So long, Marianne

Linked with Alice Schwarzer – Germany.

Published on sign and (originally in german in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on November 17, 2005 – Translation Nicholas Grindell), by Alice Schwarzer, Nov. 22, 2005.

Alice Schwarzer, the foremost figure in the German women’s liberation movement, comments on the lack of women in the recent French riots.

“They used to burn dustbins and cars – now they burn girls.” These were the words of Kahina Benziane after her sister Sohane was raped, tortured and burned alive by schoolmates on October 4, 2002 in the Parisian suburb of Vitry.

Unlike her sister, who moved away and studied sociology, Sohane stayed in the neighbourhood. But she dared to live like her sister, which meant wearing makeup, going out, having a boyfriend. And she paid for this lifestyle with her life, since it meant she was not one of the “respectable girls” but one of the “putes”, the whores.

Today, fils de pute, son of a whore, is the term of abuse that flies with the stones and petrol bombs hurled at police officers by young people. Or to be more precise, by boys. Girls do not figure in this “youth uprising”. Stones were thrown in Paris in 1968, too. But the barricades were occupied by men and women, even if the leaders were all men. The revolt targeted authoritarian structures, but not the state as such. It was luxury shops that burned, not schools. And the war cry against the “pigs” was “CRS SS!” An inappropriate comparison, but at least a political one. Today’s equivalent is purely sexist: son of a bitch.

It is a fact: Of the six million first, second and now third-generation immigrants in France, the majority come from the Muslim states of the Maghreb, from France’s former colonies Algeria and Morocco. This history does not make the present any simpler. What is striking is that the third generation – and this applies equally in Germany – are often less well integrated than their grandparents. And forty percent of these young people between 16 and 25 are unemployed. Or to be more precise, 25 percent of young men and 50 percent of young women. In social terms, then, the women have twice as much reason to protest.

Except that Muslim women do not shout in the streets. They whisper behind drawn curtains. And when they do dare to demonstrate in public, their protest is aimed not against the state, but against their own husbands and brothers. Like after the death of Sohane, when a movement was founded with the name “Ni putes ni soumises” (neither whores nor submissive – see our feature with the same name) whose demonstrations caused a considerable stir in France. On March 8, 2003, hundreds of young women from the suburbs marched through Paris and declared: “We are being suffocated by the machismo of the men in our neighbourhoods. In the name of ‘tradition’ they are denying us the most elementary human rights. We will not tolerate it any longer!” …

… If we really want to get to grips with the problem of burning cars, then we must also tackle the problem of burning girls (read: honour killings). If we want to break the rule of the godfathers within the mafia-like structures, then we must also call into question the limitless authority of the patriarchs within families (read: different cultures, different rules). And at least as urgent as language classes are some classes in democracy – with reference to Article 3 Paragraph 2 of Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law: “Woman and men shall have equal rights.” (full long text).

(Alice Schwarzer, born in 1942, is Germany’s best-known feminist. She studied sociology and psychology in Paris, and became active in the women’s movement at first in France and then in Germany. In 1971 she started the “Ich habe abgetrieben” (I’ve had an abortion) action (published on June 6, 1971 in Stern magazine), which initiated a widespread campaign against paragraph 218 of the German Basic Law, and ushered in a new era in the German women’s movement. In 1977 she founded Emma magazine, where she is still editor in chief).

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