Our first year as DiEM25 tell a marvellous story of success: DiEM was able to activate over 40.000 members all across Europe to participate in our democratic project. Activists enter their local realms creatively and carry DiEMs messages to the people. In parallel experts and members all over the continent are collaborating on the Progressive Agenda for Europe. Within monthly, sometimes weekly cycles DiEM holds public events. The movement is becoming more visible and gaining traction. We are learning from each other, we are growing and every single one of us is contributing to the success of our common goal: DEMOCRATIZING EUROPE, one day at a time.
As we are realizing our vision and enter wider political arenas, we must also make female voices heard inside DiEM and work towards a Europe of Gender Equality.
The world is suffering setbacks in Gender Politics. The repulsive statements and scandals of the Trump campaign are only one example for this. Poland’s government would like to abolish the already restricted right to safe and legal abortion which thousands of protesters, the black protests, have prevented so far. The German AfD wants to get rid of gender studies altogether and all too often we hear the word Genderwahnsinn – Gender madness.
Genderwahnsinn, i.e. the accusation that defendants of equal rights and opportunities for women and men go too far, is a convenient instrument to discredit those people that, conscious of the alarming treatment of women, campaign for an open and progressive society. The word carries the accusation that their demands are mad, that they complain about negligible issues and distract from topics of greater importance.
Trump’s pussy grabbing scandal, the tightening of abortion laws, a gender pay gap of 20% in Germany or Turkey’s president Erdogan’s methodical displacement of women out of public life do not seem to be enough evidence for those critics that gender equality is a matter of highest actuality and importance. More than that, we observe a systematic discrimination of women and men with regards to combining work and family in the crises of Europe and the established economic and societal structures.
On the occasion of the international women’s day, March 8th, we want to present to you our ideas on the topic of Gender Equality in DiEM25
We are Elisa, Jakob and Sören. We are active DiEM members from three different cities in Germany. In December 2016 we met in Berlin where we held the 1st German wide DSC Assembly. Together with others, we formed an online working group, because we all wanted to contribute to making DiEM more gender equal. Our motivation for the topic was based on a very simple observation: Within the assembly as well as within our DSCs there were many more men than women. Why is that so? Does DiEM speak a masculine language? Are European politics a topic that interests more men than women?
This paper is structured in two parts. Part one reflects on our reality, as well as thoughts on DiEM25’s external and internal communications. In part two we will come up with some constructive ideas and proposals how we can make DiEM a more gender-equal space. In this respect, we intend the paper as a base for discussion on the topic both in the DSCs and for DiEM as whole, and to vocally support gender equality in our Democracy in Europe Movement.
Political and economic decision-making takes place in male-dominated spheres. Past and present stories of German political parties and movements reflect such gender-biased structures. We could go on by adding the field of academia or the private sector. The Gender Pay Gap is a reality. According to recent studies young girls begin to doubt their intelligence in very early stages of their development. Scientists relate that to the (obviously false) stereotype that women are less intelligent than men. If the self-perception of young women is influenced and reproduced by stereotypes and broad disadvantages, how do you break this discriminatory cycle? In these few lines we have tried to give a short impression of what we mean, when we say that social reality reflects patriarchal structures.
But what about DiEM25?
Before we move to that question, we want to highlight, that we reject any essentialist notion of male or female subjects. Such notions reduce the human being to, for example, a specific function or role in society. Such reductionist role models restrict a free development and support hierarchies, like patriarchy as a hegemonial construct. Moreover, women are by no means subordinate in every social relation and neither do men dominate every social relation. Visions for a more gender equal Europe inevitably imply new visions of masculinity. We actually see more varied role models for women than for men nowadays, and note a lack of alternatives to the hegemonic model of the neoliberal professional male breadwinner. Hence, we emphasize the creative potential of difference as sources of inspiration and knowledge.
In its public appearance, DiEM25 seems to communicate in a very masculine language. On a level of imagery, women and men have reported that the image of Yanis on the motorbike on DiEM website did not offer broad potential for identification and even threw some off. While this is superficial on one hand and Yanis Varoufakis considers himself a feminist on the other, it shows that DiEM25 is subject to stereotypes and can take a position towards them to convince more people of the movement.
When Srećko Horvat participated in an event organized by AcTVism Munich in January, he was one of the six male speakers speaking about „Freedom and Democracy“.
Where are the female voices in and for our democracy, especially for our progressive version of it?
The performance of DiEM25 in this arena has been commendable: Events from Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Aegina, London and most recently to Amsterdam enjoyed an equal number of male and female speakers.
This is on purpose. The female quota in CC and VC is inscribed in the Organizing Principles, even with the sentence ‘DiEM25 is a feminist movement’. In this respect DiEM25 is far ahead of all [German] parties and most movements.
In our local DSCs way more men participate actively. A female member observed that interested women often do not come back a second time. Maybe they were thrown off by a masculine environment? Or is that women have less time for political engagement because they have to work harder or have a family to take care of? Another female member has founded a female sub-group to discuss certain ideas as she sometimes finds it easier that way. ‘When I enter into a public discussion, I often hesitate to ask questions. By the time I would dare to speak the conversation has already moved on. The way I behave contradicts my self-image and yet my female friends make similar experiences. I can only acknowledge that these things are real and that we need to talk about them, especially in DiEM, states another member.
How can we deal with this issue as DiEM? Are these examples only German experiences or do they reflect something more general than that?
In the following part, we want to present a set of strategies to tackle these questions; for DiEM as a whole and for the DSCs. We all agree that criticizing alone does little good. Instead we should go one step further as DiEM and act:
- Content-wise: We think it is of fundamental importance to acknowledge women’s ongoing disadvantages in various realms of society (politics, labour..). This insight should lead to revisiting our policy papers such as the Economic New Deal from a feminist perspective.
- External communications: DiEM’s communications (videos, pictures, article and so on) show more men than women. We propose to actively visualize Gender Equality in DiEM and by doing this, create more potential for identification for diverse people. Some more concrete ideas were: to fill the DiEM YouTube channel with short explanation videos, portraits of members, even a ‘Europeans of DiEM’-Instagram channel and many more.
- Internal communications: Not only for the sake of Gender Equality but also for constructive and efficient communications, we propose, to develop a loose set of guidelines. We think that every member should have the opportunity to raise her voice in DCS meetings. Thereby we acknowledge that everyone has a different way of expressing oneself. It should be the aim of DSC meetings to create an atmosphere that allows for motivation to flourish.
- Talk more about Gender Politics: we propose to organize events, do actions on the topic of Gender. In this context it would be a good possibility to cooperate with feminist groups.
- Intersectionality is an important field for discussion. I.e. overlapping types of disadvantage/discrimination. Who fends for gender equality must be conscious that this by far is not the only form of discrimination.
- Pan- European Gender workgroup: some members form different parts of Europe have already expressed their interest in a European Gender workgroup. By doing this we can improve networking, develop new ideas, put them into praxis and grow as DiEM.
With this paper, we have tried to approach the topic of „Gender Equality in DiEM25“. The topic is of fundamental importance, because reality often diverges from our intention or vision. To build a democratic future, for men, women, for all of us, we need to actively think and live Gender Equality. Until then let us continue to follow the signs, to be open, for new ideas and above all to stand up for equal rights, where they are under attack!
We would like to thank all those that contributed to the work group and the paper so far. We are happy to receive feedback. If you are interested in the topic, you are very welcome to join the European Gender workgroup ([email protected]). The work on this paper has inspired us and brought many new ideas in all directions. We would like to encourage you to do the same, to work on a topic you consider of being important for DiEM.
Featured Image: Tweet by CC member Agnieszka Wísniewska
 Of course we do not want o offend neither Yanis nor Srećko by this. They both do gorgeous work for DiEM and contribute to the success of our movement.
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