How strange. I was accused of neglecting an event important to feminists, the sexual assaults in Köln on New Year’s Eve. It was a peculiar concern to make, because I’m not CNN or Fox News (thank dog), I’m one guy, and I can’t write about everything. And in particular, one good outcome of these disgraceful and horrid attacks is that they have been received with universal condemnation, from the German chancellor on down — for a change, no one is saying “boys will be boys” or suggesting that the attacks weren’t actually driven by contempt for women, or arguing that all the assaillants were mentally ill loners. And I’ve actually seen quite a few feminist responses to the crimes, like this one.
The mainstream reporting has been solid in their condemnation. The government promised a strong response. There have also been feminists marching in protest. Angry feminists have proposed a curfew for men. While there was an initial effort to keep the attacks quiet by the police (if you want to blame any peculiar lack of reporting on anything, try going for the officials who wanted to hush up the magnitude of the attacks), it was the women who brought it to everyone’s attention. And then, of course, there were cries of disgust at the Köln mayor’s suggestion that it was the victim’s fault.
So if you ask me,
where are the women at?, I’ll just suggest that perhaps the problem is that you’re out of the habit of listening to them, because they’ve been talking about the Köln assaults loudly, publicly, and without reservation.
So I had to wonder where this myth is coming from…and it didn’t take long to figure it out. It’s the usual far right wing suspects who hate feminists in general. Where are these stories that feminists are turning a blind eye to a mass assault coming from? The Spectator. Right-wing blogs. Breitbart. The Daily Stormer! You read those, and you discover an alien dimension in which women of the so-called
Regressive Left are just fine with getting raped by swarthy immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. It’s total nonsense, of course. But it reveals the true motivation behind these complaints about feminists: it’s that they haven’t been complaining about the right thing. They’re supposed to suddenly decide that all immigrants are evil monsters who must be kicked out of the country immediately — that is, they’re supposed to turn into the kind of bigoted assholes who read The Daily Stormer, and it’s a failure of feminism that they don’t.
In other words, the myth of a blind benevolent Left that permits immigrants to run rampant in the country serves the interests of racists, so they’re busily making up shit about feminists being insufficiently racist to suit them. And it’s true! We tend not to be quite as racist as the general public, and not at all as racist as writers for Breitbart or neo-Nazi publications. But that doesn’t mean feminists are making excuses for the criminals who made those attacks. Jessica Abrahams puts it well, I think. It’s not a failure of feminism, it’s a failure of racism.
The Cologne attacks have unsurprisingly been set upon enthusiastically by those who wish to turn emotions against the new arrivals and have portrayed the incident as the result of an influx of immigrants who engage in crime and have little respect for women. Feminists are necessarily concerned with the protection of minorities and marginalised groups. If some of them are finding it difficult to speak up about the event because of concerns it might be used to encourage aggression against refugees, I can’t say I blame them. The fault lies not with the feminists but with those making them nervous to speak–the very same people, often, who are expressing outrage that they aren’t.
That doesn’t imply an acceptance of the crime by feminists, a desire to sweep it under the carpet or a lack of solidarity with the victims, as some internet commentators have alleged. Unlike them, feminists are generally aware that sexual assaults happen with or without immigration. At the time of writing, there has been no confirmation of the ethnic origins of those involved in the Cologne attacks, or of whether they are recent immigrants, or immigrants at all. It is those using the event to advance their own political goals who are showing a lack of respect for the victims.
But if feminists have been quiet about the attacks (and I’m not convinced they have), there’ll be another reason, too. Those of my generation have been speaking about sexual violence and street harassment for years. Our predecessors campaigned against it for decades before that. The statistics, both for Europe and for the rest of the world, are endless and horrifying. Books have been written about it; protests organised over many years and many countries; campaigns launched; reports undertaken; NGOs established; and countless, countless articles written.
It is usually the task of feminists to make enough noise about incidents of sexual assault that they can no longer be ignored; the Cologne attack was big enough that it received a huge amount of attention across Europe and further afield. We can only hope now that the police are successful in bringing those responsible to the courtroom and preventing further attacks, and that the women involved are given enough support.
So sorry, racist jerks, you’re not going to commandeer feminism into joining your crusade against the non-white people of the world.
P.S. Many black women will tell you that white feminists are implicitly racist enough. They don’t need white male right-wingers urging them to be even more neglectful of intersectional concerns.