International Women's Day: Going on the Defensive

Making feminism a threat again is the motto of this year's International Women's Day march in Berlin.  It's  not as scary as it sounds, though.  For some men, just being born female is enough to make someone a threat, after all.  It really doesn't matter to them what women say or do, how feminist they are or aren't, or how demurely they behave, or how promiscuous they are in their personal lives.  Just by existing, women will always upset certain men and, for those men, no excuse is needed to mete out a punishment that fits the 'crime'. But it always helps to have a plausible-sounding reason for attacking women and right now, that reason could be summed up as: "Feminists have gone too far and/or become too equal.  They need/want/are asking for a backlash."

If the 'feminism has gone too far' bandwagon was an actual vehicle, it would be a Ford Model-T because its that old. as the foto below illustrates, fear of feminists has been around since the birth of the Suffragette movement.  It is clearly an irrational fear; feminism has not gotten very far at all, since the early 1900's.  Here is a random, by no means inclusive sampler of some of the inequalities still faced by women today:

*Only 6 societies out of the nearly 200 countries in the world are matriarchal. And none of them are in the Western Hemisphere.

*Only 22 leaders of nations are female, worldwide.

*Women produce 2/3 of the world's food, but earn 50% of what men working in agriculture do... even in Western nations like Canada

*German women earn 22% less than what men in the same role earn.  I wonder if this figure also applies to the post of Chancellor, held by Angela Merkel?

*New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Poland, Finland, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Iceland all place restrictions on abortion rights.  This means that the state can force a woman to have a baby against her will (if only in limited situations).  Northern Ireland has a total ban on abortion.

Every bigot's worst fear: an empowered
*Vatican City is one of just two places in the world where there is a ban on women voting.  And according to LiveScience, Catholics comprise 50 percent of all Christians worldwide and 16 percent of the world's total population.    

*In one experiment, fake internet accounts were set up under male and female names.  Male accounts received almost 4 threatening and harassing messages per day, while the female accounts received over 100. Because these were not even real women (or men), we can rule out character & behaviour as being determining factors in the way others behaved towards them.  Gender bias alone was responsible.

*A Demos study of misogynist language on Twitter found that the the words 'slut' and 'whore' were used more than 6 million times during a six-week period. Twenty percent of the time, the words were used in a threatening way.  And dozens of other hateful terms for women were omitted from the study.

*Budget cuts in the UK have led to over 150 women being turned away from domestic violence shelters each day

*Almost 90% of hospital admissions in for an eating disorder in the UK are female.

*95% of rape victims worldwide are female (except in prison).  An even higher percentage of the assailants are male, regardless of the victim's gender.

*One word: ISIS. A United Nations report on ISIS stated that, "'after capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharia amongst the fighters... who participated in the Sinja operations, after one-fifth of the slaves were transferred to the IS's authority to be divided as khums [spoils of war].' The group, in its recent magazine, welcome the enslavement of the Yazidi women, declaring one of the signs of the Hour [Apocalypse] to be when 'the slave girl gives birth to her master'".

*Saudi Arabia and other nations still punish rape victims for leaving the house without a male companion, for being alone with an unrelated man, or for getting pregnant afterwards.

As the Gamergate controversy in 2014 demonstrated, it doesn't take very long for the same guys who say 'feminists have gone too far' to start advocating violence against women, themselves... the same kind of violence that they claim feminists don't need to be afraid of, or are making up to get attention.  But then, consistency of logic is not what woman-haters are really after.  They're after blood.  And the veneer of legitimacy is all that is needed for them to get a mob baying for it... and maybe a taste of it too, before calmer heads prevail.

In 2015, women are still burned as witches in some nations (Paraguay and Papua New Guinea being recent examples).  Elsewhere, witch-hunt behaviour is evident in the way that men treat women who don't automatically to submit to them, whether it's in the virtual context of an internet debate, a conservative news program or the real-world context of war-torn Sudan.  This is the real face of sexism, and it wears an anti-feminist mask.

In the modern-day West, the witch hunt has become focussed on any woman who writes about rape, domestic violence, harassment or discrimmination.  It only takes 0.5 seconds for a barrage of questions to be hurled our way: "Why do you assume that men aren't affected by sexism and sexist violence, too?" As if feminists are at fault for correctly interpreting the ample official data (not to mention personal experience) which demonstrates that women are disproportionately victims of sexist harassment and violence, and that their attackers are disproportionately male.

Back in the 1990s, when words like 'chairman' and 'manpower' were replaced with 'chairperson' and 'personnel' in the dictionaries, I remember bigotted men rolling their eyes up and saying it was unnecessary to come up with new words, because most chairpeople were men, right?  And men traditionally were the bread-earners, even if a few feminist upstarts were temporarily changing things.  Yet today, when it comes to an categorizing rapists as 'male' and their victims as 'female', those same men are quick to cry 'generalization!'  Again, consistency of logic isn't their aim.  Consistency in silencing women is.  Asking feminists to devote equal time to male victims, when discussing crimes that men rarely suffer from, basically amounts to asking us to censor ourselves and rewrite the known facts.  This, we are expected to do under threat, to satisfy a bully's need to be prioritized in all discussions, all events, and all spheres... especially spheres inhabited by women.  I say, why bother.  If speaking the truth means being a threat, then so be it.  We can wear that label with pride.

Just as there is no smoke without fire, there is no feminism without sexism.  If feminism is still a threat in 2015, it's because there are still men who feel threatened by the equality of women.  It's tragic, but it's true.  This is why the organizers of this year's Frauenkampf march are talking about making feminism a threat again.  When a group is faced with as many threats as women are, they have to become a threat - to the assailants - to survive.  It's a matter of self-defence. 

The march tomorrow starts at 13.00 in Rosa-Luxemburg Platz.  In addition there are a  few other events happening in Berlin in the coming week:

Tonight there's a benefit party in Syndicat in Weiserstr. 56 in Neukoelln which is focussed on the current situation for women in Turkey, which will shed some light on the seemingly unstoppable rise of misogyny in that country. 

The Feminist Film Week opened last night - follow the link for its program.  Films are being screened nightly in Hallesches Halle until Friday, March 13th, when there will be a closing party at Schwuz in Neukoelln.   Anyone who's not won over by Pegida's claims that stopping Islam will help the feminist cause in any way, will want to check out the film 'Casablanca Calling': "The story of a quiet social revolution in Morocco. In a country where over 60% of women have never been to school, a new generation of women have started work as official Muslim leaders. They are called Morchidats or spiritual guides.

The German History Museum is doing a Frauentag special for free (!!) from 10.00 a.m. tomorrow, Sunday the 8th.   Get there early if you want to be sure to get in.

I'll leave you with some fighting words about the backlash from the Guardian's Gary Younge:

"The lash has all but disappeared; but somehow the backlash never seems to end. [...]  The absence of the lash simply changed the nature of the backlash. It is no longer an act of political retribution: the right has turned it into an art form."
 "First it finds an enemy - preferably a weak minority - gays, unmarried mothers, Muslims, the irreligious, international law or small countries that break international law, asylum seekers, Gypsies etc. In the inconvenient instance that a real enemy, no matter how exaggerated, cannot be found, it constructs one: the "liberal establishment", the "armies of political correctness", the "liberal media" or "feminazis". Then, with the enemy, real or invented, in place, it simply creates and inflates the crisis to suit, and bingo - the bespoke backlash.
 If the liberal left wants to be taken seriously, it will have to stand for more than office alone. It's time to bring back the lash."


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