All the women SPIEGEL likes to call the “old feminists”

Spiegel Online gives us a conversation with two feminists on what happened in Cologne.

Alice Schwarzer, 73, the grande dame of German feminism, and Anne Wizorek, 34, a prominent member of the new generation of feminists, often have different views about the direction the women’s movement should take. For decades, Schwarzer — as publisher of Emma, the country’s highly influential women’s magazine — has been at the forefront of women’s issues. In more recent years, a younger generation of feminists, led by Wizorek, has sought to challenge Schwarzer’s preeminence.

I wonder if that last bit is true, or just Spiegel’s way of saying they’re not the same person, or something. If it is true I find it very tiresome. Why is there any need to “challenge” anyone’s “preeminence”? How can any social movement get anywhere if people are always too busy trying to knock each other off perches? How, specifically, can feminism ever get anywhere if women over 45 are invariably treated with hostility and contempt? Feminism has never stipulated that it’s only for women ages 20 to 45, and it shouldn’t, so the whole re-hashed Battle with Mommy is a bad idea.

Both women are concerned about recent developments in Cologne that saw mass sexual violence against women perpetrated by Muslim immigrants. The following is an excerpt from a combative interview with SPIEGEL in which the two share their at times divergent views on the violence and the consequences.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Schwarzer, Ms. Wizorek, what happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve? Was it a particularly extreme example of sexism or the consequence of failed immigration policies?

Wizorek: The events were terrible and, given the scale, a new phenomenon. That’s why we need to take a very precise look at what happened. I really hope that the perpetrators are caught. The ensuing debate, though, unfortunately has had the wrong focus: It is wrong to only speak about sexualized violence if it is committed by migrants or refugees.

Schwarzer: The debate over sexual violence has re-emerged as a result of that night in Cologne. Even Germany’s justice minister, who for years allowed necessary reforms to tighten Germany’s rape laws torot in a drawer, has pulled them out again. But when you only speak using generalizations, you run the danger of denying the specific. In recent decades, millions of people have come to us from cultural groups within which women have absolutely no rights. They do not have a voice of their own and they are totally dependent on their fathers, brothers or husbands. That applies to North Africa and that applies to large parts of the Middle East. It isn’t always linked to Islam. But since the end of the 1970s, at the beginning of the revolution in Iran under Khomenei, we have experienced a politicization of Islam. From the beginning, it had a primary adversary: the emancipation of women. With more men now coming to us from this cultural sphere, and some additionally brutalized by civil wars, this is a problem. We cannot simply ignore it.

Wizorek hinted that perhaps we could, and should.

Schwarzer: Do you know what I just thought of, Anne? You were born in East Germany at the beginning of the 1980s, right?

Wizorek: Yes.

Schwarzer: It’s entirely OK that you missed certain things. In the 1960s and 1970s among the leftests in the West, one of the leading arguments against feminism was that it was only a subordinate issue. That’s what people said back then. The main issue was the class struggle.

Wizorek: I am familiar with the discussion.

So am I. We had it here, with class struggle replaced by struggle against racism. Women were told their struggle didn’t count.

Schwarzer: As soon as you opened your mouth and said the word woman, you were beaten down with the argument that you were betraying the class struggle. There are many poignant writings in which feminists first write pages about their class standpoint before getting to their actual issue. What was then known as class warfare is today called anti-racism. The threat of being accused of racism gave birth to false tolerance. Once, about 20 years ago, a police officer in Cologne told me, “Ms. Schwarzer, 70 to 80 percent of the rapists in Cologne are Turkish.” I was very upset and said: “Then good God, why don’t you bring the issue up?” Because only after you call a problem by name can you change it. And then he said, no way, that’s not politically opportune. So you see, the police have long been extremely frustrated by these hush-ups. I think that’s changing now, and that’s a good thing.

Wizorek: But that’s just another version of this terrible: “One should also be able to say …!”

Schwarzer: No, it’s the opposite. People aren’t stupid. They saw what was happening at the Cologne central station. A lawless space was created in the middle of a city of over a million. That has to be addressed and it has to be done so in a sober-minded way.

Then they agreed briefly, arguing that “groping” needed to be treated as a crime too, along with sexual harassment in general.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Schwarzer, what consequences will Cologne have?

Schwarzer: We need to finally be proactive in enlightening people from Islamic cultural groups. And this applies to immigrants already here as well as to current refugees. The German constitution stands above the Sharia. Schools need to offer classes on gender equality. You also have to offer an alternative to young men with a penchant for violence.

Wizorek: Only the young men? Education is important for all genders.

Schwarzer: Of course, because you have to tell girls what rights they have and you must stand by them as they assert themselves. We have to go into the relevant neighborhoods and do something to counter the campaigning Islamists. We failed to do that during the last 25 years. We also can’t be naïve when it comes to the refugees. Men who commit violence should of course be deported to their countries of origin. We already have enough problems here and we don’t need to import anymore.

Wizorek: Sexualized violence existed before the refugees — it has not been imported.

Schwarzer: I know that because I have been fighting against it since 1995, just like all the women SPIEGEL likes to call the “old feminists.” For us feminist pioneers, fighting sexual violence, which until then was totally silenced — be it abuse, rape within marriage or sex killings — has always been given top priority.

Remember those “slaves” in Saudi Arabia, whom it’s halal for their owners to rape.

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