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“The one common interest does not exist!”

Solidarity among women is diverse and disputed. Kiel-based political scientist Brigitte Bargetz has considered the subject in detail and sets out five central kinds of solidarity.

Women at a protest march
© pictue alliance

Women in Washington out on the streets at the Woman's March, a protest march for women’s rights and human rights, in 2017.

Women have had enough. Sexual assaults are not only nearly a daily occurrence in Hollywood, but are also common in Germany: whether in the public sphere or private environment, women still have to often defend themselves against violent assaults and verbal abuse from men. “It is simply not acceptable,” said Dr Brigitte Bargetz, explaining the reason why the #MeToo initiative came into being, among others, in 2017. “Many women show their solidarity, go together into battle against hierarchical gender relationships on the street, protest together online and on social media and try to change things,” explained the political scientist at the Institute of Social Sciences at Kiel University.

“Solidarity among women forms the basis of feminism,” explained Bargetz, who is well versed in the subject of feminist solidarity. Last year she – and her colleagues Alexandra Scheele and Silke Schneider – published a paper about it (Femina Politica 2/2019). “Of course, there are differences between women. Many feminists are united by the fight against patriarchal violence towards women of varied origin, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation.” That is not, however, the only reason to show solidarity. Feminist solidarity is diverse. Women are by no means only committed to the objectives of women’s movements, but support variously defined minorities, show solidarity with women round the world, look after refugees or take to the streets for climate protection.

Women show their solidarity, go together into battle against hierarchical gender relationships on the street.

Brigitte Bargetz

“My colleagues and I set out five central kinds of solidarity,” explained Bargetz. Political solidarity, the fight against patriarchy and sexism in response to inequality and suppression, is one of these. Institutionalised solidarity, by contrast, describes the support of socially weaker people by the social and welfare state to ensure participation in public life. The other kinds are solidarity as a concept of existence (the recognition that people are mutually dependent), solidarity as a feeling as well as solidarity as a practice, in which links are established over differences.

In its diversity, feminist solidarity contains a lot of potential for conflict and contradictions. “Solidarity is always disputed, too,” Bargetz, Scheele and Schneider have found. “There is not one common interest, the one common battle for the one common good cause,” they said. “The challenge is to find an intersection, a path that can be trod together,” said Bargetz, knowing full well that “solidarity among women under sexist, capitalist and racist conditions is sometimes hard to realise”.

Stirring moments contribute to solidarity, too. Moments such as the Weinstein scandal, which triggered the #MeToo movement: the film producer is said to have sexually assaulted and harassed women in the American film industry over decades. One tweet about it went out to the world. Under the hashtag MeToo, women have since reported their experiences of abusive men. “There have been many more women's movements over the past centuries,” said Bargetz. Within the 1968 movement, for example, there were also solidarity movements among women. The critical discussion in the 1970s about the paragraphs on abortion under Section 218 of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) also caused a solidarity movement among women who called for their deletion from the code. There is also the movement “ni una menos” (not one less), which was founded in Argentina in 2015 against the murder of women and sexual violence against women and has since grown in importance far beyond. Feminist solidarity is “not just a diverse but also a transnational fight for gender equality,” said Bargetz. “And that is a good thing. Solidarity will probably continue to be a fight and, at the same time, be disputed itself.”

Author: Jennifer Ruske