Tag Archives: women

Resurgence of the Populist, Anti-Immigrant Right

While the rise of ultra-right, neo-nazi groups in Europe has been documented in the last ten years (though perhaps not as closely as they warranted) by media outlets like The Guardian or Geo-Currents the rise in support for populist, not-quite-as-ultra-right parties is even more pervasive and less documented.

Conservative parties with neo-libertarian economics and anti-immigration, moralistic rhetoric have gained significant support in various countries throughout the region. I’m going to be including Australia in this discussion because for a country on the far side of the world it is and always has been politically linked to Europe.

The UK, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Norway have all elected centre right or simply right-wing parties to head their governments in the last five years.

France elected Sarkozy as president with his party the Union for Popular Movement in 2007. A party so populist they put it in the name. The centre right gained 46.36% of the vote. Immigration and cultural assimilation were issues that rose in the early days of the government. The France National Front, has gained more support than they have had in years with young article leaders like Maréchal-Le Pen, granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded FN in the 1980s, attempting to rebrand the fiercely anti-immigrant party who have been accused in the past of desecrating Jewish cemeteries, denying the Nazi occupation of France was all that brutal and still use rhetoric about ‘protecting the French way of life’.

2010 and 2011 saw the UK and Ireland replace their governments with similar alternatives. The UK replaced their Labour party, who had been in power since 1997, with a Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition with the conservatives taking 36.1% of the national vote. Ireland replaced the three term reign of Fianna Fáil, centre party, with a coalition of Fine Gael (centre-right) and the Irish Labour party (centre). Fine Gael took 36% of the national vote.

What links these two elections, besides the coalitions, were that there were other factors influencing the radical shift in leadership. The European economic downturn, accusations of unethical practises by elected officials and in the case of the UK the Iraq war. However they unseated long running governments who had remained popular despite concerns such as this so they remain relevant to the regional trend.

The British Conservative government under the leadership of David Cameron have implemented anti-immigration laws that make it possible to deport people who are not citizens but who have little or no connection to any other country and whose family life is in the UK. These new regulations also make it harder for immigrants to access key services such as the National Health Service. 

London April 2012 Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett
London April 2012 Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

The Netherlands has had a particularly noticeable shift to the right in recent years. The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) gained 26.58% of the vote in 2012. Their website lays out the party policies which include being anti-veiling, anti-immigration, pro-financial deregulation and use the phrase “economic migrants” in their policy on asylum seekers. It also states that “without security there is no freedom”.

Then came the victory of the National Coalition over Labor in Australia. Cathal covered this story for us and how, despite the fact that Labor had been in power for six very successful years and that the Coalition leader Tony Abbott is not particularly popular in his own right, the right-wing, anti-immigration party took the election last week.

Only days ago in Norway, the Conservative Party won a landslide victory over the Labour Party who had been in power for the last two decades. The Norwegian Labour Party (DNA) have been consistently popular and led Norway through the European economic situation unscathed. Not only that but it was the Labour Party’s youth organisation that were the target of the terrorist attack by Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people most of them youths in 2011. Breivik was a member of the Progress Party who are now going into coalition with the Conservatives to form the new parliament. The coalition is taking time to finalise because other conservative parties do not want to be seen to be associated with a party with ties to a mass murderer. However despite this the Conservatives and Progress Party do not actually need any other coalition partners if they simply form a minority government.

I do have to take a moment now, to step back from the statistics and initialisms to applaud the grace with which Vegard Groslie Wennesland, a 29 year old survivor of Breivik’s attack, handled the possible election of the Progress Party in government. While he did say that their anti-immigration rhetoric concerned him he also said that Breivik has not and will not win.

Vegard Grøslie Wennesland – Oslo/Arbeiderpartiet

“Someone tried to kill me and my comrades for what we believe in and that kind of stirs a feeling that it’s important work you’re doing. You can make a difference through politics – I’m more sure of that now than ever”.  — Wennesland

One of Breivik’s, and if we’re honest, the Progress Party’s big concerns is that immigration means a higher Muslim population which some right-wing politicians believe somehow threatens Europe.

It seems relevant to point out that when I was researching this article, I began to type “Europe growing increasingly conservative” into Google to see who else was writing about this (not that many people all in all) one of the first Google autofill suggestions was “Europe growing Muslim population”.

google autofill 1

Given how the Google algorithm works, that’s a concerning note all by itself.

As though that was not concerning enough however, if you follow that Google search you do not find census data at the top but rather articles shouting that we are a generation away from Sharia law due to these “demographics” demonstrating that these reporters (in the loosest sense of the word) don’t know what either of the words “Sharia” or “demographic” mean.

The Telegraph, in the article ‘Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforming our continent’ which I refuse to link to in this article to preserve a sense of journalist ethics, state that: “Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb”.

The, what I hesitant to call an article, then goes on to reveal that “Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza” were the top seven baby names for boys in the city of Brussels without applying any context for why anyone who isn’t trying to think of baby names for their child or hasn’t recently hit their head off a wall would even care about this very specific example of one city in one country. And even if you chose for some reason to care Adam is obviously not a Muslim name and neither is Rayan specifically because it has etymological origins from ancient Celts, Old English, Hindi, Persian and Hebrew as well as Arabic not to mention the fact that many Arabs of religions other than Islam still have Arabic names. The fact that I even had to write this paragraph convinced my never to read the Telegraph ever again.

But trivial scaremongering nonsense about baby names aside, Islamophobia is now an election issue and when I say that I mean that there are people in Europe who were successfully elected into office who believe expelling all Muslims from Europe would be a good idea. Holland’s Geert Wilder actually said “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam” in an interview with the Guardian and remained in office.

The Telegraph article and statement by leaders of some of the parties I have name here have cited the rise of ultra-right, neo-nazi groups as a reason to vote populist right wing, in order to deal with the problems with ‘create’ situations that lead to violent right-wing extremist. The rise of right-wing fundamentalists has in fact aided the populist right.

I hate to be alarmist but I am alarmed.

All election data is from the European Election Database.

Orla-Jo

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What is ‘Rape Culture’?

‘Rape Culture’ is a term frequently used by feminist commentators and frequently misunderstood by those they are commenting for. Rape culture refers to the aspects of society that overtly or covertly encourage and perpetuate stereotypes about rape and the victims of sexual assault.

According to Marshall University:

“Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

It manifests itself in obvious ways, the focus the media has on what the victim was wearing or where they were or even sympathy for the rapists who are caught as the conviction will ‘ruin their lives’; all of which we saw with the infamous Steubenville case and are classic examples of rape apologism.

Similar rhetoric was thrown around in the New Delhi bus rape. The lawyer that is defending the five men who brutally raped and beat a young woman in India, can get away with saying that “respected” women don’t get raped. They beat her  with a rusty iron bar to the point where they removed some of her intestines but questions were raised about why she was out so late or with a boyfriend.

njani Trivedi/Associated Press
Anjani Trivedi/Associated Press

Rape culture can also manifest itself in ways that seem innocuous such as the idea of the ‘friend-zone’ or ‘nice guy syndrome‘. Think about this story for a moment:

Girl has best friend who’s in love with her but she can’t see it. She’s attracted to men who are bad for her not the one who really loves her. He does everything for her and gets nothing in return. Either she sees the error of her ways and changes herself for him or he abandons their friendship completely so she’s exposed as stupid, vapid or shallow and he finds someone who really loves him.

You have probably heard this or a variant of it many, many times in films, television or books.

Then things like this surface on the internet:

Lets examine this for a second please. Yes, this is a comic that tells people that it is okay to rape their female friends who don’t want to sleep with them because it’s for their own good and they’re just too stupid to see it.

This breed of misogyny acts as though women have all the power. As though men follow us around waiting to have sex with us and we’re just holding them off because we’re cruel and vindictive and shallow. This is one of the most dangerous forms of misogyny there is and nearly everyone who believes it doesn’t even realise. This is what makes it so dangerous.

Acting as though women have all the power and making men in the wronged party  can be used to justify abuse or sexual violence towards women. In fact it has been, by a US Judge.

Cherice Moralez was 14 years old when she was raped by her 49 year-old teacher. Less than three years later she killed herself. The Montana judge, Justice G. Todd Baugh, said that Moralez was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. The convicted teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, was given just 30 days in prison.

In 2011, an 11 year old girl was brutally raped by up to 18 young men in Texas. The New York Times article on the case felt it needed to include that:

“she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground”.

Two separate statements in the same article mentioned how the “community” had suffered but there was no discussion of how the victim had suffered. Questions were also raised about why had the victim’s mother not known where she was and why had she been there alone in the first place. It asks how these young men could”have been drawn into such an act?” This implies that it was somehow not their fault. The article quotes someone as saying that the rapists will “have to live with this for the rest of their lives” echoing what was heard at the Steubenville trial.

There is also the false assumption that women are raped for being sexually attractive rather than a violent act of punishment, of putting women ‘in their place’. EJ Graff discussed in her article on Prospect.org by portraying rape as a sexual act we’re putting the responsibility on women to protect their “purity” and not on the rapists themselves.

For example, according to the University of Suffolk 98% of rape cases of male-male rape the rapist is heterosexual. It’s not about sexual desire or gratification. It is about power and domination.

The lack of understanding or education on this subject can only lead to more stories like these.

Orla-Jo

What We’re Talking About When We’re Talking About Feminism

Feminism is word that simply by existing can cause controversy. It is often implied that feminist issues are frivolous issues, that feminists are petty and mean-spirited or that feminists just care about abortion or sexual harassment. The mainstream media fosters this idea of feminism is narrow, reactionary and unnecessary.

But feminism is more than a narrowly interpreted idea of “women’s issues”.

Education is a feminist issue. Two thirds of the children in the world without access to education are girls.

Trans rights are a feminist issue. When someone is told that their gender identity lessens them as humans or limits their human rights, that is a feminist issue.

Poverty is a feminist issue. Women make up 70% of the world’s poor. Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours but receive only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. Of the 150 major conflicts fought since War War Two, 130 of them were fought in the developing world.

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UN Photo/Martine Perret

Racism is a feminist issue. Stereotypes and discrimination of women of colour is a feminist issue. Native American women are nearly twice as likely to be sexually assaulted. Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely to die as a result of violence.

The rights of the disabled are feminist issues. In Europe, Australia and North America, over half of disabled women will experience physical abuse.

War and conflict are feminist issues. Of the 27.4 million people displaced due to conflict in 1996; 80% of them were women and children. Wartime rape affects women of all ages. In the Democratic Republic of Congo 36 women are raped every day. During the Bosnian War between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped.

Clinic Somalia UN
UN Photo/Stuart Price

Rape is held over the heads of women all over the world as a punishment for those who step out of line and is most definitely a feminist issue, even when the victims are men. In the United States someone is sexual assaulted every 2 minutes, 54% of rapes go unreported and 97% of rapists will receive no jail sentence.

Women between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age are globally more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from cancer, war, car accidents or malaria according to World Bank data.

There is a sentiment that feminism is unnecessary or that the term is outdated, that there is no need to actively promote the ‘feminine’ but rather support equality as a whole. But the idea that what is traditionally ‘feminine’ is lesser is still so pervasive in today’s culture that while it is socially acceptable for a women to behave and dress in ways considered traditionally masculine, the same cannot be said for men who wish to behave or dress in ways considered to be feminine. These bias are damaging to men as well. But more significantly they demonstrate that many advances that appear to have occurred in gender equality are based on the idea that women should behave or value things that are more traditionally masculine.

That is why feminism remains relevant.

Pibor South Suden UN
UN Photo

Orla-Jo