How feminism is being put to the test
On New Year’s Eve women were attacked en masse by groups of non-German men in several European cities – including Hamburg and Cologne. Since then, an increasingly hostile attitude towards the numerous refugees who have been arriving there since last year has established itself at a disturbing rate. The question of how to deal with foreigners in one’s own country has revealed an unforeseen polarisation in German society and given a boost to right-wing forces such as the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) and the activists of the so called Pegida movement. In this context, the issue of “women’s rights” is assiduously being taken up as an argument that women can no longer move freely about in Germany without being subject to sexual harassment by foreigners.
In this debate, the feminist public is also being put to the test in ways that it has not been for a long time. While one camp interprets the assaults as a manifestation of Islamic fundamentalist misogyny, the other pillories such hypotheses as racist. However, the roots of the conflict lie deeper. Ultimately, the issue is exactly on whose behalf feminists wish to engage themselves – and whom they wish to resist. Feminists are now having difficulty agreeing on precisely what a woman is in the first place. But if they do not wish to harm the cause of emancipation, it is high time for them to take clear-cut political positions.