and it has always been an option to divide the months of “Elterngeld” equally between partners. Apparently, only 12 per cent of recent fathers are aware of or care about that fact [PDF, p. 20], however, and take more than 2 months off from their job  (although that may have more differentiated reasons, one of them usually being his higher salary than her’s; a fact which the secretary for women’s affairs, Schröder, does not give a damn about).]

However faulty, heterosexist and deeply steepd in neoliberal idea(l)s “Elterngeld” is, it has been marketed (and predominantly perceived) as a breakthrough of “gender equality,” as a new policy of modern (conservative) feminism, epitomised by germany’s first female chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is still being applauded for her every move by germany’s oldest feminist magazine, Emma. Incidentally, Merkel is a conservative, a member of the CDU, and was far from emphasising feminism in her political career at any point.

Despite the differences regarding the political system and political culture between germany and the US, the latter has obviously had its own (even more peculiar…) “conservative feminists” influx lately, most prominently by Michelle Bachmann, seeking the GOP’s presidential nomination, and Sarah Palin (who secretly does the same, I guess). Although Jessica Valenti has written a great piece on why Palin’s brand of “mama grizzly” feminism can be labelled as a fake strategy to win over (allegedly) progressive voters whilst keeping the conservative ones with a simultaneous family-centred and anti-abortion stance,  it strikes me as interesting and noteworthy that women of the conservative persuasion seem to be able to take over the term “feminism” so easily (and willingly) and seemingly position themselves at the front of their political parties with great success.

Ruth Rosen has commented on the irony that (in many respects) ultraconservative women as the afore mentioned Tea Party icons would claim such a term, although “the religious right-wing had so successfully created an unattractive image of a feminist as a hairy, man-hating, lesbian who spouted equality, but really wanted to kill babies” during the 1980s.

Is it purely ironic, though? I’d say: Yes and No.

Yes, because the brand of feminism à la Palin and Bachmann is actually trying to void many of the term’s basic meanings. Just being a female politician does not make you a feminist (anymore…). If you are anti-abortion (or rather: pro forced-birth), you are not a (modern) feminist and have no business claiming that term for you. As Valenti has noted (and Palin & Co. repeatedly emphasised), the majority of “first wave” feminists were largely anti-abortion. I’d add: The majority of “first wave” feminists were also largely white supremacists. Hence, the sole advocacy for equal political rights does not make you a (modern) feminist; and ignoring ongoing feminist debates (within and around a movement that made it possible for Merkel et al. to stand where they stand today) for the past decades most certainly does not either.

Moreover, pursuing anti-feminist politics and/or ignoring discrimination excludes you from feminism – and it’s no surprise that the United Nations’ Report on gender discrimination in germany has come to the conclusion that “in significant areas,” the situation has actually been exacerbated rather than improved during the last years (although one has to obviously put that into global perspective). And ultimately, trying to void, re-brand and utilise ideas, histories and social movements for your own sake, after having fought and defamed them ferociously, makes this a really sad paradox, to say the least.

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Guess Who Won’t Be Giving Me The Weather Forecast.

31 May

So, Jörg Kachelmann actually got acquitted.

I reckon only people living in germany have been bothered by him know who he is, so to give you a brief summary: Kachelmann is possibly the most famous “weather man” on german TV. Yeah, that’s about it. He hasn’t got much else going for him, I suppose.

Last year, Kachelmann has been accused of raping one of his (allegedly 14) (ex-)girlfriends at knife point, allegedly threatening to kill her. He was charged with rape and assault, taken into custody at an airport before leaving the country for a broadcasting job, and has spent about 4 months in prison last year until he was released on bail.

Kachelmann’s case received lots of media attention, including a column from germany’s self-proclaimed leading feminist, Alice Schwarzer, for the country’s top tabloid (“BILD”), in which she commented on the trial (which deserves a whole blog post just on its own…).

It was a trial based on circumstantial evidence (“Indizienprozess”): there were only minor traces of Kachelmann’s and his ex-girlfriend’s DNA on the knife he allegedly put to her throat; he alleged that they had consensual sex; the bruises she had on her body were said to could have been self-inflicted, and her report of the rape was alleged to have gaps and ambivalences in it, which one expert witness attributed to her trauma, another one to potential lies. Whereas Kachelmann’s ex-girlfriend claimed that he raped and assaulted her after she confronted him about his other girlfriends and had broken up with him, he claimed that they had consensual sex before the breakup happened.

The judges ruled “in dubio pro reo.” Since there was reasonable doubt to Kachelmann’s guiltiness, he was acquitted. The grounds for this judgement are actually quite nuanced and reasoned: It is stressed that the judges still do not believe his side of the story and do not wish to convey that the woman was lying, but, in face of a lack of evidence, had to rule in his favour. Kachelmann’s defence counsel has called this a “third class acquittal.” The prosecution has announced that they’d be considering an appeal.

I think that “in dubio pro reo” is one of the most important principles of the judicial system. The only problem is, that it seems to be employed in very different ways for different crimes. Rape seems to be a crime where “in dubio pro reo” is sort of the default reponse: of 8118 rape charges that have been filed in germany in 2006 (and only a small percentage of rape cases actually get reported and then make it to trial), only 13 per cent ended in a conviction. That’s right: Out of 8118 potential rapists, 7063 did not face any legal consequences. And it gets worse: Even though the number of rape charges has risen since 1985, the conviction rate has fallen.

[By the way: Monika Frommel, the law professor in the linked article who calls this development “unsurprising,” since it had gotten harder to really identify rape due to the “subtlety” of the elements of an offence these days (!), is the same Monika Frommel who has been an avid advocate of Kachelmann from day one, who was quite happy to call the potential victim a liar, and who – hooray! – names “feminist criminology” as her main field of interest.]

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