Merkel and the Populists

Here we are, Angela Merkel’s response to the right-wing populist threat is to move towards the populist right. The NYT reports this from her speech at the convention of her party, the Christian Democratic Union: 

In the 80-minute speech, she repeated the same catalog of beliefs in freedom and equal treatment she had made as an implicit criticism of President-elect Donald J. Trump, but also stiffened her position on the veil and suggested that Germany would be more cautious in welcoming migrants in the future.

In a clear nod to criticism that the state had appeared to lose control over its borders, the chancellor opened her speech to the annual conference of her Christian Democratic Union with a promise that such a situation “cannot, may not and should not be repeated.”

But the biggest applause lines concerned law and order, including a promise that Shariah law would never replace German justice — a problem that has barely arisen but has been cast as a specter by the far-right party Alternative for Germany.

I can’t say I’m surprised, but still, a small part of me had hoped the “liberal, tolerant, cosmopolitan Merkel” would stay more than a myth a bit longer.

Granting refugees asylum and allowing people to clothe themselves in the manner they want (i.e. self-expression) are central parts of the “catalog of beliefs in freedom in equal treatment” Merkel claims to steadfastly support. This rhetoric erodes that “catalog.” Allowing refugees into our country wasn’t a bug but a feature and can, may, and should be repeated.

If the point of a burka prohibition isn’t islamophobic racism but that we “show our face in interpersonal communication,” will the CDU now also call to end email, working from home, and all the other elements of the “industry 4.0” as German officials like to call the new era of work?

Outlawing the burka because of Islamic terrorism is the wrong tool based on a misogynist interpretation of the problem anyway. Outlawing the burka will not stop (mostly male) violence, but might prevent some women from accessing our public places and experiencing the freedom of movement most Germans take for granted, and might serve as a propaganda tool for ISIS etc.

The burka discussion is also a discussion of an oversimplified, flawed solution to an exaggerated problem. The omnipresence of burkas or an actual threat of Sharia law on German streets is mostly right-wing populist spin.

Also mostly right-wing populist spin on a complex, different problem is the discussion after the recent horrific murder of a young woman in Freiburg by a young refugee and the sexual assaults on 2 young women in Bochum. In both cases, the alleged perpetrators seem to be male migrants/refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. Both cases are horrific. Both cases are things that happen in our society. Both cases aren’t unique. Both cases are part of a problem that is bigger and more complex than a ban on refugees can fix. Crimes like this happen, unless we work against the problem of gendered, sexualized violence in our society. We need to work against rape, against murder. We need to teach men – including but not limited to Muslim men – not to rape, not to murder. We need to act against misogyny.

A blanket ban on refugees (or on the burka) doesn’t solve this problem, but erodes the “catalog of beliefs in freedom and equal treatment” we claim to defend. 

A blanket ban is a right-wing populists win, Chancellor Merkel.

German feminist activists have called for a law reform for some time. The debate was picked up again after the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and other cities. Groups of men were apparently pick-pocketing and assaulting women. Since then, the country has discovered that only one of these accusations is actually a crime. And because many attackers were described as non-white the law on asylum seeking has been tightened while groping is still legal and wasn’t even included in the latest reform draft.

On sexual abuse in Germany A good article about the current discussion of sexual assault and rape culture in this country.

“Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand.”

Emily Doe, the victim of Brock Turner, wrote – and then read in court –  an incredibly powerful, clear, and moving letter during the sentencing process. Turner, a former Stanford student-athlete, was convicted by jury of a number of accounts relating to rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced to a mere 6 months in county jail “because a longer sentence would have ‘a severe impact on him’” according to the judge. Turner still denies assaulting her.
There are many quotable passages in the letter, but I recommend reading it in full. It might be tough (obvious trigger warning) but it’s an important read, as she details not only how she was hurt and the lasting impact of the assault, but also how degrading, confusing, and revictimizing the process of justice was/is for her as the survivor.
The letter is a must-read. Especially for fellow men.
Buzzfeed has published the letter in full.

Beverly Johnson: Bill Cosby Drugged Me.

Top model Beverly Johnson is among the now countless women Bill Cosby lured in with his charismatic superstar persona and then drugged in order to sexually assault them. Her piece for Vanity Fair is a really important read (if you have the stomach for it: she describes the drugging in detail; discusses sexual assault.) Her story shows that Cosby was acting out complex plans in order to abuse women. These weren’t “heat of the moment” actions. Allegedly, I guess, but there are now really too many accounts of women – including rich and famous women – to not believe their collective stories.

Johnson’s article is also really good at explaining why she did not come forward earlier. Given the issues with Black masculinity, this passage stood out:

Finally, I reached the conclusion that the current attack on African American men has absolutely nothing to do at all with Bill Cosby. He brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades. If anything, Cosby is distinguished from the majority of black men in this country because he could depend on the powers that be for support and protection.

Like many, I grew up loving the Huxtables. But that love for Bill Cosby’s work is now overshadowed by his personal malicious actions, and the women bravely telling their stories aren’t the ones ruining that influential, wonderful show. Cosby did. “Allegedly.”

Beverly Johnson: Bill Cosby Drugged Me.

Conor Oberst Rape Accuser Issues Public Apology

i must admit, when I first read the news, I felt some relief (as a longtime Bright Eyes fan) but I remained cautious, weary. Did the accuser make this statement on her own volition? My mind started constructing ways in which she might have been coerced to come forward with this statement. At the beginning of this scandal I unfortunately read so many accounts of problematic sexual behavior (yet also all via third party word-of-mouth in comment treads/personal tumblrs) by Oberst that the accusations could be plausible.

Yet, the accuser did not merely drop charges, she explicitly said she made it up, that the accusation isn’t factual. While “making rape claim to get attention” is far less common than MRAs and other anti-feminsits claim, it is possible. In addition: If I am inclined to believe a woman when she speaks about her abuse, shouldn’t I also be inclined to believe her when she changes that statement?

Conor Oberst Rape Accuser Issues Public Apology

This doesn’t make sense. People who use the phrase “rape culture” do not deny that rape is a matter of individuals making the active choice to rape. “Rape culture” is a very useful way to describe the idea that rapists are given a social license to operate by people who make excuses for sexual predators and blame the victims for their own rapes. Instead of recognizing this, or, at the very least, just not bringing it up at all in its memo, RAINN instead bashes a straw man, arguing that the focus on “rape culture” diverts “the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions.”

Feminists who coined and spread the phrase “rape culture” are not denying that rapists need to be held personally responsible for their criminal behavior. They are pointing out all the cultural reasons that this doesn’t happen: the myth that false accusations are common, the myth that rapists are just confused about consent, and the myth that victims share the blame for drinking too much or otherwise making themselves vulnerable. Only by tackling these cultural problems will we be able to see clearly that rapists know exactly what they’re doing and punish them for it. Rape culture doesn’t cause the desire to rape, but it allows rapists to rape with the confidence that comes from knowing you’re very unlikely to be prosecuted for it. Surely they have Google search at the RAINN offices that could have helped clear this up, but if not, an intern could have called one of the many feminists who speak out regularly about this issue to understand it better before dismissing it publicly.

Armanda Marcotte: RAINN attacks the phrase “rape culture” in its recommendations to the White House, obviously doesn’t understand it.

This is one of the really frustrating cases when (roughly speaking) cultural actors with a wide reach, like RAINN, ignorantly or deliberately do not understand slightly more complex concepts that describe cultural phenomena/problems. The term rape culture does not negate the rapist’s personal responsibility/guilt. However, It’s useful to describe all the other problematic aspects in our culture that are terrible in addition to the individual cases of sexual assault, violence.

New White House Sexual Assault PSA

The White House released a pretty good PSA against sexual assault featuring some preyy big names besides the two top men at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.: Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, Dulé Hill, Seth Meyers, and Steve Carell.

I like it when famous men, especially men famous for being “macho,” speak out in this way. We men need to teach other men not to rape. Statistically, we all know and maybe value someone who has committed some form of sexual abuse.

I want to note, however, that the video uses the common but problematic rhetorical device of framing the terribleness of abuse by stressing that the affected are “our” mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc. Which is sadly accurate; statistically we all know and probably love someone who has experienced sexual abuse. I know why they use it, but still – women* deserve to be free from abuse regardless of their relationship to men, they deserve it as people. This (culture of) abuse needs to be fought regardless of who is hurt.


This teen girl’s response to the DFTBA sexual abuse scandal is out of this world and needs to be watched and thought about and discussed.

This is a 16-year-old girl. Her video gave me CHILLS. 

It’s a great video. Some might find it tough but it’s a must-see. She – Ann/The Geeky Blonde – connects the abuse by adult men in the YouTube community to the decreasing space the women in youtube panel gets at vidcon. She also outlines a number of steps the DFTBA/YouTube/VidCon community needs to take. She is an impressive example of what young girls can do, and why their voices need to be valued more. She explains how Brave New Voices values creative teenage girls more than vidcon..

I’m not really into the DFTBA universe besides the occasional crash course video or tumblr post, so I don’t know a lot about the accused men and the cases. The video has a bunch of links/articles in the description. Anyway, the evident abuse by 5+ content producers is terrible, alarming, and vile. What she has to say is also valuable beyond this specific case(s).

Just one last thought: As the DFTBA/vlogger/nerd community continues to grow, it needs to take active steps to just not mirror the fucked up-ness of society at large. Otherwise, a lot of amazing, revolutionary potential will be wasted.

(Content note: the video is a general discussion of (surviving) sexual abuse.)