Take it to the streets, form Grrrl-Gangs!

1. Rollback in the USA and Europe

In the past few years right-wing populist movements have been on the rise in Europe and the US, provisionally culminating in the recent election of Donald J Trump as the president of the United States. One major intersection of these political movements is a racism and nationalism concealed as “criticism of Islam”, a rhetoric of non-differentiation between religion, culture and origin and a praxis of melting their perceptions of refugees and Muslims into a vague bogeyman. Building a wall along the Mexican border as well as totally banning Muslims from immigrating into the United States have been key promises of Trump during his presidential campaign. Equally, Viktor Orbán didn’t hesitate to close Hungary’s southern border and declares in line with politicians of AfD, FPÖ or Front Nationale, that the Islam world does not belong in Europe. Marine Le Pen, nominee in the French presidential election this year, argues openly against a so-called mass integration and advocates a constitutional change that would favour French citizens in several areas, such as employment, residence, and many more. Although FPÖ’s Norbert Hofer was not elected to become the new president of Austria, considering his position, the close result of the election is alarming. For instance, he called refugees ‘invaders’ and advocated a total end of immigration to Austria. According to the FPÖ’s “handbook of liberal politics”, foreigners living in Austria are to be deported in favour of a policy they call „Minus-Immigration.“

„Alternative for Germany“ (AfD) is not the only party entering the German election campaign with comparable positions to those discussed internationally, however they do this with a specifically blatant radicalism: „Islam does not belong to Germany. The spreading and presence of an ever-growing number of Muslims are seen by the AfD as a threat to our state, our society and our values and virtues.” [1] Regarding the upcoming elections, it is daunting how some CDU-politicians are openly advocating a coalition between the AfD and the CDU.

2. Antifeminism of the „New Right“

A central momentum in the ideology of politically right-wing movements and parties is antifeminism. In their discourses, women* [2] appear almost solely portrayed as mothers. As such, their role is to sustain the health of the nation (‟Volk”) by caring for their husbands and giving birth to as many children as possible, raising them according to the German values. ‟Gender mainstreaming and the general emphasis on individuality undermines the family as the value-forming social nucleus. (…) It should be desirable again to live in marriage, raise kids and spend as much time with them as possible” notes the manifesto of the AFD, a statement that obviously could also have come from the ranks of the CDU/CSU.

In the right-wing ideology, the woman* also takes on a politically active function. Conscious in tradition, the „New Right“ still follows the ideals of the National Socialists. Here, too, the ideal image of a woman* primarily is that of the mother and custodian of the family. In the National Socialist practice that also meant to actively partake in the implementation of the „Third Reich“, be it as supervisors in the extermination camps, as nurses in so-called „Sanatoriums“, as governesses in the “League of German Maidens” (Bund Deutscher Mädel, BDM) or as the secretaries of influential politicians. Nowadays, there are women* participating within the „New Right“ and actively support and promote their inimical ideology.

Not only are sexism and racism intertwined in their reference to nation and ‟Volk”; they also relate to the mechanisms by which identity is constituted within right-wing ideology. To construct one’s identity, an ‟Other” is created, a differentiated group, which is then ascribed with a certain set of negatively perceived qualities or behaviours. Thus, the German male identifies himself as the counterpart to both the women* and in opposition to the non-German. Any mutuality that could be interpreted in this model is lost at the latest when focussing on power relations and real political interests: While all non-Germans or non-white are demanded to leave the country right away, women* are asked to return to the place of their fictionalized origin, whether locally or abroad and become mothers again. When ‟gender mainstreaming” is referred to as “poisonous, expensive, tax-funded social experiments, created to abolish the family” (Björn Höcke) it clearly shows that in the aspired society there is no place for couples beside the heterosexual, monogamous marriage. We hence not only have to combat their regressive and limited image of femininity but also fight for and defend LGBT*IQ-rights.

3. The interrelations of racism and sexism in current discourses

The sexual violence that shook cologne on NYE 2015 has been scandalized worldwide and is paradigmatic for how racism and sexism are conjoined and superimposed over one another in current debates. Right-wing populists were able to dominate discourse by stylizing the events to be the realization of their fears of „the Other“. The German state apparatus instrumentalized the claim of a female need for protection to push through restrictive laws like ‟Asylpaket III”. The ‟foreign sexmob” hereby represents a limitation of the discretionary power which German men* hold over ‟their” German women*, therefore it is seen as an attack on the German nation as such (‟deutscher Volkskörper”).

Sexist, racist and nationalistic interpretative patterns often support each other in the New Right rhetoric. Therefore, the AfD proclaims that ‟non-viable mass immigration (….) predominantly from Muslim states” must be stopped while ‟ the birth rate of the domestic populace” should be raised ‟by an effective family- and child friendly policy” to stop the current demographic change. This singlehandedly ‚discards‘ any unwanted non-Germans and obliges German women* to be housewives and mothers to strengthen the nation and be protected from the ‟foreign sexmob”. No less than their male peers, right-wing women* like Beatrix von Storch, Frauke Petry, Tatjana Festerling und Marine Le Pen also advocate misogyny, for example in their call for a return to more traditional gender roles.

The projection of one’s own sexism onto a different, ‚foreign‘ collective is a psychological defence mechanism. Inherent existential fears or the fear of losing privilege are split off and attached to another social group and thus eventually can be ‚averted‘ by fighting this group of ‚Other‘. In this way, (male) identity is stabilized. The “West” is declared to be the pinnacle of emancipation and women*’s rights, even though the antifeminist rollback in Europe has long been establishing. The sexism “of others” becomes the sexism “of Muslims” through ethnicization and culturalization, a process which attributes an invariable construct of culture to each single individual. Simultaneously, sexualized [3] violence happening in Germany is disguised, because predominantly it takes place in the „private“ realm (see also section 4.)

Islam, like any other world religion, is a patriarchal religion and should be criticized in its specificity regarding the gender relations resulting from it, with an analysis that does not conflate the concepts of origin, culture and religion. Yet both cultural racists as those categorizing all criticism of Islam as racist fall to this fallacy.

Far too often racial nationalism and cultural racism stand uncontested; religion is uncritically affirmed and sexism remains ignored in fear of a racist instrumentalization. This is why we fight for an antiracist feminism!

4. Rape Culture is no import

Of course, neither sexism nor racism are ideologies Cleary confined to right-wing groups. Sexism is a patriarchal instrument of power gaplessly structuring societies. Varying with each definition, between 20% and 75% of women* in Europe and the USA state to have been victim of sexualized violence in their life time. Across all segments of society, the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults occurs within families and partnerships. The common stereotype of the unknown perpetrator who strikes in the park at night has long been disproved. Furthermore, 99% of the offenders happen to be male. This indicates a structural problem that – contrary to racist interpretations by the right-wing – in Germany too, appertains to the daily agenda.

To point out inherent structures in society trivialising sexualized violence and thus contributing to its repeated occurrence, American feminists of the 1970s coined the term „rape culture“. Pillars to this rape culture are the objectification of women*, the trivialisation of encroaching behaviour, victim-blaming (e.g. regarding the clothes a victimized person was wearing) as well as the double standard that addresses women* as either whore or saint with nothing left in between. As Kate Millet writes in her book Sexual Politics: “One also observes the paradoxical situation that while patriarchy tends to convert woman to a sexual object, she has not been encouraged to enjoy the sexuality which is agreed to be her fate.”

5. An antiquated image of women and the modern capitalist patriarchy

The demands of right-wing movements and parties for a return to so-called traditional gender roles are made against the background of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism is divided into the sphere of production which historically has been allocated to the male, and the sphere of reproduction where labour is restored through care and housework, which is above all left to the female.

This separation was never fully completed and has gradually been softening up at least in some parts of the world. According to the role model of right-wing movements, women are again supposed to be ousted from the sphere of production and pushed back into the private sphere. Instead of beavering away for the still mostly male boss and therefore being financially independent to at least some extent, women are expected to slip back into being personally dependent on their husband and do all care- and housework for him. 

The players of the “New Right” do know that in most cases the male income will not be sufficient to provide for the nuclear family. Therefore, parents should be disburdened from “the social, financial and labour market related pressure to both engage in professional activity” (AfD party program). This may initially sound like a reasonable claim, but ultimately it only serves the purpose to cement the bourgeois nuclear family with its male provider. Thus, if necessary, women are gladly allowed to make a bit of extra money, as long as in doing so they don’t neglect their core tasks as housewives and mothers.

Clearly, this family model calls for our resistance. But even the increasing labour market participation by women in the last decades cannot uncritically be classified as an indicator for gender equality: In Germany working women on average still earn 22% less than men and are at a higher risk of falling into poverty in old age. Single parent households have the highest risk of poverty in Germany and in 90% of the cases the concerned parent is a woman. They are disproportionately often employed in the care- and household sector, are responsible for all their private housework and care for their relatives. This shows that even outside new-right movements women are still considered to be responsible for child upbringing and housework, and along with the additional gainful employment it poses a double burden. 

Capitalism and patriarchy work together: Emotional labour and care as well as housework are necessary to make humans fit for their daily labour. However, care work is hard to organize capitalistically and less profitable, thus it is delegated to women as unpaid work.

For women of colour and migrant women these conditions are even more appalling, because as the situation for some white middle class women improves, the responsibilities for care- and housework are shifting towards the former.

They often work in foreign private households, which increases the personal dependency on the job and impedes joint labour disputes. The number of Trans* people who are completely excluded from the labour market is at an alarming high. They are much more likely to live in poverty or without accommodation compared to the average and are additionally confronted with verbal and physical attacks on a daily basis. 

Ultimately, “slavery to an assembly line is not a liberation from slavery to a kitchen sink” (Mariarosa Dalla Costa). The struggle for equality in wage labour is important and needs to be continuously fought. But real freedom cannot exist in wage labour. Instead we must fight for a universal emancipation from wage labour and the mauling of the capitalist mode of production!

6. State intervention on (female*) bodies

Feminist demands have always been directed against the State enforcing patriarchal Structures, engages in demographic policies and thus obtains access on the female body. 

Those accomplishments are always fragile in the sense that they are continually attacked by right-wing movements, parties and governments. For instance, Donald Trump – following his republican predecessors – cut the funding for US-American NGOs which provide counselling for abortions overseas. He plans to mandate the same policy nationwide and has already lifted the ban on demonstrations in front of abortion clinics.

Last year in October, major resistance was put up against an imminent tightening of the already hugely restricting abortion law in Poland. If the law would have been pushed through, abortions would only be legal in life-threatening situations. Illegal abortions would be penalized with up to five years of imprisonment, applying for both the pregnant person and the person carrying out the abortion. The draft law came from the citizens’ initiative “Pro Life” and was supported by the catholic church and the governing party, right-wing populist “Law and Justice” (PiS). Only due to the resistance of women* and their solidary supporters, which was expressed through demonstrations and strikes, this amendment could be impeded.

In Germany, too, abortions are still associated with major expenditure and stigmatization. Even so, the AfD follows a strong anti-abortion line, which they cynically sell as “welcoming culture for the unborn”. And the fact that several parliamentarians of the CDU – the governing party which promotes an equally antiquated family model – openly campaign for a coalition with the AfD with a view to the upcoming parliamentary elections, doesn’t leave us with much hope.

Particularly those humans not fitting into their very limited concept of gender and its “appropriate” body, have all reason to dread this rollback. While even nowadays many children are deprived of their own decisions because the medicine only knows girls and boys, it is obvious that a coalition of right-wing forces, which doesn’t accept anything beyond the dichotomy man – woman, stands for a policy strongly hostile to trans*- and intersex people.

Abortion bans are a serious incursion upon our self-determination! Every person must have the right to autonomously decide on their own body! The state and the church have no business here!

7. Our answer: resistance and emancipation!

In the election year 2017 and amid a European and US-American right-wing rollback, feminist struggles are of utmost importance. Feminist achievements need to be won and defended against the role models of right-wing movements, against racist appropriations, against rape culture, against the conditions of a patriarchal capitalism, against a heteronormative society and the state.

The Feminist Fight Day doesn’t only represent the struggle for legal, political and economic equalization, for an autonomous life, for a right to education, to physical integrity a sexual self-determination for all girls*, women* and LGBT*IQ. We are fighting for a society without exploitation and oppression! Solidary, critical and offensive against the status quo!

Form Grrrl*gangs! Everybody – go get organized!

For an anti-racist, anti-capitalist, queer feminism!

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[1] From the manifesto of the AfD.

[2] We asterisk words like “woman” and “man” to indicate that these are social constructs, not constant biological truths. Writing from the perspective of agents who consider gender and sex to be biologically defined, e.g., when we quote statistics or the right-wing positions, we omit the asterisk.

[3] The term “sexualized” instead of “sexual” is used to undermine the perception that this form of violence mostly only subordinately serves the sexual satisfaction of the offender and instead rather expresses an exercise of power.