Women demonstrate against sexism and racism at a flash-mob rally in Köln, Germany. (Photo: Reuters)
A few days ago, I found this piece by Margarete Stokowski on the Spiegel website. It doesn’t appear there in English (some other columnists do), so I took the liberty of translating it for myself:
It’s so disgusting. The debate over Muslim migrants has reached its high-water mark of hysteria. The victims of the assaults in Köln, Hamburg, Stuttgart or Frankfurt are a non-entity to those in this debate who are getting worked up the most. They’re just good enough for rapacious descriptions of underwear torn to shreds, and fingers in orifices, and good enough to serve as grounds for concerned citizens, white knights and woman-protectors to put themselves forward.
Meanwhile, there’s talk about the expulsion of criminal asylum seekers, even though the origins of the perpetrators are still not clear. And that’s just the relatively serious part of this debate. Bluntly put, the perpetrators are hardly individuals anymore, they’re just a diffuse mass of horny foreigners, described with an animal vocabulary: How could it be, that men “become a herd” and “attack women in big packs”, asks EMMA. Elsewhere, there’s talk of a “feral man-mob from the Arabian/North-African region”. On Twitter, the talk is of “primates” and “monkeys”.
“The racist narrative of ‘black man rapes white woman’ is in full swing”, writes publicist Antje Schrupp. The nucleus of the pack is the idea of the feral — if not totally wild from the beginning — foreigner, who takes whatever others would like to have: women and iPhones.
Those who point out that sexualized violence didn’t just come to Germany get accused of whitewashing the events in Köln. Feminists, who have been writing for years and decades about violence against women, get told that they just want to create a distraction to protect the perps of Köln — which is absurd, and shows how far the debate has run off the rails. It’s as if someone were to yell: “There’s a fire in the kitchen!” and someone replies “In the living room too!”, and then the first one says, “So, don’t you want to call the fire department?”
Angry readers e-mail me, asking why I haven’t said anything about Köln — as a left-wing feminist one has to finally realize that it was wrong to let all these men into the country!
Only: There could have been a debate about sexualized violence after every damn Oktoberfest, after every carnival, and every World Cup. But there wasn’t. Because hardly anyone would want to bother themselves with such ugly things and concede how common assaults of this sort are. In an EU-wide survey, 55 percent of women said that they had experienced sexual harassment.
Of course we have to talk about gender roles in Arabian and North African countries — but that’s not enough. One can’t outsource this discussion and call it a foreign affair. Naturally it would be a relief to do that. But even if several persons with immigrant backgrounds were expelled from Germany right away, there would still be massive sexualized violence: harassment, abuse, rape. A majority of these cases happen in the closest social circles of the victims: the perpetrators are partners, ex-partners, neighbors, colleagues, teachers.
It is as perfidious as it is stupid of “Focus Online Expert” Birgit Kelle to ask where the outrage is; just three years ago, in response to the #Aufschrei debate, she wrote, in all seriousness, a book titled “Then Do Up Your Blouse Already”. Now she’s saying of Köln: “It was obviously men of immigrant background. And probably for that reason, the feminist network is silent.” Either women are to blame when they get harassed, or one can point the finger at “the foreigner”, and say it’s his fault. The further down the social hierarchy a group stands, the faster the verdict is reached. The main thing is that the German man must never inquire into his own conduct.
In the “Zeit”, the lead article, by Heinrich Wefing, plays a perverse trick: on the one hand, declaring that we must not throw a blanket judgment over refugees for things they haven’t done, and at the same time, bringing the two topics so close together that it’s already clear who’s at fault. We don’t know “if the criminals have been living among us for two weeks, two months or two years, if it’s refugees, long-resident immigrants, or German citizens”, writes Wefing, and it sounds like: We still don’t know, but it wasn’t our people.
So everyone draws their own conclusions. Above all, concerned citizens are turning into noble knights, who want to protect “our” — that is, “their” — women. Good German men still want to be able to pester their own women. And they’re busy at it. The studies about it are readily available, but one has to actually read them.
Basically, after Köln, everyone is saying just what they were saying before, but louder. Those who wanted to push refugees out, want to do so even faster and harder now; whoever wanted surveillance before, wants even more of it now.
That the whole debate is not about protecting current victims and preventing further assaults, one can see in the fact that we don’t talk about sexualized violence. Hannah Lühmann writes in “Welt Online” that no one would understand that “the physical force of this gruesome situation at the train station in Köln is so great that maybe now is not the time to call on us to reflect on our own sexism“. That means leaving the field wide open to the hatemongers. Not so smart.
What we need is a radical change in how we deal with sexualized violence. To whitewash and cheapen it is also a German cultural legacy. In order to change that, a lot is needed: to close the loopholes in sex-assault laws, so that all cases in which sexual dealings go against someone’s will, are prosecuted. At the moment, that’s not the case in Germany.
Also: Codes of conduct for potential perpetrators — not for potential victims. Education about crossing boundaries and abuse in schools. More and better advice in offices and associations. Better access to psychotherapy for victims. Emergency help for domestic violence victims (that is, functioning women’s shelters). Some steps would even be quite simple and cost nothing: The media could take part by no longer talking of “sex perpetrators” and “sex scandals”, when it’s all about violence (or, in “Bild” style: “SEX MOBS”).
And in fact, the victims of the New Year’s assaults are only being used in the short term right now, to paint a picture of the first big scandal of the year. In the end they, like so many others, will be left on their own. There will be more sexualized violence in Germany every day, but the topic will be visibly at an end. In the end, that’s worse than if we’d never talked about it.
Links, all German, as in original.
She really hits all the nails on the head here, doesn’t she? The German media are as daft about all this as the politicians and PEGIDA. And there’s not a whole lot of daylight between them on this matter, either. They all seem to think that expulsion and surveillance will be the magic bullets that prevent any more herd sexual assaults. Never mind that at so many predominantly German cultural events, such as the Köln carnival or Oktoberfest, gangs of men have also been known to roam around, group-groping women with much outcry at the moment — and total impunity later on.
And I just dare you to google “sexism in Germany”, in English, any time you like. You’ll see plenty of evidence that the phenomenon is home-grown, not imported. Even group sexual assault. and gang rape. Because why go to the Middle East or North Africa for that when you can already get it at home, and have been forever?