Is western "sexualisation" less formative than eastern?

Many children in Germany – both male and female – are growing up on the poverty line, so with dramatically fewer opportunities than other children. Surely it is a much more pressing concern for the state to address this situation? Participants at the general meeting report that the Terre des Femmes executive is fearful of Islamisation and that this process should be forestalled.

Members of the executive such as Inge Bell and Hania Luczak emphasise their awareness that the demand will be difficult to implement and say it is not a legislative proposal, but a "social line of approach that we want".

But this line of approach amounts to the discursive stoking of discrimination against a section of the population.

Should nine-year-old girls have their headscarves removed by the police? Should 16-year-old girls wearing headscarves expect to have to show their ID or pay a fine at any time?

The impact of such social improvement measures could be observed last year in France, when law enforcers made female beachgoers remove their burkinis. Should western secularism in all its faded glory as the guiding ideal really be exercised on the weakest members of society – children?

Feminists who in the name of gender equality set the state on families with particular backgrounds want nothing else. Here, we generally call laws tailored to certain population groups discriminatory.

The motivation behind it is even somehow understandable: the paths of the patriarchy were never so difficult to penetrate as they are today. Of course it would be nice to think we might be able to at least switch off a clearly definable factor in society, to remove a symbol of difference. But: if the burden of such legislation is to be placed exclusively on women – or in this case even school-age girls – this neither helps women generally nor specifically.

The feminists' call for state repression is misanthropic

Laws aimed at protecting women from their own practices are not only to some extent absurd as feminist demands, in particular if one is not concerned with the human consequences of such laws. The approach also reveals a startlingly uncritical stance towards the state as the historic main pillar of patriarchal order, a stance that doesn't suit feminists.

And what is more: the readiness to brand individual ethnic or religiously defined groups with their symbols is playing into the hands of all those who for quite different reasons maintain and call for aggressive, discriminatory dealings with Muslims.

The AfD is currently the only national party campaigning for a headscarf ban in schools. This is incidentally the same party whose agenda includes sanctions against single mothers and tighter controls on the information service provided to women seeking an abortion.

If women become the target of legal regulations – whether they are women who wear headscarves, or women who are sex workers – then it can never be called progress, it is at most a cheap cosmetic measure.

Those who otherwise always campaign against the discrimination of their fellow women should know this better than anyone. And those who support a different approach put themselves on a level with a policy that is not just misogynist. But profoundly misanthropic.

Meredith Haaf

© Suddeutsche Zeitung 2017

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

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