Is feminism necessary in the United States

Feminism as an enemyHow women become objects of hate in right-wing ideologies

"A 43-year-old German shot nine people yesterday evening in two shisha bars in Hanau, Hesse."

"In Halle an der Saale, two people were shot dead in an apparently anti-Semitic attack."

"At least 49 people were killed and many more injured in a terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand."

"After the death trip of a 25-year-old Canadian in Toronto, the question of the motive remains unanswered."

They listen to music with misogynistic texts and shoot videos that leave no doubt about their fanaticism. Then they take action: Toronto, Christchurch, Halle, Hanau - these place names stand for four of the worst terrorist attacks in the past two and a half years. The perpetrators are right-wing extremists: single men, in their mid-20s or early 40s, who despise Muslims and Jews - and: women. A motive that is often overlooked, although it is not new: The hatred of women is in black and white in so-called "manifestos" of the assassins, but also in right-wing chat groups on the Internet, or most recently in the threatening letters of the so-called "NSU 2.0 ", which were mainly aimed at women. Nevertheless, in the political-media debate, the focus is usually elsewhere, says the Viennese political scientist Judith Goetz:

"Basically, the idea of ​​right-wing extremism or right-wing terrorism is strongly influenced by the ideological components of racism, anti-Semitism, nationalism. And (that) misogyny, the defense of equality, anti-feminism, sexism are still totally neglected when for example the media report about it, or if there are political disputes about it.

Hatred of women - a little illuminated motive for the crime

That only changed this summer, when the parliamentary group leaders of the Left Party in Hesse and Berlin, but also a member of the Bundestag, a lawyer and many other women in Germany received threats of murder and rape. The fact that dozens of women were targeted in one fell swoop attracted attention this time. Months earlier, the Halle assassin had declared in a video that feminism was to blame for falling birth rates and that, in turn, was the cause of mass migration, as he put it. In order to then blame the Jews.

"The perpetrator himself also stated the explicit misogyny as a motive." Anne Helm, a member of the Left Party, explained on ARD television shortly after the terrorist attack on the synagogue in Halle.

"And the hatred of women and feminism plays a major role here. And that is also a motive for the crime, which, in my opinion, has so far not been illuminated enough, but which is also in accordance with the perpetrators before."

The left parliamentary group leader in the Berlin House of Representatives Anne Helm was threatened. (dpa)

For example, with the 29-year-old Australian who stormed two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 - and shot 51 people. He has now been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He also described feminism as the cause of falling birth rates in the West. Anne Helm knows such slogans. The left-wing politician, who recently became head of the parliamentary group in the Berlin House of Representatives, has been campaigning against right-wing violence for years. It is true that the majority of the fatalities are men. But women are more and more targeted.

A development that does not surprise the sociologist Andreas Kemper. He has long observed positions in the New Right ...

"... where it is said, 'Violence is male, and that's a good thing, we need more violence, and we have to unite to use violence to push back this effeminate, decadent mainstream that we have."

"Incel" movement is growing especially in the US

Left-wing politician Anne Helm is also familiar with such hostility. She too received right-wing extremist threatening letters at the end of July. Helm also looks beyond Germany. About the terrorist attack in Christchurch a year and a half ago, she says:

"Behind this is a conspiracy theory that is actually widespread. Namely, that a so-called Jewish financial elite who run the world came up with feminism on the drawing board to get women, especially white women, to have fewer children, to destroy, so to speak, the "white race" or what is believed to be and cause genocide against the whites. "

This song describes the act of the Toronto assassin Alek Minassian. The then 25-year-old killed eight women and two men in April 2018, and the trial against him is due to begin in November. Minassian had justified his rampage shortly after the fact as revenge for years of rejection by women and declared that he belonged to the so-called "Incel" movement. The acronym stands for "involuntarily celibate", ie for men who involuntarily live in celibacy and - in extreme cases - hold women responsible. Incels share their experiences in Internet forums. Sociologist Andreas Kemper:

"There are similar groups in Germany, too, but they're relatively harmless. But in the United States, this group developed into a movement that biologizes the whole thing and says that we as beta men can't get a woman off. And then it developed misogyny. "

(picture alliance / AP Photo / CBS / Darren Michaels) The pop-cultural roots of the incel movement
Incels are men who are unsuccessful with women and see feminism as the reason for their loneliness. This movement has radicalized online. Their origins can also be found in popular cultural series such as "Friends" or "The Big Bang Theory".

Extreme male dominance notion

"I think these aspects are very central here, this dehumanization, this male dominance notion, which is increased so far to the extreme that it derives the legitimation to set examples in individual women for not conforming to these normative images who are represented in this presentation. " Judith Goetz thinks.

The gender researcher warns against leaning against the perpetrators in Christchurch, Toronto or Halle and drawing hasty analogies, but what they have in common, according to Goetz, is a fanatical, ideological worldview. And the mutual relationship to one another.

The Halle assassin, Stephan B., filmed himself in Halle last October. In his car, he heard that misogynistic song that refers directly to the Toronto bomber. Sexual violence against women is glorified in the lyrics and linked to terror fantasies. Shortly afterwards B. tries to storm the synagogue in Halle and fails at the massive wooden entrance door. The attack sparked an intense debate in Germany about the right wing's hatred of Jews.

Pairing anti-Semitism with anti-feminism

However, anti-Semitism is often paired with anti-feminism, says Annetta Kahane. The chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation is Jewish and has been campaigning against right-wing extremism for decades:

"There are many examples in literature, and it was analyzed very early on that there is something particularly threatening in the stereotypical views of Jews and especially Jewish women."

Annetta Kahane is sitting with her pug Lili on a bright blue sofa in her apartment. The 66-year-old has received threats for years. She pulls out her cell phone:

"For example, here is one ..." Kahane begins to read. What follows is a listing of tasteless, primitive abuse that threatens Kahane as a woman and as a Jew.

"There is no 'sensible' death list where I don't appear ... and that has never interested the police, the various parts of the police. So the threat situation - similar to Halle, was described as 'there is no acute danger situation'. I don't know what has to happen in order to see an acute danger situation. Because we had all kinds of things in the foundation, bomb threats and strange letters with powder in them, as well as visits from some Nazis. "

(Imago / photothek) Künast (Greens): The hatred has multiplied
The Green politician Renate Künast complains that public discourse is being brutalized, which is related to Pegida and the AfD. With the claim that freedom of expression is in danger, hatred is spread, said Künast in the Dlf.

Women are threatened publicly online

In addition, there are so-called Sharepics, i.e. images or photos shared with one another on the Internet. You will be forwarded to as many recipients as possible in order to generate widespread attention.

"There is also the satanic Jewess, that was very present for a while. Then there were photomontages with my face, and with the head of a snake and flames and with such very disgusting bloody hands ..."

Sexism, misogyny and anti-feminism

But where does the continual devaluation and threat to women from the New Right come from? The Viennese political scientist Judith Goetz differentiates between sexism, misogyny and anti-feminism. The latter in particular can be traced back well into the middle of society. Goetz attributes this to "that certain ideas, which form the basis for anti-feminism and sexism, are so deeply anchored and normalized in society that they are not perceived as problematic per se. And this basis then leads, so to speak, into this pointed one Form in this misogyny, in this murderous anti-feminism that we know from right-wing terrorist attacks. "

This conviction is not only to be found among right-wing extremists who are prepared to use violence, but is also a political decision, as the political scientist Judith Goetz defines it. She wrote a book about this together with two co-authors. Accordingly, anti-feminism is a counter-reaction to same-sex or feminist demands: For example, the struggle for more equality, quotas, reproductive rights, sexual identities and social diversity. For the Federal Republic of Germany, this thesis is supported by a study by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs from 2017:

"For the first time, emphatically masculinist trends can be identified and quantified. In the male population, the [...] wider circle of firmly convinced believers has a share of 5.3 percent. These men have the extreme, unshakable attitude that equality policy is just another." Name for the advancement of women and discrimination against men. "

(imago stock & people / Christian Mang) Gender debate - "It's about thinking about privileges differently"
In the book "Frauen *rechte und Frauen * hass" an anti-feminist society is criticized. Sometimes there is no other option than to drastically describe violent circumstances, said co-author Anna Berg in the Dlf.

Polarize feminist issues

According to the study, this worldview finds supporters across all social classes, especially among 40 to 60-year-olds. Ulle Schauws, women's and queer policy spokeswoman for the Bundestag parliamentary group of Bündnis90 / Die Grünen, speaks of a counter-movement. Feminist issues are now getting a lot more attention than they did a few years ago, but they are also polarizing, says Schauws:

"The whole subject of Metoo, including all the violent, sexual assaults on women, has become much more of a topic in our society. And when it comes to demands for more equality, anti-feminism naturally comes to the fore again."

It articulates itself, among other things, in the work of relevant associations, initiatives and blogs. An example: the federal association "Liberal Men". She runs her own Facebook page. A few days ago there was an entry that defamed gender research as an "ideology of hate". The website is in the turquoise-magenta-yellow colors of the FDP, but Daniel Föst, family policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, draws a sharp dividing line to the club:

"There is no connection to the FDP. There is no organizational overlap. We do not share any content. Decidedly - based on what I have read, we also reject a lot of what is written there. The term 'liberal' is not protected. There is no place with this ideology within the FDP. "

Daniel Föst, family policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, distances himself from the content of the "Liberal Men" (dpa / picture alliance / Arne Immanuel Bänsch)

The new "power" in feminism is very welcome, emphasizes Föst. His party wants to remove injustices, for example in terms of payment or divorce law. However, the FDP politician adds that he already doubts "whether the great effort that we put into gender research is really necessary. But we have a freedom of research, and that is right and important."

Femonationalism in the AfD

The AfD goes one step further in its election manifesto for the 2017 federal election and speaks of an "anti-constitutional gender ideology" that wants to "abolish the classic family (...)". Incidentally, it contradicts "the scientific knowledge of biology." As a result, the AfD rejects major social developments in recent years, above all marriage for everyone. Nicole Hoechst, family policy spokeswoman for the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, takes another aspect into account, the dispute over the quota:

"For us, the new feminism is what is known as feminism. I don't even know how it can be called well. In any case, this is an imposition for women who actually believe in equality and equal opportunities."

The AfD rejects quota rules. Equality between women and men is guaranteed by the Basic Law. This turns anti-feminism into its opposite, explains right-wing extremism expert Andreas Kemper:

"Today anti-feminism appears primarily as a victim position. That means, it is said: Maybe that made sense with feminism, but today it is completely exaggerated. Today the man is oppressed, or the traditional family of Father, mother, child is oppressed. "

"I would say that is one reason why right-wing, right-wing extremist groups and parties are currently focusing so much on the topic of anti-feminism," adds political scientist Judith Goetz.

"Because they simply know that you can also achieve emotions with it, and ultimately they are concerned with restoring what they understand to be a" normal "social order."

(Verlag Suhrkamp / Christian Mang / imago) "Down Girl. The Logic of Misogyny"
Despite the women's movement, anti-discrimination laws and a high level of education, women still have a harder time getting ahead in the world. The American philosopher Kate Manne has found out why this is so, she has investigated the various forms of misogyny.

However, your party is by no means anti-feminist, explains AfD politician Nicole Hoechst, but rather conservative. Then the bridge to migration policy follows: "The immigrant society brings with it a Stone Age patriarchy." Hoechst put it that it had already "settled in" in Germany.

"Today I hear again and again that young women or women of my age are considering whether they can still go outside and how they can get from A to B to avoid dangerous situations. These are very bad developments and they should be closed opposed as a society. No matter whether from the right or from the left. "

The sociologist Andreas Kemper, who has been observing the AfD for years, speaks in this context of a so-called femonationalism that the party applies:

"In other words, a form of feminism that is not ultimately about women's rights, but about nationalism. That has actually been around for ages. After the liberation of slaves in the US, there were a lot of accusations against black people as rapists."

Anti-feminism: cover for right-wing ideologies

Today this accusation will be transferred to Muslims. Gender researcher Judith Goetz believes that it also fulfills another purpose:

"When it comes to demographic change, where feminists are ascribed to being to blame for the fact that there would be too few births from members of the dominant society and that because of this, immigrant societies would now have to come into the country, then it is easier to talk about it to play the gender issue instead of openly calling for an organic society, for example. "

In principle, however, anti-feminism still serves as a cover for right-wing ideologies - from the New Right to right-wing extremism - for tactical reasons - Goetz adds:

"Because anti-feminism is so widespread in large parts of society that the right here manage to get a little out of the right-wing extremist corner and say: 'Well, look, a lot of people think feminism goes too far. 'Correspondingly, anti-feminism can also fulfill a certain hinge function or bridging function, where many different actors come together. "

Goetz: Attack on a liberal society

Counter-strategies are therefore becoming more and more important, says the Viennese political scientist Judith Goetz. From their point of view, this is also immensely important for the victims, "that it is not overlooked that these women, who have recently received these threatening emails from NSU 2.0, that it is very important to send them solidarity, emphatic messages."

And thus to thwart a strategy of the right, namely the attempt to meet the recipients personally and individually. The messages of hatred are aimed at individual women, but, the scientist emphasizes, essentially democratic values ​​such as pluralism and diversity are threatened:

"And so these attacks must also be understood as a problem for society as a whole and also answered for society as a whole. That means offering men alternative models of identification instead of this always strong, tough guy who never learns to deal with rejection and insults."

The point here, says Goetz, is the preservation of a free, liberal society.