This contribution, though unsolicited, is prompted in part by the very interesting report in the latest edition of „Hinterland“ magazine about the sexism debate within the Karawane over the course of its existence as an organisation. This being a blogsite anyway, I guess opinions do not need to be solicited before they are offered here.
In order to better understand the different views espoused in the said article, I looked up the word sexism in Wikipedia and came up with the following:
>“Sexism“ is commonly considered to be discrimination and/or hatred against people based on their sex rather than their individual merits, but can also refer to any and all systemic differentiations based on the sex of the individuals…………………sexism against females in its extreme form is known as „misogyny„, which means „hatred of females“……..<.
A review of the opinions aired in the said article showed that for most of the interviewed German women, a man making a pass at them amounted to sexism. In view of the Wikipedia definition, one may well ask: Does making a pass at a woman amount to sexual discrimination, sexual harassment or hatred of women?. Obviously no!.
It is important at this point to note that men and women have been making passes at each other since the beginning of history and there are no indications that they will stop doing so in the near or distant future. Of course when a man continues to make passes at a woman who has clearly indicated her disinterest or objection to such passes then it amounts to sexual harassment on the part of the man.
This brings me to another aspect of the said article which I found disturbing. One of the women interviewees said a man made a pass at her but because he was a refugee, she was afraid to outrightly say no because she was afraid of being seen as racist. Does this therefore mean that a refugee should be treated in a patronising manner just because he is a refugee? How does a man know that his advances are not wanted by a woman when she does not tell him so? As a refugee, I actually find this arguement insulting because, for me, it is an indirect way of saying that refugees are neither mentally and emotionally developed nor responsible enough to understand when a woman says no!. Saying no to unwanted advances is a fundamental human right and has nothing to do with racism. One of the cardinal principles of Karawane is that all human beings are equal no matter where they come from. If this is actually the case, then a woman should not have any problem saying no to unwanted advances from any man (refugee or not). It is my belief that society (at least western society) has adequate laws for the protection of a woman in such a situation. This is the reason why I find it very difficult to understand why cases of men making passes at women should elicit so much heated discussion and take so much time and energy within Karawane or any other organisation.
I believe that wherever men and women gather together for whatever reason, passes will be made by men at women or vice versa, as is also sometimes the case. This is part of human nature and an intrinsic component of social behaviour. The person being made a pass at (man or woman) always has a choice to say no!. When a pass graduates into harassment, the victim has a choice also to seek appropriate means of redress including legal action.
I happen to have also experienced first hand the sexism debate within Karawane during the Lagerland tour of 2006. At that time I expressed my irritation at the endless meetings and discussions, elicited by accusations of sexism, much to the annoyance of some fellow activists. The accused sexists, principally two refugees who were not really „card carrying“ Karawane members, got thrown out of the tour. A few months after the tour however, one of the principal „inquisitors“ of the sexism affair during the tour, a former „card carrying“ Karawane activist, „attacked“ two refugee Karawane activists at a party. Her reason? Nobody really knows but the two men were dancing with two German women at the time of the „attacks“. I had always thought that it was normal for people to dance at partys but then I happen to be just an „ignorant“ and „uncivilised“ refugee. Luckily, for the Karawane, the two victims of this strange and unexplained „attack“ are still very much active within the organisation. They have also not instigated any debate about sexism. I mean, men (including refugee men) can also be sexually harassed or discriminated against.
In trying to understand the reasons behind this unexplained „attack“, I went back to Wikipedia and came up with the following:
>…..Sexism against males in its extreme form is known as „misandry„, which means „hatred of males“. Since this is the second form of sexism that has been commonly identified, it is often known as „reverse sexism.“ A mildly related term is „androphobia„, which refers to the fear of males or masculinity….. Some critics……have charged that large segments of the modern feminist movement, such as radical feminism, difference feminism, and separatist feminism, have deviated from the original goals of feminism (creating equality for women), and have instead focused on the advancement of female power and dominance through suppressing and spreading misandrist views about men….<
Yes, lets talk about sex, but while doing that we should also be very conscious of our motives (psychological or otherwise).