Whether women’s experiences are being hijacked for political purposes

NPR ruminates on the Cologne New Year’s Eve issue.

Cologne police are currently investigating 379 criminal complaints, about 40 percent involving allegations of sexual abuse, the Associated Press reports. The wire service earlier noted two allegations of rape.

The Cologne police chief described the assailants as “Arab or North African” in appearance. As a result, the outcry over the attacks has not only centered on victims and perpetrators: it’s extended to a broader national debate over migrants, multiculturalism and Germany’s open-door policy to asylum seekers.

Rhetoric is running hot. The story currently dominates the German press, with headlines referencing the “New Year’s Horror” or “Night Of Shame.

Because there are reports that some or many or most of the attackers appeared “Arab or North African” and that some were asylum seekers.

But the fact that the majority of current suspects are asylum-seekers has been taken by many as confirmation of their fears, even though it seems very few of the total alleged assailants have been identified.

There’s an issue about whether or not the attacks were planned and coordinated, and an issue about why the police were so not there.

And why did it take days for the police to admit the scale of the crime and chaos? The police chief says victims were slow to file complaints, Soraya reported: but some victims, like Michelle, have accused the police of ignoring claims they filed.

And then there’s the issue of under-reporting.

In addition to the police being slow to disclose the events, one prominent German media outlet, public broadcaster ZDF, was slow to cover them.

That’s fueled both criticism and conspiracy theories, Der Spiegel reports: “In Germany, there is a stable minority that is convinced that the country’s broadcasters, newspapers and magazines are controlled by dark powers and have agreed to suppress bad news about foreigners so as not to endanger the political project of welcoming refugees.”

ZDF has apologized for the delay in reporting on the attacks.

I’ve seen a lot of ill-natured sniping about this on social media today, mostly (as usual) aimed at “The Feminists.” Why aren’t The Feminists talking about this?!!1 Well, one, some of us are, and two, it’s not evil to be worried about possible increased hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants as a result of this.

And then there’s also the question of popular response, and whether women’s experiences are being hijacked for political purposes.

[Anne] Wizorek started a campaign in 2013 to use the hashtag “#aufschrei,” or outcry, for women to share their experiences with stalking, harassment, assault and rape.

“Back then when #Aufschrei was big in the media and people talked about it … a lot of people also tried to downplay the problems. They were saying, ‘Well, but we’ve gotten so far and we have gender equity in Germany right now, we have a female chancellor, so what do you want?’ All that kind of argument was going on,” she told Michel.

“And those people are the ones who are now talking a lot about what has happened in Cologne. So they are using these stories and these experiences of the people who have been attacked in Cologne to only push forward with their racist agenda against migrants and refugees in Germany. And I think that’s a huge problem.”

In short this mess is a gift to racists and Nazis.

A protest Saturday by the far-right group PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, attracted 1,700 people in Cologne, and was broken up by riot police, Reuters says:

“Demonstrators, some of whom bore tattoos with far-right symbols such as a skull in a German soldier’s helmet, had chanted “Merkel must go” and “this is the march of the national resistance.” “Rapefugees not welcome,” one banner read.

Thanks but no thanks.

The rising tide of anti-immigrant feeling has some observers concerned. But others say that looking at groups like PEGIDA with fear is looking in the wrong direction.

Those 1,700 protesters were met by an equal number of police officers — a far stronger showing by police than was found on the streets of Cologne on New Year’s Eve.

A counter-protest, with about 1,300 people, protested both racism and violence against women.

Can we have that? No to racism and no to violence against women? Both? At once? That’s my request, at any rate.

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