How does FEMNET understand feminism?

Equality, self-determination, solidarity

Today, there are many different interpretations of feminism. For a long time, the image of feminism was accused of propagating the devaluation of men. In recent years however, this understanding has changed. It was influenced by the World Women's Conferences, which brought feminist concerns to the center of society, and by modern feminist movements, which have been brought into the public by young women.

In addition to the cliché of discrimination against men, feminism in the western industrial nations is often declared to be an outdated concept. These voices claim that moral, economic-technical progress and equal rights are effective. On the other hand, the term "feminism" is currently marketed, printed on T-shirts of fashion brands, it is "in". Marketing, however, links feminism with easily consumable themes, while ignoring the complex background of its goals and concerns. We want to counteract this flattening of the term because we are convinced that feminism, especially today and beyond the marketing culture, is still an important attitude and movement for societies worldwide.

Feminism - the abolition of gender hierarchies and social injustice

FEMNET understands feminism as a movement - towards the elimination of gender hierarchies and social injustice. In fact, the western industrial nations have achieved a lot in this respect, but by no means everything - neither gender equality nor social justice. We are currently once again confronted with populist movements and political leaders who promote open sexism, racism and reactionary world views. Every day, in every country of the world, women and girls still suffer human rights violations simply because of their gender. At the same time, socially anchored role models, as well as cultural and religious values conceal exploitation and discrimination or even justify them. It is alarming when women themselves are claimed to be responsible for sexual assaults, because they would behave in a certain way. Thus, from a global perspective, we still see societies and cultures marked by an unequal distribution of power between the sexes and oppression of women.

For us, feminism does not only stand for gender justice. The term needs to be understood in the broader context and the general principles of human rights. It is thus inextricably linked to the change in social power relations that oppress, exploit or marginalise people based on their gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, race, nationality, class, caste or ethnicity.

We demand that no person is discriminated against or disadvantaged on the basis of these attributions and is granted full equality. All people must have access to decent living and working conditions. No one should live in poverty.

When we call for equality, it means that we want to overcome traditional gender stereotypes such as typical women's and men's jobs. In everyday life, this means, among other things, that women and men make equal decisions about gainful employment, housework and family planning. Traditional ideas about the "nature" of men and women should no longer be used as excuses for filling highly qualified positions predominantly with men. Financial livelihood and professional success must not depend on gender. Our vision of feminism is to realise forms of living together that appreciate and develop the possibilities and potential of all sexes. These are sovereign, solidary and self-determined life models and partnerships in private, economic and political contexts. They are the counter model to unequal distribution of power and exploitation.

What are we doing to realize this feminism?

FEMNET strongly and relentlessly highlights the many faces of inequality - both in the countries of the Global South and in industrialised countries like Germany. We are particularly committed to the rights of women at work and focus on solidarity with women textile workers, currently mainly in the South Asian countries India and Bangladesh. Textile and clothing production are one of the largest sectors of the economy in these countries. Women who work there are usually disadvantaged in many ways - both by exploitation in production and by the local structures of patriarchal oppression.  Local activists fight against these structures and FEMNET supports their struggle in solidarity.

There and in many other places around the world, women risk their lives to work for change and to defend the rights of women. We therefore demand that states and companies work to strengthen women's rights as human rights and to create structures that guarantee the legal and social equality of women.

Even in countries like Germany, full equality for women is still lacking, both politically and economically. Typical "women's occupations", for example in the retail trade or in nursing care, are still paid less and have a lower reputation, despite their similarity to jobs in comparable male occupations. The consequence is a high proportion of women in precarious employment. This is further increased by the fact that women work part-time more often and are responsible for child care and care of the elderly. German society is far from achieving equality in working life, which refers to positions and payment.

Regardless of whether we refer to textile production in the countries of the Global South or to career prospects in industrialised countries such as Germany, here and there feminism still needs effective instruments and committed activists. It also needs education and open, self-critical debates. After all, also women themselves can reproduce stereotypes and role models instead of exposing, questioning and overcoming them. We want to change this with a feminism that focuses on self-determination, sovereignty, critical faculties and solidarity. This feminism is not an adjunct, but a maxim for social justice and respectful coexistence - in private as well as in professional life, in social commitment as well as in political life - worldwide.

Date: 1.8.2017